WHAT IS ANIMAL LAW?
Laws are in place to protect us: laws serve as guidance of acceptable behaviour in society, and punishments are in place for those who do not adhere to them to ensure our safety. There are laws to protect us at home, in the workplace, and when we go to hospital, and there are laws to ensure that corporations do business fairly.
But humans are just one species: what about the 8.7 million species of non-human animals on the planet?
‘Animal law’ is the body of law that seeks to protect animals in their relations with humans. Whilst animal laws differ hugely between countries throughout the world, they most often seek to protect animals from unnecessary suffering inflicted by humans through legislation known as Animal Welfare or Animal Protection legislation. Just as a person would be punished by the law for hurting a child, the unnecessary harming of animals is also punishable by law in most countries. This deters people from harming animals.
WHY SHOULD ANIMALS BE PROTECTED BY THE LAW?
1) Non-human animals feel physical and emotional pain
Numerous studies have demonstrated that, like us, many other species feel both physical and emotional pain.
2) Non-human animals are intelligent
A study has shown that pigs display an equivalent or greater intelligence than the average 3-year-old child, whilst other studies have shown that animals communicate with each other through sounds and body language using similar devices to humans.
3) All animals are living beings with inherent value
Just like humans, non-human animals have family and companions; they eat, drink, walk, play, and breathe just like we do. Just like human animals, non-human animals deserve respect regardless of their social status or usefulness to humans; this means that they deserve adequate nutrition, a healthy environment, and good physical and mental health.
4) There is no natural hierarchy of value
Non-human animals do not belong to us: there is no natural hierarchy of value meaning that the needs of humans are objectively no more important than those of animals.
5) All animals support essential ecosystems
If we take advantage of any animal, we risk entire species becoming extinct. The survival of living organisms (plants and animals) relies on the careful balancing of ecosystems. Without a species, entire ecosystems are at risk of further endangerment and extinction. Pangolins, elephants, and rhinoceroses are amongst the most endangered animals in Africa due to illegal poaching.
Animal Protection legislation is essential to ensure that humans and non-human animals live together as harmoniously as possible and to prevent cruelty to animals. Equally as important as legislation, however, is the enforcement of this legislation and the education of humans about animal welfare throughout the world.
You can find out more about current legislation in every country here: https://www.globalanimallaw.org/database/international.html