The "Rights" of Property

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.

"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]
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.

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.

-- CAV


: Minor edit.


Andrew Dalton said...

A lack of rational principles in the universities, and among the public in general, allows these rotten ideas to gain a foothold by desensitization alone. Frog, kettle, water, and all that.

Galileo Blogs said...

Observe that even for animals, the only hope for their good treatment is that humans have secure rights, and they don't. To the degree man's rights are protected, he can afford the luxury of good care of animals in zoos, homes and private game preserves for his enjoyment. When man's rights are protected, he becomes wealthy enough to afford such luxuries.

In contrast, consider the condition of elephants in the wilds of Africa where they are slaughtered to extinction in vast lands owned by no one (except in South Africa) versus the condition of elephants in American zoos, where they are pampered in expansive, landscaped enclosures and tended by humans who do nothing but devise games for the elephants so that they are not bored.

In poor regions of the earth, a dog is food on legs. In America, England and elsewhere, a dog is a beloved pet.

Animal rights activists are pro-animal in the same manner that welfare advocates care for the poor. The common denominator of both is that they seek to shackle man for the alleged pursuit of their goals.

Gus Van Horn said...

And note the difference a decade makes. Viewed from a long perspective, that kettle comes to a boil rather quickly.

Gus Van Horn said...


Your comment didn't show up in the queue until I'd answered Andrew's.

You make an excellent point and, incidentally, remind me of a post that illustrates both your point about animal welfare and your point about harming man: Recall the recent use of force in Zimbabwe to prevent starving people from eating a giraffe.


Galileo Blogs said...


In a grand circle, your post on Zimbabwe has come back on itself. I had read it some months before and it jelled in my mind before it came back to you in its present form, in my post. I had forgotten it, but its message remained.

Your Zimbabwe post was thought-provoking as was a factoid I read recently that dogs in Canada have no wait for MRI scans, but humans have to wait six months.

If only vets were trained in the medicine of large bipedal animals, in addition to their training in the medicine of four-legged animals.


Gus Van Horn said...

Your last suggests the use of "vets for rational bipeds" as an amusing way to refer to physicians around animal "rights" activists -- and potentially instructive around those they wish to fool if used in the right context.