Published 14/04/2016

With Turnball’s announcement of a possible double dissolution on July 2, the past month has become a flurry of political conversation. While big media is focused on the antics of major parties, it’s time to shine the spotlight on the less discussed minor parties.

The Animal Justice Party, formed due to growing citizen concern about animal neglect and safety issues, was created in 2009 and approved by the Australian Electoral Commission in 2011. The party’s vision for a world where animals are given the same rights to well-being and respect as humans has lead them on a path of real change for the way animals are treated nationally and worldwide.

Their aim, as project manager Bruce Poon describes, is “to vastly improve the conditions under which animals live in Australia by giving them political representation and giving them a say in how the law is made.” While the AJP is its own entity and not formally linked to international animal protection parties, Poon considers the recognition of animal rights in politics as a global cooperation.

With a few thousand members spread out across Australia, the AJP has begun to make a name for itself in Australian politics. The response from the public, Poon said, has been great so far, with Victoria already gaining over 1000 members since standing for election in 2013 and other states homing organised committees with volunteers and working and regional groups. Since then, the party has ran in the 2014 Victorian state election and the 2015 New South Wales state election with votes doubling at each.

At last year’s NSW election, the AJP won its first seat and had MP Mark Pearson elected in the upper house. “It’s been a tremendous boost to the party” Poon shared, “we’re able to have an office in NSW and we’re about to hire some permanent staff, so that really gives us some infrastructure and solid ground.”

While looking at just a few of the many policies of the AJP, it’s clear that animals are at the forefront of every movement this party makes. An example of this is the AJP’s concern for climate change.

While they party, like almost every other, admits that human society will suffer enormously, the AJP’s apprehension is that it’ll be the animals who suffer first if the world changes too quickly and that it’s up to us on behalf of animals that we fix this.

“Lots of parties have touched on moving to emissions free renewable technology to produce energy, but a bigger issue in terms of the emissions over the past 20 years, or the impact on global warming over the next 20, is animal agriculture” Poon revealed.

Other political parties are loathe to talk about it, either because they don’t understand it or sometimes because they do, but they don’t want to because it’s not a political winner. They’re saying, ‘we’re not taking climate change seriously, we’re just using it as a political leverage point to win votes’. If they were serious about it, they would be taking on animal agriculture as it is absolutely required if we’re going to solve this problem.”

The AJP is soon coming out with a policy on economics and believes there is a lot that can be done to help not only animal welfare, but human society.

“We see the government in turmoil, really, in the throes of trying to balance the budget,” Poon said, “But with more revenue and cutting expenses, there’s an awful lot of money wasted because of our poor understanding and relationship with animals.” The party wishes to shine a light on the amount of money wasted on subsiding animal agriculture that is not only unnecessary, but an enormous cost to our health, budget and environment.

The party tries to involve itself in the national conversation about major issues and talks to the major parties about what can change. Poon revealed that the AJP believes that both major parties are “moving slowly to a better position on animal cruelty and issues”, and because of this they interact with both equally to find a voice for animals in Australian politics.

The AJP does however, have solid relationships with some Non-Governmental Organisations like Animals Australia, Animal Liberation Queensland, RSPCA, Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses and Oscar’s Law. They support these NGO’s and work tightly with them to expose to the public what’s going on behind closed doors.

“We have good relationships with a number of smaller NGO’s, and we also try to maintain a relationship with some of the bigger organisations, meeting with them from time to time,” Poon said. “We’ll often meet with the RSPCA and talk about particular industries or cases and what can be done to try and solve the issue.”

When discussing the new reform on senate voting, Poon believes that nothing is clear about how it will affect the AJP.

“I think it makes it more difficult on the whole for smaller parties like ourselves to get representation” he admitted. While the AJP is up against big powers like the major parties, they believe they can still win senators at the next election with increasing organisation and volunteers working each day to promote the values of the party.

The party will be handing out ‘how-to-vote’ cards on the day of the election, which Poon stressed as an important part of why they’re hoping to have thousands of volunteers. “We’d love for more people to be involved, we’re after a grand coalition of people who want a better life for animals. We don’t care about your political or religious background – as long as you want animals to have a better life.”

For the AJP, the future seems to hold an incredible amount of potential and possibilities. With animal rights movements growing all around the world, the party believes that every coming year will see more people elected to represent animals in governments globally.

“When we started the party we knew it might take twenty years to get elected representatives, and in fact it’s taken two” Poon said.

The party is confident that after only two years of standing at elections, the future will see more seats and senators at elections, with parties representing the rights of animals in parliament.