Animal Law Review

First Page



Further development within the field of animal law seems to be at an impasse, lost among the potential paths presented by its traditional influences: international treaty law, domestic animal welfare regulations, and trade law. First, classical elements of global animal treaty law are limited to preservationist aspirations, insusceptible to the questions of how animals are treated or how they cope with their environment. Second, animal welfare regulation is understood as a matter confined to national territories. In cross-border dialogue, animal matters have been reduced to allegations of imperialism, which is not conducive to furthering animal interests. Third, animals are regarded as commodities in international trade law, rendering their regulation an undesirable barrier to trade. These present deficiencies deprive global animal law of its significance as a dynamic instrument responsive to global challenges, be they ethical, environmental, economic, technological, or social in nature.

The objective of this paper is to demonstrate future ways out of this impasse. Recent developments in trade law, as demonstrated by four examples found within the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ‘case law,’ mark an important development for animal law. State objectives expressed through trade law are slowly moving away from anthropocentric considerations (i.e., geared to preserve a fraction of animals for human interests) towards sentiocentric animal welfare (i.e., aimed at minimizing animal suffering and focusing on animal interests). Thereby, the quality of animal law that developed on the international scene through trade law exceeded the status quo of global animal treaty law. Although the WTO itself is an inherently inadequate forum to further animal interests, trade law bears considerable potential to catalyze more comprehensive developments in global animal treaty law—most notably by focusing on individual sentient animals, their interests, and their suffering.



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