I've just posted the message below on the Facebook page of Vegans of Nanaimo. (That's a group that had a little over 400 members a year or so ago; now it's well over 1,000--in a city of fewer than 100,000.)For the past several months I’ve been doing everything I can to lobby two Canadian political parties—the Green Party and the New Democratic Party—on issues relating to the harms caused by animal agriculture to the environment, to human health, and of course to non-human animals.
A couple of weeks ago I urged members of this group to come out to a town-hall style NDP meeting at which federal leader Jagmeet Singh would be speaking. As those of you who were there will know, both he and local candidate Bob Chamberlin spoke at some length about the environment. As is usual for New Democrats, however, they said nothing in that context about animal agriculture. The flyers I started to distribute on this issue were collected by an NDP staffer almost as fast as I could hand them out. When I spoke with Singh one-on-one following the meeting—the second time I had spoken to him on this issue—he said he was thinking about it; he gave no indication that his thoughts might translate into policy recommendations for the party anytime soon. Over the phone, a staffer said local candidate Bob Chamberlin would phone me about this issue; he never has. I had also written Singh (and two other NDP MPs who I thought might have an interest in this area) over 6 months ago; there has been no response whatsoever from any of them.
Over the same period I’ve been in touch with Green Party people; what a contrast! When I wrote Green Party shadow cabinet members last fall on these issues, several responded thoughtfully and at length. Elizabeth May herself eventually wrote to say that she agreed that “we must transition to a more plant-based diet as part of the fight to combat climate change.” And this week local candidate Paul Manly wrote, saying that he “definitely would support policies to encourage Canadians to eat a plant based diet.”
The Green Party as a whole is still very far from fully recognizing the importance of these issues. As my email correspondence with Green shadow cabinet members made clear, there are many in the party who regard it as much more important to support organic meat and dairy operations than it is to encourage Canadians to move away from animal products, period. And there are many Greens too who are reluctant to acknowledge the importance of animal agriculture (and associated deforestation) as a key driver of climate change; under the heading “Solving the Climate Crisis,” the Green Party’s website still says absolutely nothing about animal agriculture and the degree to which it contributes to climate change. At the moment there is nothing on the party’s website supporting policies to encourage Canadians to eat fewer animal products, and more plants and vegetables. But however slowly, the Green Party does seem to be moving in the right direction on these issues—and certainly that seems to be the case for Party leader Elizabeth May and local candidate Paul Manly. Moreover, the Greens are clearly open to hearing us—and to welcoming us into the Green Party and encouraging us to try to influence the shaping of future policies. The NDP, on the other hand, does not seem to be moving at all on these issues—and they don’t even seem willing to listen.
I first joined the NDP in 1978, and I’ve volunteered for the party in dozens of elections since then. I ran as a federal candidate for the New Democrats in 2000. But gradually over the past couple of decades (I started changing my meat-eating habits in the late 1990s, and went vegan in 2011) I’ve come more and more to appreciate just how important and just how interconnected these issues are. On this network of issues—arguably the most important we face today—the NDP has failed completely. I’ll be voting for Paul Manly and the Greens in the May 6 by-election; I urge you to do the same.