May 26, 2021

Uncaging Rights: How Litigation against Zoos is Unlocking Legal Rights for Animals Globally

Animal Law Reform South Africa and The South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (a centre of the University of Johannesburg), cordially invite you to an online Seminar titled: ‘Uncaging Rights: How Litigation against Zoos is Unlocking Legal Rights for Animals Globally’

Our amazing Panelists include a group of international legal experts:

  • Professor Steven Wise (USA)
  • Dr Alok Hisarwala Gupta (India)
  • Owais Awan (Pakistan)
  • Macarena Montes Franceschini (Chile)


  • Professor Bonita Meyersfeld (South Africa)

Last year, a ground-breaking judgment explicitly recognizing the rights of animal was released by the Islamabad High Court in Pakistan when a case was brought before it relating to captive zoo animals kept in terrible conditions. Similarly, courts around the world including in the United States, Brazil, Argentina, India and others, are being (or have been) approached to adjudicate on similar applications to release animals from captivity in zoos. These cases have not only drawn public attention to these issues, but stimulated much innovative legal advocacy. While some of these cases have not been successful, where they have, the judgments have pushed the traditional boundaries insofar as they relate to the legal recognition of certain rights of animals. Many of these cases draw from and recognize developments in other jurisdictions, suggesting the emergence of a transnational judicial dialogue in this area. This burgeoning trend of cases centering captive animals in zoos as a focal point for legal developments is fascinating and merits attention.

This legal seminar will seek to place the spotlight on these developments and ask the following questions:

  • Why are cases dealing with captive animals being chosen by animal advocates as the sites of challenge for unacceptable treatment?
  • What are the legal approaches being used to argue for the release of captive animals in various jurisdictions?
  • What are the arguments that courts have used where animals have been successfully released or rehabilitated?
  • What are the arguments courts have used to reject applications to release animals?
  • Is there an emerging transnational body of jurisprudence in this area or is the reasoning particular to specific jurisdictions?
  • What are the optimal remedies that courts are asked to give when addressing captive animals?
  • What can be learnt from comparing and contrasting these cases in these different jurisdictions about the role of litigation in advancing animal rights?
  • What opportunities do these developments hold for the advancement of animal protection in other areas?

More information can be found here