Publication Details

Ellis, E. (2013). Bearing the burden: shifting responsibility for the welfare of the beast. Macquarie Law Journal, 11 (4), 39-49.


The contemporary focus on accuracy in food labelling in part reflects increasing community concern about animal protection. Yet the problematic nature of current animal welfare regulation suggests the failure of governments to respond in a commensurate manner. Regulatory problems are multiple and diverse: conflicts of interest, legislative incoherence, inconsistent policy and practice, lack of transparency and inadequate enforcement of the law. These regulatory deficiencies reflect modes of thinking that privilege individual over community responsibility and frame animal protection as a charitable concern. The result is a flawed animal welfare regime, at odds with official rhetoric and with the principle of legality that requires governments to be open and honest with the electorate. To start shifting the burden from animals to those with a greater capacity and the moral responsibility to bear it requires significant reform. Arguably, this includes consistent legislative provisions, independent and coherent mechanisms for standard-setting, administration and enforcement, and publicly available information about all aspects of animal use as a basis for informed community debate.