"We are here to stay," say the leaders of the newly-founded Animal Party Cyprus that held its first conference yesterday on a promise of a strong European elections campaign.
The party's coordinator Kyriakos Kyriakou said the main priorities are the review of all legislation concerning animals, as well as the close monitoring of the issue of strays, fast becoming a major concern, as there are more than 200,000 around the government-controlled areas of the island.
At a public health level, the Animal Party Cyprus aims at close cooperation with veterinary services on issues regarding European directives on the welfare of farm animals, as well as diseases. Also high on the agenda of the party will be the import of exotic animals.
Given the fact that in the recent past we had police looking for crocodiles in dams and wildcats in down town Limassol, they might have their work cut out. Kyriakou said that the influx of such animals is "creating dangers for the island's ecosystem and the balance of animal life".
"Animals must become part of the political system," Kyriakou added and 'we intend to adopt policies that will promote their health and welfare'. He particularly referred to an increasing spate of brutal poisoning of dogs and cats in the past few months, a fact which "has put our country on the map for all the wrong reasons". Cyprus, he noted, ranks the lowest in Europe in the treatment of animals.
Dutch MP Marianne Thieme, founder of Holland's Party for the Animals said that it might be considered "decadent to have a party for animals at such a time", but it's necessary, in order to monitor human behaviour towards animals; "we need to have respect and compassion, harmony and co-existence with nature," the Dutch MP added.
"They ridiculed us when we founded Party for the Animals in Holland but now we are in parliament and they take us seriously," she added. Animal parties exist in 13 countries.
Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis stressed that the need to establish animal rights parties has been recognised throughout Europe, in order to promote issues of health and welfare. Head of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation Angelos Loizou noted the negative impact on tourists.
A minute's silence was held in memory of abused animals.