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  • A Practical Approach to Animal Welfare Lawby Noel Sweeney
  • Simon Brooman (bio)
A Practical Approach to Animal Welfare Law. By Noel Sweeney (Sheffield, England: 5m Publishing, 2017. 2nd ed.295 + xx pp. Paper. £39.95. ISBN 9-781910-455807.)

The modern era has seen a surge in the concern for the welfare of animals that now reaches across the globe. However, the voice of legal academics has often seemed notably absent. It was largely philosophers who shook the branches of the law-making processes and challenged the status accorded to animals in law. However, this has changed greatly in recent times and reaches cultures as diverse China, Brazil, Australia, and the United States. Legal academics are researching and asking questions in animal law, and this academic interest extends to Europe, if the increased interest generated by animal law conferences is anything to go by. In addition, more animal law courses are appearing year after year. I have previously conjectured on the reasons that law academics in the United Kingdom may have been reluctant to enter this rich area for research and writing (Brooman, 2017, pp. 243–257). There is so much to write and research about the legal relationship between humans and animals, and the ways in which this should develop, that it remains surprising that the legal academy took so long to take part.

What runs alongside this apparent unwillingness to engage in academic discourse is the different ways in which legal academics choose to view the law. What is animal law? Is it a discipline? Does it have an identity that we can put our hands on and say what an animal lawyer does? One of the key questions here, as well as the fact that contributing legal academics care about the welfare of animals and the laws that govern human interaction with animals, is what approach should we take to critically engage with or apply current laws relating to animals? In addition, to more traditional approaches looking at legal decisions and the differences between them, there is a move to analyze the law in more sociolegal terms by looking at animal law through the lens of philosophy, ethics, or scientific evidence. Noel Sweeney’s A Practical Approach to Animal Welfareis a contribution that has its roots firmly based in a more traditional approach. It is not a text that exposes the ethical issues that continue to emerge in the area of animal law concerning the relationship of human interaction with nonhuman animals and how this should be reflected in law.

Sweeney’s approach is to examine certain laws relating to animals in a fairly direct manner, making it accessible and understandable for readers who may not necessarily be legal practitioners. This idea is a good one as it is most often the case that those working at the forefront of animal welfare are not legal practitioners, although [End Page 112]this is changing as groups such as the U.K.-based Association of Lawyers for Animal Welfare are beginning to attract a wider membership and exert a greater influence on the development of law and policy. The presentation is fairly standard in that there are a few diagrams and the text does feel formal and academic for a “practical” text at times. If this book is aimed at students or a wider audience in nonlegal fields, then it might have been beneficial to provide flow diagrams and other such visual tools to break up the presentation and make it more approachable. It is also aimed firmly at the United Kingdom market, as there is practically no comparative analysis or global picture presented.

The book examines two U.K. statues, these being the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. There is a third section that deals with amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. This focus is explained by the author in that “they are the two most important statutes that are being used by the authorities to prosecute people who fail to fulfil their legal duty and responsibility towards animals” (p. ix). If you are seeking guidance on the many...


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