Dalhousie Law Journal


animal, law, Canada, oppression, reform, property, domesticated, rights, justice


While animal law has been subject to frequent reform in Canada and abroad, the basic legal foundations of animal oppression are largely unchanged. There are many reasons for this impasse, but part of the explanation is that legal reforms are caught in what we might call the property/personhood dilemma. In most legal systems, domesticated animals are defined as property and so long as this remains true, reforms are likely to be marginal and ineffective. However the main alternative-to shift animals from the category of property to personhoodis politically unfeasible, particularly for the domesticated animals who are most intensively exploited in our society In this paper I explore a third option for legal reform, which is to include domesticated animals into other legal categories such as "workers" or "members of the family" which carry with them social standing and social rights, even if not full legal personhood. Indeed, there is already some movement in this direction: the law is recognizing (some) animals as (rightsbearing) workers or family members, for at least some purposes, without having declared them to be persons. I call this the social recognition strategy, and argue that it has unexplored promise for advancing justice for animals, although it is not without its own dilemmas and limits.

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