Earlier this year, the Animal Justice Party (AJP) lodged a petition of Queensland residents calling on the state's Parliament to take steps to implement a formal recognition of animal sentience. 'Sentience' is the capacity to experience feelings and emotions; making one the subject of a life. Historically, the sentience of animals has been legally denied by governments and industry because it is inconvenient for those who wish to exploit them. It is easier to hurt animals for profit if they are merely objects.
The Animal Care and Protection Act 2001, which is the Act containing the animal protection laws in Queensland, is currently undergoing review. Now is the perfect time to recognise animal sentience. The Australian Capital Territory has already recognised animal sentience in their laws, with one of the main objects of their law recognising that "animals are sentient beings that are able to subjectively feel and perceive the world around them" and that "animals have intrinsic value". Animal sentience is also recognised in the European Union and New Zealand. It's this express recognition of sentience that the AJP aims to see here in Queensland.
The AJP's petition was tabled with the Queensland Parliament on 16 August, and received a response from the Agriculture Minister, Hon Mark Furner MP, on 14 September. The Minister compared the petition to the many submissions received during the review:
"Like the petitioners, those making submissions to the review of the Act and the Inquiry considered that it is important to recognise that non-human animals are capable of being aware of their surroundings; relationships with other animals and humans; and of sensations including pain, hunger, heat and cold. Some submissions noted the explicit recognition of sentience in the Australian Capital Territory’s animal welfare legislation mentioned by the petitioners."
Unfortunately, the Palaszczuk Government refuses to listen to those voices. The Minister claims that "the Act implicitly recognises sentience in animals through the definition of an animal in section 11. Only sentient animals are prescribed as an animal under section 11 of the Act." He also says that parts of "the Act recognise that animals can experience different feelings such as suffering or pleasure."
But what does that mean? The Minister is claiming that sentience does not need to be recognised because the Act defines 'animal' by listing a number of animals who happen to be sentient, which makes it 'implied'. He is also suggesting sentience is implied because there are some very basic (weak) protections for animals. You can see for yourself that there is absolutely no implied recognition of sentience in either the current Act nor the proposed Bill. Even if sentience was partly implied, this is far short of expressly recognising sentience in full.
The AJP refuses to give up, and has written a letter for concerned residents to follow up with the Minister directly. Already, many Queenslanders have signed and sent their letters demanding an action - see our recent success seeing dozens signed in just one weekend. The letter states "Animals are sentient, and the law dedicated to their protection should recognise this basic fact. This recognition must be explicit. I implore you to include animal sentience in the Bill and request to know why our government would deny animals this basic acknowledgement."
The more letters received, the more pressure to act.
Keep up the pressure by completing the steps below:
- Print, sign and post the letter template below. Letters are much more meaningful than emails.
- Share this page with fellow animal advocates and encourage them to also contact the Minister.
- When you receive a reply, follow up and politely express your concerns.