Animal Rights and the Interpretation of the South African Constitution

In David Bilchitz & Stu Woolman (eds.), Is This Seat Taken? Conversations at the Bar, the Bench and the Academy. Pretoria University Law Press. pp. 209-219 (2012)

Authors
Thaddeus Metz
University of Johannesburg
Abstract
In this chapter, a reprinted article from Southern African Public Law (2010), I argue that, even supposing substantive principles of distributive justice entail that animals warrant constitutional protection, there are other, potentially weightier forms of injustice that would probably be done by interpreting a Bill of Rights as implicitly applying to animals, namely, formal injustice and compensatory injustice. Formal injustice would result from such a reading of the Constitution in that the state would fail to speak with one voice upon newly according legal rights to animals. Compensatory injustice would likely result from such a reading, at least in a South African context, in that the law would not only suppress facets of culture that many Africans deem important to their self-conception, but also require spending scarce resources on animals that could have gone toward saving African lives and livelihoods. If the state must choose between acting for the sake of the urgent interests of animals and those of humans, humans must take priority, even assuming that animals have a worth that morally forbids harming them in our private lives.
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