Once again the Animal Justice Party is wheeling out the political rhetoric in the hopes of getting you to Vote1AJP on May 18.
Thinking that vegans have short memories, they are unfurling their personhood banner.
Though, unlike their attempt in 2016, which you can read about here, this time they are stepping things up a bit.
This announcement was made during a live stream with the candidate for Ryan (Qld), Joanne Webb.
What Type Of *Personhood* Do They Want?
While Joanne did say that the Animal Justice Party want to “put forward an argument that animals and the environment are granted legal personhood”, the question needs to be asked what type of personhood will they be advocating for?
Humans are natural persons, which means that we are afforded certain rights from birth. Though some jurisdictions afford human personhood prior to birth, and some are advocating for it to happen from fertilisation.
It should also be noted that governments can take away these rights.
Companies, incorporated associations, etc are classed as juridicial person, and they are given certain rights upon registration, and these rights end when the entity is de-registered.
Juridicial persons usually only have the right to own property, open a bank account, sue another person and be sued by another person.
Whereas we know that human persons have a larger number of rights.
Will the rights be afforded to individual animals, or animals generally as a species?
How will the personhood apply to “the environment”?
Will personhood be granted to certain areas, while others are ignored?
Will it apply to “the environment” as a whole?
These are questions that should have been asked, though weren’t.
As per the previous article I wrote, the implications of other, or certain animals being granted personhood are immense.
What will be the implications for those who keep companion animals? (Remember, the Animal Justice Party have stated they don’t want to end companion animal ownership).
How will they be able to keep companion animals, if they are granted personhood?
Will companion animal owners become legal guardians of the animal, giving them the ability to give consent for medial procedures, etc?
What about if the companion animal gets out of where they live? What will be obligations and implications on the guardian?
Despite what Joanne wanted us to believe, the implications on the environment being granted personhood don’t only apply to those who do something wrong.
It has the potential to apply to everything that relates to the environment.
How could roads be built or improved if the environment was a person?
What if someone bought an undeveloped block of land, and wanted to build a house on it?
What about back burning?
What about prior damage done to the environment that has future implications? Would people be held accountable retrospectively?
What if a particular parcel of land needs to be built on due to our expanding population? Will they pass a law suspending personhood for that area?
Can They Do It?
As has been written about previously, the Commonwealth of Australia is only able to pass laws on a certain number of things.
This list appears in s51 of the Australian Constitution.
If it isn’t listed in that section, the Commonwealth cannot pass laws relating to it.
If they try to, the law is likely to be deemed invalid if challenged in the High Court.
What About Constitutional Protection?
Constitutional protection is totally different to “the animals” and “the environment” being granted personhood.
For there to be constitutional protection of “the animals” and “the environment” the proposed law needs to be passed by both houses of parliament, in its entirety, before it can be put to a referendum.
The validity of this law would also face a High Court challenge as it seeks to give the Commonwealth a power that wasn’t originally given to it in the Constitution.
Is There A Better Option
While I do not believe that granting “the animals” or “the environment” personhood is the right thing to do, there is a better option.
During the 2020 Queensland general election campaign, the Australian Vegan Party will be proposing that an Office of Animal Advocate be created.
The OAA will advocate on behalf of animals on matters that impact them, and where they live.
As the OAA will be created by the Queensland parliament, which has the constitutional authority to pass laws relating to animals, it is unlikely it will be challenged in court.
As “the animals” are an area that the States/Territories have power to pass laws relating to, we will need to wait until the State elections before we can do anything “for the animals”.
In the meantime, don’t put your faith or hope in a political party that makes empty promises.
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