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The subject examines the law as it affects non-human animals and their relations with humans in historical, social and ecological context. The subject covers a range of different ways in which private and public law impact on animals including as property to be owned, potential dangers to be controlled, companions to be shared, having rights and interest to be protected, as workers in a variety of fields and as resources that are used in industry, science and entertainment, as unwanted pests and as inhabitants of the wild, vulnerable to climate change, disaster and biodiversity loss.
Divided into two halves, the first half of the unit will investigate foundational questions about the legal status of animals in historical, theoretical and doctrinal perspective. Theoretical perspectives to be covered will include animal welfare, animal rights, eco-feminism, and wild law. Doctrinal perspectives will include property law, trespass, nuisance, negligence, family law, and criminal law. The second half will investigate ways in which legal policy concerning animals is evolving through case law, legislation, international law-making and advocacy on behalf of animal interests. Law reform topics may include whether and how the law should grant rights to animals, reforms to animal welfare regulation concerning and the use of animals for food, textiles, entertainment, hunting, and scientific testing, ways in which family law, criminal law, and tenancy law are changing to recognise companion animals as having unique and valuable relations with humans, and international efforts to protect domestic and wild species for environmental, biosecurity and animal welfare reasons.
Students will have the opportunity to traverse a wide range of substantive law areas and to critically examine whose interests and which social, ecological and economic values the law protects in different contexts and times and how this can change. The jurisdictional focus of the course is Australia, with some comparison with other jurisdictions and times, as well as international law.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who successfully complete this subject will have:
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of animals' legal status in historical, doctrinal and theoretical context;
- Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the way the law currently governs relations between humans and non-human animals;
- Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in way the law governs relations between humans and animals;
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of processes and strategies for legal change in the way the law governs relations between humans and animals.
On successful completion of the subject students will have developed and demonstrated advanced skills in the following areas:
- Creative and strategic thinking skills, including the ability to gather information, understand interests and context, and devise ways to critically reflect on current and historical issues;
- Personal and professional skills, including learning autonomously, devising an independent project, presenting the project, and self-reflection on performance and the role of legal expertise;
- Communication skills, especially developing skills and methods to communicate with those with legal and other relevant non-legal expertise and experience;
- Research and reflection skills, including the ability to engage in high-level analysis and critical reflection, and to develop and articulate legal analysis and reform recommendations based on historical, theoretical and doctrinal knowledge of the law and its relation to animals.
Last updated: 12 November 2021