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

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 (for 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 all over 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. A main issue is about 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 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 in 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.

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 organised in the last year of the project. We plan to hold regular meetings (open workshops or seminars with guest researchers). A blog will be dedicated to the project, providing it with additional visibility.

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.

Berti, D., and A. Good (eds). Forthcoming. Animal Sacrifice on Trial: Cases from South Asia.

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 coordinator

Madame Daniela BERTI-TARABOUT (Centre d'Etudes 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

CEH Centre d'Etudes 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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