Modern Science… Archaic Law

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on January 3, 2012

Modern science has erased any doubt that animals can think, feel, and communicate in many of the ways we once thought uniquely human. Yet our laws concerning animals are still rooted in the era when we largely believed that they were little more than simple machines. This fundamental disconnect remains at the heart of our treatment of animals and, sadly, has allowed us to create such horrors as the veal crate, gestation crate, battery cage, puppy mill, etc. It’s allowed us to justify the systematic torture of animals for purposes so trivial as testing cosmetics or making elephants perform silly tricks. It has allowed us to deny animals the most fundamental of legal rights.

But as science continues to destroy the myth that animals’ rights are not worthy of legal consideration, we draw closer to the day when the courts will not be able to deny them any longer either. The law has traditionally lagged behind science and ethics – even when it came to protecting once relatively powerless humans, like children, African Americans, and women. But our laws have the capacity to evolve. It is an exciting time for animal law and the Animal Legal Defense Fund is pushing the law forward every day.

Here are a couple of recent news stories about this trend in science:

In today’s New York Times, an article discusses the rise of classes at universities that focus on the human/animal relationship.

A recent article added another dimension to the cognitive ability of rats, finding that they demonstrated a high degree of empathy for their fellow rats.


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