Animal Law

This category contains 33 posts

Closing the Loopholes?

With much fanfare, the government launched an animal welfare amendment bill earlier this year.  You may remember our scepticism.  Now, with much less fanfare, Sue Kedgley MP’s clumsily-titled private members bill, the Animal Welfare Amendment (Treatment of Animals) Bill has been balloted to receive its first reading in September.

So, what does she hope to do? Continue reading

Loving the Animal Law Vibe in Dunedin

Just got back from Dunedin, where last night I gave a guest lecture as part of Animal Law week, a production of the Student Animal Legal Defence Fund (SALDF) chapter recently established at the University of Otago – the first ever Chapter outside of North America.

It was a hell of an experience, and one I enjoyed immensely.   After years struggling to get a viable student group working at Auckland, it was refreshing to see a student-created group with so much focus and vigour – and so much concern for animal law issues.   In addition to my talk, the Otago group has set up a whole week of seminars, stalls and discussions, many of them student led and researched.   Quite a feat, especially when you consider that animal law has never been taught at Otago – and is not currently on the agenda.

The talk itself went well, and I received some wonderful feedback.   A packed house learned about the animal welfare construct and why it fails animals, and we continued talking afterwards as well.  I was pleased to hear that this SALDF chapter is planning to host further events through the year, and with the support of the Otago administration, an animal law course might not be far off. Continue reading

Making an Impact

A new book on animal law was recently published and launched in Australia. Animal Law in Australia and New Zealand, by Deborah Cao – with chapters by Katrina Sharman and Steven White – is the latest book on animal law to be published in this part of the world.  I haven’t yet had a comprehensive read, but the book seems to be a good treatment of the laws governing animals in this part of the world – a much needed reference work that will allow people to continue critiquing the status quo.

The book was launched by Michael Kirby during the Voiceless Animal Law Lecture Series, featuring Joyce Tischler, of the Animal Legal Defence Fund.  I was particularly struck by his remarks, a section of which I’ve reproduced below (full text available at the Sydney Morning Herald):

A year ago I launched a book that changed my life. It was Animal Law in Australasia. After reading it, I immediately ceased eating meat.

For more than a year, I have eaten neither flesh nor fowl. My diet is vegetarian, with a little fish. After nearly 70 years as a carnivore, this was a big change in my habits and eating pleasures. My partner, Johan van Vloten, told friends: ”It’s another fad. He’ll get over it.” But I have not and will not.

The book contained too much information. I could no longer pretend I did not know how sentient animals were slaughtered. No longer could I trick my mind into believing that meat and chicken pieces, so neatly wrapped in plastic or beautifully served on white plates, were the impersonal products of sterile, clean supermarkets. I was distressed at my earlier indifference and indirect participation in a huge industry of corporatised killing of sentient creatures…

Most people in Australia and New Zealand never think about these issues. Eating meat and poultry has been part of their lives for generations. They feel no guilt because they take no part in the slaughter. When they think about it (which is rarely), they assume the law lays down basic standards…

Animal welfare law has been introduced in a journey that commenced with protection for companion animals; spread to a prohibition on senseless cruelty in sporting, circus and entertainment animals; and more recently has extended to the treatment of farm, exported and wild animals, and those in corporations and laboratories subjected to testing for human protection…

A growing body of university students, most in law faculties, are electing to undertake courses in animal welfare law. Already, such courses are offered in six Australian law schools. More are on the horizon. What not so long ago was regarded as an exotic topic of limited interest is now a fast-growing curriculum subject with a real legal dimension.

Why has this happened? Why has it happened now? In part, it is because writers such as Singer rekindled the ideas of earlier thoughtful observers and planted them in the mind of contemporary Australasia. In part, this has happened because cruelty to animals happens in our midst and, as a community, we are responsible for it.

All good stuff.  Kirby has been a real leader in this area, constantly speaking his mind on behalf of animals, getting good press coverage on the issues, and reminding people that animal law is no fad; thinking people can be convinced about the dangers of allowing the existing status quo to go unrestrained.

I must confess that on a personal note, the first sentence made me blush, at least a little bit.  I created Animal Law in Australasia for two purposes: (1) to get people to think about their own actions; and (2) to get the ball rolling on more advanced critique of how animals are treated in Australasia.  Kirby’s speech told me that both objectives were in the process of being realized, and that’s enough to keep a smile on my face all day.

Next week, I’m attending Animal Law week at the University of Otago as a guest speaker.  The first ever New Zealand chapter of the Animal Legal Defence Fund has put together a wonderful program of events intended to bring “animal law” to the masses and show how interesting the subject really is – and how important the issues are.  Just goes to show what can be done once a spark is lit – and how momentum for change in the legal community continues to grow.

Catalonia Bans Bullfighting

Spain’s Catalonian regional parliament has banned bullfighting in a vote of 68 – 55 with nine abstaining.

It is the second Spanish region after the Canary Islands (which banned bullfighting in 1991) to outlaw the practice and the first on the mainland.

Bullfighting is a brutal spectacle  in which the torture and death of the bull is the end of a life-long process of abuse and mistreatment (I’ve written on this in more detail here) and this is a significant victory for a coalition of Catalonian animal rights groups called “Prou!” meaning “Enough!”  They initated the vote by submitting a 180 000-signature petition to the parliament, calling for a ban.

The vote was not a cut-and-dry animal welfare issue as the rejection of this emblematically Spanish tradition is also widely interpreted as animated by separatist sentiment. Of Spain’s semi-autonomous regions, Catalunya has the greatest degree of autonomy along with the Basque region. It has even been suggested that the vote was calculated in last-minute lobbying as retaliation for a recent decision from Spain’s Constitutional court which has curtailed some of the proudly-independent region’s autonomy in law-making.

This is an exciting advance made against one of the most tradition-bound forms of animal suffering. The commercial significance of the ‘sport’ falls far short of that in the Spanish capital of Madrid and Andalucia to the South, when the law comes into effect in 2012 it will close Barcelona’s last remaining bullring, La Monumental. This may limit the spread of the ban to the other regions.

But there is still work to do. Activists have now set their sights on a ban on the Correbous, an annual festival in the region in which flaming torches and even fireworks are fastened to the bulls’ horns and they are set loose, frightened, disoriented and often suffering burns, to run around  an enclosure for the amusement of onlookers.

Guest Post: The Australian Whaling Claim

by William Fotherby

Will is a graduate of the University of Auckland and a solicitor at Bell Gully.  In 2008, he was one of the editors-in-chief of the Auckland University Law Review.

Australia has taken its campaign to end Japanese whaling to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  The Australian statement of claim, dated 31 May 2010, alleges that Japan is in breach of its obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW).  It seeks an order revoking any permits by which Japan has conducted scientific whaling in the Antarctic and assurances from Japan that it will not conduct similar activities in the future.  New Zealand, among other countries, has indicated that it will look seriously at joining this court action.  This, after attempts to reach a political solution at the IWC’s annual meeting, in Agadir, Morocco, failed. Continue reading

Dog Killers Set for Trial

The two men charged with the dog killings in Wellsford have now appeared in court. It was pretty much a standard appearance to enter a plea, and they won’t be back in court for a few more weeks, when a pre-commital hearing will take place.  The surprising piece of information coming out from this appearance was that the two defendants have elected a trial by jury.   Had anyone asked beforehand, I would have bet heavily that they would have gone for trial by judge alone.  Seems to me that their only chance of success in this case is showing that the dogs didn’t suffer sufficiently during the killing spree, and were killed quickly.  As hard as that sounds to believe, it would have a better chance of success before a judge, who would have a strong understanding of the prosecution’s burden of proof, and would be less likely to be swayed by the emotions of the situation.  I struggle to believe a jury will care about technicalities in light of the number of dead dogs, the “massacre-like” nature of the killings, and the sheer craziness of it all.

The defence’s most likely strategy is to put the dog owner on trial, suggesting that he had too many dogs, that their own dog was killed by his, and that he consented to the killing and is the real person to blame.  They may well be able to weaken his credibility as a witness, and perhaps sway a few jury members who worry about dangerous dogs.  As I’ve indicated in prior posts, Mr. Hargreaves is no choir boy, and has a lot to answer for himself – but I still don’t see how attacking him buys an acquittal.

This case should be won or lost on the basis of the scientific evidence, and the SPCA’s ability to show that the dogs suffered.   Regardless of the reasons for the killing, it was done in a manner that the SPCA should be able to show was detestable, and the owner’s actions will not be enough to legally absolve the defendants of responsibilty for what happened.  Still, with a jury involved, it should be a rousing trial, and an interesting one to follow.

The Trials of Moko the Dolphin: But not of anyone else

Over the Summer months, as well as writing a Masters thesis, I’ve been following the rather sad and brutal tale of Moko the bottlenose dophin.

He is but one in a long succession of “lone” dolphins who have actively sought the company of humans around coastal New Zealand. Two of the better-known since European settlement are Pelorus Jack (in the early 1900s) and Opo (1955-6). A common denominator in both of these stories is unprovoked human aggression toward intelligent animals who sought and enjoyed human company. A passenger on the Penguin took a shot at Pelorus Jack (follow the link for the tale of the sad fate of that ship) and there was strong suspicion that Opo was killed (whether deliberately or inadvertently) by an explosive charge set off in the water.

In the present day, scientists have pointed out in a recent study that of the 30 lone dolphins identified around the world in the last decade, 14 had already been injured or had died as a result of their interaction with humans. Continue reading

Animal Migration

by Susy Pryde

Doth the hawk fly by Thy wisdom and stretch her wings toward the south?
Book of Job (39:26)

CaribouWith the Easter holidays approaching, chances are our family will join the ‘kiwi’ holiday migration for a bit of a lie around with a novel, aiming to accomplish nothing in particular for a few days. Technically it is not a necessary ritual though we do consider it a retreat to a more hospitable habitat.

But what if migrating at certain times of the year was necessary for our survival, as is the case in the animal kingdom?  Imagine coordinating an epic journey over weeks or even months, crossing multiple borders or oceans in order to breed, find food, or escape seasonal changes. Continue reading

Fur Is Dead! Well, not in New York

Fur is back in the news. The New York Times reports that ‘[f]or the first time in more than two decades, more designers are using fur than not.’ In New York alone, 2/3 of its fashion designers are using fur. The grisly facts of fur are well known and yet fur is staging a comeback. Why? In its report, the Times suggests that the increase in fur is due to an aggressive marketing campaign by fur producers:

Much like lobbying groups in Washington, various cooperatives representing breeders, farmers and auction houses around the world solicit designers to use their furs.

Continue reading

Guest Post: The Animal Casualties of War

by Susy Pryde

Susy is in the last semester of her LLB.  She studied in Animals and the Law in summer school 2010.  Throughout her degree, she has worked as a national cycling coach and ran a women’s cycling team based out of North America (since 2006).  She is a former full-time professional athlete.

English cavalry on the Western Front, 1916

‘Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of war’
– William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)

My brother in law rang my husband recently, to ask if the film, Avatar, would be too scary for their six year-old daughter. The cynic in me queried how a well-reasoned answer could come from dialing our number; we’re child-free and the source of such hoped for wisdom was from a man who abandoned a six year-old’s perspective decades ago. To his credit, he managed to point out that the story is set against large-scale war.  So, there are graphic scenes of flaming horses caught in the crossfire of battle. That might be somewhat disturbing. At least, he added, it would be for a six year-old girl with a growing ‘My Little Pony’ toy collection.

While the boys tailed off into discussions of war, I dwelled on the plight of animals in war: The collateral damage of human conflicts. Not long ago I began reading an historical account of animals used for military purposes.  As far back as 2100 BC, Hammurabi, the sixth King of Babylon and first known author of a written code of law (the Code of Hammurabi), championed the first known use of animals in warfare.  He employed large dogs to fight alongside his elite warriors. Continue reading