Faced with the sixth mass extinction, the solution of the “right of the living”

Gathered within the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a number of experts regularly sound the alarm bells on the state of biodiversity. In May 2019, they thus alerted public opinion:

“Nature is declining globally at a rate unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinction is accelerating. “

Pointing to the “overwhelming evidence”, they nevertheless believe that this process could be stopped by the implementation of “transformative changes.” “

If the IPBES explicitly targeted the fields of economy, social, political and technology, in many respects, the law could prove to be the best vector to modify the way we look at living things and to serve as fertile ground. to the long-awaited changes.

Law facing the sixth extinction

In most states, animals and natural ecosystems generally remain subject to the “rule of things”. Without legal personality, they are objects of law, like a kitchen cabinet or a telephone, and not subjects of law, like a human being or a company.

However, this way of apprehending them legally constitutes a failure, the sixth mass extinction being at work. In the era of the Anthropocene, humans can no longer afford to act as if they were the only inhabitants of a planet with inexhaustible resources.

A study for the European Economic and Social Committee even pointed out “the failure of environmental law” to ensure a sufficient level of protection for nature. The same is true of the regulations concerning animals.

These reflections fit more generally into the question of our relationship with living things.

In this area, the law can apprehend living things in different ways: by focusing on humans (anthropocentrism); on animals (zoocentrism) with criteria such as sensitivity, intelligence, consciousness or others; or by embracing the living (biocentrism).

By breaking free from anthropocentrism and considering the living, or more exactly a part of the living as so many legal persons, a new, more balanced relationship to the world could be established, as some jurists propose.

Develop the concept of “legal personality”

It is in this perspective that the “trilogy on the legal personality of the animal”, a research program initiated within the University of Toulon.

This initiative proposes to recast the category of persons to include animals, it being understood that a specific regime, different from that of human persons, must be put in place.

This doctrinal proposition implies a evolution of the concept of legal personality.

Evolution of the concept of “legal personality” as proposed by the trilogy on the legal personality of animals.
Caroline Regad, CC BY-NC-ND

Three chapters to change our relationship with living things

The first chapter of the trilogy concerns companion animals, the second, animals attached to a fund (animals for income, entertainment, experimentation), the third, wild animals.

This personifying trilogy gave rise, on March 29, 2019, to the proclamation of the Toulon Declaration, seen as a legal response to the Cambridge Declaration.

The latter asserts that animals are endowed with the neurological substrates of consciousness. Since they are living, sentient, intelligent and conscious beings, it seems logical that the law draws the consequences. The Toulon Declaration then affirms:

“That all animals should be universally regarded as people and not things.”

This text mobilizes today all actors who wish to favorably develop the legal status of the animal. With legal personality, animals would no longer be things legally and could be holders of certain rights.

After the last chapter devoted to the question of the legal personality of wild animals, the Charter of living rights was proclaimed on May 26, 2021 in connection with the UN. “Taking note of the decline of nature and the extinction of thousands of species induced by the Anthropocene”, the said Charter lays down the principles and keys for interpreting texts relating to humans, animals and nature.

The jurisprudence of the Earth and the jurist of the living

A non-anthropocentric approach to the world could therefore be supported by law. It is in this wake that the “jurisprudence of the Earth” develops, a set of binding legal texts or not whose purpose is to promote rights for nature and animals.

The bush of life includes all forms of life existing on the planet.
Author provided

However, the bush of life, which includes all the forms of life existing on the planet, is vast and has many elements. It will therefore be necessary to delimit the branches which must fall within the scope of the law. Article 6 of the Charter of the Law of the Living Being specifies as well as:

“Each legal order must broaden, based on the living criterion, the notion of natural person to include non-human persons previously designated. “

The living lawyer now has a role to play in supporting this process, as underlined by Maria Mercedes Sanchez, director of the program. Harmony with Nature of the UN, in a recent speech:

“Through this trilogy, a new figure of the jurist emerges: the jurist of the living. His field of intervention goes beyond the borders and current technical fields of environmental law. […] »

This will allow him to achieve the necessary transition “from a right on the living has a right of alive ”(preamble of the Charter of the law of the alive).

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