Three 200-year old principles governing today's animal law

The following is an independent review of the book “Animals, Welfare and the Law” by University of Lincoln Senior Lecturer, Diane Ryland:

This text, based on twenty nine fundamental principles underlying the human/animal relationship, certainly makes the reader take stock and think at the outset. But the author invites his reader to do more: to use these principles, not only as aids to learning but, more importantly, to assess critically, the current state of the law in order to drive the development of animal welfare law. In this way, his ‘objectivity’ is not set in stone in acknowledging the legality of the status quo, i.e. that the law exists with one primordial legal formula, namely, the prevention of unnecessary and/or unreasonable pain or distress of an animal...…

In the introduction, the reader is motivated to critically assess how the law balances and prioritises the interests and conflicts of key stakeholders attached to the uses of animals in human society with reference to the foundational principles described in the book, which is divided into three parts.

  • Part I, ‘Animal welfare and the need for a critical perspective’, considers in chapter 2 what is so important about animal welfare and the law, emphasising in chapter 3 the need for critical assessment rather than emotional reaction. Tools facilitative of critical appraisal are provided with which the reader is instructed to engage, utilising three key concepts, namely objectivity, authority, and practicality.
  • The foundational principles underpinning animal welfare law are fleshed out in Part II, with ‘Religion and reaction: the foundations of animal welfare law’ being the subject of chapter 4. ‘National law: the public’s voice of what is acceptable’ follows in chapter 5, with chapter 6 entitled “International law is international ‘persuasion’.” A critical and appropriate assessment of the ‘controversial’ use of animals in research and in food production in agriculture and the application of the fundamental principles of animal welfare and the law, constitute the respective content of chapters 7 and 8, in
  • Part III – ‘Putting the principles and law into practice’. Chapter 9 is aptly titled ‘Animal welfare law: the continuing journey’...

This book has something for everyone: A historical perspective; religion; ethics; science; animals as property; criminal law in practice; European Union law and, arguably, sentience; civil law; veterinary responsibilities; international animal welfare principles; international trade law; and case studies….

Overall, this book is an essential resource for the burgeoning number of students and researchers in the evolving interdisciplinary study of animal welfare, standards of protection, and the law. This excellent work provides the much needed springboard of fundamental principles of animal welfare and the law for further critical analysis.

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University of Lincoln Senior Lecturer, Diane Ryland: