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Animal Rights

May 18, 2020 -

Affirming the dignity of human and nonhuman beings

Affirming the dignity of human and nonhuman beings
Gorilla ThinkingFile Photo / © Photabulous!

Both human rights and nonhuman animal rights work are driven by a deep commitment to values and principles of justice, foremost among them a respect for the freedom, equality, and dignity of each individual. These values and principles are like a lighthouse in a storm of human bias, fear, and self-interest that plagues human and nonhuman beings alike—guiding the way to safe harbor and solid ground as we consider the positive and negative impacts of decisions, laws, and public policy.

A new book by Justin Marceau—a Professor of Law at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law who has submitted amicus briefs in support of our nonhuman rights cases—reminds animal advocates of the importance of this guiding light.

Beyond Cages: Animal Law and Criminal Punishment (Cambridge University Press) points to a problematic tendency among mainstream animal advocacy organizations to focus excessively on, and to celebrate, criminal punishment—for example, more and longer sentences for animal abusers—as a means of generating support and effecting legal change to help nonhuman animals.

In this sense, Justin argues, these organizations, unwittingly or not, have allied themselves with “the carceral state,” which misguidedly sees imprisonment as a solution to systemic issues that go beyond any individual actor.

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