IN AN effort to bolster support for the rights of millions of animals, as well as interest in animal law as an area of practice, a non-profit organisation will award financial grants in a ceremony this week.
Sixteen recipients will receive grants of between $2,500 and $20,000, totalling $145,000, from Voiceless, an organisation for animal welfare that hopes to encourage the development of animal law in Australasia.
Redfern Legal Centre has been awarded the biggest grant of $20,000 to establish a pro bono animal law referral service.
Other recipients of the grants are Peter Sankoff, of the University of Auckland and Stephen White of Griffith University. The pair will receive $15,000 to enable them to host a forum of around a dozen leading animal lawyers in Melbourne.
Following discussions at the forum, Sankoff and White want each attendee to later contribute a chapter to an academic publication on the issue.
Sankoff said the publication will be the first of its kind to examine animal law issues in Australasia.
“I believe that in order to improve things you need a foundation and this publication will be a foundational piece,” he said.
“We need to convince a lot of lawyers, faculties and students that this is a problem that is worth studying. I think it’s a huge problem that really needs to be addressed. I can shout all day long that there’s a problem but that alone won’t convince people.”
Katrina Sharman, corporate counsel at Voiceless, said animal law in Australia is a cutting edge discipline that is only just emerging, but rapidly gaining acceptance by the profession.
“It’s where environmental law was around 10 years ago. There are now six universities across the Asia-Pacific region that have animal law scheduled or are currently teaching it,” she said. “In Victoria earlier this year a panel formed at the Victorian Bar Association with a focus on animal welfare. We have professional legal groups emerging all over the country now and we also have an online discussion board which has over 200 lawyers signed up to it.”
Sharman said the reason the law is so important when it comes to animals is because much of what might be considered animal mistreatment is permitted by law.
“There are over 500 million animals raised in Australia for food production each year. Most of them are raised on factory farms in horrible conditions that are sanctioned by the law and we see the law as a tool to redress their suffering,” she said.