In order to protect nonhuman animals effectively, animal law must overcome many hurdles, be it the balance of human and nonhuman interests, the use paradigm, or narrow definitions of legal personhood or basic rights. A fact often overlooked in this uphill struggle is that the laws of most states recognize that animals must be protected because and to the extent that they are sentient. The legal recognition of animal sentience seems to nullify all and any attempts to deny them legal protection simply because they are not sufficiently appealing, emotionally close, or economically useful to us. However, the legal recognition of animal sentience does not overcome all our cognitive prejudices about animals. Using a comparative law method and insights from moral philosophy, this article analyzes the nature and scope of the legal recognition of animal sentience. It identifies its advantages in challenging arbitrariness and inconsistency and championing intrinsic animal protection and points to the most pressing shortcomings, including some states' refusal to commit themselves to animal sentience and remaining prejudices in society and science. In concluding, the article offers ways to address and remedy these shortcomings and points to ways in which the concept can be used more effectively by academics and practitioners.


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pp. 121-136
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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