'Nations Like Unto Yourselves': An Inquiry into the Status of a General Principle of International Law on Animal Welfare

49 Canadian Yearbook of International Law 2011

47 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2013

See all articles by Katie Sykes

Katie Sykes

Thompson Rivers University - Faculty of Law; Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

This article proposes that there is a general principle of international law concerning the humane treatment of animals. Preoccupation with “animal rights” has been associated with Western cultural imperialism masquerading as a universal ethic. The issue of animal welfare is thus an instructive example of what Jutta Brunnée and Stephen Toope have identified as the key challenge for international law of “construct[ing] normative institutions while admitting and upholding the diversity of peoples in international society.” The article applies the framework of interactive international law that is set out in Brunnée and Toope’s recent book Legitimacy and Legality in International Law, while raising questions about the weight that their analysis accords to practice and their willingness to conclude that widely recognized principles to which states fail to adhere in practice lack legal force. The article also examines how laws prohibiting cruelty to animals have emerged precisely from an interactive cultural exchange between East and West, in particular between England and India. It concludes that Brunnée and Toope’s framework, although it does not deal at any length with general principles of law (a source of international law in which practice plays a relatively minor role), is a useful tool for understanding how a culturally contested principle fits into international law, and ultimately supports the view that there is a general principle of international law concerning animal welfare.

Keywords: Animal rights, animal welfare, public international law, general principles of international law

Suggested Citation

Sykes, Katie, 'Nations Like Unto Yourselves': An Inquiry into the Status of a General Principle of International Law on Animal Welfare (2013). 49 Canadian Yearbook of International Law 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2221897

Katie Sykes (Contact Author)

Thompson Rivers University - Faculty of Law ( email )

900 McGill Road
Kamloops, British Columbia
Canada

Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law ( email )

6061 University Avenue
6061 University Ave
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4H9
Canada

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