• 14 November 2019, 12:00pm to 14 November 2019, 2:00pm
VU City Queen Campus
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The ACT is the first jurisdiction in Australia to recognise animals as sentient. You are invited to attend a free lecture on Thursday 14 November to hear how a legislative definition of sentience will result in a revision of all uses of animals within society. 

From Paper to Paddock: How to define sentience in law to make a difference in the daily lives of animals

The Australian Capital Territory has recognised animals as sentient under its Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT). Victoria is also considering amending in part or in whole its Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic) and recognising animals as sentient. Legislative recognition of animals as sentient has the potential to elevate standards of animal welfare beyond simply a focus on the prevention of suffering, to requiring opportunities for animals to experience positive mental and emotional states.

Unsurprisingly, the new ACT law fails to provide a legislative definition of sentience. A legislative definition of animal sentience would likely extend caregivers’ duties beyond solely the prevention of negative states, to include a responsibility for animals’ positive states. This would necessitate the extension of the current two-limb test of animal welfare, to an expanded three-limb test required to satisfy animal welfare compliance for the legislatively recognised sentient animal.

Our expert speakers will discuss the legislative definition of sentience – consistent with contemporary scientific developments – and how uses of animals within society will be revised.

Guest speakers

Dr Ian Robertson

Dr Robertson is an internationally recognised legal specialist on the animal law. He possesses the unique combination of veterinarian and barrister, and is an expert in a broad range of subjects involving animals including animal welfare, biosecurity, food safety, and trade.

He is frequently engaged to provide advice on animal welfare law matters and advises NGOs, multinational corporations, and governments around the world, including the European Union.

He also holds numerous honorary and adjunct appointments at universities globally, including in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia – which include appointments both to Schools of Law and to Schools of Veterinarian Medicine.

Dr Robertson is the author of Animals, Welfare and the Law: Fundamental Principles for Critical Assessment (Routledge, 2015), as well as many academic journal, newspaper and magazine articles.

Dr Robertson owned and operated a chain of veterinary practices in New Zealand, and has been a Prosecutor for the New Zealand Government (Ministry for Primary Industries) as well as Defence Counsel in special interest litigation. He has consulted widely in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and throughout the European Union. Dr Robertson is an internationally renowned speaker and presenter, having lectured and presented around the work on animal law and related matters. He is also a former television host and presenter for Animal Planet.

Daniel Goldsworthy

Daniel is a lawyer and legal academic at Deakin Law School, Deakin University.

He teaches primarily in the areas of public law, including constitutional law, administrative law, legal theory and public international law. Daniel has published journal articles and book chapters across a diverse range of areas, including constitutional law, public international law, environmental law, governance, animal law, legal theory and philosophy, sports law and anti-doping regulation.

He has distinguished himself as an early career academic, presenting at conferences both nationally and internationally, having been awarded for his writing on the intersection of legal education, technology and philosophy.

He is currently researching and writing, together with Dr Ian Robertson (veterinarian, barrister and animal law expert), on the legislative recognition of animal sentience in Australia and internationally.

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