Animal Legal & Ethical Issues

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

There are more Tigers in captivity in the U.S. then there are in the wild

Giving a legal voice for all animals

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) seeks to give a legal voice to all animals. They work with issues such as animals on the verge of extinction, animals used in research, captive animals, companion animals, animal cruelty cases, farmed animals, wildlife, and fighting against puppy mills. One of the big issues ALDF addresses is working towards creating stronger anti-cruelty laws, and enforcing the ones that do exist. This is an important step in the direction of giving animals legal status and protection.

"The Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors in their fight against animal cruelty, supports animal protection legislation, and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the field of animal law."

One case they are working on is with a horse named Justice. "In 2018, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a groundbreaking lawsuit on behalf of an 8-year-old horse named Justice. If successful, this lawsuit will be the first to establish that animals have a legal right to sue their abusers in court."

Just one more reason why it is so important to protect animals from individual acts of cruelty is there is a high correlation between people who harm animals and will later commit violent crimes and crimes against people. According to the ALDF "Studies have shown that animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violence against people. In addition, many the recent perpetrators of severe acts of violence have had a history of abusing innocent animals before turning their weapons on innocent people." This is often seen in cases of domestic abuse, that there are animals in the situation who were also harmed.

Animal cruelty does not occur in a vacuum, and the failure to fully examine its origins would likely lead to future criminal acts and the continued cycle of abuse and violence.”

Hon. H. Lee Chitwood, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, Pulaski, VA

Do Animals Have Habeas Corpus Rights that Can Be Legally Defended?

The organization Non-Human Rights Project is dedicated to legal defense of animals, arguing for their release from various forms of captivity. They believe that:

"Humans are not the only animals entitled to recognition and protection of their fundamental rights."

“We are on the cusp of changing the legal relationship between nonhuman animals and humans. The time is now to push even harder, as hard as we can. And keep pushing until we win."

- NhRP President Steven M. Wise

Below NhRP President Steven Wise explains the issues of "Personhood" rights for animals. A wonderful documentary about the fight for this right is called Unlocking the Cage.

Animal Testing Labs

These dogs have never been outside. When they are finished testing, they are euthanized

According to the ALDF, there are more than one million animals in laboratory research in the U.S. They do not have any rights, are not protected from harm, are often kept in isolation from members of their own species, and usually get no play time. Some dogs are kept in cages their entire lives and have never walked on grass.

As the ALDF says on their website, "Animal testing is a cruel and gruesome industry.

Animals are subjected to horrifically painful experiments, oftentimes without pain killers. There is little regulation or meaningful oversight of the labs in which animals are experimented on. And for all that pain, experts say that the testing isn’t even effective."

In many cases, since the animals are so stressed from captivity and pain, the experiments done on them are not useful to understand how the drugs will work with humans. In short, animal testing is not effective. They are cruel and useless.

Since 1929 The National Anti-Vivisection Society has fought against the cruel practices of animal experimentation and has sought to educate researchers to consider more effective methods that do not involve animal cruel testing.

Wild Animals Kept in Cages

Keeping a wild animal in a cage is torture

More tigers live in cages in this country than exist in all the wild," according to the ALDF website. "They are just some of the millions of wild animals living in captivity across the United States. Some are in aquariums, circuses, theme parks, and zoos, others live caged at private homes. But few federal laws protect these animals, who may be forced to perform or kept confined in small cages with little to keep their minds occupied and bodies well.

State laws vary considerably, with some states banning the ownership of wild and exotic animals while others have virtually no regulation whatsoever. Captive animals need better laws and better enforcement of those laws."

The Animal Welfare Act of the United Kingdom (2006)

The Animal Welfare Act of 2006 in the UK protects domesticated animals under the care of humans. A person would be considered to have committed an offense if he “does not take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice.”

The Act takes into account what is known as the basic minimum of quality of care or the Five Freedoms that an animal should experience in the care of a human. These are the basic needs of: a suitable environment, a suitable diet, the freedom to exhibit normal behavior patterns for that animal, the ability to be either housed with or apart from other animals as appropriate for that individual, and the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury, and disease.

The Five Freedoms of the UK Animal Welfare Act:


(by ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor).


(by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter

and a comfortable resting area).




The UK Animal Welfare Act also refers to doing no harm to animals and has stipulations to define what harm is and to protect against unnecessary suffering and cruelty. This would refer to mutilation, administering poisons, allowing or encouraging animals fighting or other forms of deliberate abuse. In Eng