legal status of animals
animals as property
animal personhood
animal rights


The current legal categorisation of animals as property has its historical roots in Roman Law. The long history of this status prompts one to wonder whether it reflects modern community attitudes. It is, however, difficult to answer this question, as there is a dearth of empirical data on attitudes towards the legal status of animals. In light of the widely-accepted relationship between law and community attitudes, particularly in democratic societies, this paper highlights the need for empirical examinations of social attitudes towards the legal status of animals. It is suggested that such empirical exercises can help scholars and lawmakers more accurately understand whether a change in the legal status of some or all animals is politically achievable. Empirical studies of community attitudes can also provide direction to scholars, who theorise legal frameworks to define the legal status of animals, and animal advocacy groups, which seek to educate the community about the legal status of animals.


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