Animal welfare regulation in the Australian agricultural sector: a legitimacy maximising analysis
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 02:45 authored by Jed Goodfellow
Sociological research indicates that public values and attitudes towards animals are changing. Since the 1970s traditional instrumental conceptions of animals as things to be used for human benefit have been giving way to a post-material ethic of care and compassion. Such changes are materialising in increased public scrutiny of animal use industries. 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 thesis aims to provide analytical and empirical depth to such claims and to assess the broader democratic legitimacy of current governance structures for farm animal welfare in light of the 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 to provide further insight to the assessment. 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. Consequences for the framework’s legitimacy are then assessed before the thesis concludes with proposing a number of options for reform to create a more inclusive, fair, and democratic system of farm animal welfare governance.