Does Consumer Protection Equal Animal Protection

There seems to be a change of focus in Australia’s ‘animal protection’ groups lately.

In days gone by, the old animal rights movement was focused was on ‘liberating’ animals from oppression at the hands of animal agri-business. Whereas today their focus seems to be on getting certain people mentioned in the media as much as possible, and ensuring that the animal (by)products are labelled correctly to ensure that the consumer isn’t hoodwinked.

And two of the worst offenders of this are Voiceless, and Animal Liberation (NSW).

According to their website, Voiceless is an independent, non-profit think tank focused on raising awareness of animals suffering in factory farming and the kangaroo industry in Australia.

Whilst Animal Liberation (NSW) believes all animals (yes humans are animals too) have a right to live how they would normally choose without other species intervention. Just like slaves, women and other minorities in society have been able to challenge views on how they should be treated and what their rights should be, Animal Liberation wants to challenge society on its views of all non-human animals. The way we do this is through educational campaigns, public events and using the media to get our message across.

Unless I have missed something, I cannot see anything in the two descriptions above, or on their websites where they mention anything about consumer protection.

Yet this is exactly where they are heading.

Whilst the new direction was originally started by Voiceless in July of this year with Emmanuel Giuffre’s piece on
The Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd, Bartter Enterprises Pty Limited, and Australian Chicken and Meat Federation Inc. v Australian Competition and Consumer Commission case,(Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Turi Foods Pty Ltd (No 4) [2013] FCA 665), the baton has been picked up recently by Animal Liberation (NSW).

Just prior to the September 07 Federal election, Animal Liberation (NSW) via it’s executive director, Mark Pearson, was featured in a segment on the ABC’s Landline. It was during this segment that we first became aware of Animal Liberation (NSW)’s new focus, with the group’s new toy, and Mr Pearson’s bid for a NSW senate seat as a candidate and vice president of the Animal Justice Party. This was followed up by a recent article where Mr Pearson has said that a complaint has been lodged with the ACCC over the incorrect labelling of eggs produced at the farm in question.

If you listen to these two organisations, they will have you believe that a win for consumer protection, via penalties for incorrect labelling of food items is also a win for animal protection.

The ACCC is independent statutory authority that enforces the Competition and Consumer Act 2010(cwth), previously the Trade Practices Act 1974(cwth), along with other relevant legislation of which animal protection legislation is not one of them.

[GARD]With regards to the rights of the consumer, the ACCC is primarily concerned about the consumer getting what they believe they paid for. For example, if you are a chicken meat producers and you house the chickens in an area where they are not able to move around, flap their wings, etc. you can still sell the chicken meat so long as you label it correctly. This is why the ACCC succeeded in the above mentioned case.

The chicken meat that was sold by Steggles was labelled as ‘free to roam’, yet this was not entirely true.

In the Federal Court, Justice Tracey, found in favour of the ACCC in that the respondents had breached the Trade Practices Act 1974.

In his commentary on the decision, Voiceless’ Emmanuel Giuffre, acknowledges that it is arguable that Justice Tracey’s decision will have only a marginal impact on stemming intensive factory farming practices in the chicken meat industry, the decision sends a strong message to producers: you can no longer mask the truth behind your production methods. The decision is also a win for consumers, who will now have some clarity around the language commonly used on product labels.

These animals will still be killed or have their eggs used, the only difference now will be that the product is correctly labelled as such. That being said, I am yet to see or understand how this case or the complaint lodged by Animal Liberation (NSW), is a win for the animals.

Claiming that it is, is either a deliberate attempt to mislead animal advocates or an assumption that they are unable to understand the reality that it isn’t and why.

6 thoughts on “Does Consumer Protection Equal Animal Protection”

  1. I find it hilarious that your blog is so unpopular. No-one cares about what you have to say, mate.

    Go out and actually do something for the animals instead of hiding behind your keyboard and critiquing others. Why don’t you lead by example and start your own liberating organization?

    Because you’re too lazy and don’t care enough. But writing blogs is doing a lot less than any of the organizations you talk about. The animals would be ashamed of you.

    • Dear Paul/Ken,

      Thank you for that well thought of comment, though I would like to ask you what makes you think that I am not out there doing something for the animals?

      What I do, I do for the animals, and not my own self worth or sense of identity, which is why the things I do are very rarely put on Facebook.

      I also think that is is funny that you are comparing the things that I have done as an individual to an organisation made up of many more individuals.

  2. Thanks for the article Cameron. I think it important to have these conversations about what is a very frustrating and complex problem. I have come to the view that it is through law that we are more likely to achieve animal rights than waiting on human compassion to see the change we desire. My reasons for that are because of the work I see in the legal fraternity to try and get incremental improvements for non-human individuals. To attempt to do this in one fell swoop would certainly fail given that law requires the application of precedent and we all know how huge the meat, dairy and poultry industries are. These perpetrators of cruelty will try to find ways around the law and they are supported by governments at all levels. Only today we are seeing yet again the Victorian Government setting up a group to find ‘balance’ between the forestry rapists and the 2nd most endangered animal in Victoria, the Leadbeaters Possum.

    With factory farming of course there is never much dispute given that extinction is not a threat for your average dairy farmer. These individuals have very little protection except in law, and the animal rights law is evolving. If you look at this sort of thing happening in the legal area you can see what I mean;

    What very little protection animals have within the context of their exploitation by humans has realistically only occurred through a slow recognition that they suffer just like we do when treated cruelly. If we keep moving along this path, then ultimately I think (hope) the logical conclusion has to be similar to the arguments that has seen the slave trade being slowly abolished around the world.

    So regrettably, I suspect it will only be slowly by recognising non-human beings as entities with rights in law that things will happen. I do know a few lawyers who work towards trying to get wins for animals and they are really people who are quite passionate about improving the lot of animals. I do go to the annual Voiceless law lectures (the first one I attended incidentally turned me from vegetarian to vegan about 5 years ago and I haven’t turned back).

    Collectively there is much going on that makes up the jigsaw. I see the main difference between for example Animals Australia and Voiceless is that Voiceless always only serve vegan snacks at their law lectures and they don’t advocate things like setting up abattoirs in Australia instead of live animal exports. They are chipping away, presumably towards advocacy for a vegan world given that the Sherman’s are vegan. And the more exposure such as Steggles I think more people will be encouraged to seek more humane alternatives, hopefully on their way towards becoming vegan. We also have far greater choice these days as vegans than even 5 years ago when I started.

    The law is supposed to reflect community standards, as such it is always lagging behind what people want. So in some ways I’m encouraged by these legal approaches since I really don’t see much else being brought to the attention of consumers. And I think a reduction in suffering is something, even if it isn’t what we are trying to get to. If for example we get a spotlight on laying hens conditions and manage to change those, next we can try to stop the killing of male chicks and so on. It has been suggested to me that the law is the problem, but I’d counter that with the problem being politicians who make these laws, not lawyers per se. I know we need to be working towards more than just an improvement in an otherwise dreadful life for these individuals, but I think through law these things have a greater chance than any other avenue I have seen.

  3. Ha! This made me laugh.

    Please note that I don’t read your blog, but wanted a case note on the ACCC v Turi Foods case.

    Animal organisations, like Voiceless and Animal Liberation, are working hard to expose cruelty inherent in animal production. They’re raising awareness, growing the movement, holding proucers to account and generating positive change for animals. For that, I am grateful.

    Your concern appears to be with consumer protection law being used to protect animals. Strategic litigation is a great means of advocating forr animals in lieu of the availability of real legal protections. Every student of animal law in the country will tell you that.

    While a world of vegans would be great, we must deal in realities if we want to create real change. That means assisting consumers that are not yet converted to veganism, but who want animal friendly produce.

    While the end game of these organisations is obviously liberation, this does not mean that incremental change – like advocating for consumer protection bodies to pursue misleading and deceptive conduct claims – is not conducive to promoting good welfare for animals in the interim. In the interim(!) it is doing more for animals than a vegan blog will ever do.

    You and your Francionian disdain for welfarists is entirely counterproductive to the movement and entirely incompatible with a true love for animals.

    If non human animals had opposable thumbs they would troll the living daylights out of you.

    • Hi there Animal Advocate,
      First of all, thank you for not reading the blog, though taking the time to comment on something that I have written.

      As you have mentioned Voiceless and Animal Liberation, as “holding proucers to account”, though what I would like to know is who is holding them to account?

      I would like to ask you how consumer protection laws protect other animals? Sure producers will not be able to claim that the products are cage free when they are not, though that doesn’t really stop the animals being put in the cages in the first place does it?
      This sort of strategic litigation isn’t advocating for other animals, it is advocating for the consumer. Any high school legal studies student will be able to tell you that.

      What do you define as animal friendly produce?

      My definition would be produce that does not use animals in any way. This also includes their by-products. Anything else ISN’T animal friendly.

      I am highly doubtful that the end game of the two organisations that you mention is the actual liberation of other animals.

      Please explain to me how the enforcement of consumer protection laws will result in some sort of incremental change in the way that other animals are used?

      Instead of trying to insult me by lumping me into a basket with Francione, if you had have taken your time to actually do a bit of research on the things I have written you would see that I do not have a disdain for welfarists. What I do have a concerns about are those regulationists who seem to think that they will eventually regulate animal agriculture out of existence. This is counterproductive to a movement that wants to see the use of other animals to cease.

      I am also concerned about those organisations that claim to be for animal protection, who’s members are not vegan, and fail to protect other animals from being used in the first place. After all, if someone truly does LOVE animals, they wouldn’t want to use them for food production now would they?

  4. Firstly, how do you know those organisations and their members aren’t vegan? I know many people working within both of those organisations and they seem pretty vegan to me.

    Secondly, if you’re too naive to figure out how consumer protection advocacy can generate positive change for animals, then I doubt I will be able to change your mind in a comment. But in short, if ethical consumers are able to choose products that are more animal friendly (not animal friendliest, granted) then consumers can influence production methods and achieve positive change for millions of animals.

    By choosing animal friendlier products at the checkout, the market will respond with animal friendlier production methods. It may mean less pigs are kept in sow stalls, or less chickens in cages. It may mean bobby calves are not torn away from their mothers immediately after birth, or birds debeaked without anaesthetic. It may seem nothing to you, but for the millions of pigs, birds or bobby calves that may have even a slighter better quality of life, it’s a big deal.

    Consumer protection laws may also influence consumer abstinence from animal derived food products.

    On your comment about being anti regulationist, I’m afraid all change for animals will need to be derived from some form of regulation or another. Not sure what exactly your point is here – but even if the world turned vegan overnight, it would need to be enshrined in legislation of some kind and enforced through the law. If your problem is incremental change through regulation, then that point seems fairly anti-welfarist to me, and as such, incredibly counterproductive for the movement as a whole.


What are your thoughts?