The United States has a strong history of enacting laws to protect animals from the pain and suffering inflicted by humans. Indeed, the passage of the Massachusetts’ Body of Liberties in 1641 made it the first country in the world to pass such laws. Nevertheless, contemporary animal protection laws in all jurisdictions of the United States are limited in their ability to adequately realize their primary purpose of protecting animals from unnecessary or unjustifiable pain and suffering. This is a result of limited statutory definitions of ‘animal’ and far-reaching exclusions commonly found in animal protection legislation. These exclusions frequently apply to farm animals, animals used in experiments as part of scientific or medical research, and animals that are the subject of hunting or fishing. While the purpose of animal protection laws is clearly supported by scientific research, they largely fail to achieve their purposes for most animals. Accordingly, this Article advocates for the introduction of an equality principle into animal protection laws in order to enable those laws to better meet their primary purpose of preventing and punishing cruelty to animals. The Article proposes that an equality principle be adapted from international human rights law to generally provide that all sentient animals are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law. Implementation of such a principle would require significant amendments to animal protection laws, including the introduction of an express statement of equality amongst animals, creation of an overarching prohibition on conduct causing animals unnecessary or unjustifiable pain and suffering, and removal of existing discriminations against animals (including farm animals, research animals and animals that are hunted or fished). These amendments, if enacted and enforced, would operate to significantly reduce, as well as punish, the unnecessary cruelty that animals experience in contemporary society.
Recommended CitationJane Kotzmann and Gisela Nip, Bringing Animal Protection Legislation Into Line With its Purported Purposes: A Proposal for Equality Amongst Non-Human Animals, 37 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 247 (2020)
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