Abstract

For more than two centuries, human workers in both the United Kingdom and Australia have been afforded some level of protection at work by occupational or work health and safety legislation. Concurrently, the legislative protection of animals has grown from a bare recognition of some as legitimate objects for protection from cruelty to a space where many species are deemed sentient beings. However, current animal welfare legislation in Australia and elsewhere exempt some classes of animals from protection and allow some questionable practices that result in animals suffering in a range of environments. One such environment is, arguably, the workplace. While work health and safety legislation aims to make workplaces and systems of work safe for people, animals who work are not captured by this legislation in Australia. In this article, I argue that work health and safety legislation should take a new, contemporary, and inclusive approach by relinquishing outdated anthropocentric perspectives and recognizing the role of animals as workers and their need for workplace regulation and protection. The proposed reform of the work health and safety legislation would incorporate animal work health and safety by, as a minimum, extending the current definition of “workers” to include animals who work.

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