Animals raised for food and the law

Background

With few exceptions, all of the horrendous treatment of animals described in this section on animals used for food is permitted by Australian law, through:

  • exemptions to the law
  • cruel practices that became entrenched when legislation was developed
  • the notion that such practices are ‘necessary’ to provide cheap food derived from animals.

Animal welfare is regulated by legislation and a series of model codes of practice at the federal and state/territory levels. The treatment of animals in TAS is governed by the Animal Welfare Act 1993.

The issues with animal protection legislation

Exemptions to the law

Acts that would be considered cruelty under the law if done to cats or dogs are allowed to be done to ‘livestock’ animals, under Australia’s Model Codes of Practice. The Codes effectively act as a defence or exemption to animal cruelty legislation, rendering the law useless.

The livestock industry and the government hide behind Australia’s ‘world-class’ animal protection laws, deceiving the public into thinking animals are being treated well. However, by adhering to the Codes of Practice the law is circumvented, and horrendous cruelty is allowed to take place in the name of cheap meat, eggs and dairy.

Unreasonable, unnecessary or unjustifiable

Under legislation, an act is deemed to be cruel only if it is found to be unreasonable, unnecessary or unjustifiable. Unfortunately for the animals, the law frequently deems what we would call cruelty to be necessary and reasonable in the pursuit of cheap meat and animal products.

Legislation also lacks a definition of what constitutes unreasonable, unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering. We can ask why it’s necessary to perform surgery – such as castration or de-budding – without anaesthetic, but the answer will be ‘because that’s the way it’s always been done’.

When the Codes of Practice were developed, current industry practices were simply entrenched, without examination of whether there were more humane methods.

Entrenched cruelty

The Codes of Practice sanction cruel practices that have been carried out by livestock producers since intensive farming began. Adherence to the Codes can constitute a defence to or exemption from anti-cruelty legislation, and this is how Australian law permits and institutionalises wide-scale animal cruelty.

Examples of cruel practices entrenched by the Codes of Practice include:

  • mutilation without anaesthetic, such as clipping pigs’ teeth, de-budding cows and trimming hens’ beaks
  • the minimum amount of space required per animal
  • confinement for pigs, such as farrowing crates and sow stalls.

Animal Rights Groups

Groups such as Animal Liberation Tasmania exist to raise awareness about animal cruelty, and advocate for changes to the legislation that allows such cruelty to take place.

Despite extensive lobbying by charity groups, the government is showing no signs of changing this, meaning animals continue to have no voice under the law.

  • Vegan cooking classes
  • Showing videos taken inside factory farms
  • Letter writing and leafleting
  • Legislative change

Actions such as these have the ability to change minds and consciences. Actions based in violence generally turn people off so that they never hear the message.

The debate about ‘nonviolent’

There is debate within the movement about whether the actions of groups such as Sea Shepherd and the Animal Liberation Front (US) are violent or nonviolent. Both groups destroy property and commit sabotage as a direct action tactic to achieve their aims.

These groups argue that destroying property is nonviolent, because no people or animals are harmed in the process. Others, such as Peter Singer, argue that these destructive methods come from a place of frustration and anger, rather than the compassion that is needed within the animal rights movement.

Veganism as nonviolent action

One of the greatest actions an individual can take is to eliminate violence from their life. This necessarily includes veganism – not consuming, wearing or using animals or animal-derived products. While collective nonviolent direct action will achieve lasting change on a large scale, personal veganism is the natural first step for people wishing to be part of the animal rights movement.