Australian and New Zealand Communication Association
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communication and Arts/Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications
Legal protection of animal welfare in Australia is problematic with livestock (defined here as all animals farmed for use and profit, including poultry and aquatic animals) being effectively excluded from the majority of animal protection statutes. Such legal exclusions, joined with the inherent challenges of legal reform in this field – significant issues to do with standing, costs bearing and jurisdiction – have increased the difficulties of successful litigation. Despite explicit recognition of the necessity for reform in Australian animal law – in 2008 the Australian Law Reform Commission journal, Reform, took as its subject the ‘next great social justice movement’ of animal welfare and animal rights – a number of legal strategies for reform have been summed up by the Principal Solicitor for the Pro Bono Animal Law Service (PALS), the national legal referral service for animal law operating between 2009 and 2013, as having been exhausted. Specifically, the challenges of standing and costs bearing have meant that many meritorious animal welfare matters have not been able to be pursued within the legal domain. Alternative strategies for the achievement of legal reform in this field are thus required, and at this point in the history of the Australian animal welfare movement, one significant strategy is arguably emerging: that of strategically using social media to develop public interest in these issues and to focus this interest into effective pressure in the political, social and industry domains. This paper thus carries out an analysis of this development and focusing of pressure by animal welfare organisations through their use of social media, specifically considering a) the social media strategies utilised by such peak animal welfare bodies as Animals Australia and Voiceless, and b) the recently released Animal Effect smartphone app. More generally, this is a paper outlining and analysing the architecture of social media and public pressure being conjoined in the service of the livestock law reform movement. This paper is part of a larger project in which we record and analyse how animal welfare issues are conceived, articulated and argued within the public domain.