Moving Beyond Animal Rights: A Legal/Contractualist Critique

59 Pages Posted: 30 May 2009 Last revised: 23 Oct 2013

See all articles by Richard L. Cupp

Richard L. Cupp

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law

Date Written: May 29, 2009


Since important legal victories against racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s, many legal scholars and lawyers have been increasingly attracted to the "romance of rights." For these scholars and lawyers, analogies to the civil rights movement seem especially appealing as vehicles for achieving societal change in new fields. Animal Law is perhaps the fastest growing field of study in American legal education and scholarship, and calls for legal rights for some or all animals are rapidly expanding. This Article critiques comparisons between rights sought for animals and rights assigned to infant humans, mentally incapable adult humans, and corporations. It argues that legal and societal reforms regarding animals are better suited to social contract - contractualist - ideals than to creation of new rights. Contrary to the increasingly frequent assertions of some animal rights theorists, appropriate treatment of animals in a manner that benefits society's overall interests is attainable through focusing on human responsibility for animal welfare under social contract principles. Developing an artificial construct of formal rights for animals would be harmful both to humans and, ultimately, to animals.

Keywords: animal, animal rights, discrimination, civil rights, romance of rights, animal law, contract, social contract, contractualist, animal welfare

Suggested Citation

Cupp, R.L., Moving Beyond Animal Rights: A Legal/Contractualist Critique (May 29, 2009). San Diego Law Review, Vol. 46, 2009, Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009/11, Available at SSRN:

R.L. Cupp (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
(310) 506-4658 (Phone)

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