Initiating a Non-Anthropocentric Jurisprudence: The Rule of Law and Animal Vulnerability under a Property Paradigm

55 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2013

See all articles by Maneesha Deckha

Maneesha Deckha

University of Victoria - Faculty of Law


This Article discusses a recent Canadian entry to the accretion of legal texts questioning, in various degrees, law’s anthropocentrism: the dissenting judgment of the Alberta Court of Appeal in Reece v. City of Edmonton. Written by Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, the 162-paragraph dissent stands out in the Canadian landscape (and is impressive even in the international scene) given the existing Canadian law addressing animal issues that either regulate animals as objects and/or subordinate animal interests to human or corporate ones. This Article argues that the dissent in Reece departs from the standard legal instrumentalist view of animals by providing a non-anthropocentric analysis of the animal interests at stake. The decision thus provides a new way of thinking about animals when compared to the existing Canadian jurisprudence. The dissent’s departure from the traditional anthropocentric legal view of animals is seen in three main ways: 1) the level of importance it assigns to the animal interest legally at issue by connecting it to the rule of law; 2) the respect it affords to critiques of animals’ current legal status (including the animal rights critique seeking to abolish the property status of animals and the default subordination of animal interests to human or corporate ones); and 3) the empathy and respect it affords to the individual animal at the heart of the legal dispute by recognizing her as a sentient and vulnerable being whose subjectivity matters. The cumulative effect is a judgment that not only provides the most sophisticated Canadian judicial analysis to date of the law’s relationship to animals, but impugns the traditional anthropocentric paradigm through which the law minimally responds to (some) animal suffering and instantiates legal recognition of the subjectivity of sentient animals.

Keywords: animal law, animals, nonhuman, property, vulnerability, rule of law, posthumanism, sentience, emotions, suffering

Suggested Citation

Deckha, Maneesha, Initiating a Non-Anthropocentric Jurisprudence: The Rule of Law and Animal Vulnerability under a Property Paradigm. Alberta Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 4, 2013, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Maneesha Deckha (Contact Author)

University of Victoria - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2Y2
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