Committee member Edna Mathieson represented QCA at a meeting on June 9 2014 sponsored by the Association of Lawyers for Animal Welfare (ALAW) and the Centre for Animals and Social Justice (CASJ) at which Steven Wise spoke on:
Non-Human Animals’ Rights
Steven Wise had been practising law for nine years when he read Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation and became an animal welfare/rights lawyer. It took 29 years for the idea and practice to evolve. It sounded odd – in the 1980s, it was!
He went right back to the very roots of Law: what exactly is it? why is it? He studied Mesopotamian, Ancient Roman and Greek Law, then English and American Common Law: he thoughtfully re-considered habeas corpus. It was not enough in Court to argue moral philosophy. Judges would not fully understand and Law is a practical pursuit.
He realised that in all he had read liberty, equality, dignity, autonomy are mentioned. He asked himself – why do human animals have rights and non-human ones do not? There was nothing in the trade books, no national or professional discussion going on, no classes to attend. He himself had to devise theories, write books and articles.
He was accepted by Harvard and later called to the Massachusetts Bar.
He found a sympathetic editor who published his books as trade books. Steven had begun to realise that Law protected people, but only if they were accepted as “legal persons”.
Slaves were – are – not protected by Law. They were bought and sold as chattels. Animals are also bought and sold for human animals to do with, more or less, as they will. Steve realised that animals should be seen as legal persons, as human animals are, and thus have the protection of the Law.
He has now many students, teaches at Harvard and other universities; has built up an organisation divided into a science section, a sociological section and a mathematical one to analyse research findings with greater accuracy. His ideas and practices continue to spread worldwide.
His organisation has several lawsuits in progress in different American states at this moment. These all deal with chimpanzees. Next will be elephants, followed by dolphins. Since these animals have no economic value as we do not eat them, judges will not have to take into account economic effects on, say, employment rates.
If these lawsuits fail, then he will try to discern a pattern in the circumstances of the case/s so that they may try to ensure failure does not recur.
What Steven began 29 years ago can now be called the Animal Law Movement.
Please see: www.nonhumanrightsproject.org/steve-wise
The Association of Lawyers for Animal Welfare (ALAW) is a charity which aims to bring together lawyers interested in animal protection law to share experience and to harness that expertise for the benefit of the animal protection community, including by securing more comprehensive and effective laws and better enforcement of existing animal protection laws.
This is Steven Wise’s speaking schedule this summer:
- July 11-12: Addressing the Global Conference on Animal Law in Barcelona;
- June 23-July 3: Teaching Animal Rights Law courses at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, OR;
- July 21-31: Teaching Animal Rights Law courses at the Vermont Law School;
- July 31: Speaking at the AxFoundation seminar in Bastad, Sweden;
- August 26-29: Lecturing at legal conferences in Brasilia, Brazil, and in Corrientes and Cordoba, Argentina.