Overview of the state of Animal Law in Australia.
The Animal Law Toolkit
Published by Voiceless, the Animal Welfare Institute
For full 23 page pdf document, see attached file.
Animal law is a cutting edge area of law which is
rapidly expanding. In recent years there has been
a proliferation in scholarly writing on the subject,
an increased demand for animal law courses
in universities and the founding of numerous
organizations whose sole aim is to promote the
protection of animals. The President of the Australian
Law Reform Commission, Professor David Weisbrot
AM, summed up these changes when he described
animal law as ‘potentially the next great social justice
In recognition of the growing interest in animal law,
Voiceless has prepared this ‘Animal Law Toolkit’ to
introduce students, academics, legal practitioners, law
firms and animal protectionists to key issues in the
field. The Toolkit is intended to provide:
• individuals with information about key animal law
• students with the tools to request animal law
courses at their university; and
• law firms and legal practitioners with reasons
to expand their practice areas to include animal
law matters, with a view to facilitating the
administration of justice for animals.
We hope that as debate and discussion about
the institutionalised suffering of animals gathers
momentum, this Toolkit will serve as a helpful starting
point for those seeking to provide animals with the
justice they deserve.
Brian Sherman AM & Ondine Sherman
Managing Directors and Co-founders
1.1 Animal Law
As our understanding of animal behaviour and
intelligence has increased, there has been broad
acceptance that animals are sentient creatures
who should be able to live free from suffering and
abuse. Unfortunately, we live in an era where more
animals are suffering than ever before. The law has
an important role to play in protecting animals from
exploitation and cruelty. However, the current legal
regime is proving grossly inadequate.
Both the common law and Australian statute
law classify animals as ‘things’.2 This is the same
classification given to objects or pieces of property.
People, on the other hand, are classified as legal
persons. This distinction is crucial as it determines
who ‘counts’ for legal purposes.3 Only legal persons
are given a voice in our legal system and afforded
protection through the possession of legal rights.
‘Things’, being unable to possess rights, are the
property of legal persons and can therefore be
subjected to gross abuse and exploitation.
In recognition of this problem, two streams of law
have developed that aim to provide animals with
1. Animal welfare law
Animal welfare is a philosophy which is concerned
with regulating the use of animals to reduce
unnecessary pain and suffering. ‘Animal welfarists’
do not seek to question the status of animals as
property.4 Rather, welfarists argue that animals should
be treated humanely within the existing paradigm of
animal use.5 To this end, the primary goal of welfarists
is to improve existing anti-cruelty legislation to
reduce unnecessary suffering.
2. Animal rights law
Animal rights law seeks to question animals’ wellentrenched
status as property, with a view to securing
fundamental rights for (at least some) animals.
Animal rights lawyers do not argue that animals
should be given the same rights as humans. Rather,
different animals require different rights depending
on their needs and capabilities.6 The fundamental
tenet of animal rights law is that the law should not
treat animals as mere ‘things’. This is based on the
assumption that unless animals have rights, they will
continue to be treated by society as resources to
satisfy human wants and needs.
For full 23 page document: .pdf link – 1,921 kb