Comparing Cruelty: Lesson 3 Civics and Citizenship, Yr 9

Sanctioning Cruelty: Do Laws Protect or Facilitate Animal Cruelty?

Information to Teachers

The suggested activities have been developed for Stage 5, Year 9 Civics and Citizenship class and focus on investigating the laws and regulations set up to protect animals within a range of countries. Students will have the opportunity to conduct research, share findings, and participate in class discussions.

The activities refer to the Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI) as its primary resource. The VACI tracks the animal welfare performance of 50 countries that were selected among the largest producers of farmed animal products in the world.

The interactive Index evaluates and ranks the countries based on the nature, extent, and intensity of cruelty associated with farmed animal production. In addition, it also assesses and ranks the consumption of farmed animals and animal products and evaluates the regulatory frameworks put in place to protect animals within each country.

Through these tasks, students are asked to critically examine the facts and figures of the VACI; questioning how animal cruelty can be measured and considering what countries could be doing better in order to protect animals from such cruelty.

Time Allocation

50-100 minutes.


Mixed ability class with extension tasks.

Unit Focus

Question – what do you think constitutes animal cruelty, and what do you think countries could be doing better to protect animals from cruelty?
Consider – the different views on this issue and decide for yourself where you stand.
Discuss – with your friends, family, classmates and teachers. Debating complex issues is healthy and helpful.

Voiceless Resources

Download the lesson bundle here.

Find all resources at

Other Resources

Inquiry Questions

  • How do a government’s laws and regulations regarding animals contribute to, or minimize levels of animal cruelty?
  • In what ways do the societal and cultural attitudes present within a country directly affect the welfare and protection of animals?

Suggested Learning Activities


Ask students the following questions to ascertain what they already know about animal welfare laws in Australia.

Suggested Questions:

  • Animal Rights / Animal Welfare – What is the difference? Refer to the VACI Glossary for definitions.
  • What laws exist in Australia regarding animal welfare?
  1. Give students 15-20 minutes to explore the animal welfare laws for their jurisdiction by using the RSPCA Australia website.
  2. Direct students to ‘What is the Australian Legislation Governing Animal Welfare?
  3. From here, students can click into the Animal Welfare Acts for each jurisdiction.
  4. Ask students to note down 5 laws of which they were previously unaware and/or are surprised by.

Teacher Tip Icon

  • Direct students to ‘Offences’, ‘Codes of Practice’ or ‘Cruelty’ subcategories to locate laws.
  • An interesting discussion could be had here regarding the different classifications of animals in addition to why certain laws pertain to some animals but not others. i.e. ‘stock’ animals vs. ‘domestic’ animals.


Watch the Voiceless Video ‘Animal Protection Around The World: Who Ranks Best and Worst?

Instruct students to complete the following 3.2.1 task after viewing.

Students write down:

  • 3 – thoughts or ideas you had while watching;
  • 2 – things you found interesting;
  • 1 – question you still have.


Sanctioning Cruelty? What does it all mean?

The Sanctioning Cruelty Sub Index assesses countries based on their societal and cultural attitudes to animals, as reflected in the quality of the legislative and regulatory frameworks that are in place to protect animals.

Read the short section from the VACI Sanctioning Cruelty webpage – access it here.

Teacher Tip Icon

Read as a class and spend some time in discussion with your students. Clarify ‘societal’ and ‘cultural’ attitudes. How/why might these differ from country to country for instance?

Group Work – Profiling Jigsaw

Students form groups of 3 and decide on 3 countries to profile. These should ideally include Australia and 1 country from the Asia region.

Groups use Google Docs as a collaborative to collate and share their findings. Each student within the group will profile 1 country.

Research should include the following:

  • The VACI Sanctioning Cruelty Index (numerical and grade ranking) for the selected country.
  • Reasoning for ranking – to be written in student’s own words.
  • Are there any defining social/cultural attitudes towards animals (within the selected country) that should be taken into consideration?
  • The API includes the category: ‘Protecting animals used in farming’. How did the selected country score in this category and why?
  • The API includes the category: ‘Government accountability for animal welfare’. How did the selected country score in this category? Does the country have animal welfare laws and policies? What general comments can you make about how the government is addressing the welfare/protection of animals in their country?

Teacher Tip Icon

The VACI relied on the World Animal Protection’s API (Animal Protection Index) in order to assess each of the 50 countries for the final category ‘Sanctioning Cruelty’. Direct your students to this webpage as an additional and very useful resource.


Students now reconvene into their groups of three and complete the jigsaw by spending some time discussing their research and findings with one another.


Class Discussion

Project or give students a copy of the questions below – allow enough time for students to process and make some notes before entering a discussion.

  • Who is responsible for the welfare of animals?
  • Do you think some animals should have better legal protections than others? What about if they are sentient, and have the same ability to suffer?
  • Is it fair that laws exist to protect animals in some countries but not others? What are some reasons as to why this might be the case?
  • There are many varied points of view when it comes to animal welfare – who might have differing opinions on this issue, and why?
  • How do you think governments should manage such varying points of view?

Teacher Tip Icon

Students should discuss; farmers, industry, politicians, consumers, animal rights activists and so on.


Direct students back to the following unit focus questions and ask them to write a 250-word reflection that addresses the following:

  • Consider the different views on animal cruelty and decide for yourself where you stand.
  • What do you think constitutes animal cruelty, and what do you think countries could be doing better to protect animals from cruelty?


Is change afoot in Australia?

Australia ranked 34 on the Sanctioning Cruelty category under the VACI and received a ‘D’ rating under the API. This was largely due to the country’s limited national animal protection laws, and the fact that it continues to permit battery cages for layer hens, live export and painful husbandry procedures without the use of anaesthetic.

In 2019, the ACT became the first Australian jurisdiction to formally recognise animals as sentient under animal welfare legislation.

Read the article from the ABC to find out more about what this change may mean for animals.

Find it at: sentience recognised for the first time under new ACT laws’.

Voiceless would be delighted to receive completed student work to consider for publication on the Voiceless website. If you have student/parental consent or would like to get in contact with us to provide some feedback on this APE, including how it was recieved by your students, please email work or feedback to

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