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LAW3254 : Animal Rights Law

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Joshua Jowitt
  • Owning School: Newcastle Law School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module will introduce students to the developing field of animal rights law. It will be a fairly traditional law module in terms of substantive content, combining a historical background of the animal rights movement with an analysis of black letter law, jurisprudence, public international law and comparative international law. Students will also be introduced to examples of what animals are capable of as case studies in order to anchor the main themes of the course in real world examples. This will encourage students to think critically about the contributions that could be made to our society as a whole by recognising nonhuman animals as rights-bearing individuals, as well as identifying any potential limitations of this approach in its real world application.

The course will also deal in significant detail with the idea of animal welfare for several reasons. Firstly, because many in the field see welfarism as being in opposition to rights based approaches; secondly because, contrarily, many welfarists see increased welfare as a necessary step towards rights; and finally because both approaches are ultimately rooted in the same concern: that animals are deserving of legal protection because they are of independent moral worth. This opposition between the less controversial welfarist methodologies and the rights-based approach will further encourage students to think about how the law can serve as a tool for social change; how it can best achieve its stated aims, and whether ‘branding’ matters more than substance when attempting to radically rethink the boundaries of legal protection. In doing so it will draw on the tensions that exist between these approaches in order to encourage critical reflection and how best to achieve stated policy objectives.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus will be organised around the following key themes:

* Introducing the concept of animal rights

* The nature of animals and a historical overview of their legal status

* Present animal law in the UK and EU

* Comparative animal law

* Gaps and opportunities in contemporary animal law

* The debate between welfarism and abolitionism

* Philosophical foundations of animal rights

* Animal rights in legal theory, incl. legal personhood.

* Animal rights, human rights and the concept of ‘dignity’

* Practical implications of animal rights

* What might a model animal rights law look like

* Contemporary animal rights cases

* Animal rights as a social justice movement

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials40:302:00A combination of short recordings and lecture material and text designed to support SLTA
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion230:0060:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture181:0018:00In person lectures on substantive class content
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion21:002:00Feedforward lectures on assessment including how to draft a policy paper
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities15:005:00Students will provide feedback to each others’ draft assessments in lieu of full formative. PiP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching51:005:00In person seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00Feedback on students’ assessed work; specific time for consultation on module specific issues
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1104:00104:00Required reading for lectures/seminars; prep for seminar discussion; revision of course content.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The teaching methods have been adapted for delivery in the post-COVID environment and are based on the presumption that some in person lectures, seminars and in-person drop-in sessions shall be possible but that this shall need to be supplemented by on-line materials hosted on Canvas (alternative arrangements under ‘FLEX’ are included in case of the possibility of more limited possibilities for on Campus teaching).

Lectures (or an online version if required) The principal teaching method to the module is lectures. These will introduce the substantive content concerning the legal status of animals; legal rules concerning the protection of their interests; alternative approaches to protecting interests in law; philosophical theories of animal rights and whether/how the law ought to be reformed to reflect these. In-person lectures will be supported with structured online guidance.

Lecture materials Pre-recorded materials will be provided to introduce or scaffold material covered during in-person or online lectures, or provide guidance on assessment components.

Seminars (small group teaching) There will be five seminars following substantive areas addressed by the module to provide the opportunity to develop oral, interpretation and evaluative skills:

1) Historical approaches to animal law;

2) Contemporary legal protection of animal interests;

3) Welfarism vs Abilitionism;

4) Animal rights in philosophy and law; and

5) Animal rights as a social justice movement

Seminars will encourage an active, integrated approach to the study of law and introduce the legal skills necessary to the study and practice of law both in the university and beyond. They offer an opportunity for detailed discussion of issues covered in the lectures, for developing and practicing essential legal skills, and for asking questions and obtaining feedback on student progress. Each seminar is one hour long. Students will be asked a series of questions progressing in difficulty, designed to provide the knowledge and confidence with the topic required to complete the summative assessment for the module. Seminars will be synchronous events (whether online or PiP).

Drop-in/Surgery sessions These sessions reflect the Law School assessment and feedback policy, that markers will offer the opportunity for one-to-one oral feedback on students' assessed work. Dedicated sessions will be made available for consultation with lecturers and seminarists with regards to policy paper design in advance of submission. The time given is indicative; more time may be scheduled if necessary, to meet the demand for individual feedback.

Assessment preparation and completion An additional lecture will be provided on policy paper design to provide students the opportunity to learn how to précis and communicated a diverse range of sources to advance a particular policy position. Students will also be introduced to the idea of reflective learning, and how to offer constructive feedback on each others’ work.

Reflective learning activity Students are encouraged to develop group work and communication skills by meeting as groups to discuss and provide constructive feedback on skeleton arguments to a pre-assigned sample question.

Independent study Students’ skills and knowledge base can be further developed in private study, which takes the form of directed reading in advance of lectures, consolidation following lectures and preparation for seminars.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M67Assessed Coursework. 2500 words
Written exercise1M33Policy Paper. 1500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Summative assessment is provided by means of an assessed essay and the production of a policy paper concerning a suggested area of law reform.

1) Assessed Essay – will comprise of a set question asking students to discuss a contemporary issue of animal law that is connected to the substantive course content. The main focus of the coursework and the primary consideration when marking will be evidence of research skills and appropriate legal writing.

2) Policy paper – students will be asked to produce a policy paper that addresses an area of law that they believe needs reforming, or should remain the same despite reforms suggested by external actors. The main focus of the coursework and the primary consideration when marking will be evidence of research skills and an ability to communicate a well-supported position both clearly, succinctly.

Reading Lists