Animals, Slavery and the Law

This month I’d like to reflect on the generally undisputed and widespread use of animals by comparing institutionalized animal use with the institution of slavery. While I understand this idea can be controversial and makes some people feel exceedingly uncomfortable, I think the comparison is useful because:

* Human slaves were considered legal property, which is the same legal (and for most people, moral) classification given to animals today
* For those looking to change the moral and legal status of animals, it is useful to look at past examples of other beings who at one time were classified as things, but have since become moral and legal persons
* Both include two parallel movements: one to abolish (human and non-human) slavery, the other to make slavery more humane
* Those who profit from exploiting beings classified as legal property have enormous economic and political power
* Use is so pervasive that most people don’t question it

I want to understand how ideas move through society from a place of “self-evidently right” to “self-evidently wrong”. I am also fascinated with our legal system and finding new ways of conveying how little protection can truly be granted to beings who are classified as legal property despite most of our broad assumptions to the contrary.

The intention of this comparison is to question both our implicit and explicit consent that other living beings are things to be used for whatever purpose we deem necessary without considering whether it is something that we, when we stop to think about it, actually ethically or morally support.

This month’s interviews include Steve Wise, Gary Francione and Peter Singer.

YOU CAN FIND ALL INTERVIEWS RELATED TO THIS POST HERE. You can find more information about anyone featured on this site on the top navigation under People.

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