|Social Media:||Facebook — Twitter — Instagram — YouTube|
|Slogans:||Animals. People. Planet.
Vote With Your Heart.
|Themes:||A better world for Animals, People & Planet, with emphasis on the first of those three|
|Electorates:||Upper House: Eastern Victoria Region, North-East Metropolitan Region, Northern Metropolitan Region, Northern Victoria Region, South-East Metropolitan Region, Southern Metropolitan Region, Western Metropolitan Region, Western Victoria Region
Lower House: Albert Park, Ashwood, Bass, Bayswater, Bellarine, Benambra, Bendigo East, Bendigo West, Bentleigh, Berwick, Box Hill, Brighton, Broadmeadows, Brunswick, Bundoora, Carrum, Caulfield, Clarinda, Cranbourne, Croydon, Dandenong, Eildon, Eltham, Essendon, Eureka, Euroa, Evelyn, Footscray, Frankston, Geelong, Gippsland East, Gippsland South, Glen Waverley, Greenvale, Hastings, Hawthorn, Ivanhoe, Kalkallo, Kew, Kororoit, Lara, Laverton, Lowan, Macedon, Malvern, Melbourne, Melton, Mildura, Mill Park, Monbulk, Mordialloc, Mornington, Morwell, Mulgrave, Narracan, Narre Warren North, Nepean, Niddrie, Northcote, Oakleigh, Ovens Valley, Pakenham, Pascoe Vale, Preston, Point Cook, Polwarth, Prahran, Preston, Richmond, Ringwood, Ripon, Rowville, Sandringham, Shepparton, South Barwon, South-West Coast, St Albans, Sunbury, Sydenham, Tarneit, Thomastown, Warrandyte, Wendouree, Werribee, Williamstown
|Preferences:||AJP’s top preferences all flow to some combination of Legalise Cannabis, Reason, Victorian Socialists, and either Labor or Greens. Without exception, the lowest on the ticket are Labour DLP, Family First, and Freedom Victoria.|
|Previous Reviews:||2022 — 2019 — 2018 — 2014 — 2013|
Policies & Commentary
Before we get into the policies and positions of the Animal Justice Party (hereafter referred to as AJP), let’s address the elephant in the room. 1No, I’m not sorry for that metaphor. AJP successfully managed to blindside so-called “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery. The details make for fascinating reading, but suffice it to say AJP will reap preferences from parties that are utterly opposed to their policies, while directing their own preferences towards parties more in line with their own.
Naturally, those parties working with Druery who are now facing the prospect that their preferences might get AJP candidates elected are screaming bloody blue murder. Hinch’s Justice Party is particularly upset, bordering on histrionic. As for Druery himself … well, let’s just say that he should probably have a cup of tea and a good lie down before he does himself an injury. Others have applauded AJP’s sting. 2Oops, another animal metaphor. I’ll try to rein myself in but honestly, it’s hard.
Was it legal? Yes. Was it underhand and sneaky? Oh yeah. Was it an exceptionally clever way to use a legal – but dodgy – setup in order to benefit themselves? Hell, yes. Did it expose the fatal flaws in Victoria’s Group Voting Ticket system? Absolutely.
Whatever you think of their tactics, it’s important to remember that what the AJP have done only affects you as a voter if you vote above the line. You’re not bound by any Group Voting Ticket unless you want to be. Vote below the line, and no amount of wheeling and dealing will rob you of your preferred candidates.
Right. Now let’s get to the policies, shall we?
AJP are unapologetic about their primary focus. They have 80 policy areas listed on their website, and no less than 38 of these are exclusively animal-centred. Of the rest, most make reference to animal issues as part of wider concerns. Even their mental health policy is all about how humans interact with animals. So you could be forgiven for thinking that’s all there is to this party.
There are a handful of policies that are only peripherally related to our animal friends. We’ll get to them in a bit. Animal policies first.
AJP are explicitly anti-meat, with initiatives to educate us about the benefits of plant-based diets, and a plan to phase out industries that involve exploitation of animals as commodities. They’d also like to ban the sale of processed meat to people under 18, which is, frankly, baffling. AJP justify this by likening processed meat to cigarettes and alcohol in terms of harmful effects – which, I feel, completely obscures the point that the latter are addictive, while processed meat is not. While we’re talking about processed meat, AJP wants it banned from school cafeterias and hospitals, education programs, mandated health warnings on the packages, and a deterrent tax. Oh, and they’re suspicious about meat made from cultured animal cells, too.
Now, I’m all for people learning more about various foods, because we could all do with making some healthy changes to our diets, but this is just a tad hysterical – not to mention ridiculously impractical. I mean, really – are AJP going to insist that your average pizza shop checks the ID of every young person who wants to order a pepperoni pizza? Also, not all processed meat is the same. Your average packet of mince from the supermarket is technically processed meat, so no spag bol for you, kid? This policy isn’t just a blunt instrument – it’s a giant boulder from space trying to hit a single hot dog.
Pets – or rather, Companion Animals – get a whole section to themselves. AJP want nothing less than a complete overhaul of both how we treat pets, and how we think of pets. This starts sensibly enough, with calls for the abolition of puppy and kitten farms, restriction of breeding permits, and encouragement of animal adoption. So far so good.
We should ensure pets live in an appropriate, healthy environment and are looked after properly. Works for me. AJP do not exactly spell out how this is to be accomplished or enforced, mind you. There should also be consideration given to establishing spaces for pets to exercise and relieve themselves. I’m not entirely sure what they mean, here – doggy toilets? Litter boxes in the park? No, I’m not just being flippant – at the moment, there is literally nothing to stop your dog pooping on the nature strip if it feels the urge while you’re taking it for a walk 3Those of you who actually manage to take your cats for a walk on a leash, you have my respect. You are a small but dedicated minority, and you deserve your claw scars.. You just have to clean the mess up, because after all, that’s your responsibility. All told, these are reasonable things to expect.
AJP go further, though, calling for changes to probate and guardianship laws so that pets are cared for when humans die. Basically, legislation to compel you to put your pet in your will. On the whole, I think this is a solution in search of a problem. With few exceptions, people who become unable to care for their pets tend to make informal arrangements with family and friends. Sure, sometimes things happen suddenly, but even then, we’re hardly looking at a widespread lack of care for animals. Legislation, I think, is not the answer here. Education is.
And here we come to the point where I part company with AJP altogether on the subject of pets. They want to reframe companion animals as individuals rather than as commodities. This is an interesting walk-back from the language they used in 2018, but in line with their general stance that Animals are People, Too, and therefore worthy of protection. Including invertebrates. Even including pre-natal mammals and birds. (I have to say that this is fascinating in light of their policy on abortion, but that’s a whole ‘nother philosophical conversation.) Does this mean I can’t put down Ant-Rid?
They also want an across-the-board definition of “animal” based primarily on sentience, cognition and interests. At the minimum, it should include all animals that can or are likely to suffer pain, based on the most recent science. Lest that be seen as proscriptive, AJP also states that when in doubt, the AJP will push for animals to be protected as a precaution. Let’s leave aside the question of animal sentience, shall we? That’s a discussion for minds far better trained in animal sciences than I am. Let’s look at what’s really being suggested here. AJP is avowedly, unashamedly opposed to the use of animals in almost any capacity. No animal-based food, no leather or wool, no animal experimentation, no use of animal products in anything. This definition would be the foundation stone upon which AJP could build subsequent policies outlawing everything from beekeeping to using eggs in the production of influenza vaccines.
On to animal protectionism. Recreational shooting of animals is out. Aquaculture is out. Racing and animal entertainment are absolutely out. Dingoes (indeed, all native animals and birds), bats, and brumbies should be protected from both environmental impacts and culling, and non-lethal methods of control should be implemented. As for mouse plagues, AJP want a fertility-based, non-lethal method of dealing with them.
(You can see why the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers might be just a teeny tiny bit annoyed that AJP will get their preferences as a result of the Druery debacle.)
That’s just a sample of AJP’s direct animal policies. There are a lot more, but honestly, we’ll be here all day if we go into each one in detail. The dominant theme in all of them is that we humans exploit animals terribly, causing catastrophic impacts on everything from the environment to the economy to our mental health. And they have some excellent points. The inherent cruelty of the racing industries is indefensible. It exists purely to provide us with “entertainment” – and we should take a long, hard look at ourselves if we think destructive breeding, animal distress, and animal death is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Similarly, some areas of the meat industry are extremely damaging to the environment, and cause needless suffering to animals. (The live export industry in the case of the latter, for example).
There are inherent problems in AJP’s “all or nothing” approach to many of these issues, though. Many of their initiatives for dealing with feral or pest animals (and they object to the use of these words, too) rely on future science and technology, or ideas that are practically unworkable. Take the mouse plagues, for instance. AJP’s policy of non-lethal methods of control is a good one – but they also want to stop current lethal methods of control altogether, even though their preferred alternative just doesn’t exist yet. There’s no balance here, no recognition that their policies, if implemented the way they’re written, would actually make the situation worse.
But let’s move on to AJP’s People Policy. AJP supports gun control – but oh wait, that’s about not shooting animals. Of course, less guns in general means less human deaths as well, but it’s just a little bit disingenuous to call this a “people” thing. Ditto their Decent Work initiatives – that’s all about doing away with animal industries. Law and Social Justice has nothing to do with people whatsoever, nor does International Affairs (except in terms of how other people might see us).
So, I hear you ask in despair, are there any policies that are actually about people? Well, we have a few policies that appear to be. But don’t get your hopes up yet.
AJP want more funding for refuges for those who are victims of domestic or family violence. Fantastic. We need more of that – whoops, hang on. That funding should be especially targeted at shelters that accommodate children and dependent animals. The rest of the Family or Domestic Violence policy is – surprise, surprise – all about animals. In fact, AJP have conflated animal cruelty and family violence to a truly ridiculous degree.
Family law should be reformed, not for people, but for animals who are part of divorce proceedings. Sentencing legislation should be reformed for perpetrators of both animal cruelty and family violence. Police should liaise with veterinarians, and kids should be taught at school to recognise the signs of animal or human abuse. Gobsmackingly, the AJP advocate a single national register for convicted perpetrators of domestic and family violence and animal cruelty. (My bold.)
Don’t get me wrong, here. Animal abuse is disgusting and laws surrounding it need to be massively strengthened and enforced. There’s no excuse – none – for mistreating an animal.
But to say you have a family violence policy when what you really have is a bunch of initiatives designed to stop animal cruelty is not just misleading. It’s offensive. Family violence destroys lives. It’s not a convenient label for you to use as you see fit. For god’s sake, issues of animal ownership in cases of divorce are a completely separate matter from family violence. A person fleeing in terror from an abusive relationship, often with nothing but the clothes on their back and their traumatised kids, isn’t going to stop in at the vet’s for a chat on their way out the door.
As for that register – where do I even start? To say it would be unwieldy would be an understatement. Then there are privacy concerns, because yes, even convicted offenders have rights. And while we’re at it, why isn’t AJP advocating for a single register to include all people convicted of violent crime? Nothing about this idea makes sense.
AJP wants to stop animal abuse? Terrific. It’s a laudable goal, and, given the party’s narrow focus, certainly worthy of its own policy category. And I have to wonder why it doesn’t. Why would AJP give these policies the title of Family or Domestic Violence? It looks, at the very least, disingenuous. At worst, people might be forgiven for thinking it’s blatant political opportunism. Family violence is an increasingly visible issue, and pretty much all of us are united in wanting more done to protect victims, deal with offenders appropriately, and educate people about their rights and support that’s out there. Having a policy specifically addressing it looks great at first glance – until you look at what it’s actually saying.
The Mental Health policy is scarcely any better. It’s mostly about support for people who work in animal rescue or animal industries, along with giving pets to people with mental health issues. Which, you know, yay, but there’s a hell of a lot more to mental health than this. In fact, the majority of mental health issues have nothing whatsoever to do with animals. AJP has nothing to say about this. What they do have, inexplicably, is a promise to expand funding for sanctuaries and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation projects.
I’d dearly love to know how that last one even remotely applies to Mental Health policy.
AJP’s Land Transport and Human Population and Planning policies are somewhat better. There are initiatives aimed at rapidly eliminating the use of fossil fuels, funding for public transport, better support for remote working, and dedicated cycling paths. They propose funding overseas aid programs, especially those aimed at women and girls. Free access to fertility control methods in order to control human population growth also features, along with limiting urban sprawl general support for Equality and Asylum Seekers.
Oh, did you think there was nothing about animals in these? Think again. AJP want road network expansion limited to protect animal habitats, and wildlife infrastructure to prevent animal road deaths. They’d like to see pets allowed on public transport, and want to make sure the development of self-driving vehicles doesn’t have a negative impact on animal safety. And they want to implement the goals of the Half-Earth Project, something initially proposed by an entomologist named E.O. Wilson. This would mean that fully half of the planet (land and sea) would be “reserved” for natural habitats, no development allowed. 4I leave the mental gymnastics to work out just how this could be accomplished as an exercise for the reader.
To find anything that isn’t basically all about animals, you have to leave AJP’s Policies and go to what it calls its Position Statements. There’s nothing concrete here, just motherhood statements, but it’s good to know where they stand.
Gender Equality advocates equality across all genders, zero tolerance for sexism and misogyny, protection for LGBTQIA+ people who suffer disproportionately from violence, and general recognition and education about the intersection between gender violence, racism, and speciesism. Lest we forget about animals, though, AJP draws an odd connection between the high number of women involved in animal advocacy and the “exclusion” of women from political life. I’m not quite sure what this is supposed to achieve. Are we to assume that women’s experience of sexism and oppression makes them more likely to look after animals, and that’s why they’re under-represented in politics? Seems a very long bow to draw.
Homelessness is bad, AJP say, and more should be done to address it. No argument there, but no suggestions, either – except for the suggestion that housing should do more to accommodate homeless people with pets. Under recent changes to Victorian law, though, renters can no longer be refused tenancy simply for having pets, so AJP is proposing a solution to a problem that no longer exists.
Marriage Equality gets one line of unequivocal support. And, surprisingly, it doesn’t mention animals at all.
Vaccinations, according to the AJP, are an unmitigated good. They acknowledge that mandatory vaccination may be necessary for workers in high-risk settings such as aged care facilities. They’re also in favour of using subsidies and paid leave to encourage people to be vaccinated. There is one cautionary note to the effect of needing to take into account the balance between the greater good and individual choice.
AJP are pro voluntary euthanasia, but only when when a person is diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that is incurable, advanced, progressive and will cause death. This might just be a case of clumsy wording, but on the face of it, AJP do not support euthanasia as a choice for someone in lifelong suffering who is not afflicted with a specifically terminal diagnosis. Or a degenerative mental condition that will not, specifically, kill. That’s problematic for many reasons, not least because terminal diagnoses aren’t always that clear-cut.
Finally, AJP come out in full-throated support for reproductive choice and access to government-provided contraception and abortion services, particularly in rural and remote areas. Crucially, they also say that any person seeking those services should be safe, respected and not be subject to criminal charges or any form of harassment or undue influence. It’s worth noting here that so far, this is the only party5So far – historically, the Greens and Reason have both had similar policies, but we haven’t looked at them yet that has made protection from harassment and coercion an integral part of its reproductive choice policy.
All in all, the AJP are exactly what their name indicates – a party whose nearly exclusive focus is animal welfare. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of their policies are questionable in terms of practicality, and some are little more than agenda-pushing without much evidence or apparent thought behind them, but there are a lot of really good initiatives here.
I’m all for doing away with unnecessary exploitation and outright cruelty. There’s no excuse for testing skin care or cosmetics on animals, for example. Battery farming and other intensive practices are horrible, and thankfully, are on the way out in Australia. But there are limits. Currently, we live in a society where some use of animals is unavoidable. At the very least, we need to feed our carnivore pets – assuming that AJP doesn’t want to make cats and dogs follow a vegan lifestyle, of course – and that requires either a slaughter industry or letting our pets predate freely upon native wildlife. We depend upon medicines that have been developed using animals, in order to preserve our health or cure us from illness. Maybe one day we won’t need to do that. Maybe we’ll develop technologies that means we no longer have to use animals for anything but company.
But we’re not there yet. We’re not even close. And AJP isn’t basing its policies on what’s possible now, or advocating a mass injection of funding into developing these future technologies. It just wants the current situation to end. I applaud the sentiment. I question the methodology.
What I can’t get past, though, is the use of policies supposedly aimed at human issues when they are, in reality, more of the same animal-focused initiatives. There really isn’t any excuse for their family violence and mental health policies. Whether by accident or design, they are deceptive, and that makes me look at the party with a suspicious eye. They’ll be somewhere in the middle of my ticket.
They’re by no means the worst out there, though, and if animal welfare is something you care deeply about, then AJP is definitely worth looking at.
They do seem to have a strong sense of their values in calling for better treatment of (and respect for) animals. Personally, I would take a more conservation/ecological approach to some issues e.g. having some culling – but having an animal welfare stance against culling is fair enough and unsurprising for them.
I remember looking at their domestic violence policy a while ago, and had the same remark. It did make me think of an angle that I did not consider before, given that some families experiencing abuse would have connections to their pets, and might want to bring them too. But I do agree that domestic violence is a much bigger problem primarily impacting on humans, and one that should not be reduced to simply “how can we connect this to animals” (same for homelessness and mental health).
Very thorough analysis overall, one of my favourite breakdowns so far!
Oh, and yes, that preference deal showdown was a great drama! Clearly they have burned their bridges with that bloc of minor parties at least, but presumably they are happy to work with like-minded parties from now on – and feel that having a greater chance of being elected is worth breaking a backroom promise.
What they do have, inexplicably, is a promise to expand funding for sanctuaries and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation projects.
I’d dearly love to know how that last one even remotely applies to Mental Health policy.
If you frame it in terms of animal mental health maybe? Or are they on the “working with animals helps with mental illness” train here.
You can see why the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers might be just a teeny tiny bit annoyed that AJP will get their preferences as a result of the Druery debacle
Really hope this encourages a lot more people to vote below the line. Also that it screws Druery for future elections!
Please pun away! 🙂
I think AJP are coming from a good place but they make my head hurt. The non-lethal pest control is my particular hot button, because we simply don’t have effective non-lethal methods. One lovely woman wanted us to catch all the rabbits and transport them home to England! However rabbits, foxes, and cane toads (also brumbies) are leading causes of native species extinction, which isn’t abstract. Species extinction means individual animals die of predation or starvation (due to habitat destruction). The choice isn’t between animals dying or not, its about which animals die.
Total aside but the Half-Earth concept or something like it was featured in the 2020 NGV Triennial : Planet City by Liam Young. The interview with the artist is still on the website. Its physically feasible if politically impractical – nonetheless a thought-provoking exhibit.
I’m hearing that anything involving Kevin Bacon will be an automatic “R” rating (this also applies retroactively). An alternative solution offered was a change of name to Kevin Bakin, Kevin Bac*n or Kevin Vegan-Bacon