animal rights


Canis Lupus in agro hominis

20 February 2020 by

If your domestic mutt makes friends with a wolf, and is prepared to eat and play with this visitor from the wild in your garden, does that deprive said wolf of the protection of the EU rules on the protection of listed species? AG Kokott at the European Court of Justice has just handed down her opinion on this tricky question of conservation referred to the Court.

Background law

The Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora calls for the introduction of a system of strict protection for species, such as the wolf (Canis lupus), which are listed in Annex IV(a) thereto. However, must that system of protection also be applied in the case where a wolf plays with dogs in a village? That is the question that has been put to the Court in these proceedings. As the AG continues

Even in its specific form, that question may be of greater practical importance than one might think.  The answer to it will be decisive above all, however, in determining whether the substantively extensive protection of species provided for in the Habitats Directive is primarily relevant to natural and semi-natural areas, that is to say, in particular, to activities such as agriculture, forestry and hunting, or whether it is to be taken into account without restriction in all human activities, such as the operation of roads.

You only have to think about this for a few seconds before realising the far reaching implications of the latter interpretation.


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Proposed ban on ivory is lawful – including antiques

12 November 2019 by


R (on the application of) Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures Ltd v Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – read judgment

“We believe that the legal market presents opportunities for criminals to launder recently poached ivory as old ivory products.” (Defra’s statement in consultation in introducing the Ivory Bill)

The Ivory Act 2018, which received Royal Assent in December 2018, proposes to prohibit ivory dealing with very limited exceptions. This includes antique items made with ivory. According to the Government, the Act contains “one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales”. No date has yet been fixed for it to become law.

The purpose of the Act is to enhance the protection of African and Asian elephants in the face of ongoing threats to their survival. It does so by prohibiting the sale, as opposed to the retention, of all ivory (that is, anything made out of or containing ivory), subject to a very limited and tightly defined exemptions. These prohibitions are backed by criminal and civil sanctions.

The claimant company represented UK dealers in antique worked ivory such as Chinese fans, walking canes with sculpted ivory tops and furniture with ivory inlay. The appeal of these items is not confined to Sinologist antiquarians. Netsuke, smaller carved ornaments worn as part of Japanese traditional dress, are an example. Even for the non connoisseur, Edmund de Waal’s novel The Hare with the Amber Eyes is a celebration of the significance and aura that these ornaments bestow on their owners, not just for the carving, but for the material of which they are made. Religious, hierarchical, magical, and even medicinal.


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Pet Shock Collar Ban (Part 2)

2 November 2019 by

Back in 2010 Catriona Murdoch wrote about the High Court’s decision that a Welsh ban on the use of collars designed to administer electric shocks to cats and dogs did not breach Article 1 of the First Protocol of the ECHR or impinge upon the free movement of goods protected under European Union Law. I followed with a comment on the status of animal welfare in EU law here.

Any pet owner living near a busy road or with less than adequate fencing will be aware of the availability of an electronic containment system which prevents animals escaping by administering a shock via a collar, a system to which they become conditioned by the warning of a radio signal as they approach the boundary. Hand-held e-collar devices are different in that the shock can be administered anywhere and at any time at the whim of the animal’s owner.


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Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

22 August 2019 by

The Finns are, or so it appears from a recent referral to the European Court of Justice: Case C‑674/17.

Man up, Finns! That is the AG’s advice. The Habitats Directive allows of no derogation from the protection of species obligation that does not come up with a satisfactory alternative. Furthermore it must be shown that any derogation does not worsen the conservation status of that species.

Whatever the CJEU decides, the opinion of AG Saugmandsgaard Øe makes for fascinating reading, going to the heart of the conservation problem. As human populations spread, how to secure the preservation of wild species, particularly carnivores?


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Animal transport: where are we now with EU law?

18 February 2019 by

animal transport eu law

MAS Group Holdings Ltd and others, R (on the application of) v Barco De Vapor B.V. and others [2019] EWHC 158 (Admin), 4 February 2019

As a matter of policy, the UK government is committed to improving the welfare of all animals, or so we are given to understand. In this little-covered ruling, we see that the responsible authorities are trying to do what they can to alleviate the suffering of farm animals enduring transport for slaughter:

[The government] would prefer to see animals slaughtered as near as possible to their point of production and thus trade in meat is preferable to a trade based on the transport of live animals. Whilst it recognises the United Kingdom’s responsibilities whilst remaining a member of the EU, it will be looking to take early steps to control the export of live animals for slaughter as the UK moves towards a new relationship with Europe.

Livestock transport has been a controversial subject in the UK for many years. Efforts by public authorities to reduce or mitigate the movement or export of live animals have hitherto foundered on the rocks of free movement of goods (see my post on TFEU Article 35). Despite the ethical controversy, the current position is that long distance transport of nonhuman animals for slaughter is lawful (Barco de Vapor BV v Thanet District Council [2015] Bus LR 593.)  


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One trade freedom we could do without

28 June 2016 by

istock_000004682690small_cowsSupporters of Brexit and campaigners for animal welfare are not natural bedfellows. And indeed my quick poll of the intuitive reaction to Thursday’s vote revealed anxiety about a future race to the bottom in terms of welfare standards as European regulations are unpicked and new trade deals are carved out, whether with individual member states of the EU, the European Union as a whole, or under the surveillance of the WTO. (But here’s a call for action: https://action.ciwf.org.uk/ea-action/action?)ea.client.id=119&ea.campaign.id=53173&ea.tracking.id=98b15a7c&utm_campaign=transport&utm_source=ciwftw&utm_medium=twitter

Which is why it is critical at this moment to remember that the obstacle in the way of this country reviewing its participation in the trade in live animals is one of the pillars of the EU Treaty: free movement of goods. Animals are regarded as goods, and any measure adopted by a member state government interfering with the movement of livestock within the single market and beyond its borders with its trading partners has been prohibited as a “quantitative restriction” on exports. When we are eventually free of this overarching prohibition, no time should be lost in grasping the opportunity to alter our laws in recognition of humane standards in animal husbandry.

Some Background: veal crates and the port protests in the 1990s

Just at the time when the red carpet was being rolled out for the Human Rights Act, campaigners for the rights of non human animals had their eye on a much more difficult task: persuading the government that shipments of young calves to veal crates across the Channel defeated our hard-won animal welfare laws and were in breach of the EU’s own proclaimed animal protection measures. The practice of rearing veal for the popular white meat involves confining a week old calf in a box for five months until slaughter. The well respected farm animal charity Compassion in World Farming managed to convince the UK courts that they not only had standing but an arguable case that this export trade breached the domestic prohibition on the veal crate system as well as the relevant EU Convention and Recommendation. CIWF contended that the UK government had power under Community law

to restrict the export of veal calves to other Member States where the system described above was likely to be used, contrary to the standards in force in the United Kingdom and the international standards laid down by the Convention to which all the Member States and the Community had agreed to adhere….

the export of calves to face rearing contrary to the Convention is considered to be cruel and immoral by animal welfare organisations and a considerable body of public opinion, supported by authoritative scientific veterinary opinion, in the Member State from which exports occur.

In fact the EU rules merely contained stipulations as to the minimum width of veal crates and the composition of veal calves’ diets.
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Buzzards should not be protected any more than herring gulls and cormorants: High Court

14 November 2015 by

buzzard06McMorn (R, on the application of) v Natural England [2015] EWHC 3297 (Admin) – read judgment

Public opinion regarding raptors and pheasant shoots should not influence the authorisation of buzzard control, the Administrative Court has ruled. Any derogations to the EU protection of wild birds should apply equally across wild avian species, irrespective of their popularity.

This was a gamekeeper’s challenge to the refusal by the defendant statutory body (Natural England) to grant him a licence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to kill buzzards which he said were destroying such high numbers of game birds as to render his shoot unviable.

At the heart of the claimant’s challenge was his contention that NE treated raptors differently from other wild birds, making it far harder, well-nigh if not quite impossible, for anyone to meet the statutory conditions for the issue of a licence.
He maintained the defendant treated these licence applications differently because of the public controversy which the grant of a licence for the killing of buzzards would engender. This was because of perceived adverse public opinion about the protection of a pheasant shoot. Hence, the decision was based on unjustified inconsistencies in NE’s treatment of raptor and other birds equally protected under the law. 
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A vegan in charge of agriculture? Herod at the nursery gates!

16 September 2015 by

CO3P2F_UYAIyidu.jpg-largeUpdated: Well, not exactly. But the outrage attending Jeremy Corbyn’s appointment of animal welfare campaigner Kerry McCarthy to the shadow DEFRA post betrays a level of panic which defies logic. What is wrong with someone concerned with humane animal husbandry being in charge of those who regulate it? See Maria Chiorando’s “A vegan shadow agriculture minister is a good move for farming” for a sane assessment of this particular episode in the post-Corbyn drama.

The timing is perhaps apt:  The picture to the left depicts a cow awaiting her slaughter after a long journey through Europe.  To register your objection to this practice, join Compassion in World Farming on 9th October in London: https://www.facebook.com/events/141120356236597/

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When can the courts rule on the legality of future behaviour?

4 August 2015 by

toad_white_natterjackKent & others v Arun District Council and others [2015] EWHC 2295 – read judgment

Iain O’Donnell of 1COR acted for the Council in this case: he played no part in the writing of this post.

This case concerned the application of the law in relation to future conduct, in particular, the role of the judicial review procedure in determining what precisely is meant by the prohibition on the selling of live animals under the Pet Animals Act 1951.

This is a detailed statutory provision inspired by welfare and conservation concerns. It has a complicated legislative history, and essentially the judge hearing the application was being asked to decide whether certain future activities might be caught by it.

For the record, the statute was introduced to protect the welfare of animals sold as pets. It requires any person keeping a pet shop to be licensed by the local council, which will only license such a business if they are satisfied as to the suitability of the accommodation, nutrition and safety of the animals concerned. Section 2 bans the selling of animals in the street, including on barrows and markets.

Councils are responsible for enforcing the law in this area.
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Export of live animals for slaughter: European Court rules that animal welfare laws apply outside the EU

29 April 2015 by

Zuchtvieh-Export (Judgment) [2015] EUECJ C-4242/13 (23 April 2015) – read judgment

iStock_000004682690Small_CowsAnimal welfare groups and campaigners for humane farming  have welcomed the latest ruling by the European Court of Justice upholding the refusal of German authorities to allow the export of live cattle to Kazakhstan, a 7,000 km journey involving insufficient rest stops and unloading. According to Compassion in World Farming

Every year, over three million animals are exported from the European Union to non-EU countries. Hundreds of thousands are destined for countries in Russia, Turkey, The Middle East and North Africa. (Live exports from the EU)

This was a referral from German municipal authorities on just this question. It sought a ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) regarding the interpretation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations.
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Slaves, animals and Lord Mansfield

16 February 2015 by

tumblr_my6p9rVBx11ssmm02o7_r1_500A fascinating riff has been playing around the London Review of Books since Stephen Sedley (erstwhile Sedley LJ) reviewed a biography of the 18th century judge Lord Mansfield – here – part 3, but the excellent letters of response are open access.

Mansfield is perhaps best known by commercial lawyers for injecting into the hitherto archaic English commercial law some element of rationality. But he also ended up trying cases involving the ownership of slaves, and had therefore to decide how ownership fitted in with things like habeas corpus. 

But first a bit of historical background about our man, and some indications of the differing times in which he lived – much of it thanks to Sedley’s review.

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Cosmetics tested on animals banned in the EU – or are they?

12 December 2014 by

animal-experimentation-rabbit-draize-eye-irritacy-testsR (on the application of the European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Attorney General, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (intervening)  [2014] EWHC 4222 (Admin) 12 December 2014 – read judgment

Conscientious shoppers who check the labelling of shampoos and other cosmetic products for the “not tested on animals” legend may not be aware that there is in place an EU Regulation (“the Cosmetics Regulation”), enforceable by criminal sanctions, prohibiting the placing on the market of any product that has been tested on laboratory animals. Any comfort drawn from this knowledge however may be displaced by the uncertainty concerning the status of cosmetics whose ingredients have been tested on animals in non-EU or “third” countries. (Incidentally the Cruelty Cutter app is designed to enable consumers to test, at the swipe of a smart phone, whether the product they are contemplating purchasing has been tested on animals.)

This case concerned the question of whether, and if so in what circumstances, that Regulation would prohibit the marketing of products which incorporate ingredients which have undergone testing on animals in third countries. It was a claim for judicial review seeking declarations relating to the marketing of cosmetic ingredients which had been thus tested.
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Human rights for homo sapiens’ closest relatives?

4 December 2013 by

koko-chimpanzeeOn Monday at 10.00 Eastern Time, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed suit in Fulton County Court in the state of New York on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee, who is being held captive in a cage in a shed at a used trailer lot in Gloversville.

According to the NRP, this is the first of three suits they are filing this week. The second was filed on Tuesday in Niagara Falls on behalf of Kiko, a chimpanzee who is deaf and living in a private home. And the third will be filed on Thursday on behalf of Hercules and Leo, who are owned by a research center and are being used in locomotion experiments at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

The organisation, led by the animal-rights lawyer Steven Wise, is using the writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the animals to ask the judge to grant the chimpanzees the right to bodily liberty and to order that they be moved to a sanctuary where they can live out their days with others of their kind in an environment as close to the wild as is possible in North America.

| Updated (10 December)|: The judge has declined the application for habeas corpus.  According to Steven Wise, Judge Boniello said  “that ‘I’m not going to be the one to make that leap of faith.’” Yet Boniello, who decided that chimpanzee personhood is ultimately a matter for legislatures to decide, was also “unexpectedly sympathetic”, calling their arguments sound and wishing them luck. “I’ve been in a lot of cases, and there’s not been many where the judge says, ‘Good luck.’ Usually they just say, ‘denied’.

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Strasbourg ties itself in knots over advertising ban

23 April 2013 by

primate adAnimal Defenders International v  United Kingdom, April 22 2013 – read judgment

In what was a profoundly sad day for democracy, on 22 April 2013 the European Court of Human Rights found in favour of the UK government in a landmark test case concerning a TV advertisement produced by ADI in 2005, and subsequently banned under the Communications Act 2003.

This announcement by Animal Defenders International (ADI) describes the fate of a film from which the picture above is taken. The verdict was carried through by a majority of one – eight out of seventeen judges dissented. And the reference to “democracy” in ADI’s response to the judgment is not overblown. The general trend of the majority appears to suggest that it is legitimate, in a democracy, for a government to impose a blanket restriction on the exercise of freedom in the name of broadcasting freedom. Such an aim is not one of those listed in Article 10(2). As some of the dissenting judges pointed out,

The ban itself creates the condition it is supposedly trying to avert – out of fear that small organisations could not win a broadcast competition of ideas, it prevents them from competing at all.

….A robust democracy is not helped by well-intentioned paternalism.
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Permanent injunction against anti-vivisection protestors

12 December 2012 by

harlan-investigationHarlan Laboratories UK L & Another v Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and others [2012] EWHC 3408 (QB) – read judgment

The High Court has granted a medical testing laboratory a final injunction against anti-vivisectioners protesting outside their premises. 

Harlan laboratories breed animals for medical and clinical research purposes. The applicants’ harassment claim included assertions that the respondent anti-vivisection groups had verbally abused those entering and leaving its premises, blocked and surrounded vehicles entering and leaving the premises in a threatening manner and trespassed on Harlan’s property. They had also photographed Harlan’s employees and recorded their vehicle registration details. Interim injunctions had been granted restraining, inter alia, where and how often the respondents could demonstrate outside of Harlan’s premises.

The issues  in this application were whether the applicants were entitled to summary judgment on their harassment claim and whether the court should grant a permanent injunction pursuant to s.3(3) of the 1997 Protection Against Harassment Act. The applicants also applied for a permanent injunction under section 37 of the Senior Courts Act 1981.
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