Open main menu

Voiceless (animal rights group)

  (Redirected from Voiceless, the animal protection institute)

Voiceless is an independent, non-profit animal protection charity based in Sydney, Australia, whose work is focused on raising awareness of animals suffering in factory farming and the kangaroo industry in Australia. According to their mission statement, Voiceless's vision is for a world in which animals are treated with respect and compassion.[1]

Voiceless, the animal protection institute
Voiceless, the animal protection institute logo sml.jpg
FounderBrian Sherman AM, Ondine Sherman
FocusAnimal Welfare, Animal Rights
Area served
MethodEducation, Animal Law, Research, Publications

Voiceless was founded by father-daughter team Brian Sherman AM and Ondine Sherman in 2004 with the goal of making animal protection the next great social justice movement.[2]

Voiceless keeps a mainstream focus by taking a measured and factual approach to animal protection,[3] focussing on animal protection and animal law education.[4]

Patrons: Brian Sherman AM, J. M. Coetzee, Dame Jane Goodall DBE, The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG

Ambassadors: Hugo Weaving, Abbie Cornish, Emily Barclay

Directors: Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Peter Hall, Emile Sherman, Yael Cohen Paran, Naomi Henry, Dr Dan Ramp, Dr Dror Ben-Ami, Deirdre Wicks, Jeffrey Kamins, Brian Sherman AM, Ondine Sherman

Voiceless has a Scientific Expert Advisory Council, Legal Advisory Council and Teachers Advisory Council



Voiceless was founded by father-daughter team Brian Sherman AM and Ondine Sherman in 2004.

Ondine Sherman first became interested in animal welfare when served a dish of tongue cooked by her grandmother at age 8, an experience which resulted in her adopting a vegetarian lifestyle.[5] After retiring in 2003, Brian Sherman attended an animal rights conference with Ondine in the United States. They were both shocked by the extent of animal suffering caused by institutionalised farming and felt compelled to challenge the cruel treatment of animals raised for food.[6]

After being exposed to a number of animal welfare and animal rights issues, Ondine and Brian decided to focus their time on raising awareness of animal suffering in Australia. Brian admits that attending the conference was difficult: "I have always felt a kinship with animals, but my experience there can only be described as traumatic. We established Voiceless less than 12 months after, and have not looked back since."[7]

Animal ProtectionEdit

Voiceless identifies itself as an animal protection institute. For Voiceless, animal protection is a term which encompasses both animal welfare, and animal rights, in an attempt to unify those two movements.

Animal welfare is a philosophy which is concerned with regulating the use of animals to reduce unnecessary pain and suffering. Animal welfare holds that it is morally acceptable for humans to use non-human animals, provided that adverse effects on animal welfare are minimised as far as possible, short of not using the animals at all.[8]

Animal rights is the idea that non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives. In this way, animal rights law seeks to question animals’ well-entrenched status as property, with a view to securing fundamental rights for (at least some) animals.

While welfare and rights often fall on the same side of an issue, they are fundamentally different concepts. By unifying them, Voiceless seeks to shift focus away from the theoretical discourse and towards practical approaches to achieving greater animal protection in Australia.

Work areasEdit

Voiceless currently focusses on youth education, encouraging critical-thinking on animal protection issues and growing the field of animal law. Voiceless is equipping today's youth to become tomorrow's decision-makers. The Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI) is a powerful online educational tool that ranks 50 countries according to animal welfare performance.

Core IssuesEdit

Voiceless’s two core areas of work are factory farming, and the commercial kangaroo industry. Founder Ondine Sherman has stated that these two issues are the focus of Voiceless’s work, as they cause the most suffering to the largest number of animals, yet often receive little attention.[9]

Factory farmingEdit

Factory farming is the process of raising livestock in industrial systems in which animals are confined at high stocking density in order to produce the highest output at the lowest cost.[10] Factory farms remove domesticated farm animals from open pastures, forcing them to live in confined and crowded environments.[10] These close conditions require the use of antibiotics to stop the spread of disease and housing systems often prevent animals from exhibiting many of their natural behaviours.[10] Farm animals are often subjected to artificial feeding and lighting regimes, selective breeding, and intensive confinement, often in cages and at extreme stocking densities, to produce the greatest possible output of meat, milk and eggs in the shortest amount of time at the lowest cost.

According to Voiceless, animal agribusiness is big business. The intensification of farming processes has resulted in large multinational companies dominating the global meat and dairy trade.[11] Currently, 50% of global pork production and over 70% of global chicken production comes from industrial systems.[12] As at 2008, three companies supply approximately 80% of Australia’s meat chickens, with the remainder supplied by about seven medium-sized companies.[13]

Voiceless states that this intensification of agricultural practices has led to the widespread use of cruel and inhumane meat production practices, such as the debeaking of chickens, tail docking and teeth clipping of pigs, and mulesing of sheep, often undertaken without pain relief.[14]

Voiceless’s work on factory farming is focused on raising awareness of the practice in order to change the laws which allow it. Voiceless claims that factory farming corporations engage in legalised cruelty in the name of higher profit and cheaper animal products.[14] Voiceless founder Brian Sherman has stated that "Australians need to see what goes on inside factory farms, to see how cruelly animals are treated for the sake of cheap chicken breast and bacon."[15]

The commercial kangaroo industryEdit

The commercial kangaroo industry is a multimillion-dollar meat and skin industry,[16] responsible for the killing of almost 90 million kangaroos and wallabies in the last 20 years.[17]

Voiceless claims that kangaroos are hunted in the largest commercial slaughter of land-based wildlife on the planet, primarily because they are perceived to be overpopulated in Australia and considered a pest.[18] According to a 2011 report by THINKK, the think tank for kangaroos, the notion of kangaroos as costly pests to Australian farmers has been significantly overstated.[19]

While shooters are required by the relevant Codes of Practice to aim to shoot a kangaroo in the brain and therefore cause instantaneous death,[20] it is Voiceless’s view that non-fatal body shots are unavoidable and cause horrific and painful injuries. Voiceless also claims that the death of joeys is ‘collateral damage’ to the killing of female kangaroos, with young joeys killed or left to die when the mother is shot. The kangaroo industry code allows joeys to be killed by a single blow to the head (usually with a steel pipe or against the tow bar of the shooter’s truck) or through decapitation.[21] Each year approximately 855,000 dependent joeys are killed as collateral damage of the kangaroo industry.[22]


  1. ^ "Voiceless Website".
  2. ^ "Sherman's Childhood realisation led to powerful lobby for change". Sydney Morning Herald. 17 November 2011.
  3. ^ "Sherman's childhood realisation led to powerful lobby for change". Sydney Morning Herald. 17 November 2011.
  4. ^ "Voiceless Website".
  5. ^ "ABC - Australian Story".
  6. ^ "Voiceless Website".
  7. ^ "Emile Sherman: From 'The King's Speech' to Voiceless animal rights organization".
  8. ^ Glasgow, D (2008). "The Law of the Jungle: Advocating for Animals in Australia". Deakin Law Review (13): 181–186.
  9. ^ "Voiceless Website".
  10. ^ a b c Factory farming
  11. ^ "Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: 19. 2006.
  12. ^ "Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options". Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations: 19. 2006.
  13. ^ "Structure and Ownership". Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc. Retrieved 15 October 2008.
  14. ^ a b "Voiceless Website".
  15. ^ "Factory farming film among voiceless award winners".
  16. ^ Kelly, J. "Kangaroo Industry Background". Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia. Archived from the original on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  17. ^ "Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities" (PDF).
  18. ^ "Voiceless Website".
  19. ^ "Kangaroo Welfare Report" (PDF). Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  20. ^ "National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes". Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. 7 November 2008.
  21. ^ "National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes". Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. 7 November 2008.
  22. ^ Ben-Ami, D; Boom, K.; Boronyak, L.; Croft, D.; Ramp, D.; Townend, C. (2011). "Welfare implications of commercial kangaroo harvesting: Do the ends justify the means?'". THINKK, the kangaroo Think Tank, University of Technology Sydney.

External linksEdit