From animal welfare to animal rights: Rethinking our legal paradigm
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This thesis is a critique of the current welfare system of protection for nonhuman animals (hereafter, animals) and calls for a paradigm shift in the legal protection. It is argued that there needs to be a shift from a welfare approach towards legal rights as the current system is inadequate. The purpose of this thesis is to highlight the need for an evidence-based approach to animal protection laws given the body of evidence now available demonstrating animal cognition and moral capabilities. It examines the adequacy of the current animal welfare system and identifies the shortcomings of a welfarist approach, such as the failure to pay regard to animal abilities, the lack of standing and the lack of consistent treatment of animals. This thesis advocates for the extension of species-specific legal rights, to animals based on their interests and capabilities. This research compiles and analyses the relevant empirical evidence and philosophical findings to highlight the need for legal reform in how animals are protected. Arguments have been made for the need to improve the current system on varying grounds; however, this thesis argues that the best approach is to bring together a number of disciplines to broaden the factors considered when drafting and designing animal protection laws. This study takes a mixed methodological approach combining legal analysis, empirical findings, socio-legal arguments, and theoretical perspectives as this serves to provide an evidence-based approach while also providing originality to addressing this problem.