by Bruce A Wagman and Matthew Liebman. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2011. 358pp. Paper $50.00. ISBN: 978-1-59460-462-1.

Reviewed by Steven Tauber, Department of Government & International Affairs, University of South Florida, stauber [at] usf.edu.


Until the 1980s lawyers and scholars ignored how law directly impacts animal welfare, and animal law was considered a fringe subject. Yet, as the animal advocacy movement expanded during the 1970s, it increasingly relied on litigation as a strategy to form policies designed to improve animal welfare. As animal welfare litigation increased, legal scholars and social scientists recognized the relevance of animal law by the 1990s. Animal law is currently a vibrant area of inquiry that sustains casebooks, journals, and books, in which animal law scholars have engaged in lively normative and empirical debates. Virtually every North American law school offers at least one course on animal law, and many schools, such as Lewis and Clark and Michigan State University, specialize in animal law. The American Bar Association has even created an Animal Law Committee.

Despite these exciting developments in animal law, there has been a glaring lack of research examining animal law from a comparative or global perspective, especially given the animal law activity transpiring in other nations and in the international arena. Wagman and Liebman’s A Worldview of Animal Law fills that void in the animal law literature. This important book examines the traditional aspects of animal law (commercial use of animals, criminal law, scientific research using animals, and constitutional law) by surveying how different nations’ legal systems protect (or fail to protect) animals. Additionally, the last chapter of this book examines the extent that international law promotes animal welfare. The authors admit that their work is not “exhaustive,” which would be impossible in one book; rather, they seek to provide a “template for discussion and a starting place for those interested in further research into the field of comparative animal law” (p.5).

Wagman and Liebman open with a lengthy introduction that defines animal law in general and comparative animal law in particular. Then the chapter identifies the key issues in comparative animal law, such as the property status of animals and the debate between “animal rights” and “animal welfare.” The authors also address interesting features of comparative law, most notably how social forces and the cultural relevance of science shape legal outcomes. The introduction concludes by summarizing the basic animal law status in the diverse array of nations that the book covers.

Chapters Two through Five examine specific aspects of comparative animal law. Chapter Two covers the commercial uses of animals, mainly emphasizing how different laws influence the extent that various animals are used for food. The chapter also contains a short section on the use of animals in entertainment. Wagman and Liebman demonstrate that [*357] different legal systems create a variety of animal protection outcomes, with some nations banning circuses and foie gras but other nations failing to enforce bans on dog meat. Chapter Three discusses anti-cruelty laws, and it reveals the wide range of their effectiveness throughout the world, often depending on how a culture regards a specific animal. Chapter Four deals with animal experimentation, i.e., how animals are used in scientific research, product testing, and education. Wagman and Liebman begin the chapter with a focus on individual nations, and then they expand to a regional and ultimately an international orientation. Chapter Five addresses constitutional law, which is different than statutory or civil law because it sets general parameters for a nation’s structure of government and definition of individual liberties, and it relies heavily on judicial interpretation. The chapter briefly examines how constitutional provisions in India, Germany, the United States, and specific American states have been applied to animal law issues, as well as to humans who both exploit animals and seek to protect them.

The final chapter addresses international law, which is qualitatively different than comparative law. Whereas comparative law generally concentrates on the legal system within a particular nation, international law is concerned with legal regimes established between two or more nations. As such, this chapter is a departure from the previous ones, but it is still necessary for a book that surveys global animal law. The chapter emphasizes three international agreements. Two of these agreements deal specifically with animals – The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Whaling Commission (IWC). CITES includes 175 nations who have agreed to protect endangered species; therefore, it only applies to animals facing extinction. The International Whaling Commission’s effectiveness in limiting whale hunting has been spotty, but animal activists have sought to improve its ability to end whale hunts. This chapter also discusses the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which do not directly apply to animals, but nevertheless, have affected trade in products that involve animal killing and cruelty.

A Worldview of Animal Law is a first-rate, necessary book that will undoubtedly add to burgeoning animal law literature. The authors correctly recognize that animal law scholarship lacked a coherent, thorough book-length treatment of animal law from a comparative and global perspective, and they clearly filled that gap. That factor alone makes this book worth reading for scholars and practioners of animal law, as well as for academics interested in comparative and global law and politics in general. This work is also commendable because Wagman and Liebman do not treat legal outcomes as if they occur in a vacuum; they demonstrate how social and political forces influence animal law results across the globe. Although there is no single theme that ties together the disparate aspects of animal law covered in the book, which would be impossible, Wagman and Liebman do provide a theme for each chapter. The theme of gradually widening animal experimentation from the national to the regional to the global perspectives was especially intriguing. [*358] Finally, this book is extremely well-researched and impeccably cited, which enriches this new area of scholarship and enhances the authors’ goal of providing a springboard for future research.

These qualities notwithstanding, the book has some minor flaws that are worth mentioning. The most noticeable drawback is that some areas lack depth. For example, the discussion of the Florida Constitutional Amendment banning the crating of gestating pigs (pp.271-273) misses the nuances of the constitutional amendment process in Florida. The authors refer to the amendment as an “oddity” (p.272), but a more thorough explication of the constitutional amendment process in Florida would reveal that the amendment is not particularly odd. Florida allows constitutional amendments to appear on the ballot after being proposed by the legislature or receiving enough signatures on a petition. Many constitutional amendments deal with specific policy issues, such as homesteading, property taxes, tax breaks for veterans, and medical malpractice award caps; consequently, the pregnant pig amendment is not especially odd. This discussion would also be enhanced with a detailed analysis of the interest group clash between animal advocacy groups and the agriculture industry. Additionally, the entertainment section of Chapter Two is much shorter than the food section. The authors recognize that law concerning animals used in entertainment is “limited,” (p.101) but they fail to explain why. Clearly, animals are used extensively in entertainment, and animal advocacy groups are actively pursuing limits on this form of exploitation; therefore, the authors need to explain why the law is limited in this area. The problem of a lack of depth in some areas is certainly understandable, given the breadth this book offers.

Another flaw with the book is the lack of a concluding chapter. The book ends abruptly in Chapter Six; in fact, Chapter Six itself ends abruptly. The book needs a concluding chapter that ties together the book. Moreover, given the authors’ desire to inspire further research, the book definitely needs a concluding chapter that discusses avenues for this new scholarship.

The minor flaws notwithstanding, A Worldview of Animal Law is a groundbreaking work that is a must-read for animal law scholars, and it should be of interest to all academics interested in international and comparative law.

Copyright by the Author, Steven Tauber.