Animal Welfare and International Environmental Law
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Animal Welfare and International Environmental Law

From Conservation to Compassion

Edited by Werner Scholtz

At a time when the planet’s wildlife faces countless dangers, international environmental law continues to overlook its evolving welfare interests. This thought-provoking book provides a crucial exploration of how international environmental law must adapt to take account of the growing recognition of the intrinsic value of wildlife.
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Chapter 6: Why conservation and sustainability require protection for the interests of animals

David Bilchitz


International law has had very little to say directly about the protection of animals and their interests. Nevertheless, there are a number of international agreements that have important implications for animals, such as CITES, which addresses issues relating to endangered species, and CBD, which focuses on the protection of biological diversity. The core concepts utilized in these treaties are notions such as ‘conservation’ and ‘sustainable utilisation’. In this chapter, I identify two approaches to interpreting these ideas. The ‘aggregative’ approach focuses on broad collective environmental goals such as the long-term survival of a species, the health of ecosystems and conserving biodiversity. The ‘integrative’ approach requires the adoption of an attitude of respect to the individuals that make up a species, an eco-system or the components of biodiversity. I argue that the integrative approach is preferable and only it can in fact succeed in achieving the very collective goals that the aggregative approach advocates. That means, in turn, that concepts like ‘conservation’ and ‘sustainable use’ are not to be understood in a manner that excludes the interests of individual animals but must be interpreted to include respect for individual creatures. Notions at the heart of international environmental law thus are not separate from those engaged in ethical theory relating to the interests of animals but integrated with those concerns. I contend, ultimately, that the goals currently contained within international environmental law must be integrated with a direct focus on the protection of individual animal interests intrinsically if the very purposes of those laws are to be attained.

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