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 8: WTO law, the environment and animal welfare

Katie Sykes


The law of the World Trade Organization (WTO) may seem an unlikely place to look for progress towards integrating animal welfare with environmentalism and wildlife conservation. WTO law is often seen as an impediment to progress both of these issues, and the WTO, as an institution of international economic law, is not and should not be leading the way on new developments in this direction. However, significantly, the first decision of an international tribunal to overtly engage with animal welfare as a legitimate policy objective and as a serious concern for the global community – EC–Seal Products – comes from the WTO dispute settlement system. This chapter argues that WTO law can potentially contribute, even if indirectly and expressively more than directly or concretely, to a progressive development of wildlife protection law that recognizes the moral significance of animals as individuals. I argue that the groundwork for such a contribution is laid, in part, in some of the landmark WTO cases on the balance between trade and environmental regulation. An aspect of these leading cases that is often underemphasized is that they are also about the protection of animals, and links can be found here between species conservation and a fuller conception of animal protection. WTO jurisprudence is centrally concerned with the appropriate balance between trade liberalization and non-trade public policy objectives, and it is now clear that animal welfare, as well as species conservation, has weight in that balancing exercise.

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