Danny was taken ill on Friday night so I had to stand in for him at the hustings meeting organised by the Animals Count party in Kennington Park yesterday. It was held in the garden of the cafe as a vegetarian (probably vegan) picnic.
As, to be able to hire the venue from the council, they had to sign that they would be liable for anyone injured by a squirrel, the meeting commenced with the chair asking the audience to say in unison "squirrels, we mean you no harm". We thought "OMG, what have we come to", but the party which is standing a candidate in Lambeth and Southwark isn't the joke it might at first seem to be.
Animals Count is the UK equivalent of the Dutch Partij voor de Dieren ("Party for the Animals") which has 2 MPs and a Senator (see here). Its candidate here, Jasmijn De Broo, is in fact from Holland and stood for the Dutch party in the last European Parliament elections. Incidentally, this is a reminder that any EU national can stand for local elections in any other EU country. They can also vote. (UKIP must be tearing their hair out over this, but as far as we're concerned the more workers have the vote the better).
The candidate introduced the party and its policies, which are basically to defend on the political field the welfare of animals. She called for an NHS for animals "including subsidised veterinary treatment and emergency care". Other speakers seemed to be arguing for compulsory vegetarianism in "schools, hospitals, care homes, council premises, etc". At least that's how I understood the mention in the candidate's election leaflet of "banning products from intensively farmed animals" in these places, though I agree that this could be interpreted as saying that (more expensive) "organic" meat and cheese could still be served but I don't think they'd really like that either. In fact, the general impression given that this was a party for vegetarians and vegans as much as for animals.
Of the other candidates only us and the English Democrats turned up. Invited to speak, I explained that our party included vegetarians and even vegans as well as meat-eaters and that we regarded this as a private matter. We didn't want people to vote for our candidate just because he was a bit of a vegetarian. (I explained that, as another member, I was a meat-eater and enjoyed eating meat). We were standing on the single issue of socialism. I had of course to first explain what socialism was not (not ex-USSR, not China, not Cuba, not Labour Party, not nationalisation, not equal sharing, not communes) before saying what it was (a world wide society based on the resources of the Earth, natural and industrial, being the common heritage of all humanity, so there could be production to satisfy people's needs instead of as at present to try to make a profit).
On animal issues, I expressed scepticism about them being able to do much to achieve their aims within the profit system as this was a system governed by economic laws which meant that making a profit had to be given priority over any other consideration; intensive animal farming took place because it was profitable. I suggested that only socialism would provide the framework within which this could be ended and a rational food policy adopted. I added that animal welfare was not the only issue. There were also other problems like world poverty, wars and the threat of wars, bad housing and bad social conditions generally, which also needed addressing, some more urgently.
The English Democrat candidate (Janus Polenceus) spoke next. He said England should have its own parliament just like Scotland did. On animals, he made a fool of himself by saying that he loved them because he had 3 dogs, a cat, a budgie and a goldfish.
Afterwards Jasmijn explained to me that before joining the Party for the Animals she had been a supporter of the Dutch "Socialist Party". This is not the mainstream Labour or Social Democratic party there, but a reconverted one-time Maoist party (see here). She appeared to be unaware of its Maoist past, but this was an excuse for the witty comrade who was also present to say (sorry about this) that she had moved from Maoism to Meeowism.
We handed out our manifesto to the thirty of so people present (from all over the country) and partook of the vegetarian feast before setting off to distribute more election leaflets in the Simon Hughes part of Southwark.