Do Animals Need Citizenship?

Abstract

An ambitious proposal by Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka seeks to break out of an impasse that animal-rights advocacy seems to have reached. They divide the animal kingdom into three categories and distribute rights accordingly. Domesticated animals are to be treated as citizens, enjoying the same rights and duties as human citizens (adjusting for relevant differences in ability, just as we do for children and the severely cognitively handicapped). Wild animal species are to be treated as sovereign nations having rights to their territories Liminal animals are to be treated as resident aliens. This article is a critique of this “Citizenship Theory” of animal rights. One theme of the critique questions whether citizenship and sovereignty are in fact doing the normative work that Citizenship Theory represents them as doing. Another theme questions whether rights of citizenship and sovereignty can be of use to the animals Citizenship Theory would bestow them on.

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William A. Edmundson
Georgia State University

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