Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view

whats new at ieet

We Were Wrong About Limiting Children’s Screen Time

NASA Was about to Eat Itself — Then Private Enterprise Stepped In

Robert Reich on Basic Income

How the Universe Could Annihilate Itself at the Speed of Light

Le syndrome 1984 ou Gattaca

How we can start winning the war against cancer

ieet books

Philosophical Ethics: Theory and Practice
John G Messerly


almostvoid on 'How the Universe Could Annihilate Itself at the Speed of Light' (Oct 26, 2016)

mjgeddes on 'Can we build AI without losing control over it?' (Oct 25, 2016)

rms on 'Can we build AI without losing control over it?' (Oct 24, 2016)

spud100 on 'For the unexpected innovations, look where you'd rather not' (Oct 22, 2016)

spud100 on 'Have you ever inspired the greatest villain in history? I did, apparently' (Oct 22, 2016)

RJP8915 on 'Brexit for Transhumanists: A Parable for Getting What You Wish For' (Oct 21, 2016)

instamatic on 'What democracy’s future shouldn’t be' (Oct 20, 2016)

Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month

Blockchain Fintech: Programmable Risk and Securities as a Service
Oct 22, 2016
(4554) Hits
(0) Comments

IEET Fellow Stefan Sorgner to discuss most recent monograph with theologian Prof. Friedrich Graf
Oct 3, 2016
(4307) Hits
(0) Comments

Space Exploration, Alien Life, and the Future of Humanity
Oct 4, 2016
(4099) Hits
(1) Comments

All the Incredible Things We Learned From Our First Trip to a Comet
Oct 6, 2016
(3120) Hits
(0) Comments

IEET > Rights > Personhood > Life > Access > Vision

Print Email permalink (0) Comments (5074) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg

Personhood Beyond the Human: On The “Animal Person” as Legal Persons

Saskia L. Stucki

Personhood Beyond the Human

Posted: Dec 31, 2013

On December 7, 2013 Saskia L. Stucki spoke on “The “Animal Person” as Tertium Datur Establishing Nonhuman Legal Personhood” at the Personhood Beyond the Human conference at Yale University.

Saskia L. Stucki, (MLaw) is the coordinator of the doctoral programme, Law and Animals: Ethics at Crossroads of the Law School of the University of Basel. She graduated from law school in 2011 (summa cum laude) and is since working on her doctoral thesis on basic rights for animals. Her area of research comprises the critical analysis of contemporary animal protection law, the theoretical foundation of nonhuman legal personhood and animals’ legal capacity to be subjects of rights as well as the legal theory of animal rights. Saskia Stucki has given several conference talks on Swiss animal law and the concept of animal rights from a legal theoretical perspective. She has authored an article (in German) on the legal personhood of animals (Rechtstheoretische Reflexionen zur Begrundung eines tierlichen Rechtssubjekts, in: Margot Michel/Daniela Kuhne/Julia Hanni (eds), Animal Law—Tier und Recht, Zurich 2012) and is co-editor (together with Prof. Dr. iur. Anne Peters and Livia Boscardin, M.A.) of the anthology, Animal Law: Reform or Revolution?” (forthcoming).
Other areas of interest cover international human rights law and international humanitarian law, with particular regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Personhood Beyond the Human conference was organized by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University, Yale’s Animal Ethics Group and Yale’s Technology and Ethics Group.

Abstract: The case for nonhuman legal personhood has become increasingly pressing in light of the systematic failure of traditional animal welfare law to protect animals in any meaningful way. The flagrant inadequacy of contemporary animal protection law can, in part, be ascribed to the legal status of animals as objects and property. As animal rights lawyers contend, shifting the paradigm towards a legal status as subjects, i.e. legal persons vested with inviolable rights, would mark a seminal starting point for redressing the fundamental injustices underlying the human­animal relationship. Legal personhood for animals would symbolize and institutionalize the intrinsic value of animals and, furthermore, offer significant procedural advantages. In contrast, the prevailing opinion of philosophers and legal scholars maintains that animals are not and cannot be persons, since this term solely pertains to rational beings, i.e. humans. I will refute this assertion in the course of a legal theoretical examination of the current concept of legal personhood with regard to its applicability to the animal context.

As becomes apparent when analyzing the legal capacity of natural and juristic persons and the history of their legal personification, establishing a third category of legal persons (a tertium datur), the “animal person”, can be consistently argued for. Special consideration will be given to the distinction between the philosophical and legal as well as the descriptive and normative sense of personhood. While the philosophical notion of personhood, referring to human(like) mental properties, is eo ipso burdened with anthropocentric/ratiocentric constrictions, the legal notion of personhood can be (partially) disconnected from the former, particularly with regard to these cognitive features. It will be shown that legal personhood is a normative concept which is abstracted from actual (personal) qualities, and that neither the capacity to reason nor membership in the human species are imperative criteria to being considered a person under law.

Thus, the status of a legal person can be conferred on animals irrespective of their cognitive abilities, rendering the philosophically pertinent “similar ­minds approach” unwarranted from a legal theoretical point of view. Finally, I will address the issue of viability of the proposed sentientist concept of nonhuman legal personhood, placing it within the realm of possibilities. The examples of Swiss and German animal law and their foundational principles, especially the constitutionally recognized dignity of animals, the formal emancipation from legal thinghood, and the emergence of deontological and biocentric elements, indicate that the referenced paradigm shift towards legal personhood for animals is already in its early stages.


Print Email permalink (0) Comments (5075) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Google Glass: 10 Days In (Glass and the Barcodes)

Previous entry: Solar Power From Space: A Revolutionary Concept


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @     phone: 860-428-1837

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @