Initiating a Non-Anthropocentric Jurisprudence: The Rule of Law and Animal Vulnerability Under a Property Paradigm


  • Maneesha Deckha



This article discusses a recent Canadian entry to the accretion of legal texts which question, to various degrees, law’s anthropocentrism: the dissenting judgment of the Alberta Court of Appeal in Reece v. Edmonton (City of). Written by Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, the 162-paragraph dissent stands out in the Canadian landscape (and is impressive even in the international scene) given the existing Canadian law addressing animal issues that either regulate animals as objects and/or subordinate animal interests to human or corporate ones. This article argues that the dissent in Reece departs from the standard legal instrumentalist view of animals by providing a non-anthropocentric analysis of the animal interests at stake. The decision thus provides a new way of thinking about animals when compared to the existing Canadian jurisprudence. The dissent’s departure from the traditional anthropocentric legal view of animals is seen in three main ways: (1) the level of importance it assigns to the animal interest legally at issue by connecting it to the rule of law; (2) the respect it affords to critiques of animals’ current legal status (including the animal rights critique seeking to abolish the property status of animals and the default subordination of animal interests to human or corporate ones); and (3) the empathy and respect it gives to the individual animal at the heart of the legal dispute by recognizing her as a sentient and vulnerable being whose subjectivity matters. The cumulative effect is a judgment that not only provides the most sophisticated Canadian judicial analysis to date of the law’s relationship to animals, but impugns the traditional anthropocentric paradigm through which the law minimally responds to (some) animal suffering.





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