Bond University wins Australia's first animal law moot

Bond University on the Gold Coast has won the country's first animal law moot, organised by animal protection institute Voiceless.

A law moot simulates a court hearing, allowing law students to approach a case, research the law, prepare written submissions and present oral argument.

Eleven teams from across Australia took part in the moot at Bond University last month, including the University of NSW, the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland and the University of New England.

The teams debated a hypothetical scenario about live export, moot organiser Anastasia Smietanka said.

The question involved the hypothetical grant of a live-export licence by the federal government. 

Two directors of the live exporter had been charged with animal cruelty offences two years previously following an investigation by a lobby group, the Animal Defence Coalition, which revealed that the animals on board ships suffered in shocking conditions.  

Each team had a chance to represent the lobby group that was challenging the licence grant, and the federal government department. 

The students debated the same hypothetical case from each side during each round.

Legal arguments made by the students included that the grant of the licence was unreasonable and that the department failed to take into consideration relevant facts in granting the licence. 

Every team took part in three preliminary rounds and then, via a knock-out style competition, certain teams progressed to quarter- and semi-finals, and then the grand final.

The teams were judged on the strength of their written and oral arguments, Voiceless legal counsel Emmanuel Giuffre said. 

The criteria included clarity of speech, the rationality of the oral and written arguments, maintaining good posture, maintaining eye contact, keeping within the allotted time, and complying with formal court etiquette and procedure, he said. 

As the judges asked questions on the facts of the case and the legal arguments put forward, the strength and accuracy of the teams' responses were also judged.

The teams that made it to the grand final were from Bond University, which represented the government, and the University of Tasmania, which represented the lobby group. Presiding judges for the grand final were Justice Hugh Fraser of the Queensland Court of Appeal, Justice David Boddice of the Queensland Supreme Court and barrister Chris George.

The judges noted the high quality of the legal argument and analysis from both finalists but declared Bond University the winner.

The Voiceless Australian-New Zealand Intervarsity Moot on Animal Law (ANIMAL) is the  only animal law moot in Australia and New Zealand. 

The aim of the weekend was for students to understand how animals are treated under the live animal export trade, Australia's animal welfare laws and the failings of those laws. 

The moot provided the law students with the opportunity to develop their knowledge of animal law while honing their written and oral advocacy skills, Aimee Mundt, project manager for ANIMAL, said. 

Ondine Sherman, co-founder and managing director of Voiceless, said: "This [was] a unique and exciting opportunity for law students and for the progression of animal law in Australia. 

"When Voiceless started 10 years ago, one law school taught the subject. Today animal law is being taught at 14 universities with a number of law firms practising in this important area of law."

As part of the program, there were optional Q&A forums with senior animal law academics and panel discussions involving legal experts in the field, including Mr Giuffre, legal counsel for Animals Australia Shatha Hamade and PhD candidate in animal welfare regulation Jed Goodfellow.