Moral and Legal Status of Animals: Tutorial 4 (Podcast Discussion)
Podcast Discussion: Voiceless Animal Law Talk Episode 1
The learning sequence for this tutorial is designed to assist students to critically discuss the concept of granting legal personhood to non-human animals. After listening to the podcast on the topic featuring key commentators in the field, students discuss the concepts and arguments raised in the podcast with a view to forming their own views on the issue.
One 50-minute tutorial. It is expected that students will have listened to the podcast prior to class.
Key Inquiry Questions
- What are the different legal and philosophical perspectives concerning the concept of legal personhood for non-human animals?
- What are the goals of the Nonhuman Rights Project, and are these goals achievable and desirable?
Prior to the first tutorial, students are required to listen to ‘Voiceless Animal Law Talk Episode 1 – Legal Personhood for Animals’.
1. Work in pairs (20 mins)
Split the class into pairs and ask them to work through the following questions (taking notes as they discuss):
- What was your overall response to the podcast?
- From listening to the podcast, what is your understanding of the main arguments ‘against’ granting personhood status to animals? Which do you think is the strongest argument? Which do you think is the weakest?
- From listening to the podcast, what is your understanding of the main arguments ‘for’ granting personhood status to animals? Which do you think is the strongest argument? Which do you think is the weakest?
- Do you think that the arguments ‘for’ or ‘against’ granting personhood status to animals were more persuasive? Why?
2. Class discussion (30 mins)
Bring the class together. Ask them to share with the group their responses to each of the four questions.
If discussion is limited, play some selected passages from the podcast to the class and ask for their responses.
Suggested question prompts:
- Why do Wise and Tischler insist that the property status of animals is problematic for achieving adequate protection of their interests? Do you agree?
- Can you describe the Nonhuman Rights Project’s approach (i.e. using the common law)? Do you agree with it?
- Why does Epstein claim that rights are not the appropriate mechanism for achieving improved protection? Do you agree?
- How does Wise explain the rationale for the NhRP’s selection of clients? What do you think of this?
- What are Epstein’s views on the connection between rights and duties? Do you agree?
- How was the discussion on the rights of natural entities in jurisdictions around the world relevant to the question of animal legal personhood?
- Did you find Wise’s response to the argument that granting rights to animals may threaten or detract from the rights of humans persuasive?
- What does Epstein mean when he says that we have to draw a line with rights, between human beings and animals? Do you agree with his argument?
- Do you agree with Wise that the fact that a New York Court of Appeals judge stated that a chimpanzee is ‘not merely a thing’ is an important development for the movement to achieve recognition of personhood status for animals?
SUGGESTED ASSESSMENT TASK
Task description and rationale
This task requires students to construct their own podcast on the topic of legal personhood for animals. By creating their own podcast, students are given the opportunity to critically discuss the arguments discussed in the Voiceless Animal Law Talk episode.
Expectations regarding style and tone should be made clear in advance. As this is a podcast, students are not expected to adopt an overly formal or academic tone.
Provide students with guidance regarding how to construct appropriate interview questions.
Links to Module Intended Learning Outcomes
1, 2, 3.
This assessment requires students to:
- Develop a clear, well-structured and engaging educational podcast;
- Demonstrate critical thinking and reflection on the arguments discussed in the Voiceless Animal Law Talk podcast.
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