In 1999, New Zealand passed a new Animal Welfare Act that had the effect of banning experiments on "non-human hominids."
Also in 1999, Public Law 106-152(Title 18, Section 48) was put into action. This law makes it felony to create,sell, or possess videos showing animal cruelty with the intention of profiting financially from them.
In 2005, the Austrian parliament banned experiments on apes, unless they are performed in the interests of the individual ape. Also in Austria, the Supreme Court ruled in January 2008 that a chimpanzee (called Matthew Hiasl Pan by those advocating for his personhood) was not a person, after the Association Against Animal Factories sought personhood status for him because his custodians had gone bankrupt. The chimpanzee had been captured as a baby in Sierra Leone in 1982, then smuggled to Austria to be used in pharmaceutical experiments, but was discovered by customs officials when he arrived in the country, and was taken to a shelter instead. He was kept there for 25 years, until the group that ran the shelter went bankrupt in 2007. Donors offered to help him, but under Austrian law only a person can receive personal gifts, so any money sent to support him would be lost to the shelter's bankruptcy. The Association appealed the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights. The lawyer proposing the chimpanzee's personhood asked the court to appoint a legal guardian for him and to grant him four rights: the right to life, limited freedom of movement, personal safety, and the right to claim property.
In June 2008, a committee of Spain's national legislature became the first to vote for a resolution to extend limited rights to nonhuman primates. The parliamentary Environment Committee recommended giving chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans the right not to be used in medical experiments or in circuses, and recommended making it illegal to kill apes, except in self-defense, based upon the rights recommended by the Great Ape Project. The committee's proposal has not yet been enacted into law.
From 2009 onwards, several countries outlawed the use of some or all animals in circuses, starting with Bolivia, and followed by several countries in Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East, and Singapore.
In 2010, the government in Catalonia passed a motion to outlaw bull fighting, the first such ban in Spain. In 2011, PETA sued SeaWorld over the captivity of five orcas in San Diego and Orlando, arguing that the whales were being treated as slaves. It was the first time the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, was cited in court to protect nonhuman rights. A federal judge dismissed the case in February 2012.
Gary Francione was the first academic to teach animal rights in a U.S. law school and has since become a central figure in the animal rights movement. In this interview he discusses his new book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation.
Q: In your new book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, you maintain that we suffer from “moral schizophrenia” when it comes to nonhuman animals. What do you mean by that?
Gary Francione: I mean that our thinking about animals is very confused. On one hand, we claim to regard animals as members of the moral community. We claim to embrace a moral and legal obligation not to inflict “unnecessary” suffering or death on animals. We can, of course, debate the meaning of “necessity,” but whatever it means, it must rule out suffering and death imposed for reasons of human pleasure, amusement, or convenience. If it does not do so, then the exception would completely swallow the moral rule.
The problem is that 99.99% of our animal use cannot be justified by anything but human pleasure, amusement, or convenience. For example, we kill more than 12 billion land animals every year in the United States alone for food. No one maintains that it is necessary to eat animals to lead an optimally healthy lifestyle and an increasing number of mainstream health care professionals tell us that animal foods are detrimental to our health. Animal agriculture is a disaster for the environment because it involves a most inefficient use of natural resources and creates water pollution, soil erosion, and greenhouse gasses. The only justification that we have for the pain, suffering, and death that we impose on these billions of animals is that we enjoy eating animal foods, or that it is convenient to do so, or that it is just plain habit.
We regard some animals—our “pets”—as members of our families. We see them as nonhuman persons. We love them and they love us back. We are not in any way speaking or thinking anthropomorphically when we say that dogs and cats are sentient beings with distinct personalities. That is simply a matter of fact. We have no doubt that they have an interest in avoiding pain, suffering, and death. We grieve when they die. But our dogs and cats are no different from the animals whose bodies we eat or who are used to produce dairy and eggs. We love some animals; we stick forks into others. That is what I mean by “moral schizophrenia.”
Q: You mention dairy and eggs. What is wrong with eating products that do not result in the death of an animal?
GF: Those products do result in animal deaths and tremendous animal suffering. Animals used to produce dairy and eggs generally live longer than “meat” animals, are arguably treated worse, and end up at the same slaughterhouse after which we consume their bodies anyway. There is probably more suffering in a glass of milk than in a pound of steak.