Volume 23 (2017)

Volume 23 (2017) / Issue 3

Bart Driessen, 'Fundamental Animal Rights in European Law' (2017) 23 European Public Law, Issue 3, pp. 547–585

Fundamental Rights; Animal Rights; European Court of Human Rights [or ECtHR]; Social Contract; European Law; EU Law; Animal Welfare; Human Rights; Personhood; Intelligence in Animals


Law is fundamentally anthropocentric. However, the philosophical and scientific assumptions underpinning this assume that animals lack any capacity for moral choices, identity or even sentience. In Europe there is a considerable body of animal welfare law, but the current standards of animal welfare legislation do not bridge the gap between those assumptions and scientific reality. This article explores the philosophical concepts underlying the status of animals in law in Europe and the United States and compares them to current biological science. The conclusion is drawn that there is a discrepancy between the assumptions underlying legal systems and recent biological findings. The article suggests that a modern legal approach to the relationship between man and sentient animals should depart from the idea that animals have certain fundamental rights. It then proposes an approach to fundamental rights for animals in Europe and argues why such an approach has to be treaty based.

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ISSN: 1354-3725
ID: EURO2017032