Ag-Gag Laws in Australia: Activists under Fire May Not Be out of the Woods Yet


  • Elizabeth Englezos Griffith University


This paper examines the potential impact of Australia’s proposed ‘ag-gag’ laws in light of the decision of the High Court in ABC v Lenah Game Meats. It also explores the possible consequences of the (suggested) reforms on animal advocates, animal welfare, and our democratic and constitutional right to free political communication. The paper concludes that while the proposed laws may be unable to achieve their intended effect, they still present an inchoate threat to public debate and have the potential to undermine the democracy envisaged by the Australian Constitution.

Author Biography

Elizabeth Englezos, Griffith University

Elizabeth has just completed her BLaws (Hon) at Griffith University on the Gold Coast and holds a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy from the University of Sydney.  She is particularly interested in the commodification of living things such as animals, and bioknowledge, as well as the use of social narratives to maintain existing class divides within society


A Articles/Books/Reports

Animal Health Australia, Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle (Australian Government Department of Agriculture, 1st ed, 2016)

Cao, Deborah, Katrina Sharman and Steven White, ‘Animal Law in Australia’ (Thomson Reuters Australia, 2nd ed, 2015)

Coleman, Jacob, 'ALDF v Otter: What Does It Mean for Other State’s “Ag-gag” Laws?' (2017) 13 Journal of Food Law and Policy 198

Collins, Ronald K L, 'Free Speech, Food Libel, and the First Amendment … in Ohio' (2000) 26(1) Ohio Northern University Law Review 1

Department of Justice and Community Safety, Guide for Framing Offences (2nd version, April 2010)

Dr Seuss, The Lorax (Random house, United States, 1971)

Franklin, Zak, 'Giving Slaughterhouses Glass walls: A New Direction in Food Labelling and Animal Welfare' (2015) 21 Animal Law 285

Goodfellow, Jed, ‘Regulatory Capture and the Welfare of Farm Animals in Australia’ in Deborah Cao and Steven White (eds), Animal Law and Welfare — International Perspectives (Springer, 2016)

Herman, Edward, and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon Books, 2nd ed, 2002)

Jasper, James M, 'The Emotions of Protest: Affective and Reactive Emotions In and Around Social Movements' (1998) 13(3) Sociological Forum 397

Jasper, James M, and Jane D Poulsen, 'Recruiting Strangers and Friends: Moral Shocks and Social Networks in Animal Rights and Anti-Nuclear Protests' (1995) 42(4) Social Problems 493

Lowe, Brian M, 'Spectacular Animal Law: Imagery, Morality, and Narratives Impacting Legal Outcomes for Nonhuman Animals' (2016) 9 Albany Government Law Review 48

Negowetti, Nicole E, 'Opening the Barnyard Door: Transparency and the Resurgence of Ag-Gag & Veggie Libel Laws' [2015] 38 Seattle University Law Review 1345

Newman, Lara, 'The Effects of The Cove and Bold Native on Audience Attitudes Towards Animals' (2015) 4(1) Animal Studies Journal 77

Potter, Will, 'Ag-Gag Laws: Corporate Attempts to Keep Consumers in the Dark' (2017) 5(1) Griffith Journal of Law and Human Dignity 1

Primary Industries Standing Committee, Pigs: Model Code of Conduct for the Welfare of Animals (PISC No 32, 3rd edition, 2008)

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee, Parliament of Australia, Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill (2015)

Shea, Matthew, 'Punishing Animal Rights Activists for Animal Abuse: Rapid Reporting and the New Wave of Ag-Gag Laws' [2015] 48(3) Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 337

Sternberg, Daniel L, 'Why Can’t I Know How the Sausage is Made?: How Ag-Gag Statutes Threaten Animal Welfare Groups and the First Amendment' [2015] 13 Cardozo Public Law, Policy and Ethics Journal 625

Voiceless, Submission No 56 to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee, Inquiry into the Criminal Code Amendment (animal protection) Bill 2015, 10 March 2015

B Cases

Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd [2001] 208 CLR 199

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v C I & Co Pty Ltd & Anors [2010] FCA 1511

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Luv-a-Duck Pty Ltd [2013] FCA 1136

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Pepe’s Ducks Ltd [2013] FCA 570

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Pirovic Enterprises Pty Ltd (No 2) [2014] FCA 1028

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Rosemary Bruhn [2012] FCA

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Turi Foods Pty Ltd (No 5) [2013] FCA 1109

Complaint at 19, Animal Legal Defense Fund v Herbert, No 2:13-CV-00679 (D Utah, 22 July 2013), ECF No 2

C Legislation

Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld)

Animal Welfare Act 1985 (SA)

Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT)

Animal Welfare Act 1993 (Tas)

Animal Welfare Act 1999 (NT)

Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA)

Biosecurity Act 2015 No 24 (NSW)

Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld)

Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)

Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015 (Cth) Human

Rights Act 2004 (Cth)

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW)

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic)

Surveillance Devices Act 2016 (SA)