Animal Law - Do Animals Have Rights?

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Date Submitted: 12/08/2012 05:24 PM

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Animal Law (LAWS3088)

Topic 1: Human Slavery


In the past few decades, issues surrounding animals in the law have been gaining tremendous interest. Many animal welfare groups have emerged to fight for the worthy rights they claim animals should be entitled to. There have been comparisons between the treatment of animals as property and human slaves as property under the system of slavery. This paper analyses the parallel drawn between animals and human slaves, and concludes that the comparison is a useful and valid one as there are compelling similarities in both groups. The question of whether animals can have rights is also discussed, with a focus on the arguments for and against animal rights, and also providing insights as to why animals should not have equal rights as human beings. Following Lord Mansfield’s decision to issue a writ of habeas corpus in Somerset v Stewart , the issue of whether animals, like human slaves, can be recognised by the judicial system as a legal person. This paper acknowledges that the comparison between animals and human slaves is useful, but takes the view that animals should not be seen as a legal person in the eyes of the law.

Human Slaves vs Animals

Drawing parallels between the treatment of human slaves as property and the current treatment of non-human animals as property is a bold yet common comparison. In essence, this comparison is comparing speciesism with racism.

This paper takes the view that the comparison is useful to a large extent, given the extreme resemblance between the way slaves were treated and the way animals are treated today. The tyranny of human over non-human animals, and the treatment of animals as property, has caused and is still causing an amount of pain and suffering that can only be compared with that which resulted from the centuries of tyranny by white humans over black humans. The suffering that animals currently endure at the hands of human beings parallels that endured...