With very little fanfare, an Animal Justice Party candidate for the Queensland Senate recently launched their “animal law” policy.
The policy supposedly is supposedly in line with their claimed values of Kindness, Equality, Rationality and Non-Violence.
It is also supposed to satisfy one of their election positions of putting “animal rights” into law.
Now that all the fanfare has faded, how does this policy stand up against their claimed values, and what is actually possible under the Australian Constitution.
Interchanging “Rights” and “Welfare”
Unfortunately in the animal “movement” there is the mistaken view that the term “animal rights” and “animal welfare” are the same, and therefore interchangeable.
And, the Animal Justice Party is no different.
The “background” section of the policy document starts off good with
The Animal Justice Party (A JP) aims for a legal system that will protect the rights of both humans and other animals. We will create a justice system that respects the rights, interests and bodily security of all.
And then it goes down hill by talking about “animal welfare” legislation.
Universal Declaration of Animal Rights
Now this is an interesting path for the Animal Justice Party to head down.
It also shows how confused they are about international politics and law.
To assert Australian sovereignty over all laws protecting animals, regardless of international trade treaties, until trading nations sign a Universal Convention of Non-Human Animal Rights.
Here they are saying that Australia has sovereignty to make and pass laws relating to the protection of animals, regardless of any international treaty that Australia is a signatory to.
Yet, as soon as a trading nation signs a “Universal Convention of Non-Human Animal Rights”, we will hand over our sovereignty, to both the terms of the treaty, and unelected representatives.
While all this may sound well and good, they missed a few important points.
The Commonwealth of Australia can’t sign a treaty relating to something that it hasn’t been given the power to pass laws on under section 51 of the Australian Constitution. Unless they are going to force the states to hand over their power to pass laws, creating a “power” under s51(xxxvii).
Being a signatory to a treaty isn’t worth the paper it is written on, unless the treaty has been ratified by the parliament of the country.
The Commonwealth of Australia is bound to comply with any treaty it has signed and ratified, and can’t all of a sudden turn around as say they won’t comply with it. Without being hailed before the World Trade Organisation about the dispute, which it would most likely lose.
Then there is the issue of the “Universal Convention of Non-Human Animal Rights” itself.
Who will be the “governing body”?
The United Nations?
Can you imagine how long the debate on the content of the treaty would take? I would say decades. That is if we could get other countries to sign up to it.
This clause conflicts with their “asylum seeker” position statement target=”_blank” from November 2017, where they say,
Our position is that Australia has a moral and a legal obligation to comply with the international treaties we have ratified.
Does this mean that the AJP will pick and choose which treaties they comply with?
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They claim that they will “ will introduce new uniform legislation across Australia that guarantees the bodily security of nonhuman animals with protection from undue human interference”.
Yet their very own companion animal policy says:
To increase desexing levels through government/veterinary subsidies programs and to mandate desexing at point of sale.
To manage urban free-living cats humanely via trap, neuter and feed while recognising the conflicts between their interests and those of wildlife.
So, which one is it?
They will guarantees “the bodily security of nonhuman animals” or they won’t?
Maybe, the “guarantee” only apply to “some” animals, and not all.
Can anyone say Animal Farm?
Federal Animal Rights Commission
This is another tough talking collection of words that will have no impact in the real world.
According to a livestream featuring Queensland Senate candidate, Karagh-Mae Kelly, this Commission would be set up similar to the Human Rights Commission.
Supposedly, they would use the corporations act to investigate the most serious breaches of legislation. IF, and I say a big IF, this was possible, that makes it a “welfarist” commission, not an “animal rights” one.
Though as animal legislation is state based, and this body will be federal, there isn’t much that this Commission will be able to do. Apart from maybe running a few ads, etc.
So, much like the personhood promise from a few years ago, this Commission will be useless, and do nothing to change how society views and uses other animals.
But Isn’t Something Better Than Nothing?
Sometimes yes, it is.
Though not in this case.
By creating pointless and unworkable policies like this, the Animal Justice Party make it easier for other parties and commenters to highlight how far away from reality “animal people” are.
The easier that is to do, the harder it will be for genuine animal advocates and actual animal rights activists to get their message heard.
And, that is the last thing that the animals need