Anthony M. Doss


The concern for the wellbeing and humane treatment of animals continues to grow in the United States. However, while public opinion on how animals should be treated has largely changed, the legal classification for animals has not. Nonhuman animals today, just as in centuries past, keep only a property classification in the law. This classification, which we humans assign to furniture, jewelry, and paper plates, comes with a set of legal rights held exclusively by the owner of the property. These rights bestow upon the owner the abilities to sell, use, and destroy the property as they see fit with little regard to factors outside of the owner’s mere whim. This property classification, while perfectly suited to inanimate objects, does little to adequately address the pain and suffering felt by a sentient nonhuman animal. Many articles exist exploring the psychological aversion towards giving nonhuman animals the same rights as humans or exploring the deficiencies in statutes intended to protect animals. This Article, however, takes a different look at the status of nonhuman animals in the law and instead looks at the role capitalism has played in maintaining the property classification. To accomplish this goal the Article looks to one of the few other instances of sentient beings classified as property, the enslavement of African Americans, and the role capitalism played in driving and maintaining the institution of slavery past the economic purpose. Additionally, the Article discusses some of the animal rights issues that exist and how the current legal field fails to protect the nonhuman animals involved. Finally, the Article considers the psychological and emotional opposition to human rights and suggests a compromise that can advance the nonhuman animal’s interests to some degree while resulting in minimal impact on the average person’s day to day exploitation of nonhuman animals.

Included in

Animal Law Commons



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