Wikipedia - John Hadley (philosopher) - Animal property rights
Hadley is known for his theory of animal property rights, according to which animals should be afforded property rights over their territory. Hadley has developed his theory of animal property rights through his doctoral research, his 2015 monograph, and other academic works. In addition, he has authored popular articles on the subject for The Guardian, The Conversation and The Ethics Centre. He also discussed the topic on Knowing Animals, a podcast series produced by Siobhan O'Sullivan. His proposal has received attention in the popular press, with strong criticism from farmers' groups and journalists writing on rural affairs.
The practical side of Hadley's proposal rests on two key principles: a guardianship system, according to which knowledgeable guardians would be appointed to represent animal property holders in land management decision-making, and the use of animals' territory-marking behaviour to determine the limits of their property. Hadley rejects first occupancy and labour-mixing accounts of appropriation, and instead suggests that there are two ways that his account might fruitfully be justified. First, it might be justified directly, with reference to the interests of animals. This relies upon the fact that wild animals require their territory in order to satisfy their basic needs and the claim that this results in an interest in territory strong enough to ground a right. If animals have a right to use their territory, Hadley claims, then they necessarily have a property right in that territory. Second, it might be justified indirectly, as animals (of some species, at least) might be given property rights as a means of protecting natural environments. Hadley presents his proposal against the backdrop of an explicit pragmatism, and holds that animal property rights theory has the potential to reconcile animal and environmental ethics.
Hadley's proposal has been placed in the context of the "political turn" in animal ethics; the emergence of animal ethics literature focused on justice. Another academic who has proposed that wild animals be afforded property rights over their habitats is the British philosopher Steve Cooke. Like Hadley, he utilises an interest-based account of animal rights, but, unlike Hadley, he suggests that sovereignty would be an appropriate tool to protect animals' interest in their habitat if property fails. Other theorists exploring the normative aspects of human relationships with wild animals explicitly deny that they are extending property rights to animals. The US-based ethicist Clare Palmer, for instance, argues for a duty to respect wild animals' space, but claims that arguing for a property right for these animals would be "difficult", and instead bases her account on the fact that human actions can make animals "painful, miserable and vulnerable".
The Canadian theorists Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka are critical of Hadley's proposal to extend property rights to animals, claiming that property rights are insufficient to protect animals' interests. Instead, they argue that animals should be considered sovereign over their territories. They write that
They also compare the possibility of extending property rights to animals to the approach of European colonists, who were prepared to extend property, but not sovereignty, rights to native peoples, resulting in oppression. Hadley, however, is himself critical of Donaldson and Kymlicka's sovereignty proposal, though the British philosopher Josh Milburn suggests that the proposals may not be as far apart as the authors indicate.It is one thing to say that a bird has a property right in its nest, or that a wolf has a property right in its den – specific bits of territory used exclusively by one animal family. But the habitat that animals need to survive extends far beyond such specific and exclusive bits of territory – animals often need to fly or roam over vast territories shared by many other animals. Protecting a bird’s nest is of little help if the nearby watering holes are polluted, or if tall buildings block its flight path. It’s not clear how ideas of property rights can help here.
The British political theorist Alasdair Cochrane also questions the extension of property rights to animals. Though describing Hadley's proposal as "ingenious", he criticises it on two grounds. First, he questions Hadley's claim of a relationship between property and basic needs, and, second, denies that animal property rights would appease environmentalists, given that they would allow the destruction of environments which do not contain sentient animals. In a book review, Milburn stresses the significance of Hadley's theory, but questions the extent to which the implementation of animal property rights would be desirable without the achievement of other animal rights and the extent to which Hadley's account is genuinely about property rights.
Book - John Hadley: Animal Property Rights: A Theory of Habitat Rights for Wild Animals - J.Hadley@westernsydney.edu.au
Podcast - Property Rights Approach to Animal Rights | New Books Network #64
Review - by Josh Milburn - email@example.com
Upon seeing ‘‘animal’’ and ‘‘property’’ in a work’s title, one’s mind may be drawn to the entrenched debates about nonhuman animals (hereafter, ‘‘animals’’) as property. This is not the focus of John Hadley’s Animal Property Rights. Instead, Hadley argues that free-living (‘‘wild’’) animals have a particular kind of property right in their territory, meaning that their access to and free use of the natural goods in their territory should not be unduly limited by humans. This theory of animal property rights has two central conceptual elements: a system of guardianship and the use of territory to demarcate animal property. The guardianship system requires the appointment of a human who can act on the animals’ behalf, most clearly coming to the fore when animals’ property rights clash with humans’ property rights. For example, if I seek to develop my land, but it is land used by an assortment of animals, I should, Hadley says, be legally obliged to engage in mediation with the animals (represented by their guardian) in order to work out an amicable way forward, respectful of their right to access and make use of the ‘‘natural resources’’ on the land. This does not mean that I would be unable to develop my land in all circumstances, but I may be obliged to make provisions for the animals. Hadley recognizes that the second key concept, ‘‘territory’’, is contentious. It can be difficult to judge what behaviours make a parcel of land into the ‘‘territory’’ of a particular (group of) animal(s), and estimations of the size of territories among experts can vary quite considerably. Nonetheless, it is a concept already used in real-world property discussions. As such, ‘‘the detail from which to shape the content of animal property rights does not come from philosophical fantasy, but the same scientific sources deemed credible enough to shape human property rights incidents’’—think of protection zones for vulnerable species—so ‘‘it’s clear that the property rights of animals can be packaged in such a way as to mesh with existing economic, political, and legal institutions which have a bearing on the practical dimensions of ownership’’ (28).
Hadley’s argument is presented against the background of the contemporary institution of property (1–6). The book ultimately has a highly pragmatic focus—the author is concerned with presenting a particular policy proposal in as positive a light (and to as broad an audience) as possible. To that end, we find not merely arguments for the conclusion that animals can and should be considered property owners, but explanations of where animals’ property rights would fit into, and how they compare to, existing property arrangements. These are just examples; Hadley, a philosopher, seems happy to leave fuller development of the areas of his theory requiring specific legal/ecological expertise to others (123). He is also concerned with reconciling animal ethicists and environmental ethicists, at least insofar as both could see merit in animal property rights. This is raised repeatedly, and Chapter 5 is devoted to the issue. As Hadley seems to admit (93), this sometimes takes the book off-topic; for example, a discussion (78–80) of therapeutic killing—that is, the killing of animals of overabundant or introduced species for environmental purposes—seems to be unrelated to the book’s main argument. Nonetheless, Hadley’s proposal does have genuine potential for reconciliation of animal and environmental ethicists/activists, at least on this one issue. It is not the ‘‘golden bullet’’ that will finally and forever ally the ‘‘tree-huggers and the Bambi-lovers’’, but maybe policy convergence is the best we can hope for; both groups, though for different reasons, should agree about (for example) veganism, clean energy, and now, we might add, animal property rights.
Overall, Hadley’s pragmatic focus is quite refreshing. Philosophical minutiae are avoided and the position is presented in a positive light from a variety of perspectives. Hadley is sometimes a little too dismissive of theoretical differences. For example, he refuses to take a side on the ‘‘location question’’—whether the source of value is individual sentient animals or relationships between natural entities—and goes so far as to claim that ‘‘nothing about protecting animals or ecosystems in the real world turns on its outcome’’ (111). This is surely incorrect; for example, disagreements about therapeutic killing seem to rest, at least in part, on a disagreement concerning the location question. Despite possible metaphysical/ metaethical disagreements with more orthodox animal ethicists, I suspect that Hadley is more animal than environmental ethicist when it comes to the location question. Another relevant disciplinary split is that between the ‘‘old’’ and ‘‘new’’ animal ethicists; Peter Singer (1975) and Tom Regan (1984) are paradigmatic of the old ‘‘moral’’ approach, while Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka (2011) are paradigmatic of the new ‘‘political’’ approach. Hadley seems to align himself with the old approach (8, 76, 87, 91, 117), even while criticising the new approach— namely, Donaldson and Kymlicka’s sovereignty proposal (85–94)—for exaggerating differences between the two. I found this particularly interesting for two reasons. First, Hadley’s project is in many ways typical of the new approaches. It appeals to liberal values, focuses on interests while retaining rights-talk, stresses deliberation with animals, offers the argument from species overlap (also known as the argument from marginal cases) little space and is highly pragmatic (Milligan 2015). Second, I do not think (despite both sides’ desire to distance themselves from the other) that animal property rights and animal sovereignty theory are as far apart as they may seem—indeed, they may actually be compatible (cf. Cooke 2017).
Other than the importance of the central proposal, I think the book is at its best— and likely of most interest to readers of this journal—when it is exploring justifications for the institution of animal property rights. The work is not a simple premises-argument-conclusion philosophical treatise. Instead, after outlining the proposal, Hadley explores several separate arguments for it. Chapter 3 sees development of classic labour and first occupancy theories of ownership, while Chapter 4 looks to the basic needs of animals. Though this is not made explicit, perhaps Chapter 3 is directed at property theorists and Chapter 4 is directed at animal ethicists. Another—this time indirect—approach is offered in Chapter 6 (‘‘Practice and Pragmatism’’) which is likely aimed at environmentalists. Hadley’s consideration of extending the Lockean labour criterion of acquisition (as well as the Lockean proviso) to animals is thoughtful and clear. There is likely more to be said for (or at least about) it (cf. Milburn 2016), but, admittedly, an account of animal property rights based wholly on this basis would look very different from Hadley’s. For example—putting to one side important questions concerning intentionality (42–44)—a labour-based account of animal property rights might be very good at protecting certain interests possessed by industrious animals like nestbuilding birds, but much worse at protecting the interests of animals who do not ‘‘labour’’ in the same way, such as those belonging to certain sea-faring or coastal species. Of course, these animals could have at least as much interest in their habitats being protected from human development as do nesting birds. It’s also unclear how well a labour theory could be used as the basis of habitat rights in general, given that many animals, unlike humans, do not work the land. Hadley ultimately rejects labour accounts, along with first occupancy accounts, as being too tied up with personhood to suitably ground animal property rights. Instead, he favours an interest-based account. Given that animals have a strong ‘‘interest in using natural goods … to meet their basic needs and those of their offspring’’ (54), they have a right to do so, which gives rise to a property right. Hadley does not explicitly tie this into an interest rights approach to animal ethics (e.g., Cochrane 2012), but simply compares the significance of animals’ fundamental interests in satisfying their basic needs to the trivial interests of humans generally accepted as sufficient for property. The final possible justification Hadley proposes comes from a human interest in seeing certain habitats or species protected. In these indirect terms, animal property rights become a tool to be applied, be it selectively or broadly, be it in the spirit of cooperation or to respond to disaster (106). This comes across as a ‘‘second best’’ argument; if the interest argument fails, Hadley will fall back onto the indirect justification. I was pleasantly surprised to see a brief defence (107–108) of much-maligned indirect duties to animals. It doesn’t matter to the animals themselves, says Hadley, why they’re protected.
Hadley’s book is short, and so does not address everything that might be said. I would like to close this review by raising three questions that might serve as starting points for further debate.
First, I am left questioning the relationship of animal property rights to animal ethics more broadly. Hadley—quite deliberately—does not present a full account of animal rights. It might be easy to imagine an animal ethicist, and especially an interest rights theorist, simply adding animal property rights into an existing normative framework. Hadley even thinks that there has always been an idea of animal property rights implicit in traditional approaches to animal rights (76). But I wonder how central an account of animal property should be to animal rights frameworks. And while it makes conceptual sense to separate animal property rights from animal rights more broadly, it could potentially lead to some odd situations. The animals’ advocate might be tasked with arguing against the development of animals’ territory, while nonetheless lacking power and authority to challenge senseless slaughter. This could even lead to a particular kind of ‘‘repugnant conclusion’’; all that developers would have to do to ensure that they do not tread over the animals’ interest in access to/use of the land would be to kill said animals. Rabbits possess no interest in using their land if they have all been shot, no matter how articulate and knowledgeable their advocate.
Second, it is unclear where ‘‘liminal’’ animals, those neither fully wild nor fully domesticated, fit into Hadley’s picture. Granted, animal property rights exist for wild rather than domesticated animals. But liminal animals are imperfectly captured by Hadley’s account of some animals’ ‘‘double-character’’—alternating between wild and domesticated (67–68). Does Hadley want to give urban gulls property rights over the buildings upon which they live? How about the bins from which they feed? Perhaps, in a reversal of the norm, these animals’ advocates would demand that humans continue to habituate and develop the territory, casting aside unwanted food and leaving litter exposed. (And this kind of reversal is not a uniquely urban possibility—farmland, for example, is an important habitat for many animals.) One might claim that I am here stretching ‘‘natural goods’’ too far, or that the advocate would be overstepping her jurisdiction, but perhaps others would accept this conclusion. My point is that there is likely room for careful thought about if and how liminal animals fit into the theory of animal property rights.
Third, and this is perhaps the biggest question of all, we have to ask to what extent Hadley is actually talking about property rights. Even in the subtitle of the book, we find that property rights have become habitat rights. Hadley has a particular conception of what a property right consists in: he begins with animals’ interest in using territory, translates this in a right to use territory, and then claims that ‘‘if animals have a right to use natural goods this means that, logically, they have a property right in the good concerned’’ (54, emphasis Hadley’s). This is a logical jump that many readers will be unwilling to take. There are many natural goods that we are free to use which are not our property. Air and sunlight are obvious examples. Furthermore, it’s unclear if the animals’ putative ‘‘property’’ rights extend beyond a right to use, and possibly the right to exclude—specifically, exclude certain human activities (9–10)—which may amount to the same thing. Even despite this, we find that ‘‘animal property rights’’ and ‘‘property rights’’ are distinct. Interests, Hadley claims, can ‘‘give rise to a property right. In so far as the individual with the interest is an animal, the property right in question is an animal property right’’ (118, emphasis Hadley’s). But ‘‘animal property rights are conceptually distinctive because they coexist with the property rights of human beings’’ (15). This distinction seems to be taken as a starting assumption of the theory, and is likely a consequence of Hadley’s pragmatism; animal property rights are a tool with a particular purpose. They are not, for example, for pushing humans off property, or for protecting animals from each other. They’re just a way to have humans pay attention to certain kinds of animal interests—their interest in the natural goods within their territory. But then perhaps Hadley isn’t really proposing property rights at all; perhaps he is proposing a system for recognising and protecting animals’ legitimate interest in access to their habitat/territory and the free use of the natural goods contained therein. Perhaps ‘‘property’’ is shorthand.
As an idea, animal property rights are new, important and exciting; the theory warrants attention. As a book, Animal Property Rights is engaging and readable. Hadley’s prose is clear and concise, his ideas comprehensible and realistic. I think some philosophers may find the pragmatic focus frustrating; precisely the issues Hadley brushes over are the ones in which some are most interested. This, combined with the book’s short length, leaves much room for further work on the question, and I hope this will be forthcoming.
Acknowledgments Thanks to Kyle Shuttleworth and an anonymous reviewer for comments and to David Archard and Jeremy Watkins for their continued support. This piece was written while I was undertaking research in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, Queen’s University Belfast, financially supported by the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland.
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