This course focuses on the legal issues that swirl around the struggle to obtain civil rights for nonhuman animals.
For thousands of years the law has divided everything into legal “persons,” who have the capacity for one or an infinite number of legal rights, and legal “things,” who lack the capacity for any legal rights at all. “
History has shown that the only way in which the fundamental interests of any entity can be adequately protected is if those interests are protected by legal rights. In other words that entity must be a “person.”
Until recently all nonhuman animals have been “things” who live at the mercy of their masters, you and I. Their only protection has been welfare laws that we enact, we amend, and we repeal as we see fit in our interests. The nonhuman animals themselves cannot enforce these laws and the humans charged with enforcement can usually enforce them or not at their discretion.
One need only look about to see that 200 years of implementing the idea that animal welfare and protection laws adequately protect nonhuman animals has failed. This has led some lawyers to demand enforceable legal rights for nonhuman animals.
Because this civil rights work for nonhuman animals lies at the core of what animal law will look like in the future, it will be primarily what this course is about.