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Jurisprudential Status of Animals

Animal rights jurisprudence refers to the legal framework that governs the rights of animals, and the legal obligations of humans towards animals. Animal rights jurisprudence has evolved over time, from treating animals as mere property to recognizing them as sentient beings with their own interests and welfare.

The legal recognition of animal rights has been a relatively recent development, and it has been influenced by a number of factors, including changes in public attitudes towards animals, scientific research on animal behavior and cognition, and the work of animal rights advocates.

There are various theories that are given by different jurists about the rights of animals. Several countries had several different opinions about the animals and most of the countries considered animals as properties and haven't recognized them as individuals with rights. But much later due to moral aspects the debate of animal rights has arouse.

It is necessary to trace the centuries-old philosophers' thoughts and works in order to establish the jurisprudential status, and the historical growth of laws and precedents must also be investigated in order to comprehend the contemporary status that is granted to animals.

Natural law theory

Several Jurists had different opinions in natural law theory. The basic concept of this theory is that eliminating animals from moral concern, but acknowledged a duty not to ill treat them based on the consequences of cruelty humans are capable of inflicting on another species. The two justifications for removing animals from moral concerns were thought to be their lack of reasoning and their use of language.

Aristotle believed in human supremacy. According to him the human beings are the supreme beings in this world and it is not wrong to utilize animals for his needs. This was reflected in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Man was to have dominion over all animals on the planet.

Natural Law theories, commenced by Aristotle, claim that rationality is the morally relevant feature that differentiates humans from other animals. As a result, human beings often use non-human animals at their disposal, which has propelled factory farming and the mistreatment of animals. The ability to reason is what distinguishes humans from other animals. 1

According to Aquinas it is justifiable to kill the animals for the survival of the human beings and for their consumption purposes. According to his belief law is made by the God for the Human beings on this planet and hence the natural law doesn't take animals into consideration.

Hugo Grotius
His ideology states that animals must be treated as things that are useful for the human beings. According to him, the animals can't be provided with any rights and justice system. He was one of the best thinkers and a Christian theologian of that time. He did not give any importance for the rights of animals and the legal or moral recognition to them. He just gave the importance for humans and human needs in his theory.

The famous theologian Descartes has developed the 'Animal Machine' theory that asserts that the violent grumbles of canines being beaten or tormented were only the noises of a faulty machine, rather than screams of excruciating pain. According to him the animals are just with out feelings and are considered to be as machines for the human usage. This theory lack the basic understanding about the feelings of animals.

Humphrey the priest is the 1st person who recognised that animals must be well treated. He also stated that humans and animals have a divine connection which can not be broken by any other force. Since times immemorial the animals have been a part of human beings lives and hence giving them proper treatment is a moral duty of every human being on this planet.

Hobbes theory was entirely against the ideology of giving rights to the animals or even giving them proper treatment as a moral duty. This was because animals can't give their consent due to the language barrier that they have and due to the understanding levels that lack in them. They also can not give their consent for the social contracts that are established in the world.

Hence, due to these reasons Hobbes feel that animals need not have any moral treatment or legal recognition but they can just be seen as objects that are useful for the human survival.

John Locke
According to John Locke animals are just the natural resources like any other plants and trees. They too can be acquired and be used by the people as they use their property and can also be considered as property in the eyes of law. We can have 'natural rights' on the animals just like we have the natural rights on other properties as well.

According to this theorist animals should not be ill treated and they must be provided with some rights as human beings. Animals are also similar to human beings and have feelings just like us. Hence, they should not be entirely excluded and neglected without giving any rights instead they should be ensured with proper treatment and a few rights as required.

Immanuel Kant
Theorist Immanuel Kant states that animals are "man's instruments," and they require protection only in order to assist humans in their interactions with one another. "He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men."

He stated that there are certain similarities that exists between men and animals but still it is not the duty of human beings to look after the animals.

Kant's view was considerably more concerned with obligations than with rights. However, because these obligations are absolute and include considering each rational individual as an end in themselves rather than just as a means to a goal, he should be classified as a rights theorist.

Kant thought that morality is founded on a globally binding intellectual principle known as the categorical imperative. He defined the categorical imperative as a reasonable principle that we must always obey regardless of our conflicting inclinations, and all moral responsibilities are derived from this basic rational need. Unlike Hobbes, who also grounded morality on rational criteria, Kant's view of reason was not purely selfish.

Kant felt that because our treatment of non human animals does not fall within the categorical imperative, we do not owe them any direct responsibilities. As a result, our "duties" to animals are in fact indirect duties to humans.

Positive Law theory:

Jeremy Bentham:
He is one of the most important theologian who stated animal law theory and is the main philosopher of the Positive Law Theory. He supported animal rights and wanted to end the suffering of animals. He took a very different approach compared to any other theologians. He compared animals to human beings and has stated that treating the animals in abusive way is like slavery and racial discrimination.

Auguste Comte
This philosopher believed that there is so much in common that is shared between animals and human beings. According to him it is better to stay with animals and learn and grow along with them instead of just being separated from them and looking down upon those living beings. We all trace our existence from these living beings and hence they are very much important for our survival in the present world.

Utilitarian theory
This theory was established on the grounds that animal suffering must be considered in the present world. It did not give equal moral status to animals as that of human beings but has considered the ill treatment by which animals do suffer. This was because the animals lack the reflective capacities that are present in the human beings.

Previously, merely human interests were considered important; however, this changed with the introduction of the concept of equal consideration of human and animal concerns by philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Peter Singer, a well-known modern philosopher, expounded on this in his 1975 book Animal Liberation.

According to Peter Singer utilitarianism does not start with rules but with goals, and thus has greater normative specificity because actions are prescribed or proscribed based on "the extent to which they further these goals.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the first utilitarian theorists argued that the interests of non human animals should be treated equally with those of humans. They did not, however, perceive the practical repercussions of this philosophy, such as a rejection of animal exploitation or concern about wild animal suffering. However, modern utilitarians have recognised that utilitarianism entails rejecting speciesism.

According to Salmond, human beings are the only living beings that are natural persons. He did not consider animals to either be legal persons or natural persons. They are just things that are the objects of legal rights and responsibilities, but they are never the subjects of them. Even though the animals are capable of acting and have interests, their actions are neither legal nor illegal, and the only legal rights that may be given to them are the right against cruelty and the right to be a beneficiary under a trust.

The community has a legitimate stake in the well-being of even dumb animals, and where the interests of animals and humans collide, the latter are chosen.

Peter singer
Singer passionately favors' animal rights, claiming that his utilitarian viewpoint respects all people and animals equally while rejecting the assumption that humans are always more important merely because they are human, which he refers to as Speciesism.

Singer, a vegetarian advocate, argues that the major harm to animals in society is caused by intensive farming and the terrible techniques employed in animal testing, which he outlines in detail in Animal Liberation. When we evaluate the animals' interests in living and not suffering, we may conclude that these practices' are not ethically defensible under utilitarian philosophy, owing to the enormous number of animals engaged worldwide.

The fundamental criticism of utilitarianism is that it does not examine how awful or good a situation is for distinct individuals, but instead combines all of the positive and negative aspects of the circumstance. Consider the following two possibilities.

Both have the same total quantities of pain and pleasure. However, in one of them, a few people have all the pleasure and none of the suffering, while the rest have all the suffering and none of the pleasure. In the alternative situation, everyone shares the same amount of pain and pleasure. Many people favor the second scenario and, as a result, hold ideas such as equality and prioritarianism. Those who support utilitarianism are apathetic, claiming that distribution is unimportant.

Singer criticizes a restrictive definition of personhood, arguing that certain sentient animals might be more entitled to personhood than some people, based on their particular capacity to suffer and to what extent, and supports contentious ethical issues like as abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide.1

Equality is the main concept of Egalitarianism. According to this theory it is preferable for everyone to have a satisfying degree of happiness rather than for some to enjoy paradisical circumstances while others are in a really miserable situation.

Egalitarians argue that no right should be recognized if it protects the better off by limiting improvement of the worst-off's status. This theory opposes all types of discrimination. Since Egalitarianism promotes equality discrimination of any sort on the animals

Types of Egalitarianism
1st type
According to this type of egalitarians any kind of inequality is preferable than a more equal state. For them equality is not just treating everyone equally but to have equality amongst equals.

2nd type
This section of people do not agree that all inequality is bad or wrong, but believe that inequality is only undesirable when individuals are not responsible for it, not when it is someone else's fault that they are worse off than others.

According to Egalitarianism taking advantage of animals is not allowed. Animal exploitation widens the gap between humans and animals, making their lives unpleasant. As a result, equality suggests that we should reject animal exploitation and, as a result, advocate a vegan diet.

Egalitarianism encourages us to work to enhance animal welfare. We may do this by promoting care for all sentient beings and opposing speciesism. As a result, egalitarianism encourages involvement in animal welfare activity.

Egalitarianism advocates for aiding animals that, while not directly exploited by people, are being hurt in ways that we can help. This implies that we should encourage initiatives to assist wild animals and so alleviate wild animal suffering.

Prioritarianism is an ethical philosophy which states that we should make everyone's situation better, but should focus especially on those who are less fortunate. Based on some interpretations and views of prioritarianism, we should simultaneously alleviate suffering and improve individual happiness. However, doing so for those in worse conditions is more vital than doing so for those in better positions. Other kinds of prioritarianism believe that enhancing happiness is not an important aspect. We should solely focus on alleviating pain, and alleviating the suffering of those who are less fortunate. That is more essential than alleviating the suffering of those who are better situated.

Positive Prioritarianism
Prioritarianism prioritises improving net happiness, but it also considers how pain and happiness are divided between individuals. It is more vital to raise the happiness of people who are unhappy than it is to increase the happiness of those who are happy.

Negative Prioritarianism
Prioritarians that agree with suffering-focused ethics will prioritise reducing suffering above enhancing pleasure, and will prioritise minimising the suffering of people in poorer circumstances. If they give not just partial importance, but absolute precedence to reducing suffering above promoting pleasure, their point of view is known as negative prioritarianism.
Sufficientarianism -

Sufficientarianism is a distributive justice theory. Rather than being concerned with disparities per se or with improving the status of the poorest among us, sufficientarian justice seeks to ensure that each of us has enough.

Sufficientarianism holds that all persons should be in a sufficiently excellent state. There is a level below which one lives a miserable life for sufficientarians, and it is critical that all persons achieve or surpass this standard. Sufficientarians prioritise people below the threshold because it is more necessary to aid those below the threshold than those above it.

However, once all people have reached the threshold, sufficientarians are either slightly or wholly apathetic about how things are allocated. This distinguishes sufficientarianism from prioritarianism, because prioritarianism favours the least fortunate even if everyone enjoys a nice life.1

Sufficientarianism is a philosophy of justice that emphasises the idea that everyone should have enough. When it comes to economic distribution, Frankfurt emphasises that the ethically significant issue is that everyone has enough, not that everyone has the same. According to Roemer, this may be seen as increasing the number of those who have enough.

Modern contractarianism and moral standards are derived on the concept of a contract or mutual agreement. The goal is for the parties to come to an agreement that is agreeable to everyone.

The concept of Contractarianism derives from the 17th and 18th century social contract theories concerning the legitimacy of political power. These theories emerged during the time of the Enlightenment, when established ideals were being challenged. The denial of divine right of monarchs was especially important in the development of social contract theory. The social contract hypothesis was created to provide a solution to this challenge.
Thomas Hobbes -

According to him the inherent state of mankind was pre-political; nobody had control over another, and no one had any obligation to assist safeguard the interests of others.

He described this condition of nature as one of war, in which life was generally was very tough for everyone and each living being has to run for their survival. Hobbes believed that people come together willingly to form a political system in order to avoid this perilous condition. Each would see that life in its natural nature is hazardous, because each individual is capable of injuring others while also being vulnerable to injury.

Thomas Scanlon
In Scanlon's theory, individuals are motivated both by their own self-interest and by basic respect for other persons.

Scanlon ensures fairness by:
  1. assuming that all individuals want to reach an agreement that will be acceptable to all and
  2. stipulating what counts as reasonable grounds for rejecting a principle.

John Rawls':

In Rawls point of view, the "original position" should be hidden behind a "veil of ignorance" that prevents them from knowing what their own position in society would be.

This implies someone may be born into a poor or wealthy household, for example, and not knowing would maintain their neutrality.

Animal Right Theories:
Rights-based theories:
These theories propose that animals have inherent rights that should be protected. These rights may include the right to life, liberty, and freedom from pain and suffering. Rights-based theories reject the idea that animals are mere property to be used by humans and argue that animals have their own inherent value.

Rights theories can refer to moral rights or legal rights. Moral rights are generally conceived of as rights that a being is born with or possesses by virtue of their nature. Legal Rights are government-recognized laws established and upheld to protect some interests.

There are 4 types of theories. They are:

Realist Theories
Rights holders possess rights as one of their inherent characteristics. We must either recognise and respect those rights or fight for them to be recognised.

Constructivist Theories
Based on the constructivist views, the ideal explanation for the way to treat morally significant individuals is to grant them rights and respect those rights, or to fight for those rights to be respected.

Constructivist theory does not accept that rights holders have rights as something intrinsic. Rather, it claims that individuals choose to grant them to each other. It defends this as a good thing to do.

Deontological theories
This theory claim that there are some rules that we must always follow regardless of the circumstances.

Consequentialist Theories
This theory implies that we should focus on maximisation of the rights that are respected and minimise the rights that are infringed, regardless of whether we or others respect or violate them, and whether the violation occurs now or in the future.

"Speciesism" refers to the belief that only humans are ethically considered. Richard Ryder invented this word in the 1970s while campaigning in Oxford to describe a widespread sort of human centred prejudice that he believed was related to racism. He argued that it was wrong to favour one's own species while exploiting or injuring members of other species. Peter Singer popularised the phrase and emphasised on how speciesism, without moral justification, benefits human interests.

When there is a conflict between the interests of members of his own race and interests of members of another race, the racist breaches the concept of equality. The speciesist permits his own species' interests to take precedence over the larger interests of members of other species.

This concept that humans have the right to utilise nonhuman creatures, and it is widespread in modern culture, according to experts. According to studies, persons who favour animal exploitation are more likely to hold racist, sexist, and other prejudiced ideas, which helps to legitimise systems of inequality and oppression based on human supremacy and group domination.

Pure Speciesism
Pure speciesism takes the concept of human superiority to its logical conclusion, claiming that the most insignificant human desire is more essential than the fundamental requirements of other species.

Human Exceptionalism
Many individuals believe that humans are so much superior to all other categories of organisms that biological processes do not apply to them. This profound isolation of humans from all other forms of life promotes environmental catastrophe and an intractable sense of loneliness among humanity. Nature has only utilitarian or use worth, not inherent value, according to this humanist superiority complex.

The majority of the abilities supposed to differentiate humans as ethically accountable beings appear to have been observed, however in the non-human world. Because human behaviour and cognition have deep origins in animal behaviour and cognition, techniques that seek to draw strong behavioural or cognitive boundaries between humans and other animals remain problematic. As a result, attempts to show human uniqueness by pinpointing specific capacities are not the most fruitful when considering the moral position of animals.

Hence, according to the changing times the theorists had come up with new ideologies and it is necessary to trace the centuries-old philosophers' thoughts and works in order to establish the jurisprudential status, and the historical growth of laws and precedents must also be investigated in order to comprehend the contemporary status that is granted to animals.

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  1. Anuja Elizabeth Jacob, Jurisprudential Status of Animals, Volume 5, Issue 5, International Journal For Law Management And Humanities Pages 01-07 2021
  2. Rachel Tobias, Allowing Animal Rights: Contra Natural Law Arguments, IDEAEXCHANGE.UAKRON.EDU (Mar. 20, 2023, 5:40 PM)
  3. Animal Ethics Org, (Mar. 29, 2023)
  4. Advocates For Animals,, (Mar. 30, 2023)
  5. Gary L. Francione, Animal Rights Theory and Utilitarianism: Relative Normative Guidance, Volume 5 Issue 3, Between The Species page 1, pages 1-30 (1998)
  6. Animal Ethics. Org,
  7. Advocates For Animals,, (Mar. 30, 2023)
  8. Advocates For Animals, (Mar. 30, 2023)
  9. Gosseries, Axel, Sufficientarianism, ROUTLEDGE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY (Mar. 30, 2023 8 PM),
  10. Liam Shields, Suffecientarianism, Compass. Online Library (Mar. 30, 2023 9:20 PM), ANIMAL ETHICS. ORG, (Last Visited Apr. 1, 2023)
  11. Sufficientarianism, (Last Visited Apr. 1, 2023)
  12. Contractariansm, (Last Visited Apr 2, 2023)
  13. RIGHTS THEORIES, (Last Visited Apr 3, 2023)
  14. Gruen, Lori, "The Moral Status of Animals", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
  15. Wikipedia,, (Last Visited Apr. 1, 2023)
  17. Encyclopedia,
  18. Gregg Henriques, On Human Exceptionalism, PSYCHOLOGY TODAY BLOGS (Apr. 5, 2023),
  19. Verlyn klinkenborg, Animal 'Personhood': Muddled Alternative to Real Protection, (Apr. 5, 2023),
  20. RSPCA,

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