Animal Rights

LEGAL RIGHTS FOR ANIMALSThere are three ways for animals to obtain legal rights. First and foremost, any broad protections or rights, such as granting standing to animals, will probably have to come through legislation. Passing legislation is often an arduous process and entails a fair amount of compromise and negotiation. Big businesses that depend on large-scale animal use—such as the food, fur and research industries—lobby to ensure as little regulation as possible. Since these industries are multimillion- or even billion-dollar industries with significant political clout, legislation granting rights to animals requires a lot of public support. One successful piece of legislation signed into law in November 2000, however, bans the sale of cat and dog fur products in the United States.Secondly, building precedent that is favorable to our fellow creatures can occur step-by-step through individual cases, the decisions of which create common law. Individual judges are unlikely to make any sweeping changes with a single case. However, once a few cases have given greater protection to animals, it might be easier to bring legislation that codifies those decisions into statutory law.

A third way to create legal change is to introduce a ballot initiative or referendum. This method approaches the voting public directly and bypasses the legislature, which may be subject to pressures from various industries. In 1998, for example, California voters enacted through an initiative a ban on the transportation of animals associated with and the sale of horsemeat for human consumption. However, this venue is also a costly way of changing the law.

© ASPCA 2001
ASPCA Animal Watch – Spring 2001

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