March 8, 2023

Macarena Montes Franceschini and Kristen Stilt, "Animal Rights and the Rights of Nature"


Legislative and judicial advances recognizing animal rights have been modest worldwide. Montes and Stilt examine whether there is another path to gaining animal rights: the rights of nature (RoN). RoN have appeared as a response to humanity’s destruction of nature, and are steadily gaining momentum in constitutions, national legislation, and court decisions. However, the concept of RoN raises some significant challenges, including the fundamental problem of defining nature and identifying the subject of rights. The presentation examines the development of RoN and its advantages and disadvantages for obtaining rights for animals and individual animals in particular. The presentation will include attention to the case of Estrellita, a woolly monkey, in which the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court recognized individual animals as subjects of rights under the country’s constitutional RoN provision and subsequent developments in Ecuador and worldwide.


Macarena Montes Franceschini is an attorney and a researcher with a Ph.D. in Law from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is a visiting fellow at the Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School. She is also a board member of the UPF-Centre for Animal Ethics, editor of the journal Law, Ethics and Philosophy, a member of the Editorial Committee of the Chilean Journal of Animal Law, and the treasurer of the Great Ape Project (Spain). She has written articles on nonhuman animal personhood, animal rights, the rights of nature, and a book titled Animal Law in Chile.

Kristen Stilt is a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.  She also serves as Faculty Director of the Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard and Director of the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World.  Stilt was named a Carnegie Scholar for her work on Constitutional Islam, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 2020-2021 was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard. 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.  She is currently working on a book project about the global animal agriculture industry to be published by Oxford University Press; the Oxford Handbook of Global Animal Law with co-editors Anne Peters and Saskia Stucki; an Animal Law and Policy casebook with Justin Marceau; and an article on rights of nature and animal rights with Macarena Montes.