The protection of animals in international law - not of unconfigurable real "rights" of animals, but of human interests to a certain treatment of them - can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century. The first treaties were concluded to prevent the overexploitation of whales and fur seals, in order to protect the industrial activities of which these animals constituted the raw material. Today, the topic of "animal welfare" is debated in various international forums and has led to the conclusion of some treaties in the Council of Europe and to the adoption of significant EU Treaty provisions and acts.
Especially on the part of non-governmental organizations, the topic is often presented as a progressive affirmation of real animal rights. On closer inspection, though, also these more recent international sources still - inevitably – provide for the protection of human interests that have to do with a certain way of treating animals. In this regard, two recent international disputes discussed at the International Court of Justice and the WTO are emblematic. They refer on one hand to the killing of whales in the conduct of research programs and on the other hand to consumers' perception of the "immorality" of the purchase of commercial products made through the "inhuman" slaughter of the seals.
The "anthropocentric" key in reading the sources of international law that have to do with the protection of animals is not only a "technical" necessity, especially in consideration of the peculiar characteristics of the community and of the international order. It permeates all relevant sources, being at the basis of the ratio of the rules. This is particularly evident in those conventional instruments that most seem, at first sight, to conform to the idea of a "right to survival" of animal species, first and foremost the 1992 UN Biodiversity Convention. Embracing necessarily an "anthropocentric" approach to the international protection of animals, however, does not at all mean renouncing the recognition of due importance to this topic. Evidence in international practice shows the tendency to acknowledge high priority to animal protection, even if attempts to raise the international level of protection often clash, in the context of balancing between opposing needs, with certain specificities of traditions at regional or local level. It certainly makes us think that, for example, even the UN Security Council has come to deal with, although incidentally, issues related to the protection of animal species, or that the Inuit were the first to protest the formulation of the exception in favor of their "cultural specificity" in the European Union regulation that prohibits the sale of seal products.
The course will delve into the various aspects of animal protection, highlighting the approach and the various problems faced by the sources of international law.
Through the critical knowledge of relevant sources, students should be able to interpret, from the point of view of the international legal order, the existing and possible future responses of international law to the demands of civil society on the subject of animal protection.
Teaching and Evaluation Methods
Teaching will take place through lectures and discussion of relevant documents during lessons.
30 % participation during classes (debate, analysis of the documents, etc.)
30 % written essay (max 5000 words) on a topic at students’ choice among those studied during the course (the title must be previously agreed with the professor). Students will present their essay in a final seminar.
40 % final discussion on topics and readings discussed during classes and on the essay
Week 1: The course will be structured into a first unit on the basic notions of international law (particularly on subjects and sources of international law (first two weeks – slides will be available to students after each lecture). Then it will be divided into three main topics:
Weeks 2, 3 and 4:
- the first treaties on the protection of whales and fur seals, devised not to deplete living economic resources
- CITES and the protection of the species through the control of commerce
- the networks of internationally protected natural sites of exceptional/outstanding universal value as protection of the habitat of species at the risk of extinction
Weeks 5, 6, 8 and 9 (week 7: midterm break):
Biodiversity and sustainable development
- The convention on the protection of biological diversity and its protocols
- Biological diversity, cultural diversity and sustainable development
Weeks 10, 11, 12 and 13:
Public morals and “animal welfare”
- Two recent international disputes on the protection of wild animals:
The International Court of Justice about whales
WTO dispute settlement mechanisms about seals
- Main features of the Council of Europe conventions
- A look at the European Union rules and the UN Security Council practice
Week 14: exams
For Week 1: The slides that will be given to students after each lecture
For Weeks 2, 3 and 4:
- MUCCI F., The Last Frontier of the International Protection of Human Rights at the Outermost Bounds of the Earth: Polar Activities between Cultural and Biological Diversity, in Angela Del Vecchio (edited by), International Law of the Sea: Current Trends and Controversial Issues, The Netherlands, 2014, Eleven International Publishing, 371-384; ISBN 978-94-6236-081-5
- Bowman M., Conflict or compatibility? The trade, conservation and animal welfare dimensions of CITES, Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy, 1998, issue 1, pp. 9-63 - Dudley N. et al., Priorities for protected area Research, in Parks Journal, 2018, 24-1, pp. 35-50.
For Weeks 5, 6, 8 and 9:
- Gannon P. et al., Status and prospects for achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 11: implications of national commitments and priority actions, in Parks Journal, 2017, 23.2, pp. 13-26.
- McInnes R., Ali M. & Pritchard D. (2017) Ramsar and World Heritage Conventions: Converging towards success. Ramsar Convention Secretariat. 2017. pp. 1-35.
- Padovani L.M. et al., Biodiversity: two decades of international convention, in Energia, Ambiente e Innovazione, 4-5 2011, pp. 68-72.
- Matz N., Chaos or Coherence? Implementing and Enforcing the Conservation of Migratory Species through Various Legal Instruments, in Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, 2005, Vol. 65, pp. 197-215
For Weeks 10, 11, 12 and 13:
- Peters A., Novel practice of the Security Council: Wildlife poaching and trafficking as a threat to the peace, ejiltalk.org, published on February 12, 2104, pp. 1-7
- Nollkaemper A., Framing Elephant Extinction, in ESIL Reflections, Vol. 3, issue 6, July 15, 2014, pp. 1-4
- Sykes K., “Nations Like Unto Yourselves”: An Inquiry into the Status of a General Principle of International Law on Animal Welfare, in The Canadian Yearbook of International Law, 2011, pp. 1-49
- Peters A., Global Animal Law: What It Is and Why We Need It, in Transnational Environmental Law, Volume 5, Issue 01, April 2016, pp 9 – 23
- Howse R., Langille J. and Sykes K., Pluralism in Practice: Moral Legislation and the Law of the WTO After Seal Products, 2015, New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers, Paper 506, pp. 81-150
- Gogarty B. and Lawrence P., The ICJ Whaling Case: Missed Opportunity to Advance the Rule of Law in Resolving Science Related Disputes in Global Commons?, in Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, 2017, Vol. 77, pp. 162-197
Suggested reference texts:
- D. CAO-S. WHITE (edited by), Animal Law and Welfare – International Perspectives, Springer International Publishing, Switzerland, 2016, pp. 1-106
- M. BOWMAN-C. REDGWELL (edited by), International Law and the Conservation of Biological Diversity, Kluwer Law International, London-The Hague-Boston, 1996.
Further specific readings and references will be provided during the course.