Connecting moral status to proper legal status

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This chapter entertains three proposals as to the connection between an animal’s moral status and what legal status it ought to have. The first proposal is this strong claim: that an act wrongs an animal is a justification for criminalizing it. The second proposal is this moderate claim: that an act constitutes an injustice to an animal is a justification for criminalizing it. Both of these proposals can be vindicated if an argument for legal moralism that the author constructs, drawing on the work of Michael Moore, is sound. Meanwhile, Martha Nussbaum, Alasdair Cochrane, and Robert Garner have each argued for the second proposal. The chapter demonstrates that all four of these arguments are unsound. The third proposal is this claim: it is obligatory for legislators to eliminate any aspect of the law that facilitates the wronging of animals. This proposal, the author argues, is sound. Comparatively weak though this proposal is, the chapter extracts from it radical implications for animal ownership and state funding of medical research on animal subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRethinking moral status
EditorsSteve Clarke, Hazem Zohny, Julian Savulescu
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780191915208
ISBN (Print)9780192894076
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2021


  • Animals
  • Moral status
  • Legal personhood
  • Legal moralism
  • Property
  • Martha Nussbaum
  • Alasdair Cochrane
  • Robert Garner
  • Michael Moore


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