LARGE-SCALE LIVESTOCK FARMING: Man’s Exploitation of Animals and the Law

This series views large-scale livestock farming as an area primarily related to ethics and animal rights, but at the same time draws attention to the fact that large-scale farming is a capitalist mechanism, and is the result of economic and power-related interests and pressures that allow and normalise slaughter on a large-scale. The texts try to identify a network of actors, agents and relationships that are involved in large-scale farming and present them as a complex problem.

The series is published in parallel with the ongoing campaign All Farm Animals Deserve to Roam Free. We call to end this inhumane practice by banning all cages for farmed animals. Cages are cruel.

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Author of the fourth text for the series is Hana Müllerová. The text reflects on the development and current level of protection of animal rights in livestock farms. It presents positive changes which have come about through a range of legal proceedings in locations including the Czech Republic, mainly concerning civil regulations regarding behavior towards agricultural animals and the extension of legal rights of all animals over (inanimate) objects in civil law. However, it also shows that some changes can, in contrast with other areas of law, for example, the modification of the free market and trading, act merely as a pretext, because justice as a creation of man and human society ultimately always prefers the interests of man over the interests of other species, and the question is whether it is illusory with these sorts of priority to expect some changes in the future.

JUDr. Hana Müllerová, Ph.D. is a research fellow at the Institute of State and Law of the Czech Academy of Sciences, where she specializes in environmental law and heads the Public Law Department. She graduated from the Faculty of Law of Charles University in Prague, where she received her Ph.D. in Public Law and cooperates with the Department of Environmental Law. In her publishing and project activities, she focuses on, for example, the human right to a favourable environment, the role of the judiciary in environmental protection, the legal protection of animals or the applicability of collective legal instruments (collective claim) in favour of environmental protection. She is Vice-President of the Czech Environmental Law Society.

English translation: Heather McGadie

Man’s Exploitation of Animals and the Law

Hana Müllerová

The livestock farm is a prime example of the human approach to the exploitation of animals. It is a typical model of the activity one does to satisfy one’s own needs for one’s own benefit. Hence it comprehensively determines the living conditions of the kept animals: from influencing everything from their birth to their living space, the handling of the animals, their nutrition, feeding and their various needs right up to the ends of their lives. At the same time, the beast of prey is not understood as an individual, but as a representative of a specific mass or type. There is no perception of the individual, but rather of the flock or herd etc. in which the individual is simply considered as a small percentage of the total size, weight, age, productivity or breed.

In recent decades, the law has extensively and in unprecedented fashion historically speaking, influenced the regulation of mans’ methods of dealing with animals. Of course, technical issues related to the external manifestation of livestock breeding have influenced the large-scale farming model described: the law prohibits certain types of treatment of animals which it claims are abusive, sets so-called minimum standards of breeding in its various aspects (space, feeding, etc.), animal transport rules, rules regarding slaughter etc. But the law does not have the tools to oblige a fundamental change in the understanding of the relationship between man and animal, that is, a change in what can be termed the recognition of the moral status of animals. It is true that the law in, let’s say, ‘the western part of the world’ at present, at various levels (international, European and national), declares the need for animals to be recognised as living, sentient creatures who deserve man’s care and respect. In this text, I want to show some examples of this rhetoric that verbally reinforce the increasing moral status of animals and its concrete manifestations in legal regulations. I will then consider whether it is likely that this tendency in law shall continue to move towards the recognition of the legal status of animals as entities. I will also outline contradictory legislative trends and consider who creates the law and for whom, and whether this type of rhetoric in law is not merely a pretext (or alibism).

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