In an almost empty parliament something happened today. Where members casually entertain each other with “hear, hear” or some poisonous comment while they praise their party and ridicule the other with empty slogans and tirades, someone said a few weighty words. Words unheard of, unspoken before yet now spoken on behalf of the voiceless. Just one lonely man, with only a handful to witness.
Today MP Mark Pearson representing the Animal Justice Party (AJP), the second party on the whole of the Earth to be elected on the platform of animal rights and welfare, said those words in the NSW Legislative Council. He began by outlining where the roots of the party are, in a state that passed a legislation to protect animals before children. Then he went on to speak about the Dutch Party for the Animals (Partij voor de Dierden) which was the first party representing animals in a parliament and that there are now two representatives of political parties for the animals in the European Union Parliament.
Mr Pearson made it clear that the AJP is a single purpose, but not single issue party. Some of the most important issues which are the focus of the AJP are:
* the proposed ag-gag laws otherwise known as the NSW Biosecurity Act, which among other things, seeks to hinder and punish animal activists and other persons who gather evidence of animal abuse on commercial animal enterprise facilities. This act would even go after ABC journalists or anyone who publishes damning evidence of such abuse, while persons and corporations who engage in animal abuse would enjoy bigger protection.
* the representation of animal welfare should be taken away from the Department of Primary Industries, lead by Katrina Hodgkinson who believes animal right activist to be “akin to terrorists”, using a language no doubt borrowed from the supporters of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of the USA. The primary aim of the DPI is to represent the interest of the animal industry, which is to maximise profit. This is a conflict of interest between the primary aim of the DPI and the rights and welfare of animals, hence and independent Office of Animal Welfare must be established to effectively represent the rights of animals.
* one of the most serious shortcoming of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which mandates that confined animals must be provided with exercise, but in the same time creates an exception for stock animals and animals which are “usually” kept in captivity in a cage. Mr Pearson here talked about his “colourful” past when chained himself with others to sowstalls in a piggery to protest the cruel treatment of sows, who lived and live their lives to date confined to stalls which, while now slightly bigger in size, are still being used by the animal industry
* the issues of live baiting and live export, which lead to the formation of the AJP
* enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and offences under the Crimes Act should be fully entrusted to the police instead of a charitable organisation, the RSPCA. While the RSPCA has achieved some success, and had serious failures such as the dropping all charges against Wally’s Piggery, has no funding, powers and perhaps lacks the will to effectively undertake such task. The police on the other hand has the power to apply for and use cover evidence gathering tools, which would lead to successful prosecutions.
A beautiful quote from Gandhi was also heard today “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
The above is a loose summary of the speech with some additional comments on the issues raised in the speech.