The camel at the cutting edge: Animal welfare, environmental law, private prosecution and the three judgments in NSPCA v Minister of Justice

Authors Adrian Bellengère and Ed Couzens

ISSN: 2616-8499
Source: South African Journal of Environmental Law and Policy 2018, p. 45 – 86


This analysis explains how an incident of attempted slaughter of two camels for religious purposes set off a chain of events and judgments that has the potential significantly to enlighten our understanding of the position of animal welfare-related law in South Africa, and the overlap between animal welfare and environmental law. Three judgments are recounted and then commented upon – in the High Court, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. It is explained that a number of misunderstandings of the legal position, by legal authorities and courts, have prevented the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – a juristic person mandated to take legal steps to prevent animals from being cruelly treated – from employing the full range of legal tools that ought to be available to it, including the right to prosecute privately when the National Prosecuting Authority declines to prosecute. The Constitutional Court has ultimately decided that the NSPCA does have this right; but it is explained that the judgment does not show as much understanding of the legal position as would have been desirable. In particular, it appears that the nexus between animal welfare law and environmental law has not been well understood; and it is suggested that the National Environmental Management Act of 1998 provides for a right of private prosecution that could, and should, be employed in circumstances such as these.