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Why study Animal Law?


With regards to animals, our legislation adopts the legal statute of proprietary things, a perspective oriented by the historical configuration which the Napoleonic Codification transmits to many legal codified regimens. However, the uniformity imposed by this conception has been broken relatively recently in three European countries (as well as in Catalonia), adhering to the pronouncements and orientations of numerous regulations, directives and protocols by the EU which have been underlining the legal condition of animals as “sentient beings”.

European regulations contain legislations and policies from Member States that directly clash with the consideration of animals as “things” (object). As such, and as a sign of legal coherence, Austria, Germany and Switzerland have reformed their respective Civil Codes in recent years, taking animals out of the category of property, qualifying them as “non-things”, before reforming their respective Constitutions in the same sense. In the case of German, protection of animals and nature is “…an obligation that the State assumes for future generations”.

For these reasons, this process deals with deepening the legal condition of animals and revising some open questions that society demands, such as the regulation of protector societies, shelters and welcome centers, in their roles as transmitters or creators of the adoption link; the situation of persons who, at the moment of their death, are worried about the future of their companion animals; the case of separations and divorces and the ownership and care of companion animals; the need for precise regulation of Animal Aided Therapies, which have a growing presence in our country; the prevention and sanctioning of violent behaviors towards animals, which are a sign of anti-social behavior as is well founded in studies. In summary, all the questions in which the State has regulatory capacity as such, so that the framework law of Animal Welfare can be provided with coherence, foresight and unambiguous, in the face of the great dispersion and differences in treatment which is currently the norm in this topic. In this sense, the question is: what can and should the University do to take a step forward in the search for new solutions and to reinforce the legal situations with regards to animals that today’s society demands.

Transversality is one of the most relevant results of the new EEES. In this sense, so called classes need to be adjusted to a new design that cannot be solely a simple application of the TIC [Information and Communications Technologies] within the e-learning strategies. The methodology of teaching and learning, as well as evaluation must be restructured and adapted to the changes that arise from teaching based on problems and evaluation by competition.

The University is growing and progressing at a rhythm that matches the pace of the ever-globalizing world in which we find ourselves. As such it is important to detect emerging themes of interest which will serve as the basis for the new professionals that society demands. Our contribution is to move forward with these new emerging needs and restructure disciplines that have up until now been disconnected and dispersed in different Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral Programs. The effort that we put forth is to turn these into concrete proposals that intend to redefine and evaluate the powers that society requires from its universities, and, specifically, within this concrete field that is Animal Law, we need to redefine and evaluate the legal regulation of Animal Welfare.

Since November 2005, the Eurobarometer has identified animal welfare as one of the 5 priorities for the great majority of European citizens. In January 2006 and November 2006, the EU Commission with the Animal Welfare Action Plan (23/1/2006) and the Council of Europe and the World Organisation for Animal Health (24/11/2006), recognized this priority and agreed to a plan directed to introduce new methods for animal treatment such as the animal as a “sentient being” into European legislation. Society seems to be ahead of legislation in this topic. Additionally, there are the most recent General Strategy for the EU Commission (“A new Animal Health Strategy for the European Union” (2007-2013) where ‘Prevention is better than cure’; the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, COM 539 [2007], which all intend to achieve the same objective of uniting three pillars that until today have been independent. Specifically we speak of Animal Welfare, Public Health, and Food Security. The importance of this new demand by the EU, which will be required in societies in a few years, cannot be overstated. Spanish Universities deserve to have pioneering studies in this topic, as will certainly happen shortly in other European Universities and which has been happening in major Universities in the USA since the 1980’s.

Currently, Animal Welfare is studied in the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences (Etology), Philosophy (Ethics of Nature), Environmental Sciences, Biology, and, since the 2007-2008 academic year, Animal Law can be studied for the first time in Spain in the Faculty of Law of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

The Projects which are being developed in the Research Group ADS-UAB, which I have directed for the last years, intend to unify and redefine these “tasks”, in a topic of common interest which is accessible to all university students who wish to direct their futures in the field where Human and Animal relations intersect. That is to say the course of study is intended for lawyers and other professions, biologists, veterinarians, specialists in environmental scientists, those who in the future can be relevant agents and creators of public opinion and social participation. The program does not deal with a particular proposal, but rather it aspires to serve as a framework that can be applied in other Spanish Universities.

In this sense, the Master in Animal Law and Society, which in October begins its third edition, is intended to strengthen the knowledge and further reflection regarding animals from a legal point of view and in a global context. Experts in Animal Law are in greater demand every day, with an assured and ample vision of what society demands. There is a strong need for professionals who can work in industry, in advocacy, in administrations, and in international institutions. We work every day with dedication towards this goal.

Teresa Giménez-Candela
Professor of Roman Law
Animal Law Professor
Autonomous University of Barcelona

keys Animals as Things, Animals as Sentient Beings , Animal Welfare in the EU , Teaching Animal Law

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