In this post, Anne Peters gives us an overview of the Symposium on Global Animal Law: Animals Matter in International Law and International Law Matters for Animals that is now published open access by AJIL Unbound.

The recent ‘animal turn’ in the social sciences has given prominence to theoretical, radical, and interdisciplinary approaches which might be gathered under the heading of legal animal studies. Legal animal studies start with the insight that the law is profoundly ambivalent in its approach to animals: it not only serves to protect animals from individual deviant abusive behavior but also perpetuates institutional violence against animals.

Legal animal studies have now gone global. This is an adequate response to the current post-national constellation in which virtually all aspects of (commodified) human−animal interactions possess a transboundary dimension. The same is true for associated problems such as the health costs often ascribed to the excessive intake of animal-based food; global warming induced, inter alia, by the abundance of cattle waste; the loss of genetic information through the extinction of species; or the fueling of armed conflict by wildlife poaching.

International law instruments already regulate directly the protection of endangered species, habitat protection, and biological diversity. International law thereby pays attention to collective goods, mainly for anthropocentric reasons. In contrast, the welfare of individual animals or potential rights of some animals are not yet specifically addressed by international law.

At the same time, however, animal laws confined to individual states have become increasingly hollow. States can no longer implement high domestic standards for animal welfare unilaterally because of the threat that the relevant industries will relocate to production sites with lower standards. The welfare of animals is inevitably affected by globalized human-animal interactions. Animal welfare is thus, per se, a global issue that requires a global response. This means that the regulation of animal issues must transcend national boundaries. This global response must grow from the bottom up. International law-making institutions have no chance of imposing a response on states that do not take sufficient cognizance of animal issues in their own domestic law.

The first series of essays on global animal law from AJIL Unbound examines how the early modern founders of the discipline of international law, the practices of colonialism that constituted the field, and one of its oldest branches, the law of war, have approached animals. The fresh readings of classical texts and legal instruments demonstrate that the animal question is less marginal for international law than generally assumed.

The symposium will continue with a second series of essays focusing on other subfields (ranging from trade law over wildlife law to international anti-corruption law and the international legal principles on jurisdiction) where public international law rules interact with domestic law relating to animals and thus form islands of a global animal law.

AJIL Unbound supplements the American Journal of International Law (AJIL) by publishing short, original essays addressing developments in public international law and private international law. Featuring timely essays written in a readable style accessible to international law policymakers, practitioners, and students, AJIL Unbound seeks to broaden and diversify the scholarly exchanges on international law begun in the pages of AJIL and to introduce new ones online.

Anne Peters is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law Heidelberg (Germany) and Professor of International Law at the Universities of Basel (Switzerland), Heidelberg, and Berlin (Germany).

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