Animal Law Review


Geordie Duckler

First Page



In its current guise, animal rights advocacy imposes few intellectual demands on its proponents, usually requiring little more than a colorful Web site and a college dictionary, the former to construct an audience, and the latter to provide the emotion-laden phrases needed to inflame that audience into supporting stringent penalties for animal-related crimes. Hard thought is not really essential for animal rights advocates to be able to proclaim an end to animal abuse or an allegiance to easing animal suffering, and the standard advocate toolkit simply need not include “rational legal analysis” among the apparatus utilized to rail against mistreatment, to weigh in with personal anecdote on topical news stories, or to call for increasing fines and jail terms under local criminal statutes.

Trouble brews, on the other hand, for those advocates who aim farther afield, who demand that animals be granted formal legal rights. Graphics and adjectives alone are vastly insufficient to validate just how that project would operate under the law or how science and logic would support a formal position on animals as “rights-holders.” Unhappily, the animal rights movement, as it takes such aim, has shown that it is weaker, not stronger, for the effort. Separate from its vulnerability to criticism by those politically opposed, a call for legal rights for animals is without justification on the very two pillars on which such a claim presumes to found itself”“ the precepts of law and of science. The claim’s inherent weaknesses are revealed in the use of terms that are inapplicable given both the way that legal rules work as a practical matter and the current level of our scientific knowledge about animals themselves. This article confronts these two core defects of the animal rights paradigm and seeks to shed the light of law, science, and reason on what seems to be an unreasonable, nonscientific, and yet ill-critiqued phenomenon.

Included in

Animal Law Commons



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