Animal law encyclopedia

This encyclopedia provides definitions for key animal law terms, issues and concepts, as well as summaries of select case law.

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A-Z index of glossary

  • A
  • ABC v Lenah Game Meats
  • Abolitionism

    An approach to animal rights that argues for the prohibition of all animal use and proposes veganism as a moral baseline. Proponents of abolitionism, such as Gary Francione and Tom Regan, argue that animals have moral value and accordingly reject all human exploitation of animals. Abolitionists believe that incremental reforms aimed at increasing animal welfare are insufficient. See also, ‘ethical veganism’.

  • ACCC v Luv-a-Duck
  • ACCC v Pepe’s Ducks Ltd.
  • ACCC v Turi Foods
  • Ag-gag law

    A law which operates to ‘gag’ animal advocates by restricting investigation into the treatment of animals within animal agricultural facilities. These laws generally prohibit or limit the capturing of photographs or videos within an industrial animal operation, as well as the possession or dissemination of this documentary evidence.

    For more information, see and

  • Aleksoski v State Rail Authority (NSW)
  • Alford v Greater Shepparton City Council (General)
  • Animal cruelty

    Causing an animal pain that, in the circumstances, is unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable. 

  • Animal ethics

    The field of ethics concerned with the ethical relationship between humans and animals and particularly concerned with the question of whether animals have moral status.

  • Animal law enforcement

    Various entities are empowered under animal welfare legislation to enforce animal welfare laws, including the police. In the majority of Australian states and territories the enforcement of animal welfare legislation is primarily the responsibility of a charity, in the form of state and territory based RSPCAs. The RSPCA typically enforces laws concerning domestic animals who are protected under anti-cruelty legislation, while state/territory agencies are primarily tasked with enforcing the welfare of farmed animals.

    For more information, see the Voiceless Animal Law Toolkit 2nd ed, p 14.

  • Animal Lib v Conservator of Flora and Fauna
  • Animal Liberation Ltd v Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Animal Liberation Ltd v National Parks and Wildlife Service
  • Animal management

    The management of wildlife or companion animals. In the case of companion animals, animal management can take the form of pound services for lost animals (see also, ‘stray’), the declaration of certain breeds of dogs as dangerous and the destruction of animals following a lack of compliance with conditions of ownership or an attack. In the case of wild animals, management may take the form of a cull on animals deemed to be pests, such as rabbits, wild dogs or kangaroos. To facilitate the ‘management’ of such animals, they are generally excluded from anti-cruelty legislation by the operation of a statutory defence, a Code of Practice, or the authorisation of their harm by other legislation. Depending on the jurisdiction, this may allow the animals to be hunted, poisoned, or caught in steel-jawed traps.

    For more information, see the Voiceless Animal Law Toolkit 2nd ed, p 40-42, 45-48, and 

  • Animal rights law

    An approach to animal law that seeks to challenge animals’ legal status as personal property and to secure fundamental rights for (at least some) animals.

  • Animal testing

    The process of forcefully subjecting animals to scientific experiments. Globally, animal testing is used across a variety of industries, including the pharmaceutical, medical, cosmetics and cleaning product industries. The procedures can cause animals long-lasting pain, suffering and distress – and in many cases, death. Procedures can include toxic gas inhalation, applying harmful substances to the skin or eyes, forcing them to consume harmful substances, injecting harmful material into their bodies, surgically removing parts of their bodies, creating situations of extreme distress to observe their behaviour, and administrating a substance to determine what dose of that substance will cause death. Most animals are killed following the experiments.

    A wide range of animals are used for these experiments, including rodents, monkeys, apes, dogs and fish. The species of animal used can vary depending on the jurisdiction in which the testing occurs. For example, the use of great apes in medical or scientific testing is restricted in several jurisdictions, and prohibited in New Zealand unless the testing is in the best interests of the great apes. Animal testing in Australia is regulated by specific animal welfare legislation dealing with the use of animals in research, and is underpinned by the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes. Generally, any experiment for medical research that can result in some human benefit is deemed as necessary and is permitted to occur (see also, ‘unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustifiable pain or suffering’). Animal testing for ingredients used solely in cosmetic products is not permitted in Australia, however, the import and sale of products that have been tested on animals in other countries is permitted.

    For more information, see the Voiceless Animal Law Toolkit 2nd ed, p 34.

  • Animal trials

    The historical practice common within Europe of putting animals on trial for criminal acts, such as injuring or killing a human. While the owner may have faced proceedings for negligence, the animal was tried as if culpable for the crime and would face the same judicial procedure as a human.

    For more information, see Patrick JJ Phillips, Medieval Animal Trials: Justice for All (Edwin Mellen Press, 2012).

  • Animal welfare

    The physical and physiological state of an animal, and how an animal is coping within their living conditions. The Five Freedoms is a widely recognised framework that outlines the key elements of animal welfare. See also, ‘The Five Freedoms’.

  • Animal welfare law

    An approach to animal law that seeks to protect animals from unnecessary harm and grants animals limited moral status.

  • Animal welfare legislation

    Legislation that seeks to protect the health and well being of animals by imposing duties of care on those in possession of or responsible for animals, and prohibiting certain forms of conduct deemed to be cruel.

  • Anthropocentrism

    A perspective that human beings occupy the centre of the world and are the most important element of existence. All other beings, including animals, are peripheral to humans and are given only indirect consideration when doing so aligns with human interests. For instance, a legal system could be described as anthropocentric if it is centred around human interests and gives only indirect consideration to animal interests. For example, the status of humans as legal persons and animals as legal property could be described as anthropocentric.

  • Argument from equality

    The argument that a being is entitled to legal personhood if they are the same as other beings who already have legal personhood.

  • Argument from liberty

    The argument that any being with the capacity for autonomy is entitled to legal personhood.

  • Aristotle

    A philosopher who argued that there is a natural hierarchy of living beings, with humans at the top.

  • Attorney-General (SA) v Bray
  • Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines

    A set of national Australian animal welfare standards combined with industry ‘best practice’ guidelines for a number of animal species and animal use industries. The standards and guidelines will replace the existing Model Codes of Practice (see ‘Model Codes of Practice’). Some standards and guidelines are still under development, while others are in the process of being regulated into law. Once complete, the standards and guidelines will be the main form of regulation for typically farmed or exhibited species, such as cattle, sheep, and crocodiles, as well as certain practices and industries, such as the land transport of livestock. Depending on the jurisdiction in Australia, non-compliance with the standards may constitute an offence, while non-compliance with the guidelines will not.

  • Australian Conservation Foundation Inc v Commonwealth
  • B
  • Beaumont v Cahir
  • Bentham

    A utilitarian philosopher – Jeremy Bentham – who argued that animals deserve equal consideration, freedom from unnecessary cruelty, and protection from the law on the basis of their sentience. Bentham coined the phrase, ‘…the question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?’ (Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (W Pickering, 1823) vol 2).

  • Booth v Bosworth
  • Brayshaw v Liosatos
  • Brett Cattle Company Pty Ltd v Minister for Agriculture
  • C
  • Captivity

    A state where a living being is confined in a particular area and prevented from escaping.

  • Castration

    A routine animal husbandry procedure involving the removal of a male animal’s testes. Castration is typically undertaken by surgical or non-surgical methods in Australia. The first method involves the use of a sterile sharp implement such as a knife or scalpel to surgically remove the testes. The second involves the application of a rubber band around the scrotum or the crushing of the spermatic cord to stop blood flow. In Australia, it is legal and common for young cows, sheep, goats and pigs to be castrated without anaesthetic or pain relief despite scientific evidence regarding their sentience and pain perception.

    For more information, see the Voiceless Animal Law Toolkit 2nd ed, p 11 and

  • Cole v Whitfield (Tasmanian Lobster Case)
  • Collins v Carey
  • Commodification

    The process by which animals are turned into products and valued for their usefulness to human life. If an animal is a commodity, he or she is generally domesticated and able to serve a purpose valued by humans, such as a monetary purpose. The commodification of animals can be seen in factory farming, or in the classification of animals as legal property.

    See also, ‘Factory farming’, ‘Puppy farming’, ‘Live export’, or in the classification of animals as legal property, ‘Property’.

  • Consciousness

    A state of subjective awareness of one’s internal and external experience. The consciousness of animals, and the ability to feel pain and suffering, is morally relevant under the utilitarianism theory.

    See also ‘Utilitarian’ and ‘Sentience’.

  • Council of the City of Lake Macquarie v Morris
  • D
  • Debeaking

    A common husbandry practice involving the removal of the end of a chick’s beak to prevent injury to other hens. Due to insufficient space and the suppression of their natural instincts, hens may become aggressive and engage in behaviours such as hen pecking, bullying and cannibalism. To prevent this behaviour, a portion of the upper and lower beak of a chick will be sawn off using an electrically heated blade. Debeaking is permitted to occur without pain relief in all Australian jurisdictions except the ACT, where the practice itself is prohibited.

    For more information, see

  • Dehorning

    A standard husbandry practice in which a cow or calf’s horns and sensitive tissue near their skull are cut, sawn or scraped out. Horns are removed to prevent economic loss as a result of bruising between animals and to reduce the hazard posed to people and other animals. Dehorning is commonly performed without pain relief for cattle under the age of 6 months old. In Australia, the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines permit dehorning without pain relief for cattle under 6 months of age, or under 12 months old if at first mustering and permitted in the relevant jurisdiction. If a calf is under 2 months of age their horns will not yet have attached to their skull and the procedure is called disbudding. See ‘Disbudding’.

    For more information, see 

  • Dereification

    The process of detaching animals from the concept of a ‘thing’. For example, human beings and corporations are considered legal persons, whereas animals are classified as legal things or property. Dereification occurs when animals are recognised as more than ‘things’, such as when they are granted legal personhood. See ‘Legal personhood’.

  • Descartes

    A philosopher who argued that animals are mere ‘automata’, complex machines made of muscle and bone that respond unthinkingly to stimulation.

  • Disbudding

    A standard husbandry practice involving the removal of the horns of a calf under 2 months of age. At this stage, a calf’s horns are not yet attached to their skull and the horn bud (and horn producing cells) may be removed without pain relief through the use of a hot iron scoop, or through chemical (caustic) application. Horns are removed to prevent economic loss as a result of bruising between animals, and to reduce the hazard posed to people and other animals. In Australia, the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines permit disbudding using caustic chemicals if certain conditions are met, including that the calf is less than 14 days old. If a calf or cow is over 2 months of age, the procedure is called dehorning. See ‘Dehorning’.

    For more information, see 

  • Discrimination

    The differential treatment of people based on their race, skin colour, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity.

  • Duty of care

    An obligation owed to an animal by the person in charge of that animal. That person is required to provide for and protect the animal’s welfare needs. For example, a person with a duty of care for an animal under animal welfare legislation is legally obliged to provide that animal with appropriate care such as food and water, adequate living conditions and treating disease and injury.

    For more information, see the Voiceless Animal Law Toolkit 2nd ed, p 10.

  • E
  • Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort Ltd v McBride
  • Ethical veganism

    A philosophy that seeks to eliminate, wherever possible, human exploitation of animals. Ethical veganism involves making dietary and lifestyle decisions that exclude animal exploitation and animal cruelty. Ethical vegans make this decision primarily for the sake of recognising and respecting the inherent value and rights of animals. See also, ‘Abolitionism’.

  • F
  • Factory farming

    An animal production system designed for efficiency and consistency, typically exemplified by large numbers of sentient animals (see ‘Sentience’), such as pigs and chickens, confined within small spaces, cages or pens with restricted ability for movement and no access to the outdoors. Dubbed ‘factory farms’ due to the mechanisation of the operation, factory farming produces high quantities of meat, eggs and dairy at the cheapest possible cost. However, there is community concern that the cost to animal welfare is too high. For instance, 90% of chickens in Australia are raised in factory farms, where they can be stocked at densities of 20 birds per square metre, the equivalent space of approximately one A4 piece of paper per chicken. This affects behavioural patterns and increases mortality rates, diseases and aggression amongst birds.

    See for more information on intensive poultry farming. See also, for further information on factory farming.

  • Farm trespass

    Unlawful entry onto animal agriculture premises. Farm trespass is usually conducted by animal advocates who target intensive production facilities, but can extend to other animal agricultural facilities. See also, ‘Ag-gag law’.

  • Farrowing crates

    A commonly employed enclosure for factory farmed sows (see ‘Factory farming’). Sows are confined in a farrowing crate approximately one week before giving birth and can remain confined for up to four weeks. The enclosure prevents the sows from turning around or moving, barely allows them to stand and frustrates their natural nesting behaviours. Intensive indoor farms employ farrowing crates to prevent sows from crushing their piglets and to provide workers with easy access to the piglets to perform routine husbandry procedures, such as tail docking and teeth clipping (see also, ‘Tail docking’ and ‘Teeth clipping’). Farrowing crates are permitted in all Australian jurisdictions except the ACT.

    For more information, see 

  • Fergusson v Stevenson
  • Foie gras

    A French delicacy made from the liver of ducks or geese that have been force-fed, translating to ‘fatty liver’ in English. The production of foie gras involves forcing open the beaks of ducks or geese, passing a tube down their throats and forcibly pumping grain into their stomach multiple times a day. This process enlarges their liver to maximum capacity, around 6 times its normal size, causing difficulty standing, ruptured organs and other severe health problems that can result in death. Foie gras production is not legal in Australia, however, it is legal to import the product.

  • G
  • Galea v Gillingham
  • H
  • Habeas corpus

    A type of legal remedy that can be used to bring prisoners before a court to make a ruling on whether they have been unlawfully imprisoned.

  • Holistic approach

    An approach to environmental ethics according to which, instead of focusing upon our obligations to individual humans, animals and plants, we should focus upon our obligations to species, environments and ecosystems.

  • Holland v Crisafulli
  • Houseman v Dare
  • J
  • Jarvis & Weston
  • Joyce v Visser
  • K
  • Kant

    A philosopher who argued that a person can be said to be doing the right thing only when they act with a good will, and they act with a good will when they choose to do something because it is their duty to do so.

  • Kuehne bt Kuehne v Warren Shire Council
  • L
  • Last tree scenario

    A thought experiment demonstrating the existence of moral status in non-animal entities.

  • Legal personhood

    Formal recognition as a legal person and the object of legal rights, typically granted to a human being but also to corporations and, occasionally, natural entities such as rivers.

  • Legal right

    A claim recognised and delimited by law for the purpose of securing it.

  • M
  • Mason v Tritton
  • Model Codes of Practice

    A set of animal welfare standards developed by the now defunct National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (Australia). The Model Codes of Practice (MCoPs) cover the husbandry practices applicable to a variety of animal species and animal use industries in Australia. For instance, there is a MCoP that sets the minimum welfare standards to be applied in domestic poultry farming. Animals that are covered by a MCoP are typically excluded from the protection of Australian animal welfare legislation. However, the legal status of these standards is often unclear and is dependent on the relevant jurisdiction and the particular animal and issue covered by the code. In most jurisdictions within Australia, the relevant animal welfare legislation makes compliance with a MCoP a defence to, or an exemption from, the operation of the Act. Thus, the standard of welfare provided to typically farmed animals such as pigs, cattle and poultry is primarily set by the relevant MCoP. These MCoPs will be replaced by the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.

    For more information, see the Voiceless Animal Law Toolkit 2nd ed, p 12. See also ‘Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines’.

  • Moral status

    A being’s entitlement to our moral consideration, usually expressed in terms of the possession of rights or inclusion in utilitarian calculations of overall well being.

  • Morris v Department of Environment and Climate Change
  • Murdoch v A-G (Tas) (No 2)
  • N
  • Non-anthropocentric ethical model

    An ethical model that extends moral status beyond humans to include animals, all living entities and/or holistic entities.

  • Nonhuman Rights Project

    An organisation established by US lawyer Steven Wise, which aims to change the legal status of certain animals (such as Great Apes, elephants, dolphins and whales) from ‘property’ to ‘legal persons’.

  • O
  • Ondrich v Kookaburra Park Eco Village
  • P
  • Pearson v Janlin Circuses Pty Ltd
  • Perpetual Trustees Tasmania Ltd v State of Tasmania
  • Property

    A thing owned by a legal person.

  • R
  • R v Menard
  • Re Weaver; Trumble v Animal Welfare League of Victoria
  • Right to bodily integrity

    Freedom from harmful bodily interference and experimentation.

  • Rural Export and Trading (WA) Pty Ltd v Hahnheuser
  • S
  • Saltoon v Lake
  • Sentience

    The ability to subjectively perceive the environment, and experience pain and suffering or pleasure and comfort.

  • Sheehan v Tin Can Bay Country Club
  • Singer

    A philosopher who argued that anything that could be used to justify treating humans differently from animals could also be used to justify treating some humans differently from other humans, and that since we are committed to treating all humans equally, it would be hypocritical and irrational not to treat animals as having equal moral status to humans.

  • Song v Coddington
  • Speciesism

    A form of discrimination against non-human animals by humans, stemming from the presumption that human beings are superior to all other species on earth. It involves treating non-human animals differently to human beings purely because they are not human.

  • T
  • The Australian Society for Kangaroos v The ACT Conservator of Flora and Fauna
  • U
  • Utilitarianism

    An ethical theory stating that the best action is the one that maximises utility for the majority.

  • Y
  • Yanner v Eaton
  • Z
  • Zappia v Allsop

Date created : 29 October 2020

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