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A Radical Animal Rights Proposal

Ville Kokko

Posted on February 10, 2019 12:15

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In Finland, a group of activists and lawyers have drafted a proposal to take animal rights seriously in the constitution. What makes it radical is simply that the laws never really take them seriously anywhere.

The Finnish Animal Rights Law Society has a proposal to alter the constitution of Finland to take animal rights into account.

I would describe the change as radical because it would make the law take nonhuman animals' rights seriously – and that would be something new.

Am I implying Finland has had particularly poor laws for the protection of animals so far? No, that's not the point. I'm saying nobody has laws that take animal rights seriously. What we currently have is built around the idea that humans can exploit other animals almost however they like, and the laws try to make us be nicer about it.

Even as such, the laws can often be inadequate. But what they don't even try to do is start with the rights of other animals before asking what we may do with them.

The proposal of the Finnish Animal Rights Law Society does. They are connected with the US Nonhuman Rights Project, and are taking the idea at least as far, if not further.

The proposal is detailed, of course – I'm on a small board of philosophy majors who have been asked to evaluate the details, which have been drafted by lawyers – but the basic idea is simple. If nonhuman animals really have rights, then human interests don't automatically trump them.

So, for example, we may take for granted our interest in eating meat, but since it's no longer a true necessity for us, it's not justified to use animals for meat production. Our culinary preferences do not take precedence over the lives of others.

Such reasoning no doubt seems absurd to many. Really, it follows quite logically if you actually start reasoning ethics from the beginning instead of taking the status quo and all our biases as given.

Unsurprisingly, the proposal has drawn ire already. People on the whole are not interested in expanding the circle of whom they take morally into account into new, inconvenient fields. If most of us bother to do any moral reasoning at all about nonhuman animals, we're ready to dismiss the question of eating or otherwise exploiting them with something facile like "It's natural."

We might ask hard questions about when it's right to take the life of another being to preserve your own. That's not what anyone usually does. They just take it for granted you may.

I'm not expecting the constitution to really be changed at this point. There's too much inertia against such a radical change, no matter how reasonable it would be in theory. Visa Kurki of the Finnish Animal Rights Society also comments that he expects change to be slow, but this will get the conversation started.

Kurki also mentions awareness of climate change and the imminent availability of cultured meat as factors that may help with the change. Cultured meat is something I have really been looking forward to for just that reason.

Ville Kokko

Posted on February 10, 2019 12:15

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­Opinion The USDA and FDA recently announced their historic agreement to jointly regulate meat grown from animal cells,...

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