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Wildlife as Property Owners

A New Conception of Animal Rights

Humankind coexists with every other living thing. People drink the same water, breathe the same air, and share the same land as other animals. Yet, property law reflects a general assumption that only people can own land. The effects of this presumption are disastrous for wildlife and humans alike. The alarm bells ringing about biodiversity loss are growing louder, and the possibility of mass extinction is real. Anthropocentric property is a key driver of biodiversity loss, a silent killer of species worldwide. But as law and sustainability scholar Karen Bradshaw shows, if excluding animals from a legal right to own land is causing their destruction, extending the legal right to own property to wildlife may prove its salvation. Wildlife as Property Owners advocates for folding animals into our existing system of property law, giving them the opportunity to own land just as humans do—to the betterment of all.

152 pages | 5-1/4 x 8-1/4 | © 2020

Law and Legal Studies: General Legal Studies, Law and Society, Legal Thought

Reviews

"In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Bradshaw proposes how We The People can use property law to fix human-caused problems so we can arrest the flood of biodiversity loss. This argument is a game-changing expansion in current legal thought. . . . Engrossing and meticulously researched. . . . It represents an essential, and positive, step forward in how we think about and deal with the other species on this planet. Highly recommended."

GrrlScientist | Forbes

"With so many legal, political, and constitutional avenues closed, the most promising strategy, influenced by Indigenous law, has been to establish the ‘rights of nature.’ One such approach relies on property law. Bradshaw, a law professor at Arizona State University, argues that wildlife such as bison and elephants have ancestral lands, and that they use, mark, and protect their territory. ‘Deer do not hire lawyers,’ she writes in a new book, Wildlife as Property Owners, but if deer did hire lawyers, they’d be able to claim that, under the logic of the law of property, they should own their habitats."

Jill Lepore | Atlantic

"A heat haze settles on the bees buzzing among the flowers in Bradshaw’s yard. As she walks her property, a bush rattles with motion as a rabbit dashes past, startling a flock of quail. Within the next few months, this parcel of land will become one of the first in Phoenix to be legally owned by wildlife. Bradshaw, a professor of law at Arizona State University, is putting into practice a novel theory explained in her new book, Wildlife as Property Owners. . . . In her book, Bradshaw explains that the best way to transfer ownership to wildlife would be through a trust. With wildlife as the beneficiaries, the land would be managed by a human trustee, who would have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the animals.”

Anton L. Delgado | Arizona Republic

"Drawing on Indigenous legal systems and the ideas of philosophers and property law theorists before her, Bradshaw argues that wild animals should be integrated into our system of property law to prevent further habitat destruction—the leading cause of species extinction."

Claire Hamlett | Revelator

"The provocative book Wildlife as Property Owners . . . argues that wild animals also have a property right in the 'home' where they live. And home, of course, here has a much broader sense than what we humans are used to thinking. A topical issue in this strange period: due to the pandemic, in many parts of the globe, animals have returned to appropriate areas that human encroachments had stolen from them. Animals that, in Bradshaw's logic, try to return to their legitimate homes. Giving them a property right also provides a legal framework to prevent the mass extinction feared by UN scientists (one million animals and plants at risk). The researcher suggests the creation of legal-patrimonial 'trusts' for wildlife. Giving humans the monopoly of ownership has proved disastrous for all living beings: landowners expropriate natural habitat because of a system that has artificially stripped wildlife of their interests. If the problem is property law—she argues—it can also be the solution. Already today it includes nonhuman owners. Ships and corporations have owned property for decades; why not the bison?"

Sara Gandolfi | Corriere della Sera (translated from Italian)

"Fascinating. . . . . An extremely timely addition to books and essays that focus on the lives and rights of nonhuman animals (animals) and the complicated and often vexing relationships they have with us. My learning curve was vertical as she wove in information from numerous disciplines including different aspects of legal scholarship, ethology and cognitive ethology (the study of animal minds), and the social sciences in an easy-to-read fashion. . . . [A] landmark book."

Marc Bekoff | Psychology Today

World Changing Ideas Awards 2021: Politics and Policy Honorable Mention

Fast Company

"The eminently relevant question that Karen Bradshaw invites us to ponder, in her recent book Wildlife as Property Owners, concerns the risks of mismatching standards.The author, a law professor in Arizona, denounces the fact that the protection of wildlife in the United States is based on requirements of a legislative nature (statutory protection). However, the fundamental cause of the degradation of wildlife is found in the exercise of the right to property, which is granted only to individuals. There is therefore an unfortunate 'mismatch'. Wildlife should also have access to property if it is in everyone's interest to truly guarantee its preservation.The proposal is innovative and nevertheless perfectly in tune with the times: in environmental law, the trend is to rethink the Civil Code, to question the discourse on property, to think of rights for nature"

Law & Society

"Bradshaw argues that the effects of the presumption that only people can own land are disastrous for both wildlife and humans—that anthropocentric property is a key driver of biodiversity loss, a silent killer of species worldwide. She concludes that folding animals into our existing system of property law, giving them the opportunity to own land, is a solution worthy of consideration."

Law & Social Inquiry

“In our time of rapidly shrinking animal habitats and threatened biodiversity, we urgently need new ideas. Karen Bradshaw has written a bold, exhilarating book that mines the traditional concepts of property law for new proposals about how humans can contribute to ethically defensible coexistence.  This is the most original contribution to animal law in a long time.”

Martha C. Nussbaum, Law School and Philosophy Department, The University of Chicago

“Bradshaw's Wildlife as Property Owners is a wonderfully fresh look at how humans impact the lives of nonhuman animals (animals). We are now deeply immersed in the Anthropocene, a period I like to call ‘The Rage of Inhumanity,’ during which we not only rob other animals of their very lives, but also steal their homes when it works for us with little concern for them. When nonhumans are granted the right to own their homes, rather than merely renting them from us, it will be a gamechanger for fostering coexistence in which they and we are partners, rather than adversaries.”

Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, author of "The Animals' Agenda" and "Canine Confidential"

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: A Foundational Understanding of Animal Property Law

1: The Nexus of Animal Rights and the Rights of Nature
2: Biodiversity Loss as a Property Law Problem

Part II: Revealing the Existing Body of Animal Property Rights

3: The Biological Origins of Property
4: Uncovering Animal Rights in Existing Property Law

Part III: A Roadmap for Property Ownership to Benefit Biodiversity

5: Using Legal Trusts to Implement a System of Animal Property Rights
6: Traditional Legal Pathways to Formalizing Animal Property Rights
7: Leveraging Property Rights to Aid Biodiversity
8: Case Studies of Stakeholder Collaborations Managing Resource Competition between Humans and Wildlife
Case Study 1: Ranchers and Wild Horses in the West
Case Study 2: Outsourcing Thick-Billed Parrot Recovery to Mexico
Case Study 3: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Scientific Management of Caribou

Part IV: Analyzing the Potential of Animal Property Ownership

9: Evaluating a Property-Based Approach to Biodiversity Preservation
10: The Implications of Interspecies Ownership on Property Theory

Conclusion: Are Animal Property Rights the Rights of Nature?
 
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

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