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
  • ACCC v Luv-a-Duck
  • ACCC v Pepe’s Ducks Ltd.
  • ACCC v Turi Foods
  • 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 Lib v Conservator of Flora and Fauna
  • 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 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

    Ethical theories or frameworks that grant moral status only to human beings.

  • 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.

  • C
  • Captivity

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

  • D
  • Descartes

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

  • Discrimination

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

  • F
  • Factory farming

    Intensive animal farming or industrial livestock production in order to maximise production output while minimising production costs.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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
  • 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.

  • 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’.

  • P
  • Property

    A thing owned by a legal person.

  • R
  • Right to bodily integrity

    Freedom from harmful bodily interference and experimentation.

  • S
  • Sentience

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

  • 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.

  • 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.