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CCARL: Europe’s first animal rights centre launches in Cambridge

There is widespread agreement among academics in the field that, due to the shared sentience of humans and many non-human animals, they should in principle all have certain basic rights.

GABRIELLA SWERLING: Europe’s first animal rights centre has been launched in Cambridge as academics interrogate the “demand for animals to be granted rights” just like humans. The Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law (CCARL) aims to become the go-to place for lawmakers grappling to keep up with the rapidly-changing understanding of animal rights in modern society – and its distinction from animal welfare.

The Centre, which states itself as apolitical, brings together leading academics and experts from across the world for research and development, and aims to provide the resources “for civil society and governments” looking to draft laws to deal with the mounting pressure for animals to be treated as ‘non-human persons’…

The first animal welfare laws go back some 200 years. However, there are no laws supporting animal rights. Animal rights would mean that they are granted legal protections of their basic interests, such as their interest in being alive, in not being harmed, and in being free where possible. – a radical proposition which would change many of the basic attitudes which humans have held for thousands of years…

The educational charity is currently providing a course on animal rights law to students at the University of Cambridge, via its law faculty, attracting an array of undergraduates, including veterinary and law students, with a programme covering everything from the ethics surrounding zoos to the moral quandaries of keeping pets, farming, animal testing and slaughtering for meat.

Dr Sean Butler, Fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, and director of CCARL, told The Telegraph: “As people I think we have a higher regard for humans than for animals, so correspondingly a higher regard for human rights. “However, the more we understand animals – their sentience, capabilities, emotions – the more that the idea of granting rights to animals is worth taking seriously. Whether rights are actually granted will be a matter for governments and civil society.”

“As an academic institute the Centre’s role is to research, reflect, and publish, so that if – or when – there is a demand for animals to be granted rights, the legal groundwork will have been done and there will be an understanding of what animal rights laws could look like and what the implications would be.”

“There is enough awareness that perhaps the existing paradigm of animal welfare isn’t sufficient or doesn’t go far enough. And there is an interest in thinking about alternate ways, a different paradigm. And that’s where the Centre comes in,” Dr Butler added…

Dr Fasel, a Fellow in Law at the London School of Economics and Associate Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, said there is consensus in animal rights scholarship that animals would not have the same set of fundamental rights as most humans do – such as the right to vote or to sign contracts – as they lack the relevant capacities. However, Dr Fasel added that there is “widespread agreement” among academics in the field that, due to the shared sentience of humans and many non-human animals, “they should in principle all have certain basic rights”. SOURCE…

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