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Animal rights: It’s Not an Either/Or Proposition

By Michael Mountain

A few corrections to this Huffington Post article, which discusses two legal approaches taken to improving the lives of animals. We don’t see this debate as an either/or proposition. Any organization that’s helping to relieve the tremendous suffering of animals at factory farms has our full support. Such animal welfare organizations as HSUS enforce existing laws and work to pass new ones.

It’s just that our mission at the NhRP is different: it is to change the way the law actually sees those animals. People often talk about “animal rights,” but currently the only animal with legal rights is the human animal. No other animals can have any legal rights because the law does not view them as “legal persons”, but as “legal things”. Animal protection laws can only govern how this or that kind of legal thing should be treated. (Even corporations, ships and other entities are seen as legal persons with certain appropriate rights. But no animals, except for humans.)

The Nonhuman Rights Project argues that it shouldn’t matter what species you are in order for you to qualify for legal personhood. Certain nonhuman animals are so extraordinarily cognitively complex that they are entitled to certain rights appropriate to their nature – like the right not to be enslaved.

Another error in the article is the statement that we are seeking to achieve these goals through changes in constitutional law. Not so. We are seeking recognition of them as common law legal persons in the individual American states.

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