Lawyers need to turn their minds to the legal and ethical questions behind the slaughter of animals whose parts we consume, according to former High Court judge Michael Kirby.
Kirby made the plea during his keynote address at last night's (6 September) launch of the Law Society of New South Wales Young Lawyers' Animal Law Guide in Sydney.
A supporter of the cause of animal welfare - and a self-confessed enlightened carnivore-turned-vegetarian - Kirby congratulated the Young Lawyers on producing what is essentially a practical guide to dealing with companion animal welfare issues, but also raised the importance of looking beyond the realm of domestic animals and into the questions behind mass production of consumable animal parts.
"[Eating meat] is a feature of our evolution, but it doesn't mean that those of us who live in today's age, with the knowledge of where we came from, but also the knowledge of ... the huge corporatised slaughter of animals, don't need to expand our minds and think about where we stand in relation to animals and the corporatised suffering that goes on in order to feed animal parts to people," he said.
"Although this little book, which is an intensely practical one, doesn't deal with these subjects, these subjects lie in wait for our minds."
The Guide, which is published by Federation Press and is the third in the Young Lawyers series, primarily deals with issues such as nuisance animals, dangerous dogs, vet negligence and who gets the family pet in divorce proceedings.
On a lighter note, the openly gay Kirby took a dig at Australian laws in relation to gay marriage, outlining that only people who are actually allowed to get married - and then divorced - have to worry about issues such as which party gets to keep the cat (which in his case, he concluded, would most certainly be his partner).
He also congratulated the Young Lawyers Animal Law Committee, led by chair Stephen Lee, on their three years of hard work which has gone a long way to fortifying knowledge and awareness of animal law in Australia.
"[The Guide] has its feet on the ground, it doesn't pretend to any larger or bolder enterprise, but is concerned with the very practical provisions of the law," he said.
"If we get the application of that law right ... then we can concern ourselves with wider questions and make sure our society at least thinks about those questions."