Sunday, October 23, 2016

Animal Law: Evolution and the Need for International Protection

By Myleah Misenhimer
Myleah Misenhimer is a 2016 cum laude graduate of Albany Law School. She earned her undergraduate degree in English, summa cum laude, from the State University of New York at Albany. She is also a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan.
During her time at Albany Law School, Myleah was active in the moot court program, competing in both inter and intra school trial and appellate competitions. She was also a member of the Animal Law Pro Bono Project, and continues to be a member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Myleah is currently a first year associate at Rose Waldorf PLLC.
She prepared this paper for Professor Bonventre's International law of War and Crime seminar.

In 1948, following the atrocities committed against the Jews by Nazi Germany, the Genocide Convention was passed, elevating and isolating genocide as an aggravated crime against humanity. But what of the right to existence of entire non-human groups?  Have the “dictates of public conscience” and the principles of our nations expanded to the point where protection for non-human beings would reflect our communal notions of humanity and morality?

In a literal sense, a crime against humanity is a crime committed externally against humankind. Humankind is humanity, but also has humanity, and thus a crime against humanity can be viewed as a crime that goes against the collective conscience, whether innate or learned. In a time where domestic animals are regarded as family members or referred to as man’s best friend, where we, as people, can set up pet trusts to ensure a safe and secure future for our animals, where most nations in the world have independently adopted laws to criminalize the abuse of such animals, is it time for another convention to bring about internationally recognized animal laws?

The bond between humans and animals was formed in antiquity, primarily out of economic need.   Humans exploited animals for physical purposes, such as plowing fields, but animals also served metaphysical purposes. In her article, Attitudes towards Animals in Greco-Roman Antiquity, Liliane Bodson writes about philosophical views of animals. For example, in the 7th Century B.C., Hesiod made the ox his first servant. Though he asserted Zeus granted justice only to humans, Heisod would treat the animal servicing him with a basic level of care. Pythagoras believed after death that human souls transmigrated into other living beings, and consequently taught his followers to never harm an animal.

Plato believed in the dual soul of man; the divine half was shared with the Gods, whereas the spirited half was shared with animals. Domesticated animals in antiquity were attributed a certain level of intelligence, at least enough to offer consent, as evidenced by Plato’s classification of such animals as “willing partners in human culture.” The notion of consenting animals even extended into the area of religious animal sacrifice, where the sacrificial animal was said to have nodded to humans in assent before being killed.
To read the entire paper, open HERE.