Do Animals Need Citizenship?

Int J Constitutional Law (2015) 13 (3): 749-765. doi: 10.1093/icon/mov046

Posted: 9 Dec 2014 Last revised: 10 Dec 2015

See all articles by William A. Edmundson

William A. Edmundson

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: July 17, 2015


An ambitious proposal by Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka seeks to break out of an impasse that animal-rights advocacy seems to have reached. They divide the animal kingdom into three categories and distribute rights accordingly. Domesticated animals are to be treated as citizens enjoying the same rights and duties as human citizens (adjusting for relative differences in ability, just as we do for children and the severely cognitively handicapped). Wild animal species are to be treated as sovereign nations having rights to their territories. Liminal animals are to be treated as resident aliens. This article is a critique of this "Citizenship Theory" of animal rights. One theme of the critique questions whether citizenship and sovereignty are in fact doing the normative work that Citizenship Theory represents them as doing. Another theme questions whether rights of citizenship and sovereignty can be of use to the animals Citizenship Theory would bestow them on. The overarching theme is skeptical of the assumed framework of sovereignty and territorial rights. If what animals can better benefit from are cosmopolitan rights, then the more promising development of animal rights theory lies in that direction.

Keywords: citizenship, sovereignty, animal rights, animals, rights, philosophy, political philosophy, ethics

JEL Classification: K00, Z00

Suggested Citation

Edmundson, William A., Do Animals Need Citizenship? (July 17, 2015). Int J Constitutional Law (2015) 13 (3): 749-765. doi: 10.1093/icon/mov046. Available at SSRN: or

William A. Edmundson (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
85 Park Place NE
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
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