Feature

Mark Pearson: making politics more compassionate

Green Lifestyle Online

Activist, election candidate and member of the Animal Justice Party, Mark Pearson, speaks about why it’s important to have a voice for animals in the Australian Parliament.

AJP-Mark

Mark Pearson from the Animal Justice Party holding a chicken rescued from a factory farm. He says that every year 550 million chickens are killed at just six weeks of age in Australia's intensive livestock industry.

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If you're fed up with the cruelty to animals in Australia - from live animal export, to the loss of habitat and lack of protection for koalas - you'll find politicians attuned to these issues in this year's federal election. The Animal Justice Party (AJP) finally offers a more compassionate perspective of an all-too-common feature in our society, and responds to the growing public concern about the neglect of animals and animal protection issues by other political parties. We spoke with Vice President of the AJP, Mark Pearson.

What inspired you to join the Animal Justice Party?

"There has been a shift in the attitude of the community toward all species of animals (not just the cute fluffy animals that they might have at home!) and it was becoming clear that the halls of parliament did not provide an adequate voice for the growing concern from the community about their protection, welfare and most importantly their wellbeing. No party, particularly neither of the two main parties, were really taking up the cause in any significant way. Live exports and the culling of our native wildlife have instilled anger and determination to now move toward another platform, toward another forum, to bring the animal issues, the animal plight, in to a new space, an important area - the parliamentary system."

Why do you believe that having a party which focuses on animal welfare is important?

"When you are in the house of parliament you can knock on the door of the Prime Minister. The Minister for Primary Industries and Agriculture, the opposition, other parties - you are right there at their front door, right at their ear, and you are in a position to vote, you are in a position to bring a bill to change the situation for animals, or make amendments to current legislation to improve the conditions and bring greater wellbeing to animals. To have somebody in there, where the absolute primary goal is to stand up and speak for those who can't themselves, and for those who are so greatly oppressed across Australia in various exploitative situations, to actually be able to stand up and speak on their behalf, and put their case forward. To actually speak to the parliament and have their ear, elected by the people."

What are the key policies that you think we should know about for the upcoming election?

"We will fight vigorously to bring about change to the point of eventually banning live exports from Australia. Live exports are number one; the next (in terms of the federal issues) is the protection of wildlife. The largest slaughter of land-dwelling wild animals in the world happens in Australia. Millions of kangaroos are shot for the commercial industry of export and the domestic market of kangaroo meat and pet food. This is absolutely unheard of elsewhere. The only other such slaughter that occurs is at sea. The third is factory farming - the intensive livestock industry. You know, 550 million chickens every year are put through the intensive livestock industry, are locked away and put in to sheds, and slaughtered at six weeks. Improving conditions for hens in battery cages, pigs in piggeries and sow stalls, breeding sows that can not even turn around and hardly step forward or backward."

What is it that makes the Animal Justice Party different?

"This is not something we are going to half do; it’s not a single-issue party which may have a cursory interest. This is a party which we’ve built up the structure of… for the party to remain in place for a long time in Australia. So while we’re here in this position it’s a party which is going to live on. We believe the youth are going to carry it in to the future because it’s novel, it offers a breath of fresh air, it’s about looking after and standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, who have no voice. And so therefore it’s based on a sense of compassion and ethics, not on competition, wanting to be first and just wanting to win. It’s coming from a space which is very different to where a lot of parties move from. And, that automatically gains a lot of respect from people."

Do you have any tips on how we may be able to reduce our impact on animal suffering in our day-to-day lives?

"Well the number one action that a person can take is to move toward a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet is clearly the most powerful way to reduce the impact of harm on the wellbeing of animals because, obviously, it doesn’t kill animals. It doesn’t put animals in to situations such as factory farming."

"But of course we have to acknowledge that due to conditioning and due to upbringing, people have very deeply entrenched in themselves a reliance on animal products. Now that is lawful, and that is their choice. But we will help bring the message gently and positively to Australians - that the move toward a plant-based diet, if we are really committed to improving the environment and to improving the use of water, to improving the health of humans and are committed to addressing the welfare and well-being of animals, is a sensible approach."

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The Animal Justice Party have announced ten candidates in total for the upcoming election, with two each from Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Anyone interested in getting involved can visit the party website website at www.animaljusticeparty.org.