Animal Protection >
A MAN LESS ORDINARY – an interview
with Richard Jones MLC
Richard Jones MLC is well known in the animal rights movement as
a relentless crusader who has been at the forefront of many fine
rescue missions. It all started in 1971 with the early anti-fur
demos and anti-trap campaigns and it took off from there. What is
not so well-known is that Richard is now a fully-fledged vegan. We
asked him recently how's it all going?
First published in Vegan Voice magazine.
Picture (right) is from the cover of a past issue of Action
magazine with Richard lending a hand with the rescue of piglets.
Q. Richard, you were a vegetarian for many years .
What was the turning point in your switch to total
A. The turning point from vegetarianism to veganism
was just a logical step in the process of opposing
exploitation of animals. On my property in Northern NSW I hear
the cows crying for days when their calves are taken away, and
witness the cruelty caused by butter, cheese and milk
production, not to mention the extraordinary wasteful use of
former rainforest land. I used to eat free-range eggs but even
that is not good enough, bearing in mind the large number of
male chicks that are gassed or suffocated and the fact that
the hens are discarded after they are no longer useful. Dairy
products are not great for our health nor for the environment.
Q. Have you tested the waters yet to veganism and
travelling? What's it like at Parliament House? We hear vegan
food and wines are now served. Is that correct?
A. I am finding it exceedingly difficult to find
vegan foods whilst travelling and even at work. Vegans are not
catered for, vegetarians are. There is very little
understanding in the community as to what veganism is and why
people are vegans. People often offer me fish, thinking that
vegetarians eat fish! The only place it is easy to be vegan is
Yes, it is true that there are more vegetarians in
Parliament now and, I believe, three vegans. Parliament is
beginning to reflect the community, even though it is usually
lagging behind in community attitudes. We had regular
vegetarian food put on the parliamentary menu only when one
Government member lost weight, because she couldn't find
anything to eat.
Q. Would you mind going through some of your
background in Animal Rights?
A. I became a vegetarian 13 years ago after
realising the absurdity of working for the animals whilst at
the same time eating them. Around about 1977 I joined Project
Jonah's campaign to save the whales. My involvement included
having made a giant blow-up sperm whale, Willy, who went
around the country publicising the plight of the whales. He
was towed across Sydney Harbour, down the Torrens, up the
Yarra, across Lake Burley Griffin and made his final
appearance at the International Whaling Commission conference
in Canberra, where he was slashed to pieces by Japanese
whalers when he was inflated in the corridor outside their
hotel rooms. I placed advertisements in every major newspaper
in Australia describing whaling from the perspective of a
mother whale. The response was overwhelming.
In 1978 I was instrumental in starting Greenpeace in
Australia by placing advertisements for it in all major media.
A portion of the money raised was taken by two Australian
activists for an unauthorised operation against the pirate
ship MV Sierra which was based in Spain. They joined Paul
Watson and filled the bow of the Sea Shepherd with concrete
and rammed the Sierra amidships causing $5 million worth of
damage and putting it out of action.
Again in 1978 I arranged with conservationists to "take
over' the IWC meeting in London where certificates alleging
crimes against nature were presented to pro-whaling delegates.
I poured a litre of decoagulated blood over the working papers
of the Japanese and Icelandic whaling delegations, which
received global TV coverage. The following year I founded the
Fund for Animals at the suggestion of Cleveland Amory, and ran
a campaign against the killing of baby harp seals in Canada.
Lynda Stoner and I went to Newfoundland in
1982 to witness the hunt and talk to the sealers. Lynda
received global coverage, as well as front page coverage in
Australia for a week. I went again in 1983. The Fund collected
500,000 signatures against the hunt, which was presented to
the Canadian Royal Commission on Sealing as evidence of public
opinion opposing the killing.
I have worked on numerous campaigns both inside and outside
of parliament. My Private Members Bill to stop the annual duck
season passed and put an end to the slaughter of ducks and all
the other birds that were killed at the same time. I also
successfully moved a number of amendments in the lower house
preventing people from killing cats and dogs when they
trespassed onto other peoples properties.
Q. What do you think of the Australian Animal Rights
A. The Australian Animal Rights Movement is not
nearly so well developed as the movement in the UK and the
States. Unfortunately we are a big meat-eating nation and a
major exporter of meat and sheep. Overcoming the tradition to
"feed the man meat" is really quite hard. The small number of
people in the movement however have had significant successes.
The next major move is to ban the battery cages for hens. The
problem will be that the ban will be a state by state ban and
not a federal ban. We have to get each state to agree. You
only need one conservative state to resist the ban to make it
fail. The battery operators could then move to the rogue
state. We really need to recruit more people to the movement
in order to make major changes.
Q. On the subject of vivisection, you mentioned at a
recent rally that you foresaw an end to animal exploitation
even if it took another 50 years. Can you please elaborate on
A. The fight against vivisection has been going on
for over 100 years. We are now beginning to see some
victories. Some universities will no longer use animals; some
cosmetic companies are now producing their own cruelty-free
range. The UK has produced a ban on puppy farms. We also had a
small win with a ban on pound animals in NSW being supplied to
research labs. There's a growing realisation that alternatives
to animal testing work and that testing on animals is bad
science. There will be an end to vivisection, just as there
finally was an end to slavery, as soon as the majority of
people realise that it is fundamentally wrong. It may take 50
years, it may take longer but it will happen eventually.
Q. What is your vision for the future?
A. My vision for the future is a world where animals
are recognised as sentient, intelligent beings not far removed
from humans, where the gap between human and non-human animals
have rights. A world where humans are vegans would allow vast
areas of the earth now used for the production of meat, dairy
and other animal products to revert back to there natural
state, providing habitat for the wild creatures. It is in our
own long-term interests to stop exploiting animals.
Q. Finally, is there any particular area that you
find more disturbing than others when talking about animal
A. I just hate the callous disregard we have for
animals raised for food. I have met a few pigs and it is so
obvious that they are highly intelligent and sensitive and yet
they are treated as dollars on the trotter and not sentient
beings at all.
I am appalled at the way that dogs and cats are treated in
Korea, where the dogs are hanged and beaten to death and the
cats are boiled alive. I am horrified by the shooting of
millions of kangaroos and in particular the shooting of the
mothers and their joeys. The cruelty goes on and on .........