Expanding Global Justice: The Case for the International Protection of Animals

Expanding Global Justice: The Case for the International Protection of Animals

This article examines and rejects the view that nonhuman animals cannot be recipients of justice, and argues that the main reasons in favor of universal human rights and global justice also apply in the case of the international protection of the interests of nonhuman animals. In any plausible theory of wellbeing, sentience matters; mere species membership or the place where an animal is born does not. This does not merely entail that regulations of the use of animals aimed at reducing their suffering should be implemented. It actually supports the end of such use, as well as other positive steps to provide help and to promote what is good not only for domesticated animals, but also for those living in the wild. Another reason to bring the protection of animals' interests into the international arena is that it is at this level that numerous animal exploitation industries enjoy the protection of different agreements and institutions. It does not follow from this that changing international law should be animal advocates' first priority, but it does follow that they should conduct their work internationally and not limit it to their own countries.

Policy Implications

  • An international body should be constituted that is aimed at the protection of all sentient animals globally. Unlike the Organization for Animal Health (OIE) or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna (CITES), the purpose of this organization should not be to further human interests concerning how animals are used, nor to promote environmentalist aims that are concerned with animals only as members of certain salient species. Rather, its purpose should be the protection of the interests of nonhuman animals as sentient individuals.
  • International subsidies to industries whose activities harm nonhuman animals should be brought to an end.
  • The WTO accepts that human rights cannot be violated for the sake of free trade. A similar position should be maintained in the case of the protection of nonhuman animals. No domestic or supranational legislation aimed at protecting animals should be targeted, even if it means a ban on certain imports from other countries.
  • Animal advocacy NGOs and private organizations should aim to spread their work beyond their home countries to the international arena. In particular, given how little public awareness there is about the need for global justice for animals in many countries, they should consider using significant resources to carry out public education on this topic.
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