The Democratic Deficiencies of Australia’s Farm Animal Welfare Regulatory Framework

Stream: Panel 3 - Environmental Politics: The Political Turn in Animal Ethics
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


Recent controversies over the treatment of animals within Australia’s agricultural sector have raised questions over the adequacy of current governance and regulatory arrangements for farm animal welfare. In particular, concerns have been expressed over perceived conflicts of interest on behalf of state and federal departments of agriculture in administering animal welfare law. This presentation provides analytical and empirical depth to such claims and assesses the broader democratic legitimacy of current governance structures for farm animal welfare in light of a changing societal ethic towards animals. The assessment takes place within the analytical frames of regulatory capture and legitimacy theories. Data from semi-structured interviews with regulators responsible for animal welfare in state, territory, and federal jurisdictions are analysed. The research finds that the departments responsible for protecting farm animal welfare possess conflicting institutional objectives. This conflict materialises in the form of structural incentives to prioritise industry productivity goals over those of farm animal welfare. Key personnel responsible for the administration of farm animal welfare laws operate within an institutional setting that imposes significant limitations on what they can do to protect and promote the welfare of farmed animals. As a consequence, farm animal welfare is viewed in instrumental terms and valued only to the extent it contributes to industry productivity goals. This approach causes the regulators to deviate from serving the public interest underpinning the farm animal welfare regulatory framework by creating exclusionary standard-setting and enforcement processes that do not reflect the citizenry’s values or meet their normative expectations.


Jed Goodfellow (Presenter), Macquarie University and RSPCA Australia
Dr Jed Goodfellow is the Senior Policy Officer at RSPCA Australia and a Lecturer in Animal Law at Macquarie University. He recently completed his PhD thesis examining the animal welfare regulatory framework within the Australian agricultural sector. Prior to undertaking his postgraduate research, Jed practised as a prosecutor for RSPCA South Australia and solicitor for commercial law firm Clayton Utz. Jed holds a BA/LLB (Hons) (Griffith University, 2008), GDLP (QUT, 2009), and PhD in Law (Macqaurie University, 2016).