By Stephen Best, Chief Agent
In Parliament, who speaks for the animals? After October 2019, it could be Members of Parliament from the Animal Protection Party of Canada, if –and only if—Prime Minister Trudeau honours his promise that, “the 2015 federal election will be the last federal election using First-Past-the-Post.”(1) This will be the most liberating democratic reform in Canada since Queen Elizabeth signed into law the Charter of Right and Freedoms into law three decades ago. To prepare for it, the Animal Alliance / Environment Voters Party of Canada has changed its name to the Animal Protection Party of Canada.
The scientific case for protecting animals and for measures to restore and increase wild populations is irrefutable. We know that if humankind does not fundamentally change its relationship with animals, and other non-human life, for the better, it will likely fail to successfully deal with the leading causes of human death (2), global food shortages (3), environmental degradation (4), and climate change (5). There is copious research revealing that human activity is the primary driver of climate change.
Yet, the science is almost universally ignored by the legislators of all political parties. Therefore, the need to pressure policy-makers to effectively address and improve our relationship with animals is urgent. That is one of the reasons why the Animal Alliance / Environment Voters Party of Canada changed its name to the Animal Protection Party of Canada. The new name more clearly expresses the party’s fundamental mission. It should serve well when voters in 2019 see “Animal Protection Party” on their ballot as well as Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green or other party and candidate names. Depending on the electoral system used in 2019, a significant number of voters could use their ballots to express support for protecting animals. That outcome would give animals standing in the House of Commons and lead to better public policy.
Since the Animal Alliance / Environment Voters Party of Canada was founded in 2005 much has changed politically, for the better. A decade ago many politicians found it difficult to take environmental protection seriously. Today, only less-informed politicians still harbour this view. Across the globe, politicians intellectually understand the pressing need for environmental protection. Most are still not doing enough to protect the environment, but they no longer need convincing that it must be protected. However, most still don’t understand even intellectually that animals are an indispensable, intrinsic part of the environment. Absent animals, the ‘environment’ that politicians know needs protecting, fails. It’s not necessary these days to convince most politicians about how important it is to protect the environment. It is necessary to convince them, still, to protect animals which they fail to understand are a critical component of the environment. The words ‘environment voters’ are, therefore, no longer necessary in the name ‘Animal Alliance / Environment Voters Party of Canada.’
That leads to the other reason for the name change. Politicians and voters must be convinced to fully appreciate how our relationship with animals must evolve. They must begin to understand that animals are intrinsically worthy of our compassion and understanding for no other reason than they are alive and their will to live is as acute as ours. Despite what most people and, in particular, politicians believe, animals are not our inferiors just because we can kill and harm them so easily and with impunity for even the most crass pecuniary and frivolous reasons. Animals, and all non-human life, are our indispensable partners in the living and evolving enterprise of existing on this planet, and they all deserve to be treated as such. Our failure to do so is killing them, and that is killing us.
It is crucial to the public discourse and the development of sound public policy that there be people in legislatures with the courage to rise and speak on behalf of the interests of our biospheric partners, just as in the past when a few brave, forward-thinking politicians endured ridicule and contempt to speak on behalf of women, people of colour, workers, indigenous people, and people of minority faiths. Until the voices of people who respect animals are raised in legislatures, and their wisdom heeded and reflected in legislation, necessary progress toward a humane and sustainable civilization will be impeded.
Most people will never comprehend that animals are deserving of consideration and compassion. Such are the limits of human nature. Nonetheless, enough people might be convinced that what is good for animals is personally good for them and other people for whom they may care. From the perspective of the health of the biosphere, the well-being of humankind, and the protection and enhancement of animals and ecosystems upon which we depend for our existence, it doesn’t matter much why people lay down their weapons in their war on animals, it only matters that they do. Always, what people do is more important than what they think or say.
And, an animal protection party is an environmental protection party. Animals cannot be protected without protecting the environment. The environment cannot be protected without protecting animals.
Lastly, an animal protection party is a social and human justice party. Neither the animals nor the environment can be restored and protected unless the many ills that plague humankind are addressed. What’s good for animals and the environment we share with them is good for people, and what’s good for people, we find, is good for animals and the environment. We are all ‘one.’
It is a small thing to change ‘Animal Alliance / Environment Party of Canada’ to ‘Animal Protection Party of Canada.’ It is a grand thing, however, if every ballot in Canada has the words “Animal Protection Party” on it for 18 million Canadians to see. And, depending on the new voting system in 2019, their ballot may give every citizen a chance to vote for a local Member of Parliament, to vote for the party of their choice, and to vote to give animals, finally, a voice in the House of Commons of Canada.
1) “Justin Trudeau vows to end 1st-past-the-post voting in platform speech,” CBC News, 16 June, 2015; http://tinyurl.com/pvfohmo
2) “The top 10 causes of death,” World Health Organization, 2014; http://tinyurl.com/89ypk6n
3) “Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists,” The Guardian, 2012; http://tinyurl.com/hvs8z3z
4) “The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production,” Time magazine, 2013; http://tinyurl.com/k53d5u8
5) “Eating less meat essential to curb climate change, says report,” The Guardian, 2014; http://tinyurl.com/zec3237