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Are there any animal rights?

When: Friday, November 17, 2023, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Where: Room 313, Third Floor, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

Lunch will be served from 1.30 PM in the same venue.

In this paper, I investigate whether courts have recognized genuine animal rights. Recent cases, such as India's Supreme Court acknowledging the rights of all animal species in 2014 and Ecuador's Constitutional Court granting habeas corpus to the monkey Estrellita in 2022, raise the pressing question of whether courts worldwide have truly acknowledged animal rights.

My argument throughout this paper advocates for a skeptical stance regarding the recognition of animal rights by courts. To establish a foundation for this skepticism, I attempt to define animal rights. I examine two strands of scholarly thought on this matter: the ‘new wave’, represented by scholars like Saskia Stucki and Raffael Fasel, which primarily focuses on formal criteria for defining animal rights; and the ‘old wave’, exemplified by thinkers like Tom Regan and Gary Francione, which emphasizes an ethical stance rejecting the mere instrumentalization of animals. This ethical perspective, referred to as the ‘ethic of non-instrumentalization’, provides a necessary criterion for identifying genuine animal rights.

Applying this ethic, I scrutinize global court cases that purport to acknowledge animal rights. My findings reveal that the majority of these cases fall short of aligning with the ethic of non-instrumentalization. Notably, the case law from India and Pakistan fails to meet this ethical standard. Even in Ecuador, where the Constitutional Court has recognized fundamental rights for wild animals, it simultaneously permits the instrumentalization of domesticated animals. Furthermore, an Argentinian court's recognition of genuine animal rights for the chimpanzee Cecilia, while commendable, relies heavily on highlighting Cecilia's similarity to humans, allowing for the continued instrumentalization of other sentient animals not so similar.

Consequently, despite some courts recognizing certain animal rights, their failure to fully embrace the ethic of non-instrumentalization warrants continued skepticism regarding the existence of animal rights in law.

Respondent: Macarena Montes Franceschine, Harvard

Speaker biographies

Dr John Adenitire

Dr John Adenitire is a Senior Lecturer in the Law Department at Queen Mary University of London. He is an associate Fellow of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences and he co-directs the Forum on Decentering the Human. He writes on animals in constitutional theory, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech. He is the author of A General Right to Conscientious Exemption (Cambridge 2020) and Animals and the Constitution (Oxford 2024).

Dr Macarena Montes Franceschini

Macarena Montes Franceschini is an attorney with a PhD in Law from Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). She has been a visiting researcher at Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg and a Rights Research Fellow at the Brooks McCormick Jr Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School, where she is currently a Visiting Fellow. She is also a board member of the UPF-Centre for Animal Ethics, editor of the journal Law, Ethics and Philosophy (LEAP), a member of the Editorial Committee of the Chilean Journal of Animal Law, and the treasurer of the Great Ape Project – Spain. She has written several articles on nonhuman animal personhood, animal rights, and animal law and a book titled Animal Law in Chile.

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