December 3, 2021

Animals as Property, Quasi-Property or Quasi-Person


In this talk, Fernandez argues that animal law scholarship has been hijacked by the question of the property status of nonhuman animals and the correlative felt need to transform that status into some kind of personhood, moral or legal. For the last twenty-five years, the two concepts have been understood as operating in dichotomous terms: property or person, with nonhuman animals usually losing and falling into property. Fernandez argues that animal law scholars should resist this binary classification and use instead a “quasi-hood” idea of both property and persons, recognizing that nonhuman animals are already rights-bearers and so already have a form of personhood that can and should be enlarged upon and, correspondingly, scholars and advocates should emphasize that nonhuman animals have a property status that is at best of a “quasi” sort. This is particularly clear for companion animals but can be applied to other categories of nonhuman animals. The idea is to provide a legal concept that can operate as a sliding scale for the widest possible number of species and can change over time, as social attitudes regarding what is and what is not permissible to do to a nonhuman animal change.


Presented by Angela Fernandez, Professor, Faculty of Law & Department of History, University of Toronto