Animal Protection Laws: Scope and Limitations

Animal Welfare Act. Endangered Species Act. Anti-Cruelty laws. The names themselves imply that animals have some sort of interests that these laws or policies are protecting.  However, it was surprising for me to learn, for example, that the Animal Welfare Act, which is the only law that protects animals in laboratories, doesn’t include all animals and it doesn’t cover all situations where animals in labs are used.

I must admit that I don’t know for sure why most people I know don’t seem that interested in the idea of rights for animals. One friend told me straight out that it’s a ridiculous idea, followed by laughter. But most people I know don’t really say anything, so I have to assume their opinions are a mixed bag of against, indifferent, or open. Regardless of where on the spectrum my non-animal rights friends and family are, though, I think they all share a common belief that rights for animals are not necessary and that changing the property status of animals somehow goes farther than what is needed. And I’m going to guess that this belief is based on a series of assumptions, the first being that animal protection laws are able to provide meaningful protection for animals.  So, in order to proceed with a productive discussion about the merits of rights for animals, I think this perception needs to be addressed.

This month’s interviews have been selected to convey the range and scope of animal protection laws. What are they, who do they cover, who is responsible for enforcing them and what are the limits to the protection they can provide, along with a few stories to see how animals fare when pitted against corporate interests. It’s useful to remember that these laws are regulating the interests of animals (property) as against corporations (persons).  Also included this month is a brief history of how animal rights advocates became associated with the term “Eco-terrorism” and the resulting implications in the law. This is by no means a comprehensive assessment of animal welfare laws, but is meant to give enough insight into these systems to clarify why some advocates have come to the conclusion that these laws are not the most effective way to protect the interests of animals.

This month’s interviews feature Katherine Meyer, Roger Fouts, Theodora Capaldo, Sarah Baeckler, Gary Francione and Lee Hall.  You can find information about anyone featured in this post (and a link to all interviews sorted by person) on the top navigation under People.

YOU CAN FIND ALL INTERVIEWS RELATED TO THIS POST HERE. If you are new to this topic, you may find the previous post, Treatment or Use?, a worthwhile place to start.

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