A writer at io9 has rounded up and nicely packaged the question about “animal personhood.” From the perspective of my legal training, I just cannot see how animals could be considered “persons” beyond traditional conservation efforts. How, for example, would we tax animals to provide them with services? Would stealing someone’s pet be felony kidnapping (currently, pets are considered property)? And, for my law friends: How would state constitutions be updated to provide for the “health, safety, and welfare” of animals in the same way as people?
But, as the article shows, a group of researchers and legal scholars feel strongly about the issue. In fact, they’re trying to make it happen. What a great read. From the opening paragraphs:
A grassroots movement has recently emerged in which a number of scientists, philosophers, ethicists and legal experts have rallied together in support of the idea that some nonhuman animals are persons and thus deserving of human-like legal protections. Their efforts have subsequently thrown conventional notions of personhood into question by suggesting that humans aren’t the only persons on the planet. So what is a person, exactly? We spoke to two experts to find out.
To help with the discussion, we spoke to Lori Marino, Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience at Emory University and the Science Director for the Nonhuman Rights Project (not to be confused with the IEET's Rights of the Nonhuman Persons Program, of which I am the founder and Chair), and John Shook, a Research Associate in Philosophy and faculty member of the Science and the Public EdM online program at the University at Buffalo.
As we learned through our conversations with them, it may be some time before we reach consensus on what truly constitutes a person, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that many nonhuman animals are smarter and more aware than previously thought — what will certainly upset our notions of their legal and moral standing.
It’s worth reading the rest: When does an animal count as a person?