Friday, July 29, 2016

Should animal sentience be recognised in legislation?

This week I visited some rural practices.

Animals are sentient beings, but should recognition of that fact change how we treat them? It is argued that animals are mere property in the eyes of the law, yet at least some animals may have some protection under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and similar legislation. How does this work? Is this enough? When it comes to companion animals, how should animal's be dealt with in disputes over ownership when relationships break down? What obligations should owners have?

Would legal recognition of sentience increase protection for animals? Would it clarify our relationship with them? Is it simply a tokenistic exercise?

These are questions that will be addressed at the New South Wales Law Society’s Animal Law Committee annual conference on October 22. These conferences are well organised, draw prestigious speakers and provide an opportunity to discuss animal law with those who practice in the area. Even if you’re not a lawyer the sessions are accessible and interesting. More info and registration details are available here.