PANEL #8 – Cultural Perspectives

In this afternoon´s panel Prof. Olivier Le Bot talked about "The Limitation of Animal Protection for Religious or Cultural Reasons" as a study of the articulation between social considerations such as cultural traditions and protection in animal law, in other words to examine the legislator´s choice: accept the abuse or prohibit it and can this choice be questioned/contested by the judge? 

Prof. Le Bot´s study is divided in two dimensions, summarized as follows:

  1. Dimension: the law forbids animal abuse committed in the name of tradition
    • Ritual Slaughter
      • 1st solution: the most protective solution (Austria VfGH 17/12/1998): prohibition;
      • 2nd solution: less absolute (like in the USA);
      • 3rd: tolerant (France).
    • Hunting with hounds 
      • Ban: in Scotland: protection of wild mammals act adopted on 13th Feb. 2002; in Britain and Wales by the Hunting Act of 2004, applicable since 18th Feb. 2005
      • EU Court of Human Rights: ECHR 24/9/2009, Friend and Others v. the UK, n. 16072/06

2. Dimension: the law authorises animal abuse on the basis of a tradition
    • First situation: a superior norm protecting animals exists
      • Legislative norm (traditional force eating violates the Animal Protection Act: a lot of pain for little pleasure, eg. foie gras);
      • International norm;
      • Constitutional norm.
    • Second situation: the absence of a superior norm makes the question of a differentiation arise.

To continue the panel Natasha Dolezal spoke about "The Kenya Legal Project"

This year the Center for Animal Law studies at Lewis & Clark Law School and the Africa Network for Animal Welfare introduced the Kenya Legal Project, which brought law students for three weeks to Kenya to study the implications of local wildlife and cruelty laws and assist Kenyan lawyers and professionals to develop and enhance the legal protection of animals. As just mentioned there are three essential components to the program: 1. create an educational opportunity for students; 2. establish an international professional exchange program for Kenyan attorneys and judiciary officials; 3. assist local efforts by providing animal legal education, visiting law and vet schools, talking to faculties to help them develop courses, giving guest lectures, offering international LL.M. scholarships.

The program provides both classroom learning and fieldwork on the premises, addressing problem solving and strategy development in a completely new cultural context, bearing in mind that there is no absolute and universal right way. Participants are exposed to the complexity of real cruelty issues such as poaching, resource scarcity, and institutional infrastructure limitations and meet professional of the field. 

To know more visit: www.kenyalegalproject.com

The last speaker, Prof. Gustavo de Baggis from Argentina addressed "The Dilemma of Bear Arthur":

The issue presented originates in Argentina, with the current ethical and judicial dilemma between non-governmental animal protection organisations, state institutions, and public in general, because of the possibility to move the polar bear Arthur from the Mendoza zoo to a polar bear reservation in Canada, due to his poor living conditions in a climate zone not appropriate for the animal. Mendoza, the most important city in the Argentinian Andes, has a desert-like climate, with 8° in winter and 38° in summer. Arthur, a polar bear, has lived in Mendoza for 21 summers and he belongs to the fifth generation of his family which has been born in captivity. Last summer, perhaps the hottest in the last decades, Arthur suffered the heat and his critical condition became target of animal protection activists. As a result the precarious situation became known and the finger was pointed against the zoo for the lacking of adequate infrastructure to keep an animal coming from the Arctic.

The situation in this case is similar to many others worldwide, caused by the change of paradigm as regards animal protection and is analysed by Prof. De Baggis from a common point of contact between Arthur, the bear in captivity, and two paradigmatic figures such as the slave in Rome and the abandoned child or the child in crime situations in the ancient Argentinian legislation. 

Even though we have to acknowledge the gap in time and space, we can affirm that not only the slave, in old times, but also the child, in modern times, are considered imputation objects to law, without being considered full of rights (as the animals from ancient times to the present days). This hypothesis allows us to foresee in what way the human being has been changing his judicial thought in different times and historic contexts and how now in countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador, constitutional rank has been provided to animal protection. 

To find out more about the issue of bear Arthur visit:


Martina Pluda
Communications Officer
Master in Animal Law and Society
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

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