Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository




Dr. Margaret Martin


Animals were included within the protection of the law in the early nineteenth century. Why have there been so few advances since then? Discussion about this question tends to focus on the moral and legal status of animals. That is undoubtedly an important issue, but it stems from a tradition that looks for the singular trait that distinguishes humans from all other animals. This thesis uses an historical approach to explore the tension between the humane impulse to alleviate animal suffering and the sense of human superiority that permits animal exploitation. The conclusion is that animal rights theory could build on the precedent set by the anti-cruelty laws if legal rights for animals are used as a shield to protect animals from the excesses of property rights rather than as a way to elevate animals out of their status as property.

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