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Lawyers urged to assume responsibility for animals

Lawyers urged to assume responsibility for animals

It's up to lawyers to end the institutionalised suffering of animals, animal lawyer Katrina Sharman told Lawyers Weekly today, arguing that it is the legal profession that has institutionalised…

It's up to lawyers to end the institutionalised suffering of animals, animal lawyer Katrina Sharman told Lawyers Weekly today, arguing that it is the legal profession that has institutionalised animal suffering in the first place.

Sharman made the comments following the launch of the Voiceless Animal Law Toolkit this week.

The toolkit aims to provide an overview of the status of animal law in Australia - including current animal law issues, animal law courses, professional animal law associations and animal law case notes and other resources.

She believes the toolkit will equip lawyers to turn back some of the work the law has already done in contributing to the suffering of animals. "In other words, it [the law] sanctions the suffering [of animals] - and lawyers really hold the key to ending that suffering," she said.

"It's our profession that has institutionalised animal suffering and it's equally our profession that has an opportunity to address that suffering and make a substantial difference to the lives of animals."

Sharman said that the last few years have shown that lawyers are increasingly keen to get involved, with the idea for the Toolkit emerging in response to the growing interest from the legal community in the area of animal law.

"We've increasingly been approached by barristers, solicitors, law students and people from right across the profession in Australia who are wanting to be engaged in animal law," she said.

Sharman added that such growing interest should be seen as part of the context of the growing social justice movement of animal protection. "In terms of where that will manifest in a legal sense, I think what we will start to see is more strategic litigation testing the boundaries of the law and really pushing the envelope in pursuit of the more fundamental interests of animals."

According to Voiceless managing director Brian Sherman, the toolkit could do just that, because it will "help build the animal law movement, which will, in turn, give voices to the millions of animals subjected to legalised cruelty on factory farms in other areas of Australian society".

Justice Ruth McColl, who launched the toolkit on Monday night, said that its creators had recognised that the path for the animal law movement required solid foundations. "By creating the toolkit they are arming the legal and general community with information necessary to ensure the animal law movement can be well and properly understood.

Lawyers can access the toolkit online here

- Angela Priestley

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