Human Exceptionalism

Lawrence Tribe Supports Allowing Animals to Bring Lawsuits in Court

Lawrence Tribe is a Harvard law professor who has been suggested as a possible Supreme Court nominee if the Democratic Party retakes the White House. In other words, he is Establishment Law, not somebody on the fringe. In researching for my book, I just came across a journal article, taken from a speech Tribe gave at Faneuil Hall in Boston, in which he sure seems to support giving animals standing to bring lawsuits in their own names. Claiming a “deep intuition that chimps and dolphins and dogs and cats are infinitely precious–like ourselves,” Tribe states

:…[E]xisting state and federal statutes depend on enforcement by chronically underfunded agencies and by directly affected and highly motivated people–and that’s just not a sufficiently reliable source of protection. Recognizing that animals themselves by statute as holders of rights would mean that they could sue in their own name and in their own right…Such animals would have what is termed legal standing. Guardians would ultimately have to be appointed to speak for these voiceless rights-holders, just as guardians are appointed today for infants, or for the profoundly retarded…But giving animals this sort of ‘virtual voice’ would go a long way toward strengthening the protection they will receive under existing laws and hopefully improved laws, and our constitutional history is replete with instances of such legislatively conferred standing.

I am sorry, but this is utterly reckless. Imagine the chaos that would result if animal liberationists could sue animal industries and owners “in the name of the animals” themselves. The courts would immediately become utterly clogged, the economy would be thrown into chaos, and the exceptional nature of human life would suffer a significant body blow because the crucial moral distinction between humans and animals would be blurred–exactly the future for which animal rights/liberationists devoutly yearn.


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