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Abolitionist Animal Rights

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Legal Standing of Animals: How the plight of five Orca has come to be at the vanguard of animal rights jurisprudence

A pod of Southern Resident Orca

Recently, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought a civil action to have five Orca, named Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka and Ulises, kept in captivity at Sea World in San Diego, California recognised as ‘slaves’ and hence protected by the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For this action to succeed, the court would have to recognise the Orca as legal persons and accept that the thirteenth amendment should apply to them. Sea World has called it “baseless and in many ways offensive” and a “publicity stunt”.

Of course this approach, while garnering a good deal of publicity (even the NZ Herald published an (very basic) article), was doomed to failure. U.S. law professor, David Favre, suggested in a letter to the Associated Press that it is highly unlikely that the substantive matters of the case would even be argued as the plaintiffs will be interpreted as lacking standing. Even if this hurdle were overcome, the judges were very unlikely to consider that the original intention of the drafters of the Constitution can encompass non-humans.

Concern has been expressed by many animal advocates that this sort of publicity stunt runs the very real risk of undermining decades of careful argumentation around the recognition of the legal personality of non-human animals. Pursuing a cause of action that is virtually guaranteed to fail may establish a negative precedent which undermines future attempts to build an animal rights jurisprudence. The Non-Human Rights Project have summed up these concerns particularly well in ‘Ten Tillikum Takeaways‘.

Pioneering animal lawyer, Steven Wise, who has brought a separate action to PETA’s on different, more considered, grounds has reservations about the PETA approach. He has said it is “ill-conceived, impossible to win, and capable of damaging future animal rights legal law cases”, going further to suggest that PETA is plowing ahead because “it wants the case ‘to go down in history as the first time that a U.S. court considers constitutional rights for animals.’ Winning is beside the point.” Continue reading

Circus Animal Bans

As of 1 July 2010, the use of any animal in a circus has been banned in Bolivia. A handful of other countries have banned the use of wild animals in circuses but only Bolivia has banned exploitation of domestic animals in circuses as well.

The Bolivian law, which states that the use of all animals in circuses ‘constitutes an act of cruelty’ was enacted on 1 July 2009, with operators given a year to comply.

The bill took two years to pass through both chambers of the Plurinational Assembly, meeting stiff opposition from the eastern states of Bolivia where there was concern that the law would be expanded to include bullfighting, which is popular in rural villages. Bullfighting remains legal in Bolivia.

The legislature were eventually won over by a screening of videos shot by undercover circus infiltrators in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia co-ordinated and funded by Animal Defence International (ADI), a London-based NGO which found that ill-treatment and violence against animals in circuses is commonplace.

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Schechita, Halal and Ministerial Conflicts of Interest

It’s been a week of big announcements about animal welfare from the Minister of Agriculture, David Carter. We’ve seen not only the phase-out of sow crates but also the reversal of his decision in May 2010 to outlaw the traditional Jewish method of slaughter, schechita, for chickens.

Schechita slaughter requires the animal to be fully conscious as its throat is cut and it is allowed to bleed out. The NAWAC animal slaughter code created under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (AWA) requires that an animal to be slaughtered must be first rendered insensible – stunned – so that it does not experience ‘unnecessary’ pain or distress. Although Muslims also object to the stunning of animals at slaughter, a compromise has been reached with halal slaughter whereby the animal is stunned at the instant the cut is made.

But there’s one revelation about the reasons behind the decision to ban schechita in the first place that the Minister would rather not see the light of day.

Documents obtained by the Herald on Sunday:

[A]ppear to show Carter broke the rules governing his portfolio by considering trade implications when making the original decision.

An allegation of conflict of interest has been made because of that – he holds shares in a company which exports meat and met with senior managers who wanted a ban on shechita to protect their interests. Continue reading

Francione and Kazez: Abolition and Welfare

Some people have a very small moral universe.  That is, they only extend moral concern to a very small number of people, ignoring strangers and other animals.  Others seem, at times, to have a limited metaethical and jurisprudential universe or, at least, take an unduly reductionist approach to ethical and jurisprudential concepts.  In doing so, despite having developed ethical and philosophical theories – far more developed ones than my shaky metaethics – people can reduce complex jurisprudential or ethical ideas to convenient boxes.

This morning, when I checked Twitter for news, updates from NGOs and activist groups, and vegan commentary, as I do most mornings, I saw the below from Gary Francione:

Jean Kazez has refused to discuss her misrepresentations of my work with me on my podcast. She is obviously unable to do so.

Although not as well known as Professor Francione, Jean Kazez has a few things in common with him.  Both teach philosophy.  Kazez is a professor of philosophy at the Southern Methodist University of Dallas Texas; Francione is a Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark.  Both have written books that purport to advocate for ethical concern for animals.  Both frequently update their respective blogs: Francione’s Abolitionist Approach and Kazez’s In Living Colour and Animal Rights SMU.  In her course on animal rights, Kazez covers Francione’s work. So why was Professor Francione challenging Professor Kazez to a debate?

Well, that’s where the similarities end.

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