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May 4th marked the conclusion of the highly anticipated
‘Toronto Pig Save’ court case. In which Anita Krajnc, an activist with Toronto
Pig Save, was charged with ‘mischief’. On June 22nd 2015, Krajnc and other
members provided water to pigs in trucks on their way to slaughter. The
defence, presented by James Silver and Gary Grill, argued that pigs are persons
and not property. A proposition that was ultimately rejected by Justice David
Harris, despite the ruling going in Anita’s favour. The final verdict ruled
that Anita did not interfere ‘with the lawful use’ of property.
recognized compassion as a virtue in this case, and common sense prevailed in
the finding that Anita Krajnc was not guilty for showing mercy to terrified,
thirsty pigs on their way to slaughter,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in
The defining aspect of this court case depended upon the
legal status of animals as property, not persons. Throughout history, the
status of animals as property has extremely restricted their protection under
the legal system. Animals fall under a distinct form of property and within the
law must be treated both ‘humanely’, without causing ‘unnecessary’ suffering.
Nonetheless, ‘unnecessary’ cruelty has failed to protect animals from virtually
all forms of institutionalized animal exploitation, such as their use for meat
and dairy. Professor Reinold Noyes highlights why animals will ultimately be
forgotten in our legal system; “legal relations in our law exist only
between persons. There cannot be a legal
relation between a person and a thing or between two things.” It is
because of this inability of ‘legal relations’ that animals cannot be awarded
equal consideration and thus, animal suffering will be regarded as necessary
whenever it benefits human property owners. As Gary L. Francione states, “If
the law regarding animals is to change, it is necessary to eradicate the
property status of nonhumans.” Is it time to afford legal protection for an
animal’s fundamental rights?
As seen from the video of the incident, the pigs in question
were undoubtedly suffering. Cramped, hot, and dehydrated. Unlike inanimate
objects, such as a chair or table, animals are sentient and possess the
capacity for independent action. Ultimately, treating one as property means to
be exclusively the means to another’s end. We believe it is morally wrong to
inflict unnecessary suffering on animals. However, when there are far healthier
food choices that can be made, no form of animal suffering can be regarded as
necessary. During 2015, in Canada alone, 14,212 pigs were found dead upon arrival at slaughterhouses,
unable to survive the journey. That same year, dog owner Emma Paulsen who
admitted to leaving six dogs inside her hot truck, was sentenced to six months
in jail for their deaths. As humans we already include pets, such as cats and
dogs, within our circle of compassion. Rightly so, as their suffering is no
less intense than our own. Pets are such a beloved part of many people’s lives,
but why does both the legal system and our moral compass sway depending on the
species? Social attitudes concerning animals are downright confused. Faced with
a dying animal on the roadside, we would likely do what we could to help it.
Logically, our response shouldn’t differ outside of a slaughterhouse.
Under the law
“a person has the ability to be self aware and the ability to understand”. But
an animal’s inability to understand and adhere to our rules is as irrelevant as
a child or a developmentally disabled person’s inability to do so.While non-human animals do not possess
the sophisticated rational abilities that we do, they are nevertheless sentient
beings. Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience
subjectively. Animals possess morally significant interests.
professor of Bioethics and prominent moral philosopher, explains;“Most
people think that the life of a dog or a pig is of less value than the life of
a normal human being. On what basis, then, could they hold that the life of a
profoundly intellectually disabled human being with intellectual capacities
inferior to those of a dog or a pig is of equal value to the life of a normal
As stated before, an animal’s intelligence is irrelevant when
it comes to our moral obligations. Nevertheless, studies have shown that they
share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species
such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans. Neuroscientist
Lori Marino believes that “there is good scientific evidence to suggest we need
to rethink our overall relationship to them.”
Pigs have an
innate moral value and their worth is not determined by their usefulness to us.
Animals were not ‘put here’ for any purpose. They are on this planet with us, not for us. It is of crucial importance that for development and
progress of animal rights, the legal system evolves. Human history shows an
ever-expanding circle of moral concern and it is about time that we begin
acceptance of non-human animals into that circle.