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    together we can change the story

    Why change one thing for one species when...

    ... you can GIVE A LIFE ENJOYED

    to ALL animals

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    dog owner laptop


    ... than just protect animals from cruelty

The One Health program is widely known for demonstrating the connections between animals, people, and the environment.

Law reform begins with recognising that existing law is unfit for today’s society, expectations and needs.

The problem we are focused on is today’s outdated animal-law rulebook, which underpins every practice, every standard, and every use of animals.

It is the animal-law rulebook that shapes public attitudes about animals, decides what people’s treatment of animals are legally permissible or not, and it’s the rulebook that permits-and-perpetuates widespread animal practices to the dismay, disappointment and frustration of those people and organisations advocating for better standards of animal welfare.

THE 3-WORD REFORM: "...and positive states"

Existing anti-cruelty law asserts "animals are capable of feeling and experiencing ("sentient") negative states ("suffering") so people in charge of animals have a responsibility ("duty of care") to refrain from acts or omissions that cause an animal to suffer unnecessarily

The 3-word law reform would update law so that it asserts "animals are capable of feeling and experiencing ("sentient") negative states ("suffering") AND POSITIVE STATES so people in charge of animals have a responsibility ("duty of care") to (a) refrain from acts or omissions that cause an animal to suffer unnecessarily AND (b) provide animals with access to comforts, interests and pleasure.


  • There's an inseparable relationship between animals, people and our shared environment which means that how we look after them affects us, our children and our world - today and for generations to come; and
  • The modern standard of care is already being provided by the top 3% of producers and animal caregivers (so it's "do-able"); and
  • One legal jurisdiction has already implemented updated law in to their legislation.

Replicating the standards and law of existing leaders changes the daily life experience of millions.

Legal reform: For law that applies a responsibility for an animal's experience of pain and its pleasure.

One of the early champions of animal protection was MP Richard Martin. This painting illustrates the "Trial of Bill Burns" and shows Richard Martin with the donkey in an astonished courtroom, leading to the world's first known conviction for animal cruelty.

Don't you think it's time we did more than just protect them from cruelty?

In England during the early 1800s, the early political champions of animal protection law were ridiculed, jeered, and literally laughed out of Parliament. But in 1822, those champions were successful in the first animal protection law in England being put in place. That law obviously recognised that animals could feel and experience (i.e. were “sentient”) by the fact that early legislators decided to create law that took responsibility for protecting animals from feeling and experiencing pain, distress or suffering that society, via its Courts, deemed to be unnecessary.

What society classifies as “necessary” varies. Sometimes “necessary” is interpreted by reference to the interests of the animal (e.g. preventing blatant acts of cruelty such as “cruelly beating, kicking, ill-treating, overriding, overdriving, overloading, torturing, infuriating or terrifying an animal”). Necessary may also be extended to consider what is in the interests of the owner of the animal, or the community.

200 years ago, that first animal protection law in England was a revolutionary achievement. It overcame widespread views that a person “could do what they wanted with their property". As English law spread around the world with the early colonialists, it shaped the rules in ways that can still be recognised in laws today.

Any country that has law which protects animals from feeling or experiencing unnecessary pain, distress or suffering, implicitly recognises that those protected animals are sentient.

So today's recognition of animals as sentient is not revolutionary - it is simply explicitly stating what has been implicit for hundreds of years.

So, for those wanting to elevate standards of animal care, sentience is the doorway to the real issue.

The question is NOT whether animals are sentient, or whether they suffer. That's been affirmed by the law hundreds of years ago.

What will you apply responsibility for?

The pivotal issue for today's law reformers shaping the law that governs the human-animal relationship today and for decades to come is whether we, as a society, via our law, will take responsibility ("duty of care") for their pleasure ("positive states") rather than just their pain ("negative states", "anti-cruelty law").

Sentient Animal Law says "yes" and knows how to make positive animal welfare "the law". Will you help to make that law reform happen?

For hundreds of years, "lawful" has benchmarked only the animal's pain, distress and suffering.

Come and update the rulebook so we have law that takes care of BOTH halves of the animals life experience.

The evolution of animal law has always needed its champions.

Today it needs champions who want a law that does more than simply refrain from cruelty because less pain is not the same as more pleasure.

Despite the best of intentions, there continues to be misunderstanding, confusion and conflicts of interest about sentience. Sentience is the doorway to potential change, not the deliverer of change.

Explicitly recognising animals as sentient in law without a corresponding shift in the duty of care has consistently failed to shift applied standards of care above existing baseline minimums.

BUT, if you legislatively define sentience in a manner that applies responsibility ("duty of care") for the animal's positive states, you'll open the door to changes in standards, practices, and the daily life experience of each animal.

An extended (not discarded) duty of care will retain existing anti-cruelty obligations, but will add responsibilities that take account of the animal's positive life experiences as well. "Positive animal welfare" will become law.

Getting it wrong and missing that opportunity now sets up animals, people, organisations, industry and all stakeholders for decades more of minimum baseline standards with law that takes responsibility for only half of the animal's life experience. In a world trying to recover from Covid, we need better, not more of the same.

We recommend that you have a look at the resources section of this website that contains copies of publications and submissions that clarify key points such as:

  • The hallmarks of existing "animal welfare" law which continues to reference just an animal's suffering;
  • The meaning of "positive animal welfare" and how that concept is put into effect with a clear legislative definition of sentience. that, consistent with the science of the "Five Domains", recognises and distinguishes positive and negative states of the animal's life experience.
  • The way legislatively defining sentience to create positive animal welfare law is completely consistent with the established process of legal reform and the existing legal paradym.

In addition to continuing, but extending, the current anticruelty duty of care, the definition of sentience advocated by SAL does not undermine the animate-property classification of animals, or incur the recognised confusions of guardianship, rights, self-ownership, habeus corpus hearings, legislative dignity, or any of the other well-intended reforms seeking to make things better.

Positive animal welfare law, created by a legislative definition of sentience that applies responsibility for both halves of the animal's life experience, is comparatively easy in contrast to much harder proposed law reforms. BUT, what it needs, like the early advocates of animal protection law, is today's champions.

Law that takes responsibility for pleasure rather than simply measuring "legal compliance" by reference to their pain, is a monumental shift that affects animals, people, and our shared environment. We're hoping you want to be part of that shift?

Law's sentient animal is at a legal crossroads.

Down Path A is "business as usual" and perpetuation of law that operates on basic minimums. It is unfit for a recovering planet, consumer expectations, and pragmatic economic, social and environmental realities - but it's the known, and there are strong voices who resist the uncertainty and cost of "change".

"Sentience is the doorway to change, not the deliverer of change".

There are two critical lessons about sentience that are particularly important for decision-makers, and those selecting decision-makers with their votes, to understand:

  1. Simply explicitly recognising animals as sentient in legislation predictably fails to result in pragmatic change. The Treaty of Lisbon and New Zealand's 2015 Amendment to its animal welfare legislation both recognised animals as sentient and both failed to define sentience by reference to the animal's negative and positive states. They both stand as examples of good intentions that failed to result in pragmatic changes to the daily lives of animals.
  2. Meaningful change requires an evolution of the duty of care (i.e. legally enforceable responsibility). Positive animal welfare law doesn't do away with existing duties to prevent animal cruelty, it extends the current duty by obligating the human caregiver to also provide animals with opportunities to experience positive states.

Down Path B is positive animal welfare law.

New technologies, innovations that challenge entrenched methodologies, and a public that cares about the life experience of animals (and naturally, their own) mean we need a law reform.

Law has usually responded retrospectively. Many times it just takes time to catch up. Other times, there's reliance on waiting for a groundswell of voters understanding.

Questions? Would you like us to show you how this applies to you at your next conference, webinar or any other similar event? We would be delighted to talk with decision-makers in government, corporates, non-government organisations and others with interest affected by the law which governs the human-animal relationship. For example, we can address:

  • the predictable pathways and outcomes,
  • contrasting stakeholder risk/benefits, and
  • how this singular reform has impacts on government responsibilities, animal advocate's objectives, and the well-being of people as well as animals.

If you could change ONE thing about how animals are treated, what would it be?

Now imagine what it will feel like to be part of changing everything

The 3-word law reform advocated by SAL

In its most basic form, this law reform can be viewed as a 3 word law reform. The current law applies legal responsibilities to the human caregiver regarding the sentient animals negative states ("anti-cruelty law). The law reform makes people responsible for the sentient animal's negative states "AND positive states".

There are a number of pathways to achieving the necessary law reform. The Sentient Animal Law Foundation is focused on education and lobbying, aligning with the "shakers and makers" of decisions in organisations whose objectives, activities and responsibilities involve working with the animal law rulebook.

Education involves initiatives like this website, contributing to public consultations, and providing papers and courses to show all stakeholders not just how positive animal welfare law could be done, but how it has been done in one jurisdiction - and then helping others to duplicate that.

Alongside the usual activities that go along with lobbying, the Sentient Animal Law Foundation is implementing a proactive approach to law reform that involves a Private Members Bill (in jurisdictions where that is available, or the equivalent in jurisdictions elsewhere). That's a big task but again, it's a do-able one. You can be part of that too.

The law reform seeks to implement the following steps. They are standard current recommendations of the Sentient Animal Law Foundation to governments and any organisations seeking to implement clear, robust, and scientifically authoritative law and policy in respect of animal sentience.

Here's how the legal reform benefits all stakeholders ...

A definition of sentience that clearly extends the current duty of care to include a responsibility on the human caregiver to provide animals in their care with opportunities to experience positive states (“positive animal welfare law”) would result in a legal framework that:

  • supports and expands the higher practice standards already being implemented by better farmers/animal owners; and
  • fosters the trust of the public/consumers in industry which, in turn
  • creates trade opportunities for industry within, and beyond, the jurisdiction.

Drafting animal welfare legislation so that the jurisdiction is among the first to have law that is the next step in the evolution of animal law, not only demonstrates genuine progressive leadership to the national and international community, but also futureproofs that jurisdiction's position in meeting growing community and global demand for more than simply protection from cruelty for law-and-society's “sentient” animal.

Got questions? We'd love to tell you more about the evidence, "proof points", profits and provide you with examples.