I don’t have time to read all of this!
Themes: A voice for animals in politics, and the party for people who think that the Greens don’t go far enough on animal welfare. Left, slightly lunar. Veganism can fix all the world’s problems.
With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket
The AJP has different voting tickets in each region, but there are some common themes. At the top of the ticket, you either get the Aussie Battlers, Sustainable Australia, or Health Australia. Fiona Patten’s Reason Party, The Voluntary Euthanasia Party, and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party usually come next, and either Transport Matters or the Victorian Socialists will also be in the top five.
After all the left-leaning parties, they generally put the Greens somewhere around 21 on the ticket, directly followed by Labor, the DLP and the Liberal/National Parties.
The last four slots on the ticket are always the Liberal Democratic Party, the Australian Country Party, the Australian Liberty Alliance, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, in that order. If there are independents, they usually fall somewhere between the ALA and the Shooters and Fishers, regardless of their actual political views – I’m guessing the AJP didn’t have the time or inclination to do the research on them.
Basically, this is the portrait of a decidedly left-leaning party that really doesn’t like guns. Nobody is surprised by this. They don’t seem to hate the Greens as much as they used to, but putting them directly before the other major parties sends a clear message – you sold out.
The Body Politic
Policies, Snark, Terrible Theme Songs and Other Observations
The Animal Justice Party appeared on the political scene about five years ago, and gave every appearance of having been born of an acrimonious split from the Australian Greens (telltale sign: every other left-ish party was highly favoured on their voting ticket, but the Greens were very nearly dead last). Their slogan is ‘Vote for the Animals’, and then scrolling beneath that, we have ‘Vote for Kindness / Vote for Empathy / Vote to Protect Them / Vote to End Cruelty’. On their Facebook page, we also get ‘Vote with your Heart’.
There’s not a lot to unpack, here – the Animal Justice is not trying to appeal to our subconscious feelings about authority or community. They are pretty much saying that they will be a voice in Parliament for all animals, and that if you are a kind, empathetic person, you should vote for them (and that if you don’t… then these values aren’t important to you? I’m not sure if this is an entirely fair characterisation, but I tend to be sensitive to guilt-tripping in any form, and I think there is a whiff of that going on here…)
But I might be being unfair, here. I admit to finding the Animal Justice Party frustrating. I want to like them. So many of their policies are great! And I do love me a good lunar left political party! On the other hand, they also tend to have a few policies that are just plain awful, and in the past they have struck me as having a ‘if you are not 100% with us, then you are the enemy’ sort of attitude. Still, a lot of new political parties start off that way, and then settle down a bit as they mature, so let’s see how the AJP are travelling these days.
Here is their vision statement:
The Animal Justice Party has a long term vision for a kinder Australia but recognises that change will proceed in stages. Many of our policies recognise this and don’t simply describe our vision of the future, but the steps required to get there.
The second half of that statement is actually a bit fascinating. It has the sound of someone who has been getting a lot of emails from people who feel that they are not going far enough in their representation of the animals. And that in itself is an indication that they are not quite as far out on the fringe as they used to be, which I think is healthy.
Their values are kindness, rationality, non-violence and equality. They maintain empathy for ‘all beings that can experience the world’, they want to develop ‘sustainable and evidence-based policy’, and while they are not absolutely anti-war (they recognise the need for defense – but obviously not wars of aggression), they believe that outcomes are possible without hurting people. As for equality:
The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but rather, “Can they suffer?” In their suffering, many animals are our equals. AJP is the party of non-speciesism, giving all individuals their due consideration. Moreover, the feelings of all humans must be considered in decision-making, regardless of worldview, gender or sexual preference, economic view, occupation, location, age, wealth or abilities. The best society is the one that is designed to be fair to all.
This is where they lose me a bit. I am a strong believer in animal welfare. I try to reduce my consumption of meat and animal products, and stick to products that are ethically-sourced. I don’t use shampoos or toiletries that are tested on animals. But… I do not believe that animals have the same value as humans. I am definitely speciesist in that sense.
On to the policies, which are divided into three categories – animals, environment and humans.
The AJP’s policies on Companion Animals are excellent. One of their main goals is avoiding the euthanasia of healthy animals in pounds and shelters, so they are advocating for better funding for shelters; compulsory desexing of companion animals at point of sale; phasing out sale of companion animals except from shelters and rescuers; licensing breeding of assistance animals; phasing out breeding of companion animals until shelters reach the point where they have space to keep all animals without having to euthanase healthy animals; supporting rehabilitation of animals and compatibility-based adoption; and not discriminating against tenants with pets.
They advocate a trap-neuter-release policy for feral cats, and they feel that birds do not belong in cages, and would prefer not to keep them in aviaries either. There are a few things in here that are a bit impractical – I blinked a bit at the part about acquiring fish from shelters and rescues (please, please, someone tell me that there is a fish rescue service out there, because I want this to be something that exists now!), but overall, it’s a really well-thought-out set of policies which would, if implemented, achieve their stated outcome, so well done, AJP. The only thing I’d add would be better policies around microchipping so that if you lose an animal, and someone finds it, scanning and contacting you is automatic – as we discovered when Mystery disappeared, this does not happen automatically.
The AJP’s policy on Animals in Entertainment is basically, don’t do it. They want to ban horse racing (especially jumps racing) and greyhound racing, recreational hunting, game fishing, rodeos, and horse-drawn carriage rides. They are also against making animals perform in circuses or theme parks. And they don’t like petting zoos, something about which I have mixed feelings – I do think the opportunity for kids to meet animals builds empathy for animals, but I’ve also heard that it’s not good for the animals, so I’d probably be more in favour of finding ways to socialise the animals in question so that they aren’t stressed, and keeping a strict eye on how the children get to interact with them.
As far as other zoos go, the AJP wants them to be as much like conservation parks and sanctuaries as possible, with the welfare of animals prioritised over the entertainment of visitors. They support zoos where they function to serve animals, ie, by breeding of endangered animals, rescue and rehabilitation, and providing homes for animals where release is impossible, but they would rather funding went to conservation parks and sanctuaries.
I do like the part of the policy about promoting alternative cruelty-free forms of entertainment and giving them DGR status. Carrots are better than sticks, and also, this looks like stealth funding for the arts, so yes please to that!
I’m going to group the various native/wild animal policies together, as they are broadly similar. The AJP has policies on Kangaroos, Koalas, Dingos, Native birds, Brumbies, Wombats, Bats and Flying Foxes. All the policies boil down to – protect their habitats; make sure human activities (farming, car rallies, power lines) do not interfere with them to make their environments hazardous; stop cullings – if they are causing damage, find non-lethal way so manage them; better research into their needs and welfare; educate the general public regarding their intrinsic worth and their needs – stop calling them pests. Finding ways to mitigate harm from ‘corridors’ where animals regularly cross roads is important. The AJP is quite in favour of wildlife-based and eco-tourism, but want it to be done with the needs of the wildlife in mind, which is fair enough. They want to ban poisoning, and provide programs for school children about how to act around wild animals. which is kind of awesome.
Introduced animals get similar policies, with an additional note that we need to educate Australians on the damage that can be done by abandoned introduced species, and a moratorium on the introduction of exotic animals.
They have a special policy on sharks, too, which, unsurprisingly, is anti-culling and pro-education (I’m a little boggled by school level programs that teach safe behaviour around sharks, but perhaps this is just a sign of my brainwashing?). They want to end import of sharks and educate people about the mercury risk from eating sharks (but fish and chips is so yummy…) (I’m not just being obnoxious. It’s the thing I crave most when I’m vegetarian.) They want to invest in non-lethal deterrance in beaches, and expand research into shark populations and movements.
Moving on from sharks to marine animals, the AJP wants fish to be included in animal welfare legislation, and to implement better labelling of seafood to include details of production methods and by-catch levels. They want to change the government’s nutrition advice to make it clear that seafood isn’t required for good health and make sure that “establish guidelines for nutrition advice from Government agencies recommending that nutritional characteristics can’t be separated from environmental and suffering costs of the way seafood is produced”.
Since we are hinting at veganism here, let’s move onto the AJP’s Farming policy, which has definitely developed in the last few years, and is probably what inspired that bit in their values statement about gradual change.
Farming and food choices are intimately connected and so are the corresponding AJP policies. We advocate a plant based diet but recognise that animal industries are not all the same.
We recognise that some animal industries inflict less pain than others however all involve significant suffering and ultimately the taking of life. The AJP understands that widespread dietary change will be a lengthy process and that animal production methods must be improved urgently as an interim measure; so we will prioritise the phase out of factory farming.
This is definitely more moderate than it used to be.
The AJP wants to inspire change in diets, in order to change how people farm. There is an emphasis here on education and financial incentivisation. Withdrawal of government support for animal product industries (except for research into welfare improvements) is accompanied by increased support for farms transitioning to plant-based farming. Health warnings and extra taxation on animal products. An end to advertising animal products, and more advertising around the advantages of plant-based diets.
Oh, and no live exports, or long journeys for animals in trucks, but you probably guessed that already.
The long term goal is still veganism for all, but there is a recognition that it will take time and cultural change to get there.
And now we come to the policy on Animal Experimentation, also known as How to Lose the Vote of Medical Researchers in One Simple Policy.
We oppose the use of animals in experimentation unless it can be demonstrated that the experimentation will not harm the animal and will benefit research and the individual animals involved.
Look, by this measurement, I’m not sure that even research such as the attempts to create a vaccine against Tasmanian Devil facial tumour disease would be allowable. You can’t really demonstrate that you will benefit the individual animal until you’ve done the research. Also, the standard here look to me as though they might actually be higher than the standards used in human research (and perhaps the argument there is that humans can consent, which is true, of course).
But that’s a slightly unfair statement on my part, because it’s not what the AJP are really getting at.
Before I go on the inevitable rant about this, let’s quickly review their objectives. The first two are about funding to support research that doesn’t involved animals, and find alternatives to animal research. Both of these are great and make sense. Policy 3 I’m not sure I entirely understand, but it’s about ensuring there is no support for animals used as resources. I’m also fine with policies 4 and 5, which are against testing of commercial chemical and cleaning products on animals, and banning the use of stray domestic animals in research. But policy 6 is about removing funding from medical research that involves the use of animals, and I’m sorry, but that’s a terrible, no-good, very bad policy.
I am, perhaps, more than usually frustrated by this policy because I work with medical researchers and have in fact spent much of the last week helping with the re-writing of animal ethics applications. So the three ‘R’s of animal ethics – reduction, replacement and refinement – are on my mind at present.
The goal is always to minimise the number of animals used in research. We start by working with individual proteins or cells in petri dishes or tubes. We use computerised modelling to extrapolate from what we have observed. A new and exciting technology is the use of organoids, which are a miniature, simplified version of an organ grown in vitro, and which allow us to see how something works in the context of an organ. All of this pushes back the point at which you need to involve animals at all, and this is a good thing.
But there comes a point where you need to see how something works in an entire body, and that’s where animal research comes into play. You can’t just assume that because something works in a single organ that it won’t have effects elsewhere. And you can’t do the research usefully in humans because we are too genetically diverse. With mice, we can make sure everything about the animals is identical except for the treatment they receive, which means we can use a relatively small number of animals to get statistically-significantly results.
And no, this is not a great time for the mice. But great care is taken to make sure that mice aren’t wasted, that they aren’t being put through multiple procedures unnecessarily (and there are upper limits regardless of necessity, as well they should be – the Ethics Committee are well within their scope to send us back a note saying, nope, you have to re-design this experiment).
This is how you get cures for diseases. We don’t, yet, have a better way to do it, though it’s something people are working on because a) nobody actually likes doing mean things to mice and b) mice are really expensive to look after.
I agree that we should be constantly reviewing our procedures and making sure that they are compliant with the three Rs, but you just can’t ban animal research and expect medical research to still work. I’m sorry, but that’s how it is.
(I could point out that nobody is innocent here. We have all, at some point, been vaccinated with something that was tested on animals, or taken antibiotics that were tested on animals, or used some other medicine that was tested on animals. I don’t think we would want to be without those things. But they have a cost, and we aren’t the ones who pay it. I don’t think anyone is more mindful of this than the researchers who use animals in their work.)
Phew. I bet you’re glad I’m done with the ranting, aren’t you? But there are more policies to come, oh yes!
The AJP starts by food policy is central to climate policy… but because we like cliffhangers, I’m saving that one for when it turns up under the ‘Human’ policy section. (Spoiler: more veganism!)
Overall, in addition to the veganism, they are in favour of clean energy, recycling, and comprehensive research into making clean energy available.
If two materials are interchangable, we favour the one with the lowest land footprint, all other things being equal.
AJP favours sources of clean energy that minimise habitat destruction or other harmful impacts on animals and the environment.
Climate change is an urgent priority for the AJP, as they point out that animals will feel the effects of this long before we do, since they don’t have technology to mitigate it. PS: go vegan! (It’s a theme.)
They want to rapidly move to a clean energy infrastructure, and direct taxes into research and development of this infrastructure; they want to prohibit fossil fuel expansion, including natural gas; they want to protect forests; and they want to transform Australian agriculture to allow reforestation by reducing grazing.
Wildlife conservation is also a priority here, and the main new things in this policy (many overlap with other policies above) are adding wildlife sensitivity components to driver education and impose harsher penalties on drivers who intentionally hit wildlife, and to invest in technologies to reduce roadkill. They also want to make sure all forestry is plantation forestry, and ensure that fencing is used to keep wildlife out of these areas and thus safe.
They also have a policy on the Great Barrier Reef which is: go vegan! OK, now I’m being a bit frivolous. What they actually say is:
For thirty years the biggest factor affecting the Great Barrier Reef has been the increased sediment and fertiliser carried into reef waters by all the rivers flowing eastwards in far north Queensland. This sediment and fertiliser comes from pasture on land cleared for cattle.
So to save the reef, we need to phase out cattle farming. (And also, not mine coal or natural gas there, etc…)
Don’t get me wrong – this is sound policy as far as I can see. I’m just enjoying the ‘all roads lead to veganism’ aspect of this. I think possibly the AJP wants us to be vegan?
The policies about humans are by and large your standard, inclusive, social-justice-greenie sort of policies, with a special AJP-vegan twist! I shall examine most of these briefly – as, indeed, the AJP have done. These policies are much shorter than the ones for animals, presumably because they know that other parties are already putting time and energy into this, and their voters mostly just need to know which way they will vote on social issues.
So on population, they want to reduce the birth rate to population replacement levels – but welcome refugees, so long as we are keeping the population from expanding.
On Education – children need to be educated about kindness to animals and also about the health benefits of being vegan!
On Employment – more animal friendly industries, and educational opportunities for workers currently involved in animal industries.
On Family Violence – make sure domestic violence shelters accept pets! (This actually is an important one – people do stay in abusive relationships because their pets are threatened if they leave them behind.) They do include a sensible definition of family violence, even if their links are broken…
On Gun Control – the AJP is for it! And while we are at it, let’s prohibit hunting…
On Mental Health – more opportunities for human-animal interactions, and better support for people who work in animal rehabilitation etc.
On Biosecurity – better watch those factory farms, they are the biggest problem. Also, be nicer to bats!
On International Affairs – Australia needs to be a good example, and also ban the import and export of animal trophies, and police illegal wildlife trading.
Their section on the economy is basically that they want to fund all the policies mentioned elsewhere. They do not say how they will do this. (Which is not a criticism – they are not yet positioning themselves as a party which could actually win government, so sticking to priorities without costings is fine for now. When the costings start appearing, you’ll know that they are seriously ready to challenge the Greens!)
There are two general sections where the AJP had a bit more to say. I’m saving the veganism until last because I want it to be a surprise… OK, no, I’m saving it til last because I like thinking about food. So first we will look at their sections on Animal Law and Law Social Justice.
The Animal Justice Party believes animal rights is the biggest social justice issue of our time. Achieving animal rights will not only benefit non-human animals but immensely improve the lives of humans. A kinder world where respect and non-violence towards all beings is encouraged and nurtured will have benefits that flow through to the lives of all and the environment which we live.
They will raise awareness of animal interests in Parliament and make sure animals are considered when laws are drafted. They will invest in research on relations between animals and humans (not like that! I am shocked, SHOCKED that you could think such a thing. This is not the Tory Party.). They also want to define animals as persons rather than as property. (Which means… No. Best not go there.)
I actually want more on that last bit, because… where do they draw the line? Can we swat mosquitoes? Do we get prosecuted for manslaughter if a bird flies into a windmill? What if we swerve to avoid a child and hit a dog? Is that now aggravated murder because it is intentional? How, precisely, would this bit work? Also, does this mean one has to plan a guardianship for any companion animals in case their human dies? I mean, most of my friends do this informally already, but seriously, how DOES this work?
Elsewhere, they say:
We seek a new legal status for animals, acknowledging their right to live protected from human harm.
And they have a lot of objectives regarding better protection against animal cruelty and prosecution of those who harm animals, but to my mind, that’s a slightly different thing.
OK, let’s move onto Health and veganism, because I know that you have been wanting to know more about this! The AJP supports universal, publicly-funded healthcare (hey! I’ve just realised that they don’t have a Veticare policy, and they totally should! Get on it, AJP!) (No, seriously, that would be awesome – cost shouldn’t be a barrier to taking your animal to the vet, and vets deserve to be paid in a timely fashion. Do it!). They want to broaden the focus to improving health.
Our key dietary goal is to shift Australia’s food focus towards healthy plant-based wholefoods. This will greatly reduce the rates of many illnesses.
Well… maybe. Not everyone does well on a vegan diet. Especially if they don’t have the education and skills and time to construct balanced meals, though to be fair, AJP really, REALLY wants to educate people on that.
In addition to the various veganish policies mentioned above, the AJP wants to educate healthcare professionals on the benefits of plant based diets, improve food labelling to clearly indicate components of animal origin, and…
…oh wait a minute, they want to do what?
2. To end unnecessary public funding of research on drugs that address diseases best managed by simple lifestyle choices.
No. No, no, no and Hell no to that. Diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and many, MANY other diseases can be alleviated in part by lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise. But not, generally, fully, and frankly, these are not always ‘simple’ to manage. Try getting enough exercise when you work in an office, have children who need to be driven to after-school activities, and a dodgy knee. Or try changing your diet when you are on a low income, are time-poor, are exhausted, are sick, frankly – or are just not particularly confident cook. (Yes, vegan food can be cheaper to make – but often you pay an extra cost in time, and often the very cheapest foods you can buy are the ones with the lowest nutritional value.)
Also, if you are sick, you don’t need everyone judging your lifestyle choices (I mean, they will, don’t you worry about that, but you don’t actually need it. It’s just a special bonus).
This makes me absolutely furious. I have so many friends with illnesses and disabilities who are constantly bombarded with idiotic messages about how if they would just change their diet and exercise more, they would be fine. And don’t get me started on trying to get doctors to take unrelated medical issues seriously if you happen to be overweight, or have a mental illness. This is not something we need more of.
There is a strong whiff of ‘if you live a good, vegan life, nothing bad will happen to you’ about this, and I do not like it one bit. Fund medical research for the diseases people actually get, not just the ones you think only ‘deserving’ people get, you gits.
(Also… is this anti-vax code? Vitamins, not vaccinations? Or am I reading too much into it? It would explain a lot about their disregard for medical research if they thought it was all Big Pharma and Natural Living is Better anyway…)
Damn, AJP. I was just beginning to think I liked you, despite your stupid policies on animals in medical research, but this makes me absolutely livid.
(And just when I thought I was saving the fun bits for last.)
OK, deep breaths and on with Human Diet and Animals, and this isn’t even fun any more, because I am so cross. The AJP advocates a vegan diet, but recognises that it will take education and cultural change to get there. Nobody is surprised. I am actually 100% in favour of their objectives here, which are to expand school kitchen garden programs, introduce plant based cooking and food preparation lessons in primary school, and also plant based nutrition lessons ditto. I’m in favour of any policy that teaches kids to cook, so two thumbs up from me on this one.
Lucky last, we have a policy on cultured meats. I’m going to quote this one in full, without comment, because who doesn’t love a bit of science-fiction feel in their political policies?
Meat cultured from individual animal cells has the potential to replace meat produced from killing animals. But if cultured meat is identical to normal meat, it will cause the same health problems. If it is different, it may better or worse; it is too early to say.
The AJP will judge such meat replacements on a case by case basis as the evidence emerges.
1. To ask the NHMRC to report on the state and potential for cultured meat, dairy and egg products.
And that’s that.
I don’t really know what to say, now. It’s clear that the AJP has matured a bit as a party in the last few years, which is a good thing. We need more solidly lunar left parties to make up for the proliferation of the rabid right. In terms of policy, they have some really excellent ones, but there are also a couple of absolute shockers. I’m really very angry about the ‘lifestyle choice’ one. Judgmental little blighters (and seriously, way to live up to the judgy vegan stereotype! All the vegans I know in real life are completely lovely, what the hell is with the judgy online vegans?)
I don’t know how to weigh this against the rest, because it makes me wonder about what other assumptions and judgments are underlying the careful, moderate wording of their other policies. It makes me look again at the ‘Vote for Kindness / Vote with your Heart’ wording and go, hmm, yeah, maybe I wasn’t just being oversensitive about guilt trips.
Hard to say where they will go on my ballot at this point. I mean, they are the first party I’ve read through. But they won’t be at the top.