In a recent article published this April in the Journal Science entitled “The Rise of Animal Law” by Greg Miller, the author discusses the notable advances in animal rights over the last decades. A primary focus of the article is the role that the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has played in educating current and future lawyers and lawmakers. Over 200 accredited law schools now have ALDF student chapters and classes that discuss the rights of animals as defined by recent changes in state law. While many of the animal rights changes come from cruelty lawsuits, the outcomes of recognizing these rights can be felt in many aspects of human-animal relations, including in the cases of trusts and custody rulings, and if animals are “living property” as one scholar argues.
While animals have been classically defined as property, expanded rights could lead to the possibility of attorneys suing on behalf of animals, when the attorney thinks their rights have been violated. How this will all play out in the highly contested world of biomedical and social experimentation is not yet known. Lawsuits brought against universities and pharmaceutical companies on behalf of animals with rights could potentially limit the amount and quality of animal-based research. In the end, animals will be given rights based on human moral opinion, while animal’s opinions cannot be formally stated. Whether the rights of some animals (apes) will be applied to all animals (mice and rats) remains to be seen in the future; now they are quite compartmentalized by species.