Steve Wise’s Lecture — A Resounding Success

Angelique Rivard
Have you ever wondered what informs human rights?  Steven Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project, has explored that question and many others through historical, philosophical, scientific, and legal lenses.

On last Thursday, April, 26th, Steven Wise, acclaimed animal lawyer and professor, brought insight, engagement and humor to the Pace Law School’s Dyson Lecture Series, delivering a riveting presentation on The Nonhuman Rights Project’s Struggle for Nonhuman Personhood.  Founded in 1982 by alumni, Charles H. Dyson, the series aims to encourage and make possible the engagement of scholarly legal studies to both the students, faculty and staff of Pace Law School and the public at large. Wise’s presentation on nonhuman personhood and rights did just that.

Wise’s research on what affords humans as opposed to nonhuman animals “noncomparative” rights, such as liberty and dignity, is significant.  He began his presentation by discounting the seemingly largest problem with affording nonhuman animals rights, namely their lack of standing.  Instead, Wise demonstrated through a pyramid diagram how standing is actually the last and least of all obstructions. Rather, the core problem is the question of capacity, which opens (or closes) the gate in affording nonhuman animals rights. Capacity for rights would ultimately establish that any nonhuman animal is a legal person and thus is entitled to legal rights.  Once capacity is achieved the next hurdle involves defining which rights in particular are attributable to nonhuman animals. The third tier questions private rights and last is the pyramid point, encompassing the notion of standing. Continue reading