Exploring Different Philosophical Approaches to Animal Protection in Law
The legal status of animals - reflected in their property status, the prohibition of cruelty, the imposition of duties of care, and so on - implicitly raises important questions about the moral significance of animals. The ways in which the law regulates the treatment of animals arguably reflects, even if imperfectly, society's moral regard for animals. Importantly, law may also be constitutive of our understanding of the place of animals in the world, helping to normalise our understanding of their moral significance. At common law, domesticated animals are classified as personal property. However, the existence of animal welfare legislation in all Australasian jurisdictions suggests that animals have greater moral significance than their formal legal classification as personal property might suggest. Contrary to an understanding of animals as mere objects, even those philosophers who are most sceptical about an expansive moral standing for animals accept that the imposition of gratuitous suffering on an animal is wrong. However, with the possible exception of companion animals, where duties of care are legislatively imposed on animal guardians in some jurisdictions, the law generally goes no further than protection against gratuitous cruelty. And it may even fall short of this standard when the issue of what constitutes a 'good reason' for imposing suffering on an animal is closely examined.
Animal Law in Australasia