By RAKSHA RAVIKUMAR
Naren Chellappah discovered his passion for animal rights six years ago when a friend who turned vegetarian made him question the ethics of eating meat.
“On the one hand we love cats, dogs and other domesticated animals, and on the other hand we’re breeding and killing other animals. This led me to educate myself on how meat is produced and how it comes to my plate and when I looked into it, I was horrified,” Mr Chellappah said.
“We want to improve the lives of animals and we know that animal rights and animal welfare is something that the majority of the community cares about,” Mr Chellapah said.
Mr Chellappah is contesting the seat of Bentleigh to connect with people in the district and make sure that their concerns about greyhound racing, jumps racing, duck hunting and battery cages have some representation in Parliament. He said that there hadn't been anyone defending animal rights in the past four years in the local area.
“I think there are frustrations in the community when issues like jumps racing and the cruel practices that happen in these industries are uncovered. And when the Gaming Minister doesn’t do anything about it, people get frustrated and they want action. They want these industries closed down,” Mr Chellappah said.
The creation of an independent office of animal welfare in collaboration with other political parties is one of the key goals of the AJP. This body would have the power to prosecute and introduce new laws to protect animals.
Upon completing a Bachelor of Commerce at Deakin University, Mr Chellappah launched his career in marketing and brand management. He has spent the past 10 years working at different universities in Melbourne in management and marketing roles. He started his own graduate career development and recruitment business Australian Careers and Employment Centre for International Students (ACECIS) in 2014.
“Working in the higher education area and in the private sector has given me a very good platform to navigate complex environments like the political landscape and I think underpinning all of that is my real passion for animal rights,” Mr Chellappah said.
Addressing the issue of safety in Bentleigh, Mr Chellappah said their main goal was “to make sure that the lives of human and non-human animals are looked after and there are a number of issues that are affecting non-human animals that need to be lifted”.
Mr Chellappah said a society without violence was the ultimate goal to work towards, and his party was committed to ban violent activities such as duck hunting.
Commenting on current Labor candidate Nick Staikos’s term, Mr Chellappah described the level crossing removals on Centre Rd and North Rd were “excellent”. However, he said there were areas where the Labor Government had failed, for example in allowing duck hunting and greyhound racing to continue.
He said Victoria was one of only two states in Australia where jumps racing wasn’t banned.
“If we don’t have anyone advocating for animals, nothing will happen,” he said. “The cruelty will continue, and the suffering will continue.”
Addressing the real-time disclosure of donations to political parties, Mr Chellappah said transparency was “really important”.
Asked what voters should know about him, Mr Chellappah said: “I think that the voters can look at me and say, ‘He’s obviously someone who cares about the community, the economy and cares about health'.
“I want to be able to stand up for people in Bentleigh that care about these [animal rights] issues, and for them to know that something is happening to make these issues better.”
This article was co-published with The Junction and UniPollWatch. For more on the Victorian Election 2018, please go here.