Nonhuman Rights

Anna Triponel
July 14, 2023
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I’ve been thinking a lot about… nonhuman rights.

When we study human rights at law school, we learn that the rights of one person are intrinsically linked to the rights of another. As Victor Hugo put it, “The liberty of one citizen ends where the liberty of another citizen begins.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes apparently said something like: “Your rights end where my rights begin.”

But what if we had missed a layer here. How about the rights of humans end where the rights of nonhumans begin? What if the only way for humans to have their human rights fully respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled, was for nonhumans to have theirs too? 🤔

Nonhumans being animals… rivers… water… forests… We would be in a very different situation today, had we discussed these nonhuman rights earlier. 🌍

On Monday at my social impact club (the Conduit), Phoebe Tickell from Moral Imaginations was sharing how a New Zealand river (Whanganui river) was granted the same legal rights as human beings. The local Māori tribe of Whanganui argued that if they have rights, how could this river not have them, given how inter-dependent they were on each other?

We are inter-dependent, and yet our legal architecture does not recognise it. This is starting to change. The great news for this week is that the EU passed the Nature Restoration Law to restore ecosystems for people, the climate and the planet. 🌲

Mark my words! The rights of nature, the rights of animals, and the rights of future generations is the future for the human rights of today.

Happy Friday everyone. 🌟

And for more on my takeaways from Moral Imaginations, check out Monday’s Linkedin post.