Michaël Lessard, “Can Sentience Recognition Protect Animals? Lessons from Québec’s Animal Law Reform” (2021) 27:1 Animal Law Review 57, Available at SSRN.
Abstract: Academic literature needs to provide a better understanding of the legal recognition of animal sentience. This Article aims to help fill out this gap by diving into Qué́bec’s legal recognition of animal sentience in 2015.
This Article draws three lessons from Québec law’s recognition of animal sentience and biological needs. First, it argues that legal sentience recognition’s fate is to become more than symbolic and to receive normative force. Second, it contends that considering sentience protection as the sole instrument to prevent animal killing and exploitation is a mistake. This is so because respect for sentience is reduced to suffering prevention by judges. As such, sentience protection in Québec simply hardens the requirements for painlessness in animal killing and exploitation but does not decrease the practice. Third, it suggests that the legal protection of “biological needs” might bring hope where sentience does not. This alternative concept tackles some of sentience’s blind spots.
This Article is of interest to any lawyer, academic, and activist operating in a jurisdiction where the law explicitly declares that animals are sentient beings and to those in other jurisdictions that are considering recognizing animal sentience by statute.