Development of laws for the protection and welfare of all animals is considerably behind in Australia, noted American animal law expert Bruce Wagman told Lawyers Weekly on Thursday.
Wagman made the comments in comparison to the United States, which has been active in the area of seeking more humane treatment of animals for almost three decades.
He said, however, that Australian advocates could have something to offer across the Pacific: "They can teach us new ways of thinking because they are thinking about these things in a world that has changed over those decades, and they can provide a new light."
A partner at San Francisco-based law firm Schiff Hardin, Wagman has a practice focused on animal law litigation, consultation and education. He spoke to Lawyers Weekly in the lead-up to his appearance at the Voiceless Animal Law Lecture Series across Australia and New Zealand in May, where he will launch Australia's first animal law text book, Animal Law in Australasia, with Michael Kirby.
Wagman expressed concern over animal cruelty in Australia - especially the treatment of farmed animals and the culling of kangaroos - as an issue that should get Australians thinking about the priority of law reform protection around animal law.
"There are millions (of kangaroos) in Australia killed annually, for a variety of purposes, but the approved methods of killing, and especially of killing joeys, represents a visible large-scale and extremely cruel slaughter," he said. "I don't think there is anything on that scale in America."
Such comments back up a 2008 edition of the Australian Law Reform Commission's journal Reform, which suggests that "animal rights" could become the next great social justice movement for law reform.
Meanwhile, Wagman added that individual US states are in the process of legislating against specific farming practices considered cruel to animals - such as gestation stalls, battery cages, and veal crates - a state-by-state process of improvements for animal welfare that is not occurring in Australia.
Wagman's 10-day speaking tour and launch of the book will encompass 11 venues across the country, and outline his own experience in US State and Federal courts protecting the interests of domestic and farm animals.
The 2009 Voiceless Animal Law Lecture series will take place between 5 May and 14 May 2009. Visit www.voiceless.org.au for more information.
- Angela Priestley