Currently, the world is dominated by human focussed, anthropocentric laws, which means that animal interests will always be trumped by their practical use to humans. Personhood is a primary theory used to try and protect animals. However, this week guest writer Bethan Smith will explore another approach, this being biocentrism. This approach is founded on the idea of equality, giving animals value in their own right.
What is Anthropocentrism?
Anthropocentrism is a theory that believes humans are the central, most important entities in existence. Therefore, it attempts to validate mankind’s domination of animals. Anthropocentrism within legal systems creates hierarchies of protections based on the values societies prescribe, resulting in the poor treatment of animals.
What is Personhood?
Personhood is a theory commonly used to try and combat anthropocentrism in the law by giving animals legal personhood status, this being bringing animals, or certain animals, to a level under the law that prescribes certain rights. Courts have largely dismissed personhood for animals.
What is Biocentrism?
Biocentrism’s progressive equality-based thinking can help reform current legal approaches by giving moral consideration to all animals. The case M.K. Ranjitsinh vs Union of India (2021) shows that biocentrism can realistically work in the law. The case involved the gravely endangered Great Indian Bustard which was being killed by overhead power lines. Judges favoured a biocentric approach and ordered the power lines to be moved underground, to save the birds. Biocentrism promotes respectful legal approaches for all animals.
Biocentrism’s potential value to animal law
Biocentrism can produce practical changes to legal systems because it challenges current approaches and provides an alternative approach. Issues with the poor treatment of animals are generally challenged on moral and ethical grounds. Therefore, finding a morally sound approach to help progress the law is ideal.
Nature functions in a biocentric manner, by adopting a biocentric approach legal systems would be working in harmony with the law of nature. Producing a morally sound approach. One of the main practical changes biocentrism would create in the law would be to have moral consideration for both humans and animals. Resulting in legal and political consideration for all animals. Thus animals would no longer be valued by their instrumental value, usually based on their financial worth. Instead, animals would have intrinsic value, which values animals in their own right.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006, under section 2(c) excludes wild animals from the Act. This exclusion leaves wild animals vulnerable. The subjectivity of laws would be changed through biocentrism which could create holistic objective standards for companion, farmed and wild animals, filling current gaps in the law.
Biocentrism offers a way forward to reframe society’s attitudes towards animals. Biocentrism has the potential to fill gaps in current legislation to protect all animals in a non-discriminatory manner. A biocentric approach working in harmony with nature and is founded on a morally sound approach.
This blog post is not legal advice. For more information on the services Advocates for Animals offers please contact firstname.lastname@example.org