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Centre for Commercial Law Studies

Roundtable in Animal Law: “Why Animals are Fundamental-Rights-Holding Persons”

Date: 11 February 2022

What started out as the formal recognition of the personhood and legal protection of the fundamental rights of specified groups of human beings, in the earliest human rights instruments, has expanded in the modern age to encompass all human beings, or at least that is the direction in which global legal trends are headed. Yet, despite these developments in the context of humans, under actual legal provisions, non-humans are not entitled to recognition or protection of any personhood and fundamental rights they may hold. This research focusses on investigating the notions of personhood and fundamental rights to assess whether non-human animals hold the status of ‘rights-holding persons’ under foundational legal principles, and if so, whether excluding them from the recognition and protection of these statuses can be justified under the foundational principles of the very laws that uphold this exclusion.


The Roundtable will be chaired by Professor Johanna Gibson, Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Convenor of Animal Law (LLM) at CCLS

About the Speaker

Ankita Shanker earned her post-graduate degree in law from Oxford University and qualified as a barrister at the Bar of England and Wales. After nearly 1.5 years of legal practice at international criminal courts/tribunals, she is now working towards her doctorate in animal rights law and policy (with research fellowships funded by the Finnish National Agency for Education and the Swiss National Science Foundation) at the Universität Basel. In her spare time she works, pro bono, as a moot coordinator to the UK Centre for Animal Law, as a consultant composing law and policy recommendations for the EU on behalf of the Dutch coalition for animal NGOs, and as a legal and policy advisor to various animal NGOs.

About the Project

Ms Shanker’s PhD project is entitled "Recognising and Protecting the Personhood and Fundamental Rights of Non-Human Animals”. In this research she is pursuing four key objectives, namely: identify the class of fundamental rights (FRs)-holding persons under positive FRs law’s foundational principles; determine the content of personhood and the content, strength, and limits of FRs; prescribe changes to laws and legal systems to recognise and protect animal personhood and FRs; and assess the implications of such changes for the exercise of FRs by humans. Ms Shanker is pursuing her PhD under the supervision of Prof Anne Peters (Professor of Public Law, Universität Basel); Prof Markus Schefer (Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law, Universität Basel); and Dr Charlotte E Blattner (Senior Assistant, Department of Public Law, Universität Bern).

Animal Law at CCLS

Professor Gibson introduced Animal Law on the Queen Mary School of Law LLM in 2018, making the Queen Mary School of Law one of the first institutions in the UK to offer Animal Law as part of a formal LLM programme. CCLS now offers two Animal Law modules – SOLM025 Animal Law, Welfare and Trade (focusing on agriculture, science, research and innovation, and conservation) and SOLM026 Animal Law, Media and Culture (focusing on animals in the creative industries).

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