Brooks Animal Agency, Sentience, and Cognition (BASCO) Initiative

The Brooks Institute is pursuing a far-reaching and ambitious effort to advance animal law and policy through the use of science and effective communication. The goal is to create new bridges among law, science, and narrative techniques to prompt a paradigm shift for nonhuman animal protection and rights. We call this effort the Brooks Animal Agency, Sentience, and Cognition (BASCO) Initiative.


Over-Arching Methodology and Two Tracks

BASCO’s underlying goal is to spark a change in human thinking about nonhuman animal agency, sentience, and cognition and in turn catalyze law and policy changes that reflect this philosophical transformation. The methodology calls for the collection, integration, and synthesis of scientific studies in nonhuman animal sentience and cognition. New research will be commissioned to fill any notable gaps. This initiative will show the important roles that nonhuman animals play in society and culture and will create a higher moral understanding of nonhuman animals. The philosophical evolution will form the basis for, and support, legal change, moving the field of animal law away from a property paradigm to a rights paradigm.

We will strategize to evolve the consciousness and attitudes of society in the respect, value, and dignity of nonhuman animals. We presently expect that BASCO will approach the paradigm shift using two parallel tracks: (1) creation of a Citable Authority, and (2) development of Narratives.


Citable Authority

For the Citable Authority mission, Citable Authority is not merely more quality scientific research, but an aspirational product that can be used to significantly influence legal precedent and public policymaking.

It is anticipated that the Citable Authority track starts with a careful review of existing research in the areas of nonhuman animal sentience and cognition. Nonhuman animal agency may also become a significant study element. A thorough assessment of the existing research by a team of experts will follow. During this assessment, the existing research will be analyzed and key findings will be distilled for the development of “first principles.” The next step is identifying gaps (both qualitative and quantitative) in the literature and commissioning new research to fill those gaps.

After the process of compiling, distilling, and pursuing research around sentience and cognition is complete, there will be a significant collaborative effort that will develop and publish a consensus report. The goal of BASCO is to create a report of such significance that it will be recognized as the seminal Citable Authority for nonhuman animal sentience and cognition. This Citable Authority creates a policy-relevant scientific bedrock that policymakers can deploy for legislation and regulation and that advocates can use in litigation and animal protection work generally.



The Narratives track will create a variety of narratives that can be deployed through various media and mediums with the goal of maximizing the number and type of audiences. The narrative track’s goal is to effectively relay the content from the citable authority track in an easily digestible format for a variety of different stakeholders and audiences, with the goal of broadening the recognition of nonhuman animals as beings – not mere property – and further creating a new societal consensus that will make the lives of nonhuman animals better, richer, and respected.

It is anticipated that the Narratives track will be staged by asking and answering: (1) What target changes do we seek (such as legal status, policies, behaviors, and attitudes)? (2) Who are the audiences (such as the public, thought leaders, policymakers, judges, voters, non-animal-oriented activists, and media)? (3) Who are the communicators (such as advocates, peer groups, community leaders, artists and writers, experts, lobbyists, and PR professionals)? (4) What are the messages and nature of these communications (such as books, long-form articles, journalism, blog posts, social media, fiction, performance, visual arts, film and TV, public service announcements, and advertising)?

We expect that the Narratives track will develop a recommended plan that is strategically introduced to a variety of stakeholders for their own adoption, adaptation, and implementation.



An adage for the Brooks Institute is, “Failure for us is not trying something new and innovative.” The end product of BASCO is speculative. It is the interdisciplinary and cross-sectional collaborative process that will produce effective fruit of a new synergy and paradigm shift for elevated respect, value, well-being, protection, and rights of nonhuman animals.

BASCO Steering Committee

Justin Marceau

Justin F. Marceau is a Professor of Law and the Animal Legal Defense Fund Professor.

Prior to coming to the University of Denver Law School, Marceau was an assistant federal public defender specializing in capital habeas and a law clerk for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Before law school he spent a year living and working in Cairo, Egypt.

Kristen Stilt

Kristen Stilt is a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.  She also serves as Faculty Director of the Animal Law & Policy Program, Director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program, and is a Deputy Dean.  Stilt was named a Carnegie Scholar for her work on Constitutional Islam, and in 2013 she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.  Her research focuses on animal law, and in particular the intersection of animal law and religious law; Islamic law and society; and comparative constitutional law.

Dale Jamieson
Dale Jamieson is Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy; Affiliated Professor of Law; Affiliated Professor of Medical Ethics, School of Medicine; Associated Faculty, Center for Bioethics, College of Global Public Health; and Director of the Center for Environmental and Animal Protection at New York University.
Paul Locke, DrPH

Dr. Locke is an environmental health scientist and attorney who holds an MPH from Yale University School of Medicine and a DrPH from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is also a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Law and is licensed to practice before the bars of the states of New York, the District of Columbia, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and the United States Supreme Court.