The Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law is an academic centre of competence dedicated to the study and promotion of fundamental rights for non-human animals and is based in Cambridge, UK. The Centre builds on the success of the Talking Animals, Law & Philosophy series which has become a renowned forum for exchange of research in animal rights law ever since its inception in 2015.
Why animal rights law? The welfare of animals has been on moral, social, and legal agenda since the 19th century, and many countries have made significant progress in passing animal welfare legislation. The concept of animal rights as such has also existed for many years but has received less attention for a variety of reasons, including its fundamental challenge to the view of animals as property. Perhaps as a result there is relatively little solid legal work on the understanding and promotion of animal rights—what they might look like, and how to deal with the social and economic consequences. Our Centre wants to remedy this situation.
researches and publishes in the field of animal rights law, exploring and developing the key themes;
teaches the (currently extracurricular) Animal Rights Law course and other such courses to students, so that future leaders among our students will understand the issues and solutions;
offers talks for lay audiences;
supports law faculties at other universities internationally to assist them in offering their own courses, so that Animal Rights Law becomes a mainstream course within law degrees;
holds conferences and workshops for legal academics and decision-makers, to encourage awareness of animal rights;
builds national and global significance in influencing public policy on animal rights law, providing information and support to governments and courts internationally, so that animal welfare continues to improve and animal rights becomes a reality.
Please note that the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law is an independent centre, not a Law Faculty centre.
Dr Sean Butler
Dr Sean Butler has been a Fellow of St Edmund’s College since 2002; previously he worked at Shell and Nokia. He studied Law at Oxford (St Edmund Hall) and the LSE, as well as Genetics at Cambridge (CPGS) before taking his PhD in social science at Imperial College, London. He specialises in intellectual property strategy in life sciences, and technology-based start-ups. He is also CEO of Cambridge Agritech, a syndicate of investors in agritech startups. He is Director of Studies in Law at St Edmund's, and teaches Roman Law and Animal Rights Law.
Raffael N Fasel is a PhD in Law candidate at Cambridge (Sidney Sussex College), specialising in the legal theory and intellectual history of human and animal rights. He holds a Bachelor of Law and a Master of Law degree from the University of Fribourg, an MA in Philosophy from University College London, and an LLM from Yale Law School. He was an associate at the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights and has worked at Tier im Recht, a centre of expertise on animal law. In 2018, Raffael was appointed Associate Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. He currently teaches Animal Rights Law, Jurisprudence, and Roman Law at Cambridge and Oxford.
In this section, you can find all the past and upcoming events of the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law. Talks in the Talking Animals, Law & Philosophy series can be found here.
29 April 2019 — London Launch of the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law
On April 29th, an invitation-only event in London launched the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law for supporters and potential donors. This event served to present the Centre to a non-academic audience interested in helping it achieve its goals. Introducing the Centre to the invited guests, Director Dr Butler said:
“The object of the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law is to develop the law on animal rights and support its development until it becomes a reality in law. We don’t know what animal rights will look like, they might not look much like human rights, of course, so this needs to be studied and discussed. It will not be easy, or quick, and there is a lot of work to be done: which species they will apply to, what rights for animals will look like and what effect they will have, how animal and human rights will operate side by side, whether animals will still be property or not […] The implications for animal rights on our society are huge – on farms, zoos, animals in the wild, laboratory animals. Interestingly, of course, we will also see benefit for humans, in terms of reducing methane production, reduced water use, and improved health from a plant-based diet, as well as encouraging new businesses to exploit the opportunities. I think – I hope – you are glimpsing the start of a journey, possibly quite a long journey – but which will lead to an amazing outcome of which we can all feel proud.”
The full speech can be downloaded here.
26 April 2019 — Cambridge Launch of the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law
The Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law was officially launched on April 26th, 2019, with an academic workshop held at the Faculty of Law in Cambridge. The theme of the workshop was “Animal Rights Law: Present and Future” and a high-calibre line-up of some of the world’s leading experts on animal rights law presented their views on the topic.
Dr Sean Butler and Mr Raffael Fasel (Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law; University of Cambridge) introduced the Centre and gave an overview on animal rights law at Cambridge. Dr Gieri Bolliger (Tier im Recht; University of Zurich) then delivered a presentation exploring animal dignity protection in Switzerland. Dr Saskia Stucki (MPIL Heidelberg; Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program) discussed the theoretical difference between ‘simple’ legal rights and ‘fundamental’ legal rights for animals, before Dr Alasdair Cochrane (University of Sheffield) presented an argument in favour of seeing non-human animals’ rights as part of the same normative enterprise as human rights. After the break, Dr Jeff Sebo (New York University) analysed the philosophical arguments surrounding legal personhood and habeas corpus for non-human animals — a topic which Mr Steven Wise (Nonhuman Rights Project) then discussed from a practical perspective in his presentation of the latest cases of his civil rights organisation which has been filing habeas corpus petitions on behalf of chimpanzees and elephants. The workshop concluded with a panel discussion and questions from the audience.
A PDF version of the programme of our launch event is available here. Robyn Trigg, DPhil in Law candidate at the University of Oxford and author of the blog “The Vegan Feminist Lawyer” has published an in-depth account of our launch event, which can be accessed here.
Talking Animals, Law & Philosophy
The Talking Animals, Law & Philosophy series was established in 2015 by Raffael Fasel, Executive Director of the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law. Ever since its inception, the talk series has been providing a welcoming, engaging and rigorous forum for debate and ideas about the relations between animals, law, and philosophy. The series’s events are normally held in the Cambridge Faculty of Law, The David Williams Building, 10 West Rd, Cambridge CB3 9DZ. All talks are free and open to all.
In this section, you can find the programme of this year’s Talking Animals, Law & Philosophy series, which is also available as a PDF file. You can also find all our past events here and can download the programmes of the first, second, and third edition as PDF files.
The next talks in the Talking Animals, Law & Philosophy series will be held in the new academic year (starting in October 2019). In order not to miss out on any events, make sure to sign up to our mailing list:
14 May 2019
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy, Rutgers University Law School; Honorary Professor (Philosophy), University of East Anglia
“Animal Rights and Veganism as a Moral Imperative”
28 March 2019
Professor of English, School of Humanities, University of Strathclyde
“Humans and Their Relationships with Working Animals in Early Modern England: The Value and Problem of Legal Evidence”
31 January 2019
Professor of Jurisprudence, Law School, Leiden University
“Freedom of Religion v. Animal Welfare: The Case of Unstunned Ritual Slaughter”
2 May 2018
Postdoctoral Assistant in History, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent University
“An Animal History of Zoos”
5 April 2018
Founder and President of the Nonhuman Rights Project
“The Struggle of the Nonhuman Rights Project for the Legal Personhood of Nonhuman Animals”
6 March 2018
Scholar at the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study, School of Social Science; Professor of Philosophy and Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy and Christian Ethics, University of Oxford
“The Unhappy Marriage of Animality and Cognitive Disability”
23 January 2018
RSPCA and Blue Cross Clinician & Affiliated Lecturer in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge
“Suffering in Non-human Animals”
22 November 2017
University Lecturer in the Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge
“Values in Animal Cognitive Science”
2 May 2017
Senior Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg
“Are Human Rights Animals' Rights, Too?”
5 April 2017
Reader, School of Law, University of Aberdeen
“Collective Responsibility: Animals, the State, and Public Policy”
15 February 2017
Senior Lecturer in Political Theory, Department of Politics, University of Sheffield
“A Theory of Global Inter-Species Justice”
17 November 2016
Lecturer in Medical Law, Ethics and Policy, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge
“Three Puzzles for Animal Rights: Cows, Lions, and Featherless Chickens”
11 & 12 October 2016
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, Florida A&M University
“Animal Law and Environmental Law: Parallels and Synergies” &
“A Person by Any Other Name? Potential Legal Recognition of Nonhuman Animal Legal Personhood in Australia and the United States”
10 May 2016
Professor, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester
“Animals and Democratic Theory: Beyond an Anthropocentric Approach”
26 February 2016
Lecturer in Philosophy, School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies, University of St. Andrews
“A Moderate Position on the Political and Legal Status of Sentient Animals”
9 February 2016
Pupil Barrister, Littleton Chambers
“'Some are more equal than others': The Protection of Animals Under UK Law”
27 November 2015
Associate Professor in Law, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nottingham
“The status of non-human animals: science, philosophy, law”
(with an introduction by Jeff Skopek)
Cutting-edge research in animal rights law is one of the central pillars of the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law. In addition to publications by members of the Centre, a selection of which is listed below, we support students interested in exploring animal rights-related questions and we invite experts from other institutions to contribute their research to special journal issues and other publications.
Here are some of our latest publications:
'The Old "New" Dignitarianism' (2018) Res Publica, by Raffael Fasel — an article discussing the intellectual history of the idea of animal rights and of its dignitarian countermovement.
‘“Simply in Virtue of Being Human”? A Critical Appraisal of a Human Rights Commonplace’ (2018) 9 Jurisprudence 3, 1-25, by Raffael Fasel — an article that critically examines the common notion in human rights law according to which human beings have human rights “simply in virtue of being human”.
'The Swiss Citizens' Initiative for Primate Rights Goes to Court', in Nonhuman Rights Blog, 2 April 2018, by Raffael Fasel et al., — a blog post discussing the Swiss citizens’ initiative which aims to amend the Constitution of the Canton of Basel-Stadt by way of a referendum that would add the fundamental right to nonhuman primates to life and bodily and mental integrity to the Constitution’s existing fundamental rights catalogue.
‘Talking Animals, Law & Philosophy Special Issue’ (2017) in 5 Global Journal of Animal Law 1, by Visa AJ Kurki and Raffael Fasel (eds) — a special issue which the Talking Animals, Law & Philosophy series has published in collaboration with the Global Journal of Animal Law (GJAL), a peer-reviewed online journal published by Åbo Akademi University (Finland). Here is the table of contents of our special issue, which is also available on the website of GJAL. The full issue can also be downloaded as a PDF file here.
Raffael Fasel, Talking Animals, Law, Philosophy—and Beyond (Introduction)
‘The Leo and Hercules Trial: An Historic Step for Animal Rights or Business as Usual?’, in Giordano Bruno Foundation Switzerland Blog, 26 May 2015, by Raffael Fasel — a blog post discussing the Nonhuman Rights Project’s habeas corpus case for the chimpanzees Leo and Hercules
One of the key missions of the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law is to give students the tools they require to understand existing animal welfare laws and to reflect critically on the need for fundamental animal rights. Since 2017, we have been offering the extracurricular course Animal Rights Law at the Cambridge Law Faculty. Our extracurricular course is organised in the same manner as a Cambridge half-paper, which means that it is taught over two terms in 1-hour per week sessions, starting in the Michaelmas Term. The course proceeds in three parts, covering, first, the history and the status quo of animal welfare laws, second, the philosophy and legal theory of animal rights, and third, the practical implications of animal rights, including model animal rights laws and animal rights cases. Our course is currently offered on a no credit-basis, and is open to all Cambridge students and external students upon request. An overview of our course syllabus is available here.
We aim to continuously extend our extracurricular course offering, starting with a more advanced Animal Rights Law Seminar in 2020.
This section will advertise any vacancies that open up at the Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law. We are hoping to accept visiting scholars in Spring 2020, please let us know if you are interested.
Most of our events, including the Talking Animals, Law & Philosophy series, are held in The David Williams Building (Faculty of Law), at 10 West Rd, Cambridge CB3 9DZ, UK:
Some of the photos used on this website were kindly provided by JoAnne McArthur of We Animals.