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Philosophical and Legal Aims of the Animal Liberation Movement

The movement aims to include animals in the moral community by putting the basic interests of non-human animals on an equal footing with the basic interests of human beings. A basic interest would be, for example, not being made to suffer pain on behalf of other individual human or non-human animals. The aim is to remove animals from the sphere of property and to award them personhood; that is, to see them awarded legal rights to protect their basic interests.

   

“Who are we that we have set ourselves up on this pedestal and we believe that we have a right take from others everything—including their life—simply because we want to do it? Shouldn’t we stop and think for a second that maybe they are just others like us? Other nations, other individuals, other cultures. Just others. Not sub-human, but just different from being human.”

 

 

Liberationists argue that animals appear to have value in law only in relation to their usefulness or benefit to their owners, and are awarded no intrinsic value whatsoever. In the United States, for example, state and federal laws formulate the rules for the treatment of animals in terms of their status as property. Liberationists point out that Texas Animal Cruelty Laws apply only to pets living under the custody of human beings and exclude birds, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and other wild animals not owned by humans, ignoring that juridiction for such creatures comes under the domain of state wildlife officers. The U.S. Animal Welfare Act excludes “pet stores … state and country fairs, livestock shows, rodeos, purebred dog and cat shows, and any fairs or exhibitions intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences.” There is no mention in the law that such activities already fall under the jurisdiction of state agriculture departments. The Department of Agriculture interprets the Act as also excluding cold-blooded animals, and warm-blooded animals not “used for research, teaching, testing, experimentation … exhibition purposes, or as a pet, [and] farm animals used for food, fiber, or production purposes”. 

Regarding the campaign to change the status of animals as property, the movement has seen success in several countries. Switzerland passed legislation in 1992 recognizing non-human animals as beings, not things. The German Civil Code had been amended correspondingly two years earlier. In 2002, the words “and animals” were added to the constitutional clause obliging the German state to protect the “natural living conditions”, which has been regarded as a milestone in the development of the legal status of animals in Germany. The amendment, however, has not had much impact in German legal practice yet. The greatest success has certainly been the granting of basic rights to five great ape species in New Zealand in 1999. Their use is now forbidden in research, testing or teaching.

The Seattle-based Great Ape Project (GAP) — founded by Australian philosopher Peter Singer, the author of Animal Liberation, widely regarded as the “bible” of the animal liberation movement — is campaigning for the United Nations to adopt its Declaration on Great Apes, which would see chimpanzeesbonobosgorillas and orang-utans included in a “community of equals” with human beings. The declaration wants to extend to the non-human apes the protection of three basic interests: the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture.  The New Zealand success is partly ascribed to GAP´s activity.

December 1, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, Just One More Pet, Pet Abuse, Pets, Political Change, Stop Animal Cruelty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments