As the 10th anniversary (April 22) of the official launch of the Humane Party approaches, it may be beneficial to address a common question about the HP’s origins. A number of modern writers, speakers, philosophers, and activists have had a powerful influence on the animal- and environmental-protection movement, including well-known thinkers such as Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Tom Regan, Peter Singer, Gary Yourofsky, Gary Francione, Steve Best, Steven Wise, Joyce Tischler, Jasmijn de Boo, Bruce Poon, and Marianne Thieme. People new to the HP often ask whose political, legal, or philosophical theories gave rise to the HP. While the works of these thinkers are highly persuasive, inspirational, and informative, none of these individuals were involved with or had a direct influence on the creation of the HP.1
Here are the two predominant, and virtually exclusive, sources that gave rise to the Humane Party in 2009.
Veganism and ahimsa
From the moment of conception, the Humane Party was consciously, expressly, and unequivocally intended to be the political embodiment of the ethical principles of veganism and ahimsa. Donald Watson and his teammates at the Vegan Society coined the term “vegan” in the 1940s with a particular definition that calls for the exclusion, to the fullest extent possible, of animal exploitation. Veganism, meanwhile, may regarded as a secular implementation of the principle of ahimsa, which dates at least as far back as the 6th century BCE. The HP represents merely a natural and inevitable manifestation of these underlying principles; indeed, the name “Vegan Party” was one of the three names that the HP considered during its formative stages. From its very first day, the HP has required all officers, board members, and candidates to be vegan, a commitment which is now embodied in the Humane Party Oath.
13th Amendment and Republican and Liberty Parties
From the moment of conception, the method and approach of the Abolition Amendment and the Humane Party were consciously and expressly modeled on the work which culminated in the 13th Amendment (1865) and the formation of the Republican Party (1854) and Liberty Party (1840)2. While several years of research and development were required to bring the Abolition Amendment into final form (2016), the Abolition Amendment—not the Humane Party—came first in the actual chronology of conception, the latter being generated with a primary goal of attaining ratification of the former and otherwise bringing the principles of veganism and ahimsa into political form. This goal is why the name “Abolition Party” was, for a time, the main alternative to the “Humane Party” name, a piece of organizational history which is still visible in the Abolition logo that was created in 2009 for the “Abolition Party.”
~ by Shelley Harrison
1Ingrid Newkirk (PETA) and Gene Baur (Farm Sanctuary), were, among well-known contemporary activists, the most inspiring to me at that time for their movement- and organization-building work, but they did not otherwise play a role in the creation of the HP. Among historical activists, I was, at that time, most inspired by Mohandas Gandhi—especially for his emphasis on ahimsa and satyagraha—and William Wilberforce, whose example I have consciously attempted to follow. Most important of all was Yvette Busot, whose insight, perseverance, and personal practice of “being the change” transformed the Humane Party from a mere idea into an actual organization and who was the only other official team member when the HP launched on Earth Day, 2009.
2 The HP team did not “discover” the Liberty Party (1840-48) until some years after launch. But the Liberty Party’s founding values are a closer analog to those of the HP than were the initial values of the Republican Party. Thus, while the Republicans of the 1850s and 1860s served as the original blueprint for the HP, the Liberty Party is now expressly cited as the HP’s antecedent in the HP platform.