ADVOCACY NOT APATHY
Classed as property, animals have no legal voice: they need lawyers to advocate for them. Lawyers for Animals is a volunteer-based organisation dedicated to improving the welfare of animals through education and the law.
Read about LFA’s position here: Call for new animal cruelty authority in Victoria
Our inaugural Law Week Trivia Night has arrived!!
Attached is your invitation to the trivia night to be held on Friday 20 May 2016. We hope you and your friends/colleagues can join us for what we trust will be a lot of fun.
This event is open to all, so please feel free to circulate the invitation, noting that bookings need to be made by 10am Friday 13 May.
We hope to see you on the night!
Thanks for your continuing support and kind regards,
Lawyers for Animals Inc.
Dear wonderful members and supporters,
Please find here our April 2016 Newsletter, for your information. In this edition, we celebrate three years of our Animal Law Clinic and focus on horse welfare, responding to some recent horror stories with constructive ideas for reform. There are also a few excellent animal law events scheduled soon, including our own Law Week Quiz Night, in which we hope you may be interested.
Please feel free to send us your feedback and any ideas for future newsletters.
Kind regards and thank you for your continuing support,
Lawyers For Animals
LFA Submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2015August 19th, 2015
A copy of LFA’s submission will be made public once released from parliamentary confidentiality restrictions.
In an encouraging move, the Victorian Government is taking action to help victims of domestic violence make the decision to leave their abusive partners by providing $100,000 in funding over four years to domestic violence support organisation Safe Steps to provide shelter to victims’ pets.
A 2012 report provided to the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges in New Zealand found cruelty to pets was most commonly reported as a form of punishment, with abusive partners often threatening or inflicting harm to pets as a form means of maintaining control in the relationship or preventing their partners from leaving.
Fears about what may happen to pets that are left behind with abusive partners often cause victims to stay in abusive relationships longer. However, domestic violence support services have limited capacity to house or care for the pets of women fleeing abusive relationships. Safe Steps will work with animal welfare agencies like the RSPCA to implement the program.
In a disappointing, though perhaps unsurprising move, the three Coalition members of the six-member Senate Committee tasked with reviewing WA Liberal Senator Chris Back’s ag-gag bill, paradoxically named the Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015, have tabled a report recommending the passage of the bill into legislation with one minor amendment. The Greens Committee member and two ALP members have authored separate dissenting reports.
All reports were tabled in Parliament out of session on 12 June 2015.
The Senate Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation is chaired by Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan (NSW), who appears to have cast the deciding vote. The Committee also includes Liberal Senator Sean Edwards (SA), Nationals Senator John Williams (NSW), ALP Senators Glenn Sterle (WA; Deputy Chair) and Joe Bullock (WA), and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (NSW). Also participating in the review of the bill were it’s proponent, Liberal Senator Chris Back (WA), and Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm (NSW) and independent Senator Nick Xenophon (SA).
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon authored a comprehensive dissenting report opposing the bill on several grounds, and the ALP members put forward a one-page dissenting report calling for an “open and transparent consultative process” to fully address the issues raised in submissions received by the Committee before the bill be considered by Parliament.
The Committee report, therefore, was exclusively authored by the Liberal and National parties, and endorses the bill for enactment subject to the recommendation that the offence of failing to report animal cruelty to authorities within one business day be amended to a requirement to report “as soon as practicable”. The more significant criminal offences contained in the bill, some of which carry maximum penalties of life imprisonment, are endorsed by the Coalition parties without amendment. Those provisions impose significant criminal liability on people who trespass on animal enterprise premises, damage animal enterprise property or property “connected with” an animal enterprise, or cause fear to animal enterprise operators, employees or persons “connected with” an animal enterprise (including family members and contractors), with the purpose of “interfering with” the animal enterprise. The bill also includes aggravating circumstances that result in harsher penalties, including where the alleged interference results in economic damage, which includes lost profits, to the animal enterprise of $10,000 or more.
The Coalition report also endorses the reversal of the onus of proof under the offence of failing to report instances of animal cruelty, which requires defendants, rather than prosecutors, to prove they reported animal cruelty within the required timeframe, and the absolute liability provisions which mean that a criminal intention need not be proved and remove the defence of mistake of fact.
The Greens’ dissenting report rejects the bill in its entirety on that basis that it “seeks to deter and punish those who would expose to the public visual evidence of animal cruelty in commercial animal industries. It would do this by effectively criminalising investigators while turning a blind eye to the perpetrators of that cruelty.” Correctly, the Greens report notes that the bill does not require eye-witnesses to animal cruelty, such as animal enterprise employees, to report animal cruelty, but only those who make a “visual recording” of instances of animal cruelty, and that the bill does not contain a single provision dealing with the perpetrators of any animal cruelty that is reported. The Greens’ report also includes a number of recommendations to strengthen the national animal welfare regulatory framework, including the establishment of an Independent Office for Animal Welfare.
Under the Senate Committee review process, a Government response to the Committee reports is due by 12 September 2015.
A copy of the Committee’s report (which includes the Greens’ dissenting report) and Labor’s separate dissenting report can be found here.
The first US District Court decision on the constitutionality of state-enacted ‘ag-gag’ laws has been handed down, and its a big victory for animal rights and animal welfare.
US District Court Judge Winmill handed down a decision on Monday ruling that Idaho’s ag-gag law (formally known as Idaho Code § 18-7042) was unconstitutional because it infringed First Amendment (free speech) rights. The law was drafted and sponsored by the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, a trade industry organisation that represents every dairy farmer and producer in the state, in response to undercover video footage of employees of Bettencourt Dairies’ Dry Creek Dairy abusing dairy cows that was secretly obtained and published (after reporting the incident to the relevant authority) by Mercy for Animals – an animal welfare organisation.
The legal challenge against the law was prosecuted by The Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”), with the support of other animal rights agencies, who argued that the law had both the purpose and effect of stifling public debate by criminalising undercover and investigative journalism into instances of animal abuse, and whistle-blowing by employees of animal-agriculture operations. ALDF argued that those sanctions meant the law violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Typical of ag-gag legislation, the law imposed disproportionate criminal sanctions on those carrying out secret investigations of commercial animal agriculture operations, which are superficially promoted by legislators as pro-animal welfare requirements or for the purpose of protecting private property. However, Winmill J clarified that the purpose of the Idaho “ag-gag” law was to “limit and punish those who speak out on topics relating to the agricultural industry, striking at the heart of important First Amendment values”. An equally important statement by Winmill J is that “an agricultural facility’s operations that affect food and worker safety are not exclusively a private matter. Food and worker safety are matters of public concern.”
Winmill J stated that “[t]he effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment”, noting that undercover journalism is a popular form of politically salient speech. Ultimately, Winmill J found that “the facts show that the State’s purpose in enacting the statute was to protect industrial animal agriculture by silencing its critics” and the law unreasonably burdened speech critical of the animal-agriculture industry.
Although Winmill J’s decision may be appealed, it sends a strong signal about the illegitimacy of ag-gag legislation.
Idaho is one of eight US states with ag-gag laws.
See the Food Safety News site for more details and a link to Winmill J’s 28 page decision.
See this Sydney Morning Herald article for a summary.