The Appeal to Science and the Formation of Global Animal Law
European Journal of International Law (Forthcoming)
Posted: 19 Jul 2015 Last revised: 20 Apr 2016
Date Written: July 18, 2015
In 2014, two landmark international legal decisions made a significant contribution to the development of international law on the protection of animals: the report of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in EC-Seal Products, and the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Whaling in the Antarctic: Australia v. Japan. Science plays a significant role in both decisions. In EC-Seal Products, the WTO Appellate Body ruled that the European Union’s ban on seal products was justifiable under Article XX(a) of GATT as a matter of public morals, because it was based on European citizens’ moral objections to cruelty in seal hunting – concerns that were validated in part based on reports and evidence from scientific experts. In Whaling in the Antarctic, the ICJ ruled that Japan’s whaling programme in the Southern Ocean is not ‘for purposes of scientific research’ within the meaning of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling because it is not ‘reasonable’ in relation to its research objectives. Both cases, as well as the broader international controversies over whaling and sealing in the context of which they arose, illustrate the persuasive power of the ‘appeal to science’: enlisting scientific objectivity and rigour to underpin the credibility of legal arguments and legal norms. But the role of science in both cases, while important, is only auxiliary. The questions that the WTO and the ICJ had to resolve were fundamentally legal ones concerning the interpretation of the relevant treaties. The cases also implicated more profound questions of policy and ethics at stake in international conflicts over the protection and the exploitation of marine mammals.
Keywords: Animal Law, Global animal law, Whaling in the Antarctic, Seal Products, Public international law, International trade law
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