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  • 2017rowleyphd

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Towards a vegan jurisprudence: the need for a reorientation of human rights

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2017
Number of pages273
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The objective of this thesis is to develop a new way of thinking about the theory and practice of human rights to accommodate the demands of vegans for basic moral rights for nonhuman animals. The work firstly outlines the ways in which the claims of vegans, under the right to freedom of thought and conscience, are largely unsupported by existing human rights because they are typically outweighed by the wider interests of the majority. Drawing on the work of Emmanuel Levinas, the thesis considers arguments that ground the nature of vegan claims in the ethics of alterity. It specifically utilises the argument that the basis of human rights recognises ethical responsibility to the precarious, mortal other.
Upendra Baxi cautiously supports the application of Levinas’ philosophy to the ethics of law, and there is a slowly growing body of literature in this regard. This thesis is the first human rights work to show that Levinas’ ethics of alterity can also be applied to nonhuman others, and that human rights arguments can include claims that the avoidable suffering of nonhuman animals is a human rights wrong.
The argument developed within this thesis allows a reconceptualisation of the human rights demands of vegans as claims representing a well-established ethical regard for nonhumans. Looking to Levinas’ ethics of alterity not only illustrates a new approach to human rights litigation to accommodate vegans but also grounds the protection of other animals and allows for a reconceptualisation of the very idea of human rights.