A New & Worthy Member of the Animal Blog Community

David Cassuto

From the email:

Friends of Animals of Animals, in partnership with Professor Martha C. Nussbaum, has launched a new project: Establishing the Legal, Scientific and Philosophical Basis for A Right to Ethical Consideration for Animals. The project blog can be found here: https://friendsofanimals.org/wildlife-law-program/wildlife-law-program-blog/

About the project: Currently, the law only seeks to minimize the physical suffering or death of an animal, or loss of an animal’s habitat, when sanctioning human activity. Increasingly, however, we understand both scientifically and philosophically that our impact on animals can be more than just physical. As Martha C. Nussbaum would explain it, our current legal system fails to respect one or more of the species-specific, central capabilities: life, bodily integrity, bodily health, play, sense/imagination/thought, emotion, practical reason, affiliation, and control over one’s environment.

The right to ethical consideration we seek is a legal obligation on our governmental decision-makers to fully examine how human actions degrade the types of lives animals are trying to lead. Such a right is not based solely on our compassion or empathy for an animal, but on moral and scientific principles that we can justify by argument. Our decision-making processes must embrace our ever-expanding knowledge of how human involvement or interference with an animal diminishes one or more of that animal’s central capabilities. In other words, the reason to focus on the ethical treatment of animals is because of them, not because of us.  What we feel is neither here nor there. What matters is the suffering of the animals, and whether we feel compassion or not we are morally obligated to relieve it.

Finally, the right to ethical consideration we seek is not the granting of specific substantive rights for animals, like the right to life, freedom, etc. It is, however, a pathway to strengthening legal protections for animals, and future substantive rights. By requiring decision-makers and the public to engage in active deliberation about the human impact on an animal’s ability to live a meaningful life, societal and legal beliefs regarding the rights of non-human animals can change for the better.

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GRIDA in Rearview — A Most Excellent Event

Only time for a brief word about the GRIDA conference b/c I’m now at a different conference, this time of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.  The GRIDA event was outstanding.  Lecture topics ranged from animal behavior to AETA.  Among the highlights: David Favre advanced his vision of animals as living property; Steve Wise sketched out a continuum for legal recognition for nonhumans that seemed simultaneously revolutionary and inevitable; Kathy Hessler lucidly described the inanities of vivisection (for example, just eliminating the redundancies in animal research would decrease the number of animals killed by over two thirds);  Maneesha Deckha offered a feminist critique of Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach; Luc-Alain Giraldeau’s description of the history and science of animal behaviorism made clear how much most of us don’t know and probably should about the beings for whom we advocate; and Carol Morgan described her doctoral fieldwork (for her degree in ethics) among  her fellow veterinarians.  The disconnect between veterinarians’ duties to their patients and their duties to their clients brings the incompatibility of economics and ethics into stark relief.  There were many more excellent presentations and a welcome interdisciplinary and international collegiality.  Professor Martine Lachance and her colleagues at UQAM deserve a rousing cheer and congratulations.

–David Cassuto