Governing Animals: Animal Welfare and the Liberal State

By Kimberly K. Smith | Go to book overview
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The animal kingdom turns out to be at the heart of the contemporary debate on the rela-
tionship between man and nature.

LUC FERRY, The New Ecological Order

ONE OF THE paradoxes I have discovered while writing this book is that everyone is interested in animals but no one thinks they’re important. More precisely, despite the size and complexity of our animal governance apparatus, political scientists and political philosophers have devoted very little attention to how and why we govern animals. It should be clear by now that I think that’s a mistake; animals are interesting and important enough in their own right to warrant scholarly attention, quite apart from their contribution to human well-being. Many of the animals we live with are sentient, intelligent beings that make moral demands on us every day. Why shouldn’t our studies of politics attend to them as well?

But one can also defend such attention on the grounds that animals and humans are so interdependent that one can’t govern a political community humanely and justly without attending to its animal members. Indeed, shifting our scholarly focus from humans to animals should give us a new perspective on government and on our political values. As Luc Ferry has argued, animals are central to our relationship with the natural world; they occupy the critical space between human and nonhuman nature. Thinking about how we govern animals is a good way to approach the complex relationship between the human community and the biotic community. In short, a study like this one should offer insights into how we can better care for the welfare of animals just for their own sakes, but it should also help us better govern humans and our natural environment. Toward those dual ends, this chapter offers some conclusions about the future of the animal rights movement and the future of liberalism.


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