October 5, 2020

The Capture Rule and the Quasi-Property Status of Farmed Fishes

There are multiple possible legal statuses for nonhuman animals beyond the traditional distinction between property and persons – no status at all, a full property status, a quasi-property status (based on a recognition of sentience), and a status of persons/beings. This talk explores the quasiproperty status of farmed fishes, nonhuman animals that are sentient, and so should not be treated as property, as if they are the same as inanimate property, but have few if any legal protections against unnecessary and cruel treatment.

Farmed animals generally are quasi-property/quasi-persons in the sense that their sentience sets them apart from inanimate property and they have rights against unnecessarily cruel treatment, even if those rights are read down in practice to (anemic) industry standards and are regularly under-enforced or not enforced at all. Fishes seem to have no rights at all under animal protection or animal welfare statutes. However, I will argue in this talk that unlike the usual situation in which animal advocates want to argue against any kind of property status for nonhuman animals, the problem of the escaped or feral farmed fish provides an example in which their quasi-property status continues to be important in terms of keeping them and any damage they do connected to the farm that produces them, even if that farm does not own them in the sense of having legal title to them given the common law capture rule.

More information can be found here.