Law reform regarding Animal Welfare

As the world changes so do worldviews and therefore, so do the accepted morals and values of the time. With these changing morals and values come altering laws, amended or renewed to reflect these changing views. This is called law reform, in particular, the subject of Animal Welfare. Laws in relation to animal welfare have been made and amended to restore justice and equality to the voiceless members of society. Before recent times, the rights of animals had been severely overlooked.

Attention has been brought to breeding and slaughtering practices around the world through wide scale media. In such countries these processes fly under the radar and are rarely monitored, until now. This is when worldwide regulations have to be put in place to ensure that appropriate and adequate treatments are adhered to around the world.

Most animal cruelties on a small scale are kept quiet, and are performed either in secluded areas away from prying eyes or those who witness such things are unable or unsure of how to seek justice.

Although most of the first laws regarding animal protection from human mistreatment were made in the early 19th Century, according to Peter Sankoff and Steven White’s book; ‘Animal Law in Australiasia’, these laws fall short of bringing adequate justice to the cruelties within Australia and New Zealand. Activists, academics, law professionals and many others share this view, giving even more reason to amend relevant legislation to cover any discrepancies and loopholes. Animal law has only recently emerged as a studied genre of law, which means it is slowly becoming more known.

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The constitution is the basis for all Australian law and in this case, particularly from section 51. Firstly, section 51 of the Constitution provides that the ‘Parliament shall… have power to make laws for peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to’ 39 subject matters, known as ‘heads of power’. Although the constitution itself doesn’t outline laws regarding animals other than fish, it does give the conditions in which other laws can be created. The Commonwealth can enact any law, provided that the law is characterized as being under at least one of the heads of power. Subject to some limitations, a law that is characterized as being one with respect to one of these heads of power will be valid although it may regulate some other matter that is not specifically allocated to the Commonwealth (such as animal welfare). Through external affairs powers and corporations power came these treaties: Examples of the treaties formed with other countries are as follows: * The Convention on Biological Diversity 1992,

* The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 1973, * The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species and Wild Animals 1979 (‘the Bonn Convention’) and * The Convention on the Conservation of Nature in the South Pacific 1976 (‘the Apia Convention’).

Mechanisms of Reform- Non-Government Organizations.

‘Lawyers For Animals’ is an organization dedicated to advocating the need to improve animal welfare through education and law, as well as ‘Voiceless’. Voiceless is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering networks for law professionals, academics and politicians to influence law and the need for law reform regarding animal welfare. They conduct research regarding agricultural industry practices, exposing legalized cruelty and promoting need for debate. They also attempt to inform the public about consuming and which products have and have not come from low quality, quantity breeders. They recognize the need for a voice that projects the facts of cruelty among everyday people and corporations that give way to law reform and law making in relation to the protection and rights of animals. By building a forum, social justice movement, funding in education, participation in events and forming relationships with law schools and firms, Voiceless hopes to provoke change and awareness about animal welfare. The key issues that have been addressed as contemporary issues regarding this subject are;

* Animals as property
* Animals in agriculture
* Animal welfare legislation
* Labeling
* Live animal export
* Intensive livestock production and climate change
* Animals used for scientific purposes
* Animals used for entertainment
* Pets
* Pests
* Wild animals
* Fish and crustaceans

These are a vast range of issues, which call for a vast range of bills to be introduced from a large number of interested politicians. Having animals as property and pets, means that we as humans own them. We dictate what it is they eat, drink, do etc. We are responsible for taking care of them, and the blatant fact is that many people don’t. As Gary Francione, ‘distinguished professor of law’, states – animals are ‘as a matter of law, solely means to human ends. As such, their value is measured in terms of their usefulness to humans, and not in terms of their own interests’. The Animal Legal Defence Fund (‘ALDF’), was established in 1979 and has more than 100,000 dedicated lawyer members who apply their skills in a number of ways in order to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.

For example, the ‘Litigation Program’ files cutting-edge lawsuits to stop the abuse of companion animals, and animals abused in industries including factory farming and the entertainment business; while the ‘Criminal Justice Program’ works with law enforcement and prosecutors to seek maximum penalties for animal abusers. ALDF has also been at the forefront of law reform in respect to one that can actually make a difference. With changing times also comes the once described as ‘likely to be the next great social justice movement’, animal welfare is becoming more well known. Universities have been reflecting this growing issue, providing more and more opportunities for education on and relating to animal rights and animals and the environment. Examples of such debates for reform topics and their respectable supporters ( as found on‘animal-rights’-become-next-great-social-justice-movement) are below:

* Arguments in favour of basic legal rights for nonhumans (Steven Wise; President, Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights Inc., Coral Springs, Florida, USA ); * Suicide foods’: the anthropomorphising of animals (Prof Mark Kingwell, Uni of Toronto); * Animal rights activists’ case against the animal industries (Tom Regan, American philosopher and animal rights activist); * The philosophy behind animal welfare (Geoffrey Bloom, Geoffrey Bloom & Associates); * The law and pig farming (Dr Malcolm Caulfield, legal counsel for Animals Australia); * Animals and the law in Australia: a livestock industry perspective ( Kathleen Plowman; General Manager Policy for Australian Pork Ltd, with Alan Person and John Topfer); * The treatment of feral animals (Graeme McEwen, Barristers Animal Welfare Panel); * The ethics of animal biotechnology (Professors Mickey Gjerris and Peter Sandoe, University of Copenhagen); * Animal derived food labelling (Katrina Sharman, Corporate Counsel, Voiceless, the fund for animals); * The common law and animal rights (Nichola Donovan, Lawyers for Animals); * Animals, guardianship and the local courts

Another benefit human’s get from animals is profit. Breeding and meat production are industries where greed comes into play and animals needs and rights are forgotten. These NGO’s raise awareness and with the help of media, put pressure on the courts and parliament to introduce change. Certain ministers will be targeted and issues put forward to so that agencies have a representative in court.

Animal Laws that already exsist:
* Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT)
* Animal Welfare Act 1999 (NT)
* Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW)
* Animal Care & Protection Act 2001 (QLD)
* Animal Welfare Act 1985 (SA)
* Animal Welfare Act 1993 (TAS)
* Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (VIC)
* Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA

The shortcomings of these laws are the lack of equal treatment among animals used for scientific research and those that are pets. Eg: Cats will receive better treatment than pigs, as they are pets and pigs are used simply to grow and once they are grown, to eat. Again, seen as property beneficial to humans, which goes against the rules of law. The majority of the difficulties with enforcement stem from the manner by which the power to enforce animal welfare legislation is granted. The power is granted to:

* State government departments;
* the RSPCA;
* and the police.

Much of the enforcement is carried out by the RSPCA. It is the state and territory governments that are responsible for enacting legislation appropriate to their areas, therefore this will be done through the New South Wales Law Reform Commission. The New South Wales Law Reform Commission takes care of localized matters in relation to the state and the Australian Law Reform Commission takes care of matters to do with international treaties of trade and animal treatment. The New South Wales Law Reform Commission may be the pinnacle of law making bodies for New South Wales, The Australian Law Reform Commission itself recognizes the altering times and calls for change throughout the country. Dated 19th May 2009, David Weisbrot, President of the ALRC spoke at the University of Sydney about their views upon the issue, with the NGO ‘Voiceless’.

He stated that; “I think we need; national – or at least harmonised – legislation that protects animal welfare; and is not set at the lowest common denominator; or is so riddled with loopholes that you could drive a large factory farm truck though.” From the President of the ALRC itself, one would have to assume actions were being made in establishing new laws regarding animals, however it is not so. In the recent years, there has been much talk of changes yet no actions or amendments have been put in place as a follow through of this talk. David also stated that we evolve over time, resulting in the need for law reform and that it is this slow and painstakingly gradual task. Reasons for law reform regarding animal welfare:

An example of the altering views are prime in the subject of Sweden banning importations of Australian wool in the fear that it would be supporting mulesing. This could go on to be a major issue for the wool trade industry. Another concept is that of the changing and growing world, as the population grows, so does the need for food. This pressures farmers into states of mass production; Eg: The mass breeding and steroid use in chickens so that they reach adulthood 10x faster than usual, leaving their legs to break and mutate under the abnormal weight that grows too fast for the rest of the body to keep up. These chickens have shorter and extremely painful life spans, are kept in battery cages where there is no room for them to walk or sit. This issue has been addressed in documentaries attempting to make the public aware of the cruel and selfish origin their produce is coming from and spur politicians into addressing the subject with observance of practices and laws to protect such animals.

As is seen in the many above genre’s relating to animals as pets, food and many other things, a massive need for appropriate and widespread legislation has surfaced. Ways of mass production are under complete scrutiny for cruel practices, while more monitoring of animal owners has become paramount for the RSPCA. Universities have opened doors to educating the worlds youth about this topic, providing a new force of law trained individuals, able to influence people within their league into the advertisement and hopeful altering of current laws. These trained professionals have the ability to uncover the shortcomings of current laws that have been so far swept under the rug, and take them to members of the State and Federal Governments for consideration.

The Non-Government Organizations such as the RSPCA or Voiceless project widely held views of the public, who may not be as educated or influential within the political spectrum, but allow the public a say all the same. With a new influx of technology from the late 20th into modern 21st century, brings both positive and negative possibilities when monitoring and even bringing about animal cruelty. That is, one can use cameras placed in chicken farms to monitor such breeding, but it is the development of scientific technology that has allowed such abnormal growth in the first place. Education towards use of technology in a morally aware way should be a priority for the government, as well as making the public more aware of those cruelties that happen every single day. By making the public largely aware of various aspects of animal cruelty, many more opinions can be altered to support the work of the RSPCA and Voiceless, so that both the N.S.W Law Reform Commission and Australian Law Reform Commission can alter their own priorities and make changes to relative legislation.

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Law reform regarding Animal Welfare. (2017, Feb 03). Retrieved from

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