Publication Date01 May 1998
Simon Brooman and Dr Debbie Legge,Law Relating to Animals, London:
Cavendish Publishing Ltd, 1997, xxxi + 462pp, pb £26.95.
The protection and status of animals has been the subject of academic debate for a
number of years. However, within the area of animal welfare and protection, the
spotlight generally focuses upon the philosophical, moral and ethical analyses of
the relevant issues, with the existing legal framework largely ignored. Recent
developments concerning the genetic engineering of animals and the potential
introduction of a Private Members’ Bill prohibiting hunting, have re-focused
attention upon the legal protection afforded to animals, with the law viewed as ‘. ..
being a record of the nature of human understanding of those issues’ (p viii). This
text thus provides a timely opportunity to examine that framework and ‘challenge
the philosophical basis of the law as it stands’ (p vii).
Brooman and Legge’s book, developed for use on their Animal Law course,
aims to provide a wide ranging examination of the area, including the
philosophical, scientific, historical, social, and legal attitudes to animals, the
origins of humankind and environmental politics. In order to complete this
unenviable task, the authors have relied upon a wide range of sources including the
more traditional legal ones, such as statutory provisions and case law (both UK and
EC), and also the information and knowledge of pressure and interest groups as
diverse as the League Against Cruel Sports, the Joint Nature Conservancy Council
and the Research Defence Society. The book is divided into two sections, with
chapters 1–5, and 10, written by Brooman, focusing upon the philosophical and
ethical considerations towards animal welfare and protection, which ‘enables us to
place our legal attitudes to animals in the context of the development of humankind
as thinkers’ (pp vii–viii). In contrast, Legge’s chapters provide an analysis of the
legal provisions regarding domestic and wild animals, the use of animals within
sport and entertainment, and the protection of endangered species. However,
despite this distinct separation of work, the text flows fluently and it is not obvious
to the reader that two writers were involved in its production.
Chapters 1 and 2 explore the history of the philosophical and scientific attitudes
to animals, and the historical and contemporary legal attitudes towards them. The
theological analyses of the treatment of animals are well discussed, with the
development of the belief that animals should not be mistreated because of the
effect this had on humans, through to the idea that animals are worthy of respect in
their own right, well charted (p 11–4). Although the analysis of the individual
philosophers is somewhat brief, and the chapters make a huge leap from the
philosophical to the scientific debates, there is a valiant attempt to show that ‘. ..
scientific discovery influences morality which then influences law’ (p viii). In
examining the scientific community’s attitudes towards animals, the arguments
regarding the attributes of animals, and their similarity to humans, are emphasised.
However, little attempt is made to connect the philosophical and scientific
arguments concerning this issue, a large oversight considering the many
philosophical arguments which have developed on this issue. Indeed, within the
The Modern Law Review Limited 1998 (MLR 61:3, May). Published by Blackwell Publishers,
108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA. 451
examination of the historical and contemporary legal attitudes to animals, there is a
tendency to skirt over the most pertinent issues. Thus, although the status of
animals as property is highlighted, as is the fact that ‘contemporary legal
approaches to animals primarily attempt to protect other species from some of the
more morally questionable practices of humans in the form of abuse, neglect or
mistreatment . ..’ (p 31), the questions regarding the reasons for protecting animals
(‘Are we protecting animals or humans?’ and ‘Moral concern for animals v
legitimate human interests’, as the respective sections are titled) are superficially
These issues are, however, explored in greater detail in Chapter 3, which
comprises an admirable summary, and critique, of the main theories regarding how
the law should treat animals, and also highlights the essential difficulties in this
area: ‘The problem encountered by the proponents of increased protection for
animals has been to try and fit the reasons in favour of this into any single moral
theory such as inherent value theory, or utilitarianism’ (p 95). It is, however,
unfortunate that within these initial chapters as a whole, although all the relevant
issues are to some extent addressed, the paucity of analysis means that further
reading and research are required to fill in the gaps. Although, as an undergraduate
textbook, this is not necessarily a bad thing, the highly selective reading lists
supplied at the end of each chapter are somewhat limited, and do not supplement
the shortcomings of the chapters. The inclusion of a bibliography would enhance
the overall merit of the book, for currently students are restricted to the end-of-
chapter recommended texts and must search through the footnotes for additional
Within Chapter 2, genetic engineering and biotechnology are selected for a
special case study. These areas are particularly relevant considering the current
debate within the EC as to the formulation of legislation concerning the patenting
of procedures which result in the breeding of animals. Indeed, ‘[t]he law in this
area represents a contrasting mixture of property and welfare-based legal provision
surrounded by moral debate’ (p 62). However, despite the use of extracts from
official reports concerning the merits and demerits of patenting ‘animals’, the case
study lacks any real discussion of the issues and, again, appears to deal
superficially with what is, essentially, an area which has the potential to affect
the use (and abuse) of animals both now and in the future. Furthermore,
considering the recent development and reports on xenotransplantation, by both the
Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Government commissioned Kennedy
Report, this area could have provided the authors with a greater opportunity to
discuss the position of animals within contemporary society, perhaps indicating
how little the protection afforded them has altered since the introduction of animal
welfare legislation in the nineteenth century.
One of the strengths of this book is its use of source material from often
excluded interest and pressure groups, providing the reader with the chance to
compare the various arguments of the organisations concerned. For example,
during the discussion of the position of animals in agriculture (Chapter 5), the
views of Compassion in World Farming and those of the National Farmer’s Union
are offered as an opportunity to consider whether animals should be included
within the Treaty of Rome ‘in order for their welfare to be properly considered in
the formulation of [EU] policy and legislation’ (p 217). One of the drawbacks of
this text is that the authors seem more comfortable dealing with the statutory
provisions relating to the treatment of animals within society than with the ethical
debates. Indeed, the background of the authors is very much in evidence in
The Modern Law Review [Vol. 61
452 The Modern Law Review Limited 1998

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