The law schools have become places of idle, political wheel spinning.
Today, a professor from California (where else?) decides that animals need to have habeas corpus rights, same as humans.
It is not uncommon for a law professor to have a client on death row. Mine is a sea lion. He goes by C657, an identity branded into his flesh by the Army Corps of Engineers. C657 got onto the wrong side of the law by, allegedly, eating salmon at the base of the Bonneville Dam spillway in the Pacific Northwest. That, the National Marine Fisheries Service says, is a federal offense, punishable by rifle fire. We lost in the lower court, which ruled that sea lions had no standing. His case is before an Oregon appeals court.
C657’s case involves much more than the fate of a single sea lion, and not merely because six similarly situated sea lions were shot in March when a stay of execution expired. The larger principle is the right of nonhumans to sue in their own names, with lawyers as their guardians. I believe the facts of C657’s case illustrate the merits of permitting some such suits.
Well, you can see the difficulty. The animals are not suing; they have no idea of the existence of courts or humans or lawyers. It is the lawyers who are working their will here, and they are using the “rights” of the animal to do it. It is all a ruse; the lawyers are simply seeking to inflict their will on the public, and they are seeking to hide behind the fiction that they are suing for the poor little sea lion.
How can a lawyer appoint himself as the animal’s guardian? Under our system of law, only a court can appoint someone to be the guardian, and then it must be of another human being. But here, he proposes that lawyers just appoint themselves guardians. What if I want to appoint myself as the sea lion’s guardian also, and I see things differently?
Or even better – what if I want to appoint myself guardian of the salmon, and contend that the sea lion must die, because he is murderously, methodically reducing my client’s population. Indeed, the sea lion is committing genocide. I’ll have to file a petition with the United Nations to have him designated as a commiter of genocide.
And then someone else can appoint themselves the guardian of the small fry the Salmon eat, and they can intervene. Some animals are going to want the sea lions to eat the salmon, other animals are going to want the sea lions to be shot. Why should the Sea Lion be the only one with a lawyer? After all, this animals eating animals business affects every single creature in the ecosystem. They all have a stake in this litigation. Crabs, seaweed, mollusks, sea urchins. All of them will have to have lawyers, and each animal must have their “human rights” protected. I suppose this will eventually go all the way down to the algae or plankton involved. Maybe all the way down to certain molecules.
Oh, I suppose C657 does not have to die to protect the salmon . He can be put in jail (Seaworld) and made to live out the rest of his natural life performing for crowds. But he can’t be set free, because he will just go back to his genocidal ways.
The professor claims that such suits would be very rare.
Lawyers value their time, and brooks have shallow pockets. Lawsuits on behalf of nonhumans are therefore unlikely to be frivolous.
Hah! He is suing the federal government on behalf of one sea lion, who is depleting stocks of salmon, and he says no frivolous law suits will be brought. Of course, there are well paid law professors who have nothing better to do, and they will be free to bring as many frivolous suits as they can. And of course, there are no environmental groups with deep pockets who will bring these suits. That never happens, does it? Put this weapon in their hands, and you know where that will lead.
But funniest of all is that he recognizes the weakness of his plan, and just glosses over it.
More confounding is the fact that the more insensate the client, the more difficult it is to apply familiar legal norms of harm. A court may be able to put itself into the hooves of a thrashed horse — to comprehend its pain.
But a thrashed horse already is protected under our laws. There is no need for a human “guardian”. We have many laws against animal abuse. All you have to do is report it to the police or the ASPCA, and you have a ready made prosecution. So why all the fuss about guardians and human rights and such?
But when claims are raised on behalf of inanimate objects, how do we figure what a wilderness wants or a mountain minds? And what to do in the face of conflicts: sea lions vs. salmons? If rights are to be established, only people can decide which “things” will benefit and what will count as infringements.
That’s right. And how are such matters resolved? Well, there are things called “legislatures”, and they make the rules as to which takes priority, and when action can be taken. And it just so happens that in this case, the legislature has already decided that when a particular sea lion starts reducing the stocks of salmon, then it can be destroyed. Not “executed” as the author says.
So basically, the professor agrees that he is wrong. There is no need for standing, or habeas corpus, or anything novel. The animals are regulated and protected by current law.
Thank you, professor.
And finally, he gets to the real problem. He does not agree with the way the law is set up. He disagrees with the policy choices that the legislature has made. He thinks that the law should have required sport fisherman to not catch salmon before it allowed the killing of a killer sea lion. He thinks that we should dismantle our dams, which kill salmon, and force native American tribes to take less salmon.
But if he thinks these things, his proper course of action is to get his fellow citizens together and convince everyone that the law is wrong. And have the legislature change the law.
Instead, he wants to give human rights to animals.
You can see where his thoughts lie in his final sentences:
C657 (currently reprieved in a Texas aquarium) wants his day in court.
How does he know what the animal is thinking? Does he seriously believe that the animal is thinking about how his court case will work out?
More than that, C657 wants to contest humankind’s self-appointed place atop the planet.
No, he doesn’t. C657 wants to kill and eat salmon, and that is about all his little animal brain can understand. It is professor Stone who objects to humankind’s self-appointed place atop the planet. And he hides behind the poor little sea lion in order to pretend these are not his ideas.
And didn’t he just say that “If rights are to be established, only people can decide which “things” will benefit and what will count as infringements”
Why, I believe he did. So he agrees with the idea that people are self appointed, and says there is no other way. But yet he complains about it.
So, it has nothing to do with rights, or habeas corpus, or anything. It has everything to do with the Professor’s political beliefs, which he wants to impose on all of us.