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FoA’s next chapter: An ethical revolution for animals

March 08, 2017 | Wildlife Law Program


By Nicole Rivard

Renowned scholar and philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum believes that when it comes to animals, the world needs an ethical revolution, “a consciousness raising movement of truly international proportions,” she says.

Friends of Animals couldn’t agree more.

That’s why we are elated about our new program, the Right to Ethical Consideration Project, made possible with support from Nussbaum.

The goal of this pioneering project is to establish standing for non-human animals in the eyes of the law and a right to ethical consideration for all animals.

Legal standing, by definition, is a person’s right or ability to sue. For a "person" under the law to have standing it must prove three things: (1) that you have been "injured," (2) that the injury was caused by the action of the defendant for which you are suing, (3) and that the court has the ability to redress the injury to you with a favorable decision.

Unfortunately for non-human animals—to have standing you must be a "person," although, shockingly some corporations even have legal personhood status.

“So far, both in the United States and in the international community, law has been lagging behind the evolving ethical consciousness of humanity. Animals still lack standing under both U. S. and international law. They also lack any rights of ethical consideration,” Nussbaum said. “All human animals are treated as persons and ends (no matter how immature the human is), but all non-human animals are treated as mere things, as property. Law must find ways to make animals legal subjects and not mere objects. We need to move toward a world in which human beings are truly friends of animals, not exploiters or users.”

Some anti-cruelty laws exist of course, however outside of these specific protections it is unlikely for the most part for animals to get their day in court, no matter how bad they are abused or exploited.

“To make progress, we need theoretical approaches that are sound in terms of reality, grappling with what we know about animals, and that also direct law in a useful fashion,” Nussbaum said.

For Nussbaum, the best approach is her version of the capabilities approach, an approach to justice for humans and other animals she has developed over the years that truly takes into consideration the diversity of nature and an appreciation for its many distinctive life forms.


Read the full article in our upcoming edition of Action Line magazine. Members recieve a print version of the quarterly magazine and our newsletter subscribers have a digital version delivered to their inbox. 


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