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IMAGINE: An Animal Bill Of Rights




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Emy Will

Emy Will

Greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa. Although I have a doctorate in psychotherapy, my main passion is advocating for nonhuman animal rights. I condemn all cruelty to nonhuman animals and therefore follow a vegan lifestyle. I would like to connect with other animal activists from all over the world. The fur trade is one of the most abhorrent practices on this planet. Innocent animals are subjected to prolonged suffering for a trivial fashion item. As the chairperson of Fur Free SA. we campaign towards ending the global fur industry. This might not happen in my lifetime, but even if I leave one footprint behind, that is one step closer to the goal. This blog is a forum to discuss all aspects of the fur industry. It also raises issues around animal activism in general. Johannesburg is a crazy city and I need to escape from time to time. This photo was taken next to the magnificent Zambezi river.

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animal bill of rights

See:  http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5154/p/dia/action/public/index.sjs?action_KEY=5078    

I recently came across this campaign and as I am a just a vegan and not an abolitionist vegan I happily participated (if you have no idea what I am talking about, please see the deabate @ https://emynow.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/a-debate-in-animal-advocacy-to-be-or-not-to-be-an-abolitionist/).

The message conveyed in this Animal Legal Defense Fund action can only be seen as encouraging. We live in a world where human rights are hard to monitor, so a Bill of Rights for nonhuman animals would be a phenomenon of note.

I am proud to say that South Africa has a Constitution that includes a Bill of Rights (for humans) as follows:

Bill of Rights

Chapter 2Bill of rights (ss 7-39)

  1. Rights
    1. This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.
    2. The state must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of rights.
    3. The rights in the Bill of Rights are subject to the limitations contained or referred to in section 36, or elsewhere in the Bill.

Imagine these rights applied to nonhuman animals. John Lennon would even hum from his grave, “And the world will live as one … “                                                                                                                                           Imagine 2John Lennon and cat                           

Yes, this is a photo of me when I visited Liverpool and stayed in a hotel called A Hard Days Night.  I have even forgiven John Lennon for wearing a huge fur coat. It was in 1963 after all 😦

But this is the 21st century and nonhuman animals deserve basic legal rights.  As the Animal Legal Defense Fund states, “animals are defenseless against exploitation and abuse by humans” and therefore need to be legally protected. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is a Northern American animal rights organisation that wants to show Congress that there is huge support for legislation that “protects animals and recognizes that, like all sentient beings, animals are entitled to basic legal rights in our society”. They plead:

Sign the Animal Bill of Rights! Animal Legal Defense Fund 

 I, the undersigned American citizen, believe that animals, like all sentient beings, are entitled to basic legal rights in our society. Deprived of legal protection, animals are defenseless against exploitation and abuse by humans. As no such rights now exist, I urge you to pass legislation in support of the following basic rights for animals:The Right of animals to be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse.The Right of laboratory animals not to be used in cruel or unnecessary experiments.The Right of farmed animals to an environment that satisfies their basic physical and psychological needs.The Right of companion animals to a healthy diet, protective shelter, and adequate medical care.The Right of wildlife to a natural habitat, ecologically sufficient to a normal existence and self-sustaining species population. The Right of animals to have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the land.

Imagine if this could happen!



  1. I believe that all living things should have rights. It’s no denying that animals have emotions, and they too deserve basic rights like us humans.

    Thanks for sharing! This is a very important topic!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Emy Will says:

      Thank you, Animal culture, for your support ❤
      Sadly there is so much cruelty towards vulnerable creatures that they need protection from the law.

      Best Wishes,


  2. Lee Hall says:

    As an animal lawyer and an environmental lawyer, Emy, I’m concerned that some of this would further etch into custom uses that we don’t need to continue. For example: The Right of laboratory animals not to be used in cruel or unnecessary experiments.[Does this mean there are experiments that are OK?] The Right of farmed animals to an environment that satisfies their basic physical and psychological needs. [Do we need to keep farming animals? Indeed, isn’t that bad for our health, the ecosystem, and the state of the climate?] What do you think?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Emy Will says:

      Hi Lee. Thanks for your always valuable and thought-provoking input. What do I think?

      BIG SIGH and a bit of hair pulling!

      The more I think about concepts such as sentience, property and rights as applied to beings other than humans the more complex I realise these issues are.
      As a starting point, I am more of a realist than an idealist. While I absolutely agree with what you argue, I feel it is a few steps ahead of what is being articulated in this “Animal Bill of Rights” and similar campaigns.

      Perhaps, very simply, there are two concerns here:

      1. Getting people to accept that a Bill of Rights for nonhuman animals is important. That is, for people to accept that other animals even have rights.
      2. What should be the content of that Bill of Rights?

      In terms of the first point, even if certain people believe that all animals are sentient it does not automatically follow that they believe that nonhuman animals should have rights. For example, children are seen as sentient but in law are minors, which mean that their parents still exercise control over them. As dependents, children have the right to have their basic needs met but do not have the freedom of speech, religion, sexual orientation and freedom to work, drink alcohol vote etc. In some cultures children are considered to be property and may even be sold for trafficking.

      Sadly the fight for human rights will always eclipse that for nonhuman rights.

      I suppose some individuals would regard nonhuman animals to be dependents to be nurtured and looked after, but in essence will still be controlled by the “parent” human. As we well know, how and the degree to which one looks after these vulnerable creatures is up to the individual. People are not compelled to love their pets/ companions/ dependents and while not hurting them, will negelct them.

      Others regard animals as their property to be abused and used for profit. It is not in their interests to consider any animal as sentient.

      If an animal Bill of Rights is accepted, the content thereof can always subsequently be amended or expanded. For example, slaves lost the legal status of property before obtaining any rights, as so with women.

      Assuming there is a legal Bill of Right for nonhuman beings. There is no way that we can take a Bill of Rights for humans and apply it to other creatures. The content of any Animal Bill of Rights would have to be very carefully thought out. Can one realistically expect nonhuman animals to have judgement and know the consequences of their behaviour? Can they really be held criminally responsible for their actions? Who would enforce the rights of these nonhuman beings?
      For example, If Lulu the now free cow/ deer/ goat wanders onto my property to eat my kale crop can I really lay a charge against Lulu for trespassing or theft? Could Lulu in reality come to court to defend herself, as I would have no recourse against an “owner”?
      If Tim the free dog/ turkey/ horse hanging around fending for himself bit either a person or another nonhuman being who would be held accountable? I don’t think Tim.

      Lee, I am not trying to be facetious here but am really grappling with all of this. I strongly believe that nonhuman creatures should be allowed “to live life as nature intended without any detrimental inference by human beings” (Declaration for Animal Rights, 2011). This though is in the realm of idealism.
      Right now I believe other animals need to be protected from unspeakable acts of cruelty. I know that this would be to the exclusion of many, but to look the other way is condoning these atrocities.
      Although a campaign promoting a Bill of Rights for nonhuman animals can be seen as simplistic, it brings the concept of animal rights onto the agenda and I believe for now this is crucial.

      I could say so much more and maybe this topic warrants another blog post?
      Cheers 🙂


  3. cinnabar50 says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of a bill of animal rights

    You might find the following of interest:http://declarationofar.org/

    There appear to be other versions of a declaration of animal rights, the above in my opinion is one of the most comprehensive that covers the rights of animals to live life as nature intended without any detrimental inference by human beings. I would like to see an end to the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, entertainment or experimentation of any kind including medical.

    Thank you for a thought provoking article. I can’t see this happening anytime soon, but it worth working towards. Yes imagine a world where no animal was harmed or used or abused. With the event of the Internet the atrocities towards non-human animals is laid bare. The facts are shocking, overwhelming and downright depressing. Cruelty is rife on a scale that is difficult to comprehend; it is as though we are drowning in cruelty, perpetrated against the myriad species with whom we share this world.

    I would like to see a world where animals are left to live their own lives with an end to farming, vivisection and other exploitation..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Emy Will says:

    Hi cinnabar. Your insightful contribution is much appreciated ❤
    I didn't know about the Declaration of Animal Rights (2011) that is circulating globally, so thanks for this information. It is a wonderful idea and takes the concept into the realm of action. I certainly hope it reaches South Africa!
    I particularly like the notion that animals should be allowed "to live life as nature intended without any detrimental inference by human beings".
    It will all have to be carefully thought through though. Nonhuman animal rights are in many ways more complex than human rights. For example, can nonhuman animals be held responsible for their actions?
    Of course the implementation of these rights will be difficult, as nonhuman animals won't be able to enforce them as such.
    But for me, in agreement with you, if we can work towards a world where there is less cruelty and exploitation it is a start.
    Certainly all declarations of animal rights contribute towards raising awareness.
    Thank you for caring.
    Warm wishes,


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