The Animal Justice Party (AJP) believes in an economic system in which ethics, the protection of the natural world and its inhabitants, and all beings are highly valued for their intrinsic worth. The AJP recognises the limitations of using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) alone in assessing the merits of an economic system and advocates for a broader measure of a ‘good’, ethical economy. We support public investment through a ‘New Deal’ approach that benefits people, while restoring our relationship with nature and transitioning the economy away from the destruction of the environment and the exploitation of animals. There is a role for the government to use market and non-market based policies to improve the wellbeing of animals, the environment and human society.
The AJP supports the combined implementation of Jobs Guarantee (JG) and Universal Basic Income (UBI) programs as a basic human right. Together they can create meaningful employment for those who want and need it, set a floor for conditions and wages, nudge the economy to full employment, and provide the means for a decent life for those people who cannot or choose not to take up employment through the JG program.
The AJP aims for positive change and is pragmatic when it comes to achieving reform within the economic system of the day and in the future.
- Introduce broader measures of economic assessment which recognise the intrinsic value and wellbeing of animals, nature and people.
- Change taxation to be fairer and more efficient, and to reflect the costs to society and address ‘negative externalities’. For example, end subsidies to products derived from animal exploitation and/or environmentally destructive practices.
- Reduce the occurrence of zoonotic diseases by ending animal exploitation and environmental destruction. A reduction in these diseases would also mean a reduction in corresponding lockdowns and job losses.
- Fund a 21st century version of the ‘New Deal’; meaning significant investment in new eco-friendly infrastructure and industry, turning current environmental and social crises into opportunities, while also transitioning away from animal agriculture and environmentally-destructive practices such as burning fossil fuels.
- Implement a Jobs Guarantee and Universal Basic Income programs to create secure, ethical and meaningful employment and reduce poverty.
- Respect the role of unions in reducing the exploitation of workers and improving work conditions.
- Offer support to people and businesses that want to transition away from exploiting animals and the environment.
- Appoint a Future Generations Commissioner and legislate for the rights of future generations of animals and people to be taken into account in decisions that have long-term economic, social and environmental impacts.
- Ensure that banking, superannuation and other investment products offer options that promote environmental sustainability and animal protection.
Measuring an ethical economy
The ‘economy’ is the means of distributing goods and services within a society. Australia’s major political parties measure the success of the economy by its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment rates, along with other statistics focused on growth in both production and consumption. However, these measures assume that all growth and consumption is good, and frequently neglect to account for the cost of economic activity to nature, animals, and people. This preoccupation with GDP is found across the current political divide. John Fullerton in Regenerative Capitalism says “both neoliberal and Keynesian approaches [to economics] assume prosperity arises out of healthy GDP growth, yet fail to acknowledge any biophysical limits to exponential growth. Regenerative economists on the other hand, assume prosperity arises out of the relationships and patterns of healthy human networks, within the biophysical constraints of the planet and under its physical laws (not theories).” GDP is an incomplete if not misleading measure.
Instead of the political and economic debate seen today, the AJP advocates for genuine economic reform towards a more sustainable future for animals, the environment and people, which prioritises life, health and regeneration. This requires reimagining what is valuable in an ethical economy. We need a system which recognises the ‘intrinsic value’ of every living individual and their environment and which places value on wellbeing and happiness, rather than economic growth at any cost.
Crucial sectors of the economy are not reflected in the GDP (e.g., volunteering or family care) and it does not indicate how wealth is shared within an economy by its people. Little is done to prevent massive amounts of waste and inferior, disposable products (see our Waste Policy) because both count towards GDP while the sale of used goods isn’t counted at all. The current economic mindset celebrates GDP growth at the cost of the environment collapsing and social inequality worsening.
Some countries, recognising the gap, are using or considering measures including Gross National Happiness to provide a more holistic assessment of the economy. Many economists are advocating for an economy that provides a strong social foundation while not encroaching on an environmental ceiling; which is known as doughnut economics. Another remedy is to make the government also consider the wellbeing of future, yet-to-be-born generations. More measures are needed to assess the wellbeing of animals and nature.
The cost of ‘business as usual’
The economy suffers when we fail to address broader issues, including the mistreatment of animals and the environment. Zoonotic diseases, like COVID-19, are a result of humanity’s consumption of animals and destruction of the natural world (see our Biosecurity Policy). The economic impacts of COVID-19 in Australia included a rapid 66% reduction in financial turnover of businesses, prolonged restrictions on economic activity and lockdowns, expensive government supplements, historically high underemployment and widespread anxiety. Climate inaction is also costing the economy dearly, with the cost of extreme weather doubling since the 1970s to $35 billion for the decade 2010-2019. Failing to act on climate change will result in more frequent and severe events such as bushfires, storms and floods. The cost of this inaction could rise to $94 billion per year for Australia by 2060 and $129 billion per year by 2100. This does not account for damage to the environment, animals or people. Rational management of the Australian economy must address the major risks and losses caused by the way humans exploit and consume the natural world. Rather than budgeting for supplements and financial assistance, governments must address the underlying issues that cause economic harm.
A 21st Century ‘New Deal’
There is an enormous opportunity to do good in our current economic system by changing the government’s spending priorities. In response to the 1930s Great Depression, US President Roosevelt instigated an infrastructure initiative known as the ‘New Deal’. It delivered a set of public work projects, social and economic reforms with economic outcomes, employment and output parameters that encouraged the economic recovery of the time. The contemporary counterpart to the ‘New Deal’ is the ‘Global Green New Deal’ (GGND) as named by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2009. It is framed as a complete approach to the economic, social and ecological multi-dimensional problems of our time.
The UNEP identifies three key objectives for the GGND, but AJP argues for a fourth key objective: to eliminate the exploitation of animals and promote their wellbeing.
In recent years, economists (e.g., the Stern Review and Paris Agreement) have supported ecologically sustainable projects to combat climate change and other detrimental environmental issues. Since COVID-19, and the consequential economic problems, the government has had a unique opportunity to reallocate government spending to rebuild and promote sustainable Australian manufacturing. The opportunity for net investment into ecologically sustainable development and infrastructure projects is a way of reinvigorating domestic employment and growth, whilst addressing social and environmental targeted goals.
The AJP acknowledges that there is a growing consensus that economic growth cannot be sustained, even under current Green New Deal (GND) proposals. Models for economic degrowth and others to account for ecological limits, sustain life on this planet in a just and equitable way, and respecting the Rights of Nature, are being proposed and practised, including a GND without growth. The circular economy is also an important model to minimise use of resources, avoid toxification and treat waste as a resource, but its limitations in terms of nature and animal protection need to be addressed. Also from an animal perspective, the economic growth paradigm wreaks havoc as it demands intensification of animal agriculture which causes immeasurable suffering for billions of animals. The AJP continues to engage with economic theory and practice to develop its Policy for an Ethical Economy.
Tax and income
One of the most effective levers available to policy makers is to tax undesirable or damaging practices; just look at how effective this has been on tobacco and its declining consumption. Many industries negatively impact animals, nature and/or people but maintain cost-competitive prices because this damage is passed on to someone else (a ‘negative externality’; for example, a farm polluting a river). They are heavily subsidised by the government to keep prices low. For instance, in 2020-21, Australian federal and state governments provided a total of $10.3 billion worth of spending and tax breaks to assist fossil fuel industries; and only 25% of the regulatory burden involved in live exports was covered by industry, meaning the community covered 75% of the bill. The AJP believes that animal agribusiness and other industries exploiting animals or nature should not be financially supported by governments, but should themselves be taxed to reflect the harm they cause, such as land clearing and greenhouse gas emissions. Money from a new meat tax, for example, could be reinvested to create a new, more sustainable economy.
Employment and support
The AJP also supports measures for greater economic equality. Proposals like a Universal Basic Income (UBI), which involves replacing the existing complicated and expensive social welfare system with a simple no-obligation payment to every citizen, has been suggested as an effective way to eliminate poverty and redistribute wealth.
For those unable to find meaningful work, the AJP supports a job guarantee (JG) program. With a JG, we propose a program that offers job opportunities to anyone of legal working age who wants to work, irrespective of their experience, training or personal attributes.
A JG program will:
- focus on the public good
- address the environmental and care needs of communities
- be funded by the Federal Government, but administered locally by non-profit groups and organisations, or by local government
- pay the minimum wage or higher.
A JG will not replace existing public sector work, but can add to it. It will not replace existing jobs or projects. The JG is a voluntary program. People who do not wish or are not able to work in this program will still receive payments and services to keep them out of poverty, guarantee basic human rights, and increase dignity and self worth. The JG is not another version of ‘work for the dole’.
The type of work offered by the JG depends on local needs. It is meaningful and much needed work, but either not financially profitable for the private sector or not currently funded in the public sector. A JG program will increase care and protection for animals and nature by creating employment that supports, for example, animal rescue, sanctuaries, wildlife protection, foster care for animals, protection of wildlife habitat and rewilding efforts. This will also include new jobs in promotion, education and mentoring aspects of animal protection and care for the environment. JG work also includes caring for community and the environment – for example cleaning up beaches and parks, building community gardens, art initiatives such as music and community theatre, fire and flood prevention work, tree planting, and after-school activities.
In addition, the JG program provides training that can help people with the transition to better paid employment in the private or public sectors. When people move on to other jobs, their employers can benefit from the skills gained in the JG program.
For the economy, the JG provides an employment buffer stock, as the program will expand and decline with the labour market. When the economy grows, people can move from the JG program to other employment. When the labour market shrinks, the JG program can expand.
While the JG is mainly a jobs program, it has the potential to improve working conditions overall because it gives people additional employment options with decent conditions.