CE03 - Interactions Humains-Environnement

Ruling on Nature. Animals and the Environment before the Court – RULNAT

RULNAT – Ruling on Nature. Animals and the Environment before the Court

ANGLAIS<br />The project focuses on how nature-related issues are brought before law courts; how the environment and animal protection are handled at judicial level by lawyers, activists and the state; how nature is ‘judicialised’ and ‘governed’ through the judiciary in different countries, and how the global debate on acknowledging some kind of rights to nature and animals is implemented in actual litigations.

Objectives and issues: Provide, through the study of judiciary cases in context, an angle from which to understand how human relationships to animals or to the environment are shaped by legal action

The animal and nature protection debate has intensified across the world, and animal welfare and ecological issues are repeatedly brought before courts. These issues are now considered a complex and delicate matter involving animals’ or nature’s own interests, particularly (with regards to animals) their right to be spared useless suffering and to live in suitable conditions according to their individual and specific needs. Some activists and legal scholars have proposed that we should therefore rethink our legal relationship to animals and to nature. Legally speaking, animals are ‘things’, ‘goods’, ‘property’, though they may be granted various types of protection: they are not legal persons. There have been proposals to change their status and the idea of attributing a legal standing to elements of the environment or to some animals has now become a juridical tool which, despite being the object of much criticism, carries considerable weight throughout the world. Some legislatures or courts have granted legal personhood to various natural resources, and a similar move concerning animals has been initiated, questioning the boundary between humans and animals. However, such a proposal is far from reaching a consensus in legal circles, and most litigation concerning the protection of nature or animals is actually decided by the courts within the framework of existing civil or criminal laws without advocating any change of legal categories. One main issue concerns understanding the interactions between legal traditions and the evolution of sensibilities, and between local litigation and the international circulation of legal ideas. Our objective is to contribute to a new, more comprehensive understanding of the issues at stake by combining case studies and comparative analysis, relying on the close association of legal and anthropological approaches.

The project relies on traditional ethnographic methods and legal analysis in order to pay full attention to the complex, long-term judicial story of lawsuits in different countries.
The project is structured around five broad questions:
- Animals and natural resources as holders of ‘rights’: how the notion of ‘rights’ is used in court for the protection of the environment and of animals without modifying the legal system.
- Attributing ‘legal personhood’ to animals and natural resources: since the debate is not framed in the same way in the different countries, it is necessary to analyse court cases in situation, taking into account both legal reasoning and social and historical context.
- Conflicts between humans and animals: courts may have to deal with cases in which animal protection goes against the protection of persons and their property.
- The role of experts in court cases: court decisions concerning the protection and the ‘rights’ of nature and animals often require external scientific expertise; however, experts may contradict each other so that the final ruling depends on the prosecutor’s or the lawyers’ ability to discredit the opposing party’s experts.
- The circulation of legal precedents and the global debate: focusing on cases regarding the complexity of their local situation shall help to shed light on the interaction between various levels of jurisdiction, from the local to the global.
A consortium of three French research centres and one Belgian scientific partner has been created. The team comprises social anthropologists with experience of pertinent fieldwork, legal scholars with a particular interest in comparative law on the relevant issues, and environmental lawyers (six French researchers, in collaboration with seven foreign researchers); three junior researchers (one PhD student and two postdoctoral fellowships) contribute to the project.

A dedicated website has been created in English: rulnat.cnrs.fr
The team now includes a PhD student (thesis about Colombia) and two postdoctoral fellows (fieldwork in Italy and Greenland), as well as two associate researchers (research in France).
Fieldwork has been carried out in France, Italy, Greenland, Colombia, India, Sri Lanka – to date, China remains closed.
Regular seminars (17 papers) were organised, first by videoconference and then face-to-face on Condorcet campus (Aubervilliers). An international symposium (30 June-2 July 2022) brought together all project members and invited researchers of international reputation (https://rulnat.cnrs.fr/?page_id=7853). The proceedings are being drafted.
Project members have presented more than thirty papers, both within and outside Rulnat seminars. Publications: a collective book in English (accepted), a special issue of a journal (in preparation), 3 book chapters (+ 5 accepted), 5 articles in peer-reviewed journals (+ one submitted).
The project has acquired a significant audience through networks of researchers, the supervision of students, the articulation with university programmes, and through publications and dissemination in French and English.

Prospects
There is abundant literature on the «judicialisation« of issues that were once managed at an administrative or political level. With regard to the protection of the environment or animals, legal debates focus on the «rights« that should or should not be granted to nature, or even on the possible attribution of a «legal personality«. These concerns coincide with changes in anthropological discipline and theory, where there is growing interest in representations of nature and the environment. However, these are largely two separate fields of study, with anthropologists rarely interested in how courts operate and decide on environmental cases.

The Rulnat project aims to overcome this separation and to open a research perspective that combines legal and anthropological approaches. It differs from other works on the environment or the relationship between humans and animals by focusing on the analysis of specific disputes, both understood in their local socio-political context and informed by the global circulation of ideas and judicial precedents.

Ángel Botero, C. 2022. « Hacer especie en el juzgado: el caso del oso “Chucho” » (« The Making of a Species in the Judicial Context: The Case of “Chucho” the Bear »), Revista Derecho del Estado 54 : 381-405. revistas.uexternado.edu.co/index.php/derest/article/view/8372/12891

Berti, D., and A. Good (eds). (accepted). Animal Sacrifice, Religion and Law in South Asia. Routledge:
- D. Berti & A. Good : Introduction: The Judicialisation and Politicisation of Sacrifice
- Berti, D. “Animal sacrifice on Trial. Moral reforms and religious freedom in India”
- Dutta, R. “The last straw on the Camel’s back. Analysing Judicial decisions and legal approaches on protection of camels in India”
- Good, A. “Animal Sacrifice and the Law in Tamil Nadu, South India”
- Letizia, C. (with B. Ripert) “Not in the name of dharma. A judgment of the Supreme Court of Nepal on mass sacrifices at the Ga?hi Mai Mela”
Brunet, P. 2020. «Pour un droit animalier global», Revue Semestrielle de Droit Animalier, 2020-2 : 285-291
Brunet, P. 2021. «La représentation des entités naturelles», in M. Albertone and M. Troper (eds), La Représentation politique. Anthologie. Paris, Garnier, Bibliothèque de science politique, pp. 473-488.
Brunet, P. 2021. «L’écologie des juges. La personnalité juridique des entités naturelles (Nouvelle-Zélande, Inde et Colombie)», in M.-A. Cohendet (ed.), Droit constitutionnel de l'environnement, Paris, Mare et Martin, pp. 303-325
Brunet, Pierre. 2022. « Diritto, credenze e natura: verso un’ontologia giuridica animista? », in Emanuele Coco (ed.), L’invenzione della realtà. Scienza, mito e immaginario nel dialogo tra psiche e mondo oggettivo. Una prospettiva filosofica in omaggio a Francesco Coniglione, Pisa, Edizioni ETS, p. 425-438
Dutta, Ritwick. 2022. “Climate change in the courts: An environmental lawyer’s viewpoint”, Contributions to Indian Sociology 55, 3 (2021): 438–458
Revet, S. 2020. « Les droits du fleuve. Polyphonie autour du fleuve Atrato en Colombie et de ses Gardiens », Sociétés politiques comparées, 52. www.fasopo.org/sites/default/files/varia3_n52.pdf
Revet, S. 2022. « Des droits pour le fleuve, des responsabilités pour ses gardiens. Droits bioculturels en action sur le fleuve Atrato en Colombie » Terrain, rubrique Terrains, March 3, 2022. doi.org/10.4000/terrain.22695

Ruling on Nature. Animals and the Environment before the Court - RULNAT

Objectives
The aim of this project is to study how nature-related issues are brought before law courts; how the environment and animal protection are handled at judicial level by lawyers, activists, and the state; how nature is ‘judicialised’ and ‘governed’ through the judiciary in different countries, and how the global debate on acknowledging some kind of rights to nature and animals is implemented in actual litigations. There are important intellectual and political stakes in understanding these processes, and the project is based on the theoretical assumption that a study of judiciary cases in all their multifaceted complexity provides a pertinent and original angle from which to understand how human relationships to animals or to the environment are shaped – or not – by legal action.

Context
The animal and nature protection debate has begun to intensify across the world, and animal welfare and ecological issues are repeatedly brought before courts. These issues are now considered a complex and delicate matter involving animals' or nature’s own interests, particularly (for animals) their right to be spared useless suffering and to live in suitable conditions according to their individual and specific needs. Should we then rethink our legal relationship to animals and to nature? Animals are ‘things’, ‘goods’, ‘property’, legally speaking, though they may be granted various types of protection; they are not legal persons. Should they be conferred legal rights (and not simply the ‘right’ to be protected)? If so, how are we to articulate these rights with human ones? Christopher Stone’s idea of attributing a legal standing to nature has become a juridical tool that, despite being the object of much criticism, carries considerable weight all over the world; and some legislatures or courts have granted legal personhood to various natural resources. A similar move concerning animals has been initiated, questioning the boundary between humans and animals.

Methodology
The project is based on the idea that the close association of juridical and anthropological studies can bring a new, more comprehensive understanding of the issues at stake. We shall therefore pay full attention to the complex, long-term judicial story of lawsuits, by conducting case studies in different countries, associating traditional ethnographic methods and legal analysis. The project is structured around five broad questions:
- Animals and natural resources as holders of ‘rights’
- Attributing ‘legal personhood’ to animals and natural resources
- Conflicts between humans and animals
- The role of experts in court cases
- Legal precedents and the global debate

Originality
The specific and distinctive focus of the project, differentiating it from other work on the environment or on human-animal relationships, is the analysis of real litigations within a comparative perspective, and the close combination of legal and anthropological approaches.

Participants
A consortium of three French research centres and one Belgian scientific partner has been created. The team comprises social anthropologists with experience of pertinent fieldwork, legal scholars with a particular interest in comparative law on the relevant issues, and environmental lawyers (six French researchers, in collaboration with seven foreign researchers); support for three young researchers is requested (one PhD and two postdoctoral fellowships).

Outcome
Some fifteen papers will be edited in international-level publications, and ethnographic videos will be produced. A book will compile contributions from a final symposium organized in the last year of the project. We plan to hold regular meetings (open workshops or seminars with invited researchers). A blog will be dedicated to the project, providing additional visibility to the project.

Project coordination

Daniela BERTI-TARABOUT (Centre d'études sud asiatiques et himalayennes)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

CEHSA Centre d'études sud asiatiques et himalayennes
CERI Centre de recherches internationales
LESC Laboratoire d'ethnologie et de sociologie comparative
Université llbre de Bruxelles / Maison des Sciences Humaines (MSH)

Help of the ANR 420,344 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2019 - 48 Months

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