Regulatory Capture and the Welfare of Farm Animals in Australia

Publication Type:
Book Section
Year of Publication:
J. Goodfellow
Animal Law and Welfare - International Perspectives
, ,
1534-6781 978-3-319-26818-7; 978-3-319-26816-3

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. Concerns have been expressed over perceived conflicts of interest on behalf of State and Federal Departments of Agriculture in administering animal welfare law. The theory of regulatory capture is applied to assess the veracity of such claims. Capture theory concerns the private distortion of public purposes. It occurs when a regulatory agency acts in the interests of the industry it is charged with regulating in a way that is inconsistent with the public interest the regulation is designed to serve. Key to the analysis is a consideration of the relationship between farm animal welfare and on-farm productivity. It is argued that due to the structure of the Departments’ reward system, measurable economic goals associated with productive and profitable primary industries are prioritised over the more elusive, less determinate public interest in animal welfare. This has led the Departments to a community of interests with the regulated parties where they have adopted the same instrumental approach to animal welfare as that advanced by the livestock industries. Consequently, the Departments have deviated from serving the public interest in farm animal welfare as demonstrated by various regulatory failures and process deficiencies presenting a strong case for the existence of regulatory capture. The chapter concludes with exploring options for regulatory reform to circumvent the capturing influences and to improve the accountability and democratic legitimacy of the framework.


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