Visibility and Invisibility of Animals in Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Law
There is yet to be any animal welfare or protection law for domestic animals in China, one of the few countries in the world today that do not have such laws. However, in Chinese imperial law, there were legal provisions adopted more than a 1,000 years ago for the care and treatment of domestic working animals. Furthermore, in traditional Chinese philosophy, animals were regarded as constituent part of the organic whole of the cosmos by ancient Chinese philosophers who saw no strict delineation between humans and non-human animals. Notwithstanding, the attitude and practice towards animals in ancient Chinese life was also ambivalent and was predicated upon the practical utility of animals for the service of humans and society. Such practice can be seen through the legal provisions in imperial China. This paper first discusses animal's place in traditional Chinese philosophy and then in Chinese imperial law. It raises the issue of the gap discernable from the philosophical thought on animals and practice regarding animals in everyday life in China. The paper argues that given the gap in perception and attitude regarding animals, law can play an important role that moral teaching has not been able to achieve.
International Journal for the Semiotics of Law
Legal Theory, Jurisprudence and Legal Interpretation