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Trilogy on a Legal Theory of Animal Rights


Saskia Stucki


Global Animal Law

About the Project:

This research project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Advanced Postdoc.Mobility grant) and will be conducted at Harvard Law School and the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law.

The overarching goal of this project is to develop a novel and comprehensive legal theory of animal rights. While the idea of animal rights has been developed extensively in the area of moral philosophy over the past decades, and has more recently entered the arena of political theory, a comparable body of animal rights theory is lacking in legal scholarship. This project aims to fill this gap by adding to moral and political theories a distinct legal theory of animal rights. By rethinking the idea of animal rights through legal methodology and theories, it aims to furnish a coherent conceptual vocabulary for legal animal rights. Theorizing the conceptual foundations of animal rights seems particularly important given that legally recognized animal rights are beginning to emerge and materialize in case law. This project is thus also relevant for informing legal practice, as it may help guide the further institutionalization of legal animal rights and avoid a fragmented ad hoc-theory building.

The project consists of three separate but interconnected parts each fleshing out one core aspect of a legal theory of animal rights: (1) a general theory of legal animal rights, (2) a human rights theory of fundamental animal rights, and (3) a novel account of the relationship of complementarity between animal welfare law and animal rights. These subject areas will be explored through three different theoretical lenses: (1) theory of rights, (2) human rights philosophy, and (3) international humanitarian law. Methodologically, this project undertakes conceptual, comparative and normative analyses; i.e. a conceptual analysis and meta-analysis of prevailing conceptions of the legal concepts of (1) rights and (2) human rights with regard to the potential application to animals and (3) a comparative analysis of animal welfare law and international humanitarian law with a view to discovering relevant parallels and identifying regulatory and normative shortcomings.

The first part of the trilogy develops a theoretical framework for discussions of legal animal rights in general and addresses three basic questions: Can animals have legal rights (as a conceptual matter), do animals have legal rights (as a matter of positive law), and do animals need legal rights (evaluative considerations)?

The second part of the trilogy zooms in on one particular aspect of legal animal rights: human rights-like fundamental animal rights. It examines whether basic animal rights can be fitted in the human rights framework, and whether human rights and animal rights can and should be integrated.

The third part of the trilogy supplements the legal animal rights theory developed in the preceding papers by connecting it to the established field of animal welfare law. By reconceptualizing the traditionally dichotomized relationship between animal welfare law and animal rights as one of complementarity rather than incompatibility, this final piece seeks to reframe and reinvigorate a debate which is increasingly perceived as having hit an impasse caused by the welfare/rights-dualism. Inspiration for this reconfiguration will be drawn from the complex relationship between international humanitarian law and human rights as distinct but complementary legal regimes.


  • Stucki, Saskia: Animal Warfare Law and the Need for an Animal Law of Peace: A Comparative Reconstruction. In: American Journal of Comparative Law 71 (2023). doi:
  • Stucki, Saskia: One Rights: Human and Animal Rights in the Anthropocene. Springer, Cham, 2023, 112 p. doi:
  • Stucki, Saskia: Beyond Animal Warfare Law: Humanizing the "War on Animals" and the Need for Complementary Animal Rights. MPIL Research Paper Series No. 2021-10, 2021.
  • Stucki, Saskia: Towards a Theory of Legal Animal Rights: Simple and Fundamental Rights. In: Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 40, 533-560 (2020). doi:
  • Sparks, Tom, Visa Kurki, Saskia Stucki: Editorial: Animal Rights - Interconnections with Human Rights and the Environment. In: Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 11/2, 149-155 (2020). doi:
  • Stucki, Saskia, Visa Kurki: Animal Rights. In: Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, Sellers M., Kriste S. (eds.). Springer, Dordrecht 2020.
  • Stucki, Saskia, Tom Sparks: The Elephant in the (Court)Room: Interdependence of Human and Animal Rights in the Anthropocene. EJIL:Talk!, 09 June 2020.
  • Stucki, Saskia: Menschenrechte für Tiere: Von der theoretischen Begründung zur praktischen Verrechtlichung. In: Die Idee subjektiver Rechte, Eric Hilgendorf, Benno Zabel (eds.). De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston 2021, 319-335.
  • Stucki, Saskia: Grundrechte für Tiere: Eine Kritik des geltenden Tierschutzrechts und rechtstheoretische Grundlegung von Tierrechten im Rahmen einer Neupositionierung des Tieres als Rechtssubjekt. Fundamenta Juridica 69. Nomos, Baden-Baden, 2016, 445 S.
  • Stucki, Saskia: (Certified) Humane Violence? Animal Welfare Labels, the Ambivalence of Humanizing the Inhumane, and What International Humanitarian Law Has to Do with It. In: AJIL Unbound 111, 277-281 (2017). Stucki_certified_humane_violence2.pdf (PDF, 120.7 KB)
  • Stucki, Saskia: Menschenrechte für Tiere: Von der Theorie zur Praxis. In: Tierärztliche Umschau 12/2017, 484-488 (2017).
  • Stucki, Saskia, Juan C. Herrera: El rol del ‘habeas corpus’ en la evolución de los derechos de los animales. In: Ámbito Jurídico 12 February (2018).
  • Stucki, Saskia, Juan C Herrera: Habea(r)s Corpus: Some Thoughts on the Role of Habeas Corpus in the Evolution of Animal Rights. In: International Journal of Constitutional Law Blog Nov. 4 (2017).
  • Stucki, Saskia: Toward Hominid and Other Humanoid Rights: Are We Witnessing a Legal Revolution? In: Verfassungsblog 30 December (2016).

Further Links

Animal Turn Podcast - Animal Warfare Law with Saskia Stucki

Claudia speaks to Saskia Stucki, who sees overlaps between International Humanitarian Law and Animal Welfare Law as providing fertile ground for legal conceptual development. Saskia Stucki believes ‘Animal Warfare Law’ offers a way forward for considering how animal welfare and animal rights could better complement one another.