‘Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society’ Conference 2012

March 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

This weekend I presented at the Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society conference at Exeter University. My paper, ‘Animals as Property: The Adequacy of Current Legal Protection’ was delivered at a panel alongside prominent independent scholar and campaigner Kim Stallwood, chaired by Mark Gold.


[Question and answer session following my paper. CPAS 2012]

Below is the abstract for my paper.

“The current methods of legal protection for animals have been in development for around two hundred years, but the prevailing method of protection and all currently enforceable legislation is rooted in welfare, where animals are protected by virtue of their status as property rather than through the ascription of actual rights. This raises many questions about the validity of the legal rights movement, the capability of animals to possess such rights, and whether the current measures for protection are adequate.

By way of an introduction, the core domestic legal protections applicable to farm animals will be discussed briefly, with the intention of highlighting and critically discussing key issues for the benefit of a multidisciplinary audience. Having established these ‘black letter’ legal parameters, the central focus of the presentation will be the debate between the conflicting opinions of animal advocates – those who submit that supposed improvements to animal welfare via legislative provisions are an effective means of bettering the lives of farm animals, and those who attest that welfare campaigns orchestrated under the current legal system are trite, meaningless, bound by human/economic interests and fail to confront or provide adequate protection against the main sources of animal suffering.

Illustrative examples will be drawn from our own domestic system, as well as other world legal systems such as the United States and New Zealand in order to provide a measure of comparative analysis with systems that have made pioneering moves towards limited recognition of rights for some animals, as well as to highlight recurrent issues concerning customary husbandry practices, the economic motivations which may hinder or expedite legislative change, and the prosecutorial/sentencing systems generally.”

The handout that I distributed as part of my presentation is available here.

It was thrilling to speak before such a large and engaging audience, and I was genuinely touched that my paper was so well received. Though the subject on which I presented is entirely divorced from the subject of my doctoral research, I maintain both a strong personal and academic interest in the topic and look forward to developing my research in new directions in the future.

Many of the presentations were recorded on video and should be published online at some point. I will endeavour to update this post with the appropriate links in the future. My thanks go out to the conference organisers Jess Gröling, Nikki Shaw, Daniel Van Strien and my good friend Nathan Stephens-Griffin for assembling a thoroughly interesting programme of speakers and in creating an environment in which academics and activists could build dialogues and participate in constructive exchanges.

- Lee McConnell

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