From Conservation to Compassion
Edited by Werner Scholtz
Chapter 3: Animals, humans and the international legal order: towards an integrated bioethical perspective
From the time of its emergence, the modern international legal order has tended to evolve desultorily and reactively to political events, and without sufficient regard to any underlying philosophical principles or informing corpus of scientific knowledge. Insofar as it rests upon any intellectual foundations at all, these are essentially the speculations and assumptions of the eighteenth century European Enlightenment, which, despite their manifest inadequacies, have never been seriously re-examined. Accordingly, while the public international legal system contains numerous rules and principles designed for the protection of both humans and other life-forms, and at the individual and the collective levels alike, there is very little sign of coherence, coordination or due comparative cogency amongst them, resulting in a legal order that is fragmented and insufficiently effective – indeed, in certain respects positively counter-productive. Yet, through a scientifically and philosophically informed examination of these rules, and of the values that appear to underpin them – above all, the concept of dignity – it should now be possible to initiate the development of a truly coherent and convincing bioethical foundation and framework for protection, in more faithful reflection of the qualities of rationality and conscience that we humans have always claimed to possess.
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