Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights

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Donaldson and Kymlicka resist the abolitionist argument, defended most notably by Gary Francione, which holds that domesticated animals are inevitably exploited animals and that, therefore, relations between humans and domesticated animals are necessarily unjust. The authors are slightly misleading in their construal of the abolitionist position. They suggest that abolition here means abolition of domesticated animals , which is not exactly correct, even though the abolition of domesticated animals is an eventuality of the abolitionist argument as conceived by Francione and others.

Abolitionists seek to abolish all animal exploitation. In other words, we can establish ethical relationships with the domesticated animals amongst us by granting them a nuanced form of citizenship. The authors maintain that the traditional idea of citizenship, both in the popular imagination and political theory, over-emphasizes and over-values rational and intellectual capacities — to the detriment of not only nonhuman animals but also many humans, including the mentally disabled.

Nonhuman animals, like many and arguably all humans, depend upon others to attend to and facilitate their agencies. In contrast to domesticated animals, wild animals are not part of human society, and do not, in general, rely upon humans to meet their needs and wants. It would not make sense, then, to grant them membership in human communities; indeed, it would do them no good. Instead, with respect to wild animals, Donaldson and Kymlicka turn to the concepts of international justice and sovereignty.

This means only interfering in wild animal communities when doing so would facilitate them in their own self-determined projects. Because all livable territory not presently settled by human beings is occupied to some degree by wild animals, and given the tremendous destruction that human settlement wreaks on wild animal communities, further human encroachment on sovereign animal territory is morally indefensible. Liminal animals constitute the final category of nonhuman animal addressed in Zoopolis.

In this model, liminal animals would be protected from the mass extermination that they are so often subjected to, and their way of life in human-animal society would be rightly secured.

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We can keep their populations in check simply by not providing the obvious nesting places and food sources e. Rights theorists emphasise justice, develop general principles and ring-fence the individual. The Once and Future King. Varner Oxford University Press, To oversimplify, much of the debate to date has revolved around the question of the intrinsic moral status of animals. So far we have been talking about basic socialization, like establishing control over bodily processes and impulses, learning basic communication and rules of social interaction, so as to achieve a threshold of social membership. A sovereignty framework, by contrast, insists that we treat the distribution of risks as an issue of justice between sovereign communities.

Perhaps the most conspicuous of these is their comparison of human slaves and domesticated animals. They point out that Americans abolished slavery without abolishing the individuals themselves who had been slaves; therefore, they argue, we can abolish the exploitation of domesticated animals without abolishing the animals themselves. They use this analogy to counter the claims of animal rights theorists like Francione, who argue that the existence of domesticated animals is inherently unjust.

In the case of domesticated animals, however, groups have been biologically, and in many cases irreversibly, altered through human intervention. Their sloppiness with this analogy and others, analogies that are not in any case essential to their argument, detracts unfortunately from their otherwise exceptionally well-reasoned theory.

Animal rights theory is not only political on account of its scope the need to collectively institute the standards in question as well as their public sanctioning.

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It is political through and through, deriving our obligations from the diverse relationships we have with different animal groups , and organising those relationships according to the conceptual logic of citizenship. Shifting from the sphere of ethics to that of politics also involves abandoning an exclusively internalist point of view.

source site Expanding animal rights theory in this way means enhancing the theory of the animal subjectivity of analyzing animal groups , which are distinguished from one another according to the different means they have of forming a community , among themselves and with us. Rather, the idea is to contemplate the relational foundation of community obligations that are ordered according to the logic of citizenship.

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Animals are sentient beings whose receptiveness to pleasure and pain makes them vulnerable , and who therefore appreciate the world differently according to their preferences. Animals are beings for whom the world and what may be done to it are important, so they have a subjectivity that makes them persons and not things.

Sensitivity, subjectivity and awareness of self and of the world therefore mean the same thing, as well as sufficing to make animals bearers of a number of subjective rights.

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These animal rights are inviolable , in other words they cannot be sacrificed for the good — no matter how great — of another. However, the authors maintain that it is not enough to strive towards eliminating the human exploitation of animals, on account of the irreducible and fruitful nature of the interactions between humans and animals.

Zoopolis: A political theory of animal rights

It is also important to seek to determine what might result from non-instrumentalist, mutually advantageous relations. According to the authors, the animal rights movement must recognize its relative impotence. Admittedly, there has been progress in the area of anti-cruelty legislation and the promotion of animal welfare in Western countries. However, these have had little impact in comparison with the loss of natural habitats due to the expansion of the human population, or the fact that global meat consumption has tripled since and is expected to double again by The practical impasse also and above all betrays an aporia: animal rights theory has been formulated in too-narrow terms, because its adoption of an internalist point of view has greatly reduced its perspective.

It has restricted itself to establishing a list of the rights that animals bear generically , simply on account of their sentience; and it has not taken account of the fact that the richness of the relationship between humans and animals might involve positive obligations for the former towards the latter. This approach — relational hence differential — is not only more fruitful in normative terms, but also more pertinent in theoretical terms.

More specifically, it is the notion of citizenship that would enable the expression of generic negative duties towards animals and specific positive duties towards certain groups of animals. Citizenship first and foremost means belonging fully to a community, which requires that community to incorporate the legitimate interests of its members through different mediations , while also giving them specific responsibilities.

Citizenship can thus be a source of particular rights and duties, in addition to the universal rights that humans enjoy as people and enabling their full realization. And yet, just as this citizenship logic enables three types of communities to be distinguished — citizens, foreigners from outside our borders and foreigners within our borders, in other words, denizens — so it leads to a different treatment for the three animal groups.

According to Donaldson and Kymlicka, the first group is made up of animals that have been domesticated by man, since domestication constitutes both a specific type of relationship one that includes violence and leads to a certain kind of bond by promoting a certain level of sociability, tightening links between individuals and boosting the potential for communication. The authors highlight the fact that even though the domestication process has constituted an injustice, we cannot expect to redress it by eradicating the domesticity that has resulted from it.

Instead, the injustice of domestication demands that fair relations with domestic animals be established. The authors maintain that re-establishing justice means recognizing domestic animals as our fellow citizens, whose own interests should be taken into account when it comes to determining the common good of a community whose members are both human and animal.

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Thus, Kymlicka the theoretician of multicultural citizenship becomes a theoretician of multispecific citizenship. The authors are aware that this idea of animal citizenship is counter-intuitive. Nonetheless, for them, while citizenship is three-dimensional, none of its dimensions can be completely denied to domestic animals. Indeed, citizenship has a dimension of community belonging nationality or residence , a dimension of represented sovereignty belonging to the people on whose behalf the community is governed and a dimension of effective participation political agency.

Extending citizenship to include animals poses no problem as regards the first two points: the first is a fact resulting directly from domestication, which has placed animals at the heart of human society; the second is a fact that is dependent on our decision to take into account the specific interests of domestic animals when considering the common good.

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Zoopolis offers a new agenda for the theory and practice of animal rights. Most animal rights theory focuses on the intrinsic capacities or interests of animals, and. Editorial Reviews. Review. " deeply serious and brilliantly written Zoopolis is in fact a Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights - Kindle edition by Sue.

Granting animals political participation, however, seem more challenging. The authors dismiss this objection by referring to the models of assisted or dependent participation that have been theorized for those with intellectual disabilities. These models show that political participation is not limited to the public use of reason and the vote that confirms a public debate, and that it does not, therefore, require a controlled rational reflexivity but simply a preferential, social and communicative existence.

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They develop an anti-intellectualist conception of citizenship while questioning the meaning we have given to autonomy, which, for all of us, is a dependent or assisted autonomy, albeit to varying degrees. Animals, however, have and express axiological preferences such as a particular food, game, schedule or walking route , and domestic animals have been domesticated for their ability to communicate, which that process has increased further.

We understand the preferences expressed by domestic animals due to our shared intimacy with them, and we can help them to assert those preferences in the decision-making process by granting them a dependent political agency. For example, we would be able to establish an authority that would guarantee that their interests are represented at both local and national level.

The authors of Zoopolis identify the second group of animals as being wild animals that live their lives outside of our society. Donaldson and Kymlicka stand out from other authors for whom the question of our relationship with wild animals always leads to the same maxim: leave them alone. For wild animals, which live away from humans and tend to keep their distance, are nevertheless irreducibly vulnerable to human activity, whether directly taking different animals captive or indirectly disturbing their environment, accidents , and their vulnerability is not fully taken into account by a theory of the generic subjective rights of animals.

The exteriority of the wild does not mean there is no relationship, and that relationship must become subject to the standards of justice. The appropriate political concept is that of sovereignty , of which our traditional understanding needs to be challenged. Sovereignty is understood as the autonomy of a community according to the definition of its social organization within its territory; sovereignty is disconnected from the state as a form with which it has been fundamentally connected for modern thinkers since Bodin and ceases to function as an operator of geographical segregation it no longer means exclusive control of a territory, but a guarantee of sufficient access to the territory in order for the community to thrive.

Once again, we can see the feedback effects of this manner of conceiving the question of human political sovereignty: several sovereign communities may share the same territory, and their sovereignty may take the form of a non-state. This theory of wild animal sovereignty allows a number of standards to be set, similar to those of international justice p.

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This includes animals that have not been domesticated and therefore remain wild, yet live within the same territory as human communities and domestic animals. Their situation is unique, because their adaptation makes them dependent on human proximity, although they do not form a community in the strictest sense with humans, which limits cooperation and communication, while our presence does not modify the mechanisms by which they govern their own social life.

These residents who are not our co-citizens should be granted a right to residence, which not only requires us not to exterminate them but also to accept them fully and to take account of the impact our way of life has on theirs, without, however, having to grant them the full rights and responsibilities pertaining to citizenship.

We would not, therefore, be required to protect them from predators, for example. One of the merits of Zoopolis is that it places the irreducible interaction between humans and animals at the centre of its reflection. While there is no doubting the heuristic relevance of the interactional structure, it is nonetheless true to say that the taxonomy that would precede its application is problematic. The tripartition of animal groups appears somewhat fragile.