It is time to put animals on the political agenda

| May 6, 2016

Animal welfare is a serious public policy issue, but so far Australia falls well behind other nations when it comes to how we treat our animals. Elise Burgess from animal protection institute Voiceless says it’s time to give animals a political voice and ensure their interests are put on the national agenda.

Voiceless, the animal protection institute, has joined fellow animal organisations in calling for leadership on animal welfare ahead of the 2016 Federal Election.

For too long, animal welfare issues have been treated by government on an ad hoc basis, with knee jerk responses to crises as they happen, rather than the sensible proactive enactment of solid legislation to protect the welfare of Australian animals.

We are calling for the major parties to recognise that animal welfare is a serious public policy issue for Australians and to reinvest in the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy.

Voiceless has contacted each of the major political parties and has sought their position on key federal animal protection initiatives. These include:

  • The establishment of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare
  • A ban on live animal exports
  • A ban on the commercial kangaroo trade

The results are not inspiring.

The fact is, in recent years Australia has fallen well behind its international counterparts when it comes to animal welfare.

For example, in the first few months of taking leadership in 2013, the Coalition Government disbanded the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy Advisory Committee; withdrew its funding for the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy; discarded the animal welfare subdivision within the Department of Agriculture, and scrapped plans initiated by the Australian Labor Party to establish an independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare.

If we continue on this trajectory, Australia will continue to fall behind other nations when it comes to how we treat our animals.

A simple idea such as an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, freed from conflicting interests, would allow for renewed public confidence that animal issues are taken seriously at a national level.

It would also provide political leadership on animal protection issues, which is sorely lacking at the federal level.

The establishment of an independent body has already received support from the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Greens and the Animal Justice Party, although it is important to note that the parties differ on the power and responsibility of such a body.

Precedent also exists for the establishment of similar statutory bodies in other jurisdictions, with expert and independent animal welfare advisory bodies already operating at a national and supra-national level in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union.

So at this important political time, Voiceless is working hard to put animal interests on the national agenda for Australia.

We are asking our supporters and the wider public to send a personalised message to all the leaders of the major political parties, asking them to incorporate animal protection into their policies going into the Federal Election.

Australians will soon be heading to the polls to elect our political leaders for the next three years. Now is the time to give animals a political voice and ensure their interests are put on the national agenda.