Monday, October 22, 2007
The Houston Chronicle recently reported that more and more law schools across the country are offering courses specifically devoted to animal law. Unfortunately, this does not reflect a growing respect for the property rights of animal owners, nor is it merely a symptom of governmental intrusion into yet another area of our lives.
Today, she said, more large firms want to take on animal cases pro bono and that an animal law conference held this spring at Harvard was sold out.Instead, this trend represents a disturbing manifestation of a fundamental failure to grasp the concept of rights by those whose duty it is to protect them on a day-to-day basis -- the legal profession.
"This decade, an attorney can go into court and not be laughed at for being an animal lawyer, when 10 years ago they would have been laughed at," said Alexander, who helps develop programs for law education and legal practices. "It's gone from the fringe to mainstream."
The recent headlines reflect the shift in society's views about animals and how to protect them, officials said.
"We're at the beginning of the coming of age in animal law," said Amy Bures Danna, an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center and an attorney who takes some animal cases.
"People are becoming more aware of animals and animal protection. Our social values are broadening and are becoming deeper and are accompanying animals in different ways." [bold added]
As the article's lead-in from the Michael Vick story portends -- this "awareness" and these "broadening" "values", reflected in the "coming of age in animal law" reflect a reciprocal societal forgetfulness about the rights of human beings.
The notion that a being has political rights is based on the premise that said being is possessed of the faculty of reason, and can be prevented from exercising this faculty only by the initiation of force by others. Integral to a society-wide respect for individual rights is reciprocity, whereby a rational being understands that to be able to expect the freedom to profit from his own thinking (and that of others via trade), he must respect the rights of others.
Animals possess neither reason nor the ability to understand or respect the rights of others. Therefore, the concept of political rights does not apply to them at all. The only legal protection properly afforded to an animal extends from the property rights of any owner it may have.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a specialization in the practice of law pertaining to animals -- provided it is premised on the protection of the individual rights of rational animals. Too bad that the law schools described in this article are starting to churn out attorneys interested in precisely the opposite goal: the erosion of the rights of the only animals -- humans -- who have them, and the unleashing of irrational animals upon us to boot.
10-23-07: Minor edit.