In January, the Socialist Alliance decided to embrace animal rights when it adopted a new animal welfare policy.
The Socialist Alliance has the twin aims of fighting the capitalist system and pursuing freedom from all forms of oppression. The animal welfare policy continues that goal in aiming to better the lives of animals.
The policy is a national framework that seeks to enforce existing laws that criminalise cruelty against animals, while also implementing new standards to reduce suffering and combat climate change.
Most importantly, the policy aims to end inhumane intensive factory farming of animals in Australia. This includes enforcing standards for free-range practices, pressing for for a ban on live export of all animals, the cessation of trophy hunting of animals including Australian water birds and calling for Australia to join the fight against whale slaughter.
The policy seeks to implement alternatives to shark nets, shark culling and improve current research into shark mitigation.
Socialist Alliance supports the abolition of the cruel and inhumane use of animals for sport, recreation and entertainment. It also supports the introduction of a national labelling system to identify cruelty-free, organic and free-range products so the public can be more informed in their choices.
Capitalism works on the basis of putting profits first, and when profits are at stake, animal’s lives and wellbeing will always come second. Animal rights are not based on dietary choices but ethics and the fight for systematic social change. Discrimination based on species and class are linked by the idea that one group of lives are worth more than the other.
In Animal Farm George Orwell said: “…men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat… Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits, yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps to himself.”
Campaigns to raise animal welfare standards and workers' welfare should work together. If workers in the animal agriculture industry are treated with respect and dignity their quality of life improves. In turn, they may be encouraged to see animals as sentient beings and not just commodities.
The reverse is also true; as long as we condone violence towards and continue to oppress the most innocent of beings (non-human animals), we will always live in a violent oppressive world.
As socialists, we believe we can do better. We should aspire to treat all living beings with kindness, including non-human animals. Socialism and animal rights are one; we fight for social change and advocate for those whose voices are not heard.
The animal welfare policy is also in line with Socialist Alliance’s Climate Charter. Animal agriculture in Australia is a key cause of climate change equating to 13% of our total emissions Ruminant livestock are the single biggest source of emissions from agriculture at 71%. Agriculture Victoria said 40% of the state's methane emissions are from the dairy industry. Not only do we need to reduce Australia’s reliance on cattle and sheep “production” for welfare reasons, it is also critical to reducing our emissions.
As socialists in Australia we fight must for justice, respect, freedom and sustainability. However, while we continue to exploit animals and continue our current farming practices, sentient beings continue to suffer due to corporate greed. Capitalism sacrifices every living being for profit and impacts all life on this planet. We have the power to make systemtic change, and the animal welfare policy puts Socialist Alliance on that path.