Animal rights are the idea that animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interest of human beings. Animal rights law looks at protecting these considerations for animals. Animal law encompasses companion animals, wildlife, animals used in entertainment and animals raised for food and research. This field of law emerged from the environmental law movement 30 years ago.
A large number of states and local bar associations now have animal law committees. In 1979, attorney Joyce Tischler founded the Animal Legal Defence Fund. It was the first organization dedicated to promoting the field of animal law.
Critics of animal’s rights argue that animals are unable to enter into a social contract and thus cannot be possessors of rights. The animal welfare position states that animals may be used as resources so long as there is no unnecessary suffering.
Animal law is now widely taught in law schools in North America. Many legal scholars support the extension of basic legal rights and personhood to some extent. The animals often considered in arguments for personhood are bonobos and chimpanzees. This is supported by animal rights academics because it would break through the species barrier but opposed by other because its established moral value on mental complexity, rather than on wisdom alone.