AMSTERDAM, Dec 12 (Reuters) - It's not every day the leader of a
political party with seats in parliament gives an interview with a
goat nibbling at her coat and hair and surrounded by chickens.
This is 34-year-old law graduate Marianne Thieme whose party for
animal rights aims to double its vote in the next Dutch election as
people become more sensitive to the plight of animals on factory farms
and after recent food scares.
"We are the first political party for animal rights in the world to be
elected to parliament," Thieme, who has been compared to movie star
turned animal rights icon Brigitte Bardot, said in an interview on an
organic farm in Amsterdam.
The Party for Animals, founded in October 2002, won two seats in last
month's Dutch general election, which saw the ruling Christian
Democrats remain the largest party.
She quoted Mahatma Gandhi to underline animal rights groups are more
than just a fad. "Like Gandhi said, the greatness of a nation can be
measured by the way it treats its animals."
Many single-issue parties have sprung up in the Netherlands in recent
years, fuelled in part by the country's liberal roots and as people
become more aware of environmental issues.
Thieme said recent food crises -- bird flu, swine fever, mad cow,
foot-and-mouth and blue tongue diseases -- and the culling of millions
of animals made people more aware of where their food comes from and
animals' living conditions on factory farms.
The Netherlands, Europe's second-biggest poultry producer after France
and a top world poultry exporter, culled 30 million birds, about a
third of its flock, after the H7N7 strain of avian flu hit the country