Moral and Legal Status of Animals: Tutorial 3 (Factual Scenarios)

Application to Factual Scenarios: Considering the Legal Consequences of Recognising Animal Legal Personhood

The learning sequence for this tutorial is designed to assist students to apply their learning from Tutorial 1 and/or Tutorial 2. Students are presented with various factual scenarios and asked to consider how these factual scenarios would be dealt with under the current state of the law, and how this may be altered if legal personhood for animals was recognised in Australia.

Time Allocation

One 50-minute tutorial.

Key Inquiry Questions

  • How does the current state of the law represent an ‘animal welfarist’ approach to animal protection?
  • How could altering the legal status of animals to ‘legal persons’ impact on how the interests of animals are represented in different circumstances?
  • Would the legal consequences of recognising legal personhood for animals be beneficial for animal protection?

Student Preparation

It is expected that students would have already completed the readings for either/both Tutorial 1 and Tutorial 2.

 

TUTORIAL

1. CLASS PREPARATION

Prior to class, print out the ‘Legal Personhood Factual Scenarios’ document.

Write the questions listed on the handout on the board (or project them onto a screen at the front of the classroom from a computer).

2. INTRODUCTION (5 mins)

Explain to the students that in today’s tutorial you will be asking them to apply their learning from previous tutorials to a number of factual scenarios. Emphasise the importance of understanding the potential real-world application of changes to the moral and legal status of non-human animals in Australian society.

Split the students into pairs/groups (depending on the class size).

Give each group one factual scenario handout.

Explain that they need to read the scenario as a group, and then discuss and write down their answers to the questions on the other side of the handout.

Note: The factual scenarios naturally raise issues of law that may go beyond the course content/the module content. Accordingly, you will need to direct students as you see fit re whether these other elements should be explored or disregarded.

3. SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION (10 mins)

In groups, ask students to read out the scenario and then discuss and write down their answers to the questions on the other side of the handout.

Walk around the room and check in on each group as they complete the task.

4. CLASS DISCUSSION (30 mins) 

Bring the students together. Invite each group to read out their factual scenario and discuss their responses to the questions with the class. Invite the class to comment on their conclusions and contribute their own thoughts.

As each group shares their responses, note their general conclusions under each question written up on the board.

5. REFLECTION (10 mins)

After each group has spoken, invite the class to reflect on the key inquiry questions for this activity:

  • How does the current state of the law represent an ‘animal welfarist’ approach to animal protection?
  • How could altering the legal status of animals to ‘legal persons’ impact on how the interests of animals are represented in different circumstances?
  • Would the legal consequences of recognising legal personhood for animals be beneficial for animal protection?

 

SUGGESTED ASSESSMENT TASK

Law Reform Submission

Task description and rationale

This task requires students to construct their own law reform submission, in response to a fictitious law reform proposal. The aim of the activity is to assist students to appreciate the real-world implications of altering the legal status of animals in Australia.

Task instructions

A minor political party (‘Rights for Animals’) have proposed legislation (Rights of Cats Bill 2018) in the NSW Parliament, seeking to alter the legal status of cats in NSW.

Rights of Cats Bill 2018

An Act to recognise the legal rights of cats in New South Wales.

Explanatory note

Overview of Bill

The objects of this Bill are as follows:

  1. to recognise that cats (Felis catus) have the status of ‘legal persons’ in the state of New South Wales;
  2. to abolish any rule of common law that is inconsistent with the status of cats as legal persons;
  3. to provide that cats are entitled to protections against violations of their bodily integrity and liberty, and that such violations constitute offences under the Act;
  4. to provide for the establishment of a statutory guardian tasked with representing the interests of cats in New South Wales.

 

Students must consider the potential policy and legal implications of this proposed legislation. This consideration includes (but is not limited to):

  • How the proposed legislation could impact on existing legislation applying to cats (would it create inconsistencies/require their repeal/amendment, etc…);
  • How the proposed legislation may operate in practice, and any practical issues that may arise;
  • How the proposed legislation would impact on relevant stakeholders in the community.

Students may write the submission in their own capacity. However, students are encouraged to consider writing from the perspective of a particular stakeholder (government, animal welfare group, cat breeder, etc…)

Suggested Preparation

Expectations regarding style and tone should be made clear in advance. In particular, how a law reform submission differs in style from an evaluative essay or reflective writing piece. Guidance on how to write an animal law reform submission can be accessed here, and an example of a written submission can be accessed here.

Task length

1500 words

Links to Module Intended Learning Outcomes

1, 2, 3.

Assessment criteria

This assessment requires students to:

  • Develop a clear, well-structured and persuasive piece of writing adopting an appropriate style and tone;
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and reflection on the proposed piece of legislation and the issues raised;
  • Articulately outline their adopted position, with adequate consideration of counter arguments;
  • Demonstrate accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar and accurate and comprehensive referencing.

 

To help us improve our materials, we would appreciate any written reflections, feedback or thoughts you would like to share: education@voiceless.org.au