Justifying Force Against Animal Cruelty

MSU Journal of Animal & Natural Resource Law, Vol. 12, 2016, Forthcoming

35 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2016 Last revised: 10 Aug 2016

See all articles by Ross Campbell

Ross Campbell

New York University (NYU), School of Law, Students

Date Written: January 5, 2016


Punishing animal cruelty strengthens nonhuman rights and common justice. Today, bystanders should not be liable for reasonably protecting other animals from such abuse. If anything, the law should encourage these interventions by exculpation. This article outlines how existing legal doctrine can serve this end. Three familiar defenses can be made to justify force here, though with varying mileage. A “defense of property” theory would be familiar to the traditional legal status of nonhumans. Yet this permission is ordinarily limited to property owners and non-deadly force, making it a less robust avenue of defense. The historical and lingering inconsistencies of treating other animals solely as items of property also point away from this regime. Instead, arguments may be made that at least in terms of their emerging protection from cruelty, nonhumans are legal persons. Therefore, bystanders who enforce this right should argue that their actions fall under a more permissive theory of “defense of persons,” which has the benefit of allowing a wider range of actors and force. Likewise, appeals to the public good and lesser evil of using moderate force against animal abusers could allow an extension of the situational defense of “necessity.” In any event, due to the shocking nature and unfortunate prevalence of animal cruelty, a reasonable third-party permission to intervene should be discussed.

Keywords: Animal Abuse, Animal Cruelty, Animal Law, NhRP, Nonhuman, Criminal Law, Criminal Defense, Exculpation, Justification, Deadly Force

JEL Classification: K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Campbell, Robert, Justifying Force Against Animal Cruelty (January 5, 2016). MSU Journal of Animal & Natural Resource Law, Vol. 12, 2016, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2711395 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2711395

Robert Campbell (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU), School of Law, Students ( email )

New York, NY
United States

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