Harvard Magazine Profiles Progress of Animal Law

Scholarly publication examines the question “are animals things?” and reveals that the field of animal advocacy is growing.


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In a recent in-depth feature, Harvard Magazine journalist Cara Feinberg outlined the emergence and progress of animal law, focusing on the evolution of the notion that animals should be treated as property. Feinberg discussed companion, lab, and farm animals and the distinctions our current legal system makes between them. Feinberg wrote, “If animals are no longer deemed property, where should law draw the line? Should primates have the same rights as humans? Should dogs? Should ants? What about animals in the wild, or those used in medical research, or the billions slaughtered for food?” While admitting that American law still sees animals as property, but, as the Supreme Court stated, “not a fungible, inanimate object like, say, a toaster,” Feinberg revealed that “the people administering that law have become increasingly uncomfortable with that designation.” The feature touched on the changing, and varying, opinions of legal professionals and lawmakers on the subject of animal advocacy and the laws surrounding reporting of animal abuse in both the domestic and farm factory setting, while highlighting attorney and former director of Animal Legal Defense Fund Chris Green who, according to Feinberg, “became a committed vegetarian—as are most animal lawyers; attorneys, quipped one practitioner, don’t eat their clients.” Despite the slow progress in animal-rights legislation, interest in the field of animal law is growing rapidly, as evidenced by the 150 schools that currently offer courses on the topic—a discipline that Feinberg reveals did not exist 40 years ago.

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