To my Australian readers – The animals and environment need your help this election

This March, myself and around 70 other people will be running in the New South Wales state election for the Animal Justice Party. We are confident that we can get one or possibly even two more people elected to the New South Wales government, making it two or three people in NSW parliament fighting for animals and the environment.

This is so important because no other political party has animal protection as even a minor part of their legislation, in particular farmed animals.

However, this win isn’t yet guaranteed. The unfortunate reality of elections is that we need money. Elections are expensive and the major parties spend millions. 

Every cent we raise will be spent directly on election flyers, How to Vote Cards, posters and  getting our message out there in the mainstream. We have a record number of candidates standing for the animals! 52 in the lower house and 21 in the upper house, all our candidates need our support to run their campaigns.

Each poster we have printed costs $35, every 1000 flyers we have printed will cost $250 and to get the AJP out there in mainstream media will cost tens of thousands. 

Our target of $100,000 will let us buy posters, flyers, radio and newspaper ads, and much more to get the Animal Justice Party, animals and the environment in the minds of New South Wales voters.

Please support our election fundraiser here.

* Unfortunately only people registered to vote in Australia can donate to election fundraisers. Donations of up to $1,500 are tax deductible.

Weekly election campaign update #3

My third weekly campaign update (January 21 to 27) for the 2019 NSW state election.

Video on the chicken slaughterhouse vigil:

Reducing emissions by food choices interview:

Royal Prince Alfred Hospital vigil:

Follow my candidate page on Facebook here:

Thoughts about Yew-Kwang Ng

I really enjoyed this 80,000 Hours podcast interview with Yew-Kwang Ng. His views around utilitarianism and moral realism are very similar to mine. That is – suffering and wellbeing are the only two things that can intrinsically matter, everything else is instrumentally valuable as a means to achieving wellbeing or less suffering. He also is concerned about wild-animal suffering, which is how I first heard about him several years ago.

I did disagree with his views on how we can most effectively reduce farmed animal suffering. He believes that improving welfare standards would be better in the long run than reducing the number of animals farmed by various means. The best steelman for this would be that if we could get animals in farms net positive lives, then farming more animals would be good (utilitarianly speaking).

I find this view strange in the face of Kwang’s strong concern (strong even within the space of pro-climate policy, but in line with other existential risk researchers) of the risk of human extinction due to climate change. His view is that, even if extinction risk is very small, we must act far more than we are to reduce that risk. Given that the animal agriculture industry is such a major contributor to climate change (~15-50% depending on whether you arbitrarily use a 100 or 20 year timescale), why doesn’t he advocate for solving the farmed animal suffering problem and the climate change problem with the one solution? Surely this would be more efficient than improving farmed animal welfare and then working on energy policy separately? A strange oversight (in my opinion) in an otherwise enjoyable interview.

Are vegans crazy?

Recently I joined Ben and Jack of the Dreams, Memes and Veggie Supremes podcast to talk about a few different topics, including pseudoscience, effective animal advocacy and ‘are vegans crazy‘?

“I’m ok with seeming a little bit crazy.”

I can’t recommend this podcast enough for people looking for science-based nutrition, fitness and training information.

How can we best help animals?

I was part of a panel a few months ago called ‘How can we best help animals?’ in Sydney. We talked about effective animal advocacy and had speakers from three different perspectives – Kai McBeth on local grassroots advocacy, Alex Vince on non-profits, and Emma Hurst on political change for animals.

You can watch the recording here!

Weekly election campaign update #1

If you’re not yet aware, I will be running as a candidate in the 2019 New South Wales state election in the seat of Heffron.

I’ve decided to start recording regular weekly updates to keep my supporters (you!) up to date on what I’m getting up to. This video is the first for the week of 7 – 13 January.

Follow my candidate page on Facebook here.

Morality is Hard podcast – Episode 8 – Jacy Reese – The End of Animal Farming

Yesterday I was lucky enough to chat with Jacy Reese about his new book, The End of Animal Farming. You can listen to it now on Soundcloud, or it will be available on iTunes within the next 48 hours.

Jacy is co-founder and Research Director of Sentience Institute, an “effective altruism” think tank researching humanity’s moral circle. His new book, The End of Animal Farming, outlines a roadmap for humanity’s upcoming transition to an animal-free food system when we will eat real meat, dairy, and eggs without animal slaughter. He has written in outlets such as The Guardian, Vox, and National Review, and presented on these topics in over 20 countries.

Why going vegan in 2019 will be good for your health, the environment and animals

On the 29th of December, Elizabeth Farrelly wrote that going vegan is “likely a lot less healthy – for you and the planet – than is commonly believed”. I believe the evidence strongly suggests that the opposite is true – most people don’t realise how beneficial being vegan is for your health, the environment, and the animals.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines and most major international dietary organisations, including The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, clearly state that a well-planned vegan diet is nutritionally adequate for adults, children and babies. As long as you take a B12 supplement (many people don’t realise B12 in animal products are typically from supplements given to animals, as it is derived from bacteria), you can obtain a sufficient amount of all necessary nutrients for human health from a plant-based diet.

In fact, in addition to being nutritionally adequate, you can thrive on a vegan diet. Vegans have higher blood protein than non-vegans, and have lower blood pressure and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. The World Health Organisation have classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer – same category as cigarettes) and red meat as a Group 2A carcinogen (probably causes cancer).

Farrelly is right in suggesting that ‘the food-footprint issue has become emotive and politicised’ (on both sides), but that’s because Australians care. As well as being concerned for the environment, we care about animals. In his book Animal Welfare in Australia, Peter Chen draws on a survey of 1,000 Australians by Essential Media and found that 30% of Australians believe that animals deserve the same rights as people to be free from harm and exploitation. A larger number of Australians (61%) believe they deserve some protection.

However, what we do to animals for the sake of taste does not match this belief. Each year, Australians kill some 520-620 million animals to eat them. The vast majority of these are chickens, either raised for meat or for their eggs. Most chickens, even those in ‘free range’ labelled farms, live unimaginably painful lives.

The labels which consumers hold dear, like ‘free range’ or ‘cage-free’ simply don’t mean what people think they do. A series of undercover investigations of Australian farms, consolidated by documentaries Lucent and Dominion, reveal that free range farms are usually as bad or worse than non-free range farms. For example, the high stocking densities and lack of caging in free range farms often results in cannibalism and the spread of disease. One study showed that cannibalism increased by as much as 3,000% in cage-free farms.

Farrelly believes that “killing, however, is not essentially cruel”. Even if the animals we farm in Australia lived decent lives, that doesn’t make taking their lives ethical. There is no humane way to kill someone who doesn’t want to die. If we don’t think it’s ethical to kill a dog or a human for pleasure, we need a very good reason to say why it would be for a farmed animal.

Farrelly asks, if killing animals for food is wrong, why isn’t killing plants? Plants aren’t conscious. They might respond to some external stimuli and be surprisingly complex, but they don’t have a central nervous system or a brain, and aren’t sentient. I seriously question this foray into pseudoscience.

Animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions globally, and in Australia direct livestock emissions account for 11% of national emissions. This doesn’t include the indirect emissions of animal agriculture, such as the growth of crops to feed the animals and the transport of the animals and feedstock.

Animal agriculture is also incredibly inefficient as a source of food. Most animals raised for food globally, and even in Australia, are not grazing, but rather are raised in intensive indoor operations known as factory farms. Animals in factory farms are usually fed grain grown for them and transported to the farm. For cows, it takes 12 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of meat. Typically, this is human-grade grain that could be fed directly to people, but even in the cases where it is not, the same farmland could be used to grow crops that people can eat. It also takes almost 9,500 litres of water and almost 4 litres of fuel to produce 1 kg of meat from cows. Other farmed animals have similar conversion rates.

Grazing isn’t much better when you consider the amount of land required. 26 percent of the land surface on Earth is used for animal grazing. Land is being cleared in Australia and across the world for grazing and feed crops for animals. 82% of agricultural land is being used for grazing, and this is growing by around 9% each year. This land clearance is also putting native wildlife under threat, with three quarters of the 1,640 threatened plants and animals having habitat loss as one of their main threats.

Less demand for animal products in Australia would mean less land cleared for grazing and for growing crops to feed animals. Cutting out animal products can reduce your individual carbon footprint from food by up to 73 percent, and can reduce the amount of farmland required by up to 75 percent. Farrelly appeals to potential for grazing farm animals to be a net carbon sink, however such claims are based on unrealistic scenarios and won’t do much to offset its emissions.

Animals are only farmed because there is demand. As fewer animal products are consumed, suppliers will transition to healthier, more sustainable and less cruel foods. Using figures from the US that account for the effects of less demand on supply (and therefore breeding of animals), moving from an omnivorous lifestyle to a vegan one will result in 7.8 fewer land animals being killed and 35-144 fewer marine animals being killed each year. Given the similarity of Australia and the US in per capita meat consumption, it seems like that the result in Australia would be similar.

Each year, more Australians, and indeed people around the world, are realising that taste alone is not sufficient justification for harming animals, the environment, and one’s health. I invite you to join the growing number of people aligning their actions with their values by trying veganism as part of Veganuary. It’s easier than you might think, and the benefits are enormous.