What Use Animal Law?

David Wolfson guest-taught my Animal Law class this evening and, as usual, his provocative, insightful views sent my thoughts spinning off in all directions.  For example, David observed that since 98% of animals in the United States are “farmed” animals and thus wholly lacking in legal protections, animal law, as commonly understood, is functionally irrelevant. “Who cares about  set of laws that a set of laws that apply to only 2% of the population?” he asked.  “Wouldn’t we say that a country where the rule of law applied to only 2% of the population was lawless?”

That comparison is brutally powerful and hard to refute.  When the vast majority of the population resides outside of the law’s protection, one has to wonder what purpose the law serves, if any.  This, of course, leads those of us who teach and practice animal law to wonder just what it is we’re doing.  Or at least it does me.

David Cassuto

One Response

  1. For a horrifically long time, The Rule of Law in much of the United States protected whites only. For much of the same period, law enshrined male domination. Change leveled the field and brought equality. With animal issues changes in laws will alleviate if not wholly end cruelty. Of course the matter of animal welfare versus a claim of inherent rights dominates this field and is unique when compared to prior major advances in extending legal protection to the disenfranchised.

    Legislating, and as importantly, enforcing laws that protect the 98% of animals my colleague refers to can command considerable public support without which nothing will happen. Arguments that reflect extreme positions with regard to human utilization of animals fall, in the main, on receptive if not deaf ears.

    So there is much for teachers of animal law to do. And much of it is outside the classroom.

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