A vegetarian from the age of five, Caitlin Evans has been an animal lover as long as she can remember.
She’s now the Animal Justice Party’s candidate for Batman, who she says share her “strong social conscience”.
“I was born with a very strong connection to animals and an empathy with them, which I think most children are. I had a vegetarian, animal loving mother who is a strong influence and I’ve always had a strong social conscience about humans, animals and the environment,” Ms Evans says.
It was her love of animals alongside her commitment to action on climate change that drew her to the AJP from The Greens, who she says have failed to connect animal agriculture and the environment.
“I got involved in the Animal Justice Party just recently when they put out the calls for candidates because I wanted to make a difference for animals and the earth and because I’d traditionally been a Greens voter but had become disillusioned with their work on animals.
“The Greens and their policies just haven’t focused on animal agriculture at all. There’s one small mention in the Victorian policy, but they are just not addressing that it’s a massive issue for climate change,” Ms Evans says.
“And you know, their leader is a farmer, what can I say?” She adds.
The solution, according to Ms Evans and the AJP, is to radically change our relationship with food and animals – culminating in “plant based diets” for humans.
“Our ultimate goal for the benefit of animals and the environment is to move to a plant based diet, and industries that don’t engage in animal cruelty,” Ms Evans says.
The party is realistic, they know change won’t happen overnight and Ms Evans maintains that it’s ultimately up to the individual what they decide to eat, but in the meantime she’s adamant that there are better ways.
“It’s every individuals choice, we're just offering a better alternative. There are better ways to farm than others, there’s more sustainable ways and there’s less cruel ways,” she said.
Recalling the Labor Party’s ban on live exports in 2013, Ms Evans said it was “fantastic” to see many Australians speaking out, but that when the ban was lifted there weren’t “nearly enough checks and balances”.
“There are alternatives, you can kill the animals in Australia and freeze them and send them over.
“We all need to all take responsibility for looking after the animals around us and protecting them, whether it’s pets or what we eat on our plates. It’s about personal responsibility as much as anything,” Ms Evans says.
Attracting just 1.4% of the primary vote in 2013, the AJP doesn't expect to win the contest in Batman, which has become a heated battle between Alex Bhathal of the Greens and Labor’s David Feeney.
They do, however, hope to generate awareness for animal welfare and grow their voter base large enough to attract federal funding.
“It’s good that we’re running in that we’ve been able to put some pressure on David Feeney and Alex Bhathal to more strongly consider animal issues … we want to be about promoting broader societal change by people being aware of us and what we stand for, but we are also hoping to put pressure on the major parties to consider animal cruelty a lot more,” Ms Evans says.
“If we get 4% of the vote across Australia we’ll be eligible for federal funding, which will boost our party enormously,” she adds.
As far as who she supports in Batman Ms Evans rates Alex Bhathal over David Feeney, who she says aligns better with her personal views and the AJP’s views.
“I personally will support Alex over David Feeney because the Greens policies align more with mine and my views and the AJP policies, but I still think there is a glaring omission in terms of animal welfare,” Ms Evans says.