The GULS Law Review

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Animal Law

Where is the Best Place to be a Tree?

This article looks at a comparative study between Québec and Scotland legal frameworks regarding land protection and will underline what each location could learn from the other, to improve land protection.

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The Beauty Industry’s Ugly Secret: The Changing Prevalence of Animal Testing in the Cosmetics Industry

Public outrage in response to increased awareness of animal welfare issues worldwide has led to a tightening of the already restrictive legislative framework surrounding use of animal testing in a number of industries. This article examines the changing attitudes of public bodies to animal testing in recent years with a particular focus on the future health and safety testing mechanisms in the beauty and cosmetics industry.

Rachael Jane Ruth is a 4th year LLB student.


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Rethinking Wildlife Rehabiliation

John Braid is a Masters student doing an MSc in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law. He has previously studied the LLB and Diploma at the University of Aberdeen.

Tens of thousands of sick and injured wild animals are admitted to rehabilitation centres every year in the UK. Rehabilitation stories are often picked up by the media and portrayed to the public as successful. This article challenges popular views about the benefits of wildlife rehabilitation, and suggests that the existing legislation does not do enough to ensure that the welfare of the individual animal is always the primary concern.

Wildlife rehabilitation has been described as temporarily treating and caring for injured, diseased, or displaced animals, before releasing those animals into appropriate wild habitats. This practice is prominent in the United Kingdom, where there are hundreds of rehabilitation centres[1] dealing with an estimated 60,000-80,000 animals every year[2]. It is therefore appropriate that there is legislation governing the area. Attitudes towards whether humans should intervene with wildlife are driven by a number of factors: the extent to which man is responsible for the issue, the conservation status and popularity of the animal, and the extent of the welfare problem are all influences on attitudes[3]. Zoologist Pat Morris once questioned whether wildlife rehabilitation is more about making people feel good than it is about animal welfare, which remains a pertinent question to ask. This article challenges popular views about the benefits of wildlife rehabilitation, and suggests that the existing legislation does not do enough to ensure that the welfare of the individual animal is always the primary concern.


Part 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981[4], which is the main legislation governing wildlife rehabilitation, aims to protect animals; interference with wild animals is only permitted if the human intention is to help that animal, either by nursing it back to health[5], or by euthanising the animal if there is ‘no reasonable chance of its recovering[6]. This applies to all wild birds[7], and a significant number of other wild animals[8], which are listed in the act[9]. Licenses are required before releasing specific animals into the wild; for example, potentially invasive species such as the grey squirrel[10]. Some wild animals are given their own specific legislation: for example, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992[11] provides that interference with badgers is also permitted for rehabilitation purposes, and euthanasia is allowed in the case of serious injury. Some species are not specifically protected such as weasels, hedgehogs and many invertebrates. However, all mammals must be taken, handled and/or killed humanely under the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996[12]. UK legislation also ensures that animals captured for the purposes of rehabilitation are subject to a duty of care: the Animal Welfare Act 2006[13] provides that any animal under the control of man, on a permanent or temporary basis, must have their needs met[14]. This includes inter alia the provision of a suitable diet and environment[15]. There are also both international and domestic organisations which offer guidelines on wildlife rehabilitation.


The British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (BRWC) are a charity who bring together wildlife rehabilitators around the country, although they have no legal authority. They state that the main concern during any rehabilitation effort must always be the welfare of the individual animal.[16] Others may identify conservation as the ultimate goal, but the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management point out that this goal is rarely served by wildlife rehabilitation, with the exception of endangered species[17]. The UK legislation provides a framework which protects animals up to a point, but it does not specify that the welfare of the individual animal is the most important factor. It reflects the common mistaken view that rehabilitation is the best thing for the animal in most cases, and that euthanasia is a last resort for only the most extreme cases. Current legislation makes it likely that people (however well-intentioned they are) may be guided by their anthropomorphic[18] views and embark upon rehabilitation efforts which do more harm than good to an animal. For example, anthropocentric words such as ‘rescue’ or ‘rehabilitation’ are often used, despite the fact that a wild animal is not aware that its capture and subsequent treatment are for its own benefit.


Early euthanasia is arguably the most humane course of action for animals in many situations[19]. Whilst some have argued that death is a welfare issue (due to inter alia the loss of potential positive welfare states in the future), the view taken here is that death is not a harm if it is done to alleviate suffering. Intervention by euthanasia stops the animal from feeling the pain of its injury or illness, and will also prevent the stress and pain caused at several different stages of the lengthy rehabilitation process. Several different factors can contribute to stress including: capture, captivity, transport, veterinary examinations and reintroduction to the wild.[20] Whilst most species are able to cope with acute stress (for example due to their natural interactions with predators[21]) the cumulative effect of successive stressors can become problematic: stress can turn to distress in animals when resources are redirected from important biological functions to cope with the challenge.


As well as preventing suffering during rehabilitation, euthanasia prevents the possibility of suffering after rehabilitation. It is debatable what constitutes a successful rehabilitation, with animal welfarists and conservationists differing in their opinions[22]. For many people, a successful rehabilitation is a high release rate back into the wild[23], a view which is fuelled by media stories that put a positive spin on ‘happy endings’ when an animal is released. However, this is a false as it fails to account for the future suffering of the animal. In fact, where survival rates have been measured, there are often animal welfare concerns. A study tracking polecats after release[24] showed that 28% of animals were confirmed dead due to road traffic accidents, and the tracking signal was lost for the other animals: therefore their fate was unknown. There is clearly no animal welfare benefit in rehabilitating an animal back into a dangerous environment where they are likely to endure more suffering at the hands of human activity.


Apart from the suffering of the individual animal itself, there can be indirect welfare consequences. For example, rehabilitating injured animals could be facilitating survival of less well adapted individuals, which could have detrimental impacts on offspring. Alternatively, releasing an animal into an environment where resources are scarce could increase competition and have a detrimental impact on other animals. Without any intervention, injured wild animals will be left to die; this will usually involve pain and stress to varying degrees. Whilst this seems ethically problematic at first, it should be remembered that it is not possible for humans to intervene and prevent all suffering to wildlife. One approach is therefore to intervene in cases where animals have suffered because of the impact of humans.


It cannot be denied that human activity is the cause of many wildlife casualties. It is often argued that rehabilitating wildlife is an opportunity to balance out the negative impacts that humans have had on nature. The highest profile example is the aftermath of oil spills. However, the idea that it is possible to ‘balance out’ the damage of these events is a fallacy. In the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, only 197 sea otters were eventually released back into the wild; contrasted to 1000 carcasses that were recovered. Of those released, 22 of the 45 tracked by radio transmitters were either dead or lost by the following spring[25]. The vast rehabilitation efforts involved made a small contribution to limiting the considerable damage of the oil spill, but did not balance it out. This is not an isolated example. Closer to home, many animals are admitted to rescue centres due to pet injuries or collisions with road vehicles (e.g. 40% of hedgehogs[26]; 70% of sparrowhawks[27]). In the case of sparrowhawks, only 24% were fit for re-release, and the survival of this proportion was not tracked. The cost of rehabilitating wildlife is also expensive, particularly in the case of an oil spill[28]. Effort and money would be better directed at preventative measures such as habitat preservation, thus reducing the contact between wildlife and humans. Of course, it cannot be known if funders of rehabilitation work would give their money to other causes such as habitat preservation.


Wildlife rehabilitation is likely to continue, simply because the public are unlikely to stand by and do nothing in severe or high profile cases. The point of this article is not to suggest that all animals should be heartlessly disposed of, regardless of their state. Rather, it is suggested that it would benefit animal welfare if it was recognised that the whole process of rehabilitation can be a negative one for the individual animal. From there, on a case by case basis, informed decisions could be made to ensure that if rehabilitation occurs, the stress and pain suffered by the animal will be balanced out by other factors such as a high chance of survival post-release. Otherwise, euthanasia should be recognised as kind, rather than a cruel and heartless act. The concept of rehabilitation as an effective way to balance out human acts is not completely wrong, but in many cases the damage has been done; therefore preventative measures are more important and should attract more resources than rehabilitation. This paper has argued that the law regulating wildlife rehabilitation in the UK is inadequate and does not serve in the best interests of injured wild animals. Although current legislation is intended to be protective of animals, it is inadequate at doing so as it focuses on popular beliefs rather than scientific evidence about animal welfare. One of the main obstacles to achieving this is changing the views of the general public, who support wildlife rehabilitation without fully considering the consequences to animals.


[1] A Kelly, R Scrivens and A Grogan, ‘Post-release survival of orphaned wild-born polecats (Mustela putorius) reared in captivity at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in England’ (2010) Endangered Species Research 12: 107–115.

[2] A Grogan and A Kelly, ‘A review of RSPCA research into wildlife rehabilitation’ (2011) Veterinary Record 172: 211–211.

[3] JK Kirkwood, ‘Interventions for wildlife health, conservation and welfare’ (1993) Veterinary Record 132: 235-238.

[4] Wildlife and Countryside Act 1991ch. 69

[5]The 1991 Act, Part 1, s4(2)(a)

[6] The 1991 Act, Part 1, s4(2)(b)

[7] The 1991 Act, Part 1, s4(2)

[8] The 1991 Act,  Part 1, s10(2)

[9] ibid, Sch. 5

[10] ibid, Sch. 9

[11] Protection of Badgers Act 1992 ch. 51

[12] Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996 ch. 3

[13] Animal Welfare Act 2006 ch. 45 (In Scotland, the legislation is the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 asp. 11 which has the same provisions in this context)

[14] The 2006 Act s2(b)

[15] The 2006 Act s9(2)

[16] British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council Guidelines, accessible at

[17] It also raises the ethical dilemma of whether preserving a species for its own sake is more important than ensuring the welfare of the individual members of that species.

[18] Anthropomorphism is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as: ‘the showing or treating of animals, gods, and objects as if they are human in appearance, character, or behaviour

[19] J Cooper and ME Cooper, ’Ethical and legal implications of treating casualty wild animals’ (2006) In Practice 28: 2–6.

[20] C Teixeira, C Deazevedo, M Mendl, C Cipreste and R Young, ‘Revisiting translocation and reintroduction programmes: the importance of considering stress’ (2007) Animal Behaviour 73: 1–13.

[21] P Bateson and EL Bradshaw, ‘Physiological effects of hunting red deer (Cervus elaphus)’ (1997) Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 264: 1707-1714.

[22] S Dubois and D Fraser, ‘Rating harms to wildlife: a survey showing convergence between conservation and animal welfare views’ (2013) Animal Welfare 22: 49–55.

[23] S Dubois, ‘A survey of wildlife rehabilitation goals, impediments, issues, and success in British Columbia, Canada’ (2003) University of Victoria, Vancouver, Canada

[24] A Kelly, R Scrivens and A Grogan, ‘Post-release survival of orphaned wild-born polecats (Mustela putorius) reared in captivity at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in England’ (2010) Endangered Species Research 12: 107–115.

[25] JA Estes,Concerns about Rehabilitation of Oiled Wildlife’ (1998) Conservation Biology 12: 1156–1157.

[26] NJ Reeve and MP Huijser, ‘Mortality factors affecting wild hedgehogs: a study of records from wildlife rescue centres’ (1999) Lutra 42: 7-24.

[27] A Kelly and M Bland,Admissions, diagnoses, and outcomes for Eurasian Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) brought to a wildlife rehabilitation centre’ (2006) Journal of Raptor Research 40: 231-235.

[28] For example, Estes (1998) reported that in the case of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, it cost $80,000 per animal released back into the wild


‘Halal Hysteria’: The Viewpoint of an Animal Rights Advocate

This article analyses the impact the focus of animals rights organisations on the banning of religious slaughter could have with regards to the long-term position of animal rights. 

Written by Eve Massie 4th Year LLB, GULS Vice-President Academic and the sub-editor of the Animal Law portion of the review



‘…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?[1]

 In May 2014, chain sandwich shop, Subway, issued an announcement that, in order to meet consumer demand, they would now serve halal meat only, in 52 of its outlets across the U.K. The British public was horrified. A public outcry arose as people called for the boycott of Subway and other chain restaurants which served halal meat, demanded that this ‘inhumane’ practice of slaughter be outlawed and, worryingly, condemned the Islamic faith; singling out Muslims for their support of this inhumane treatment of animals. Amidst the uproar, President of the British Veterinary Association, John Blackwell, too condemned the religious slaughter of poultry, sheep and cattle stating that the practice causes the ‘unnecessary’ suffering of animals and should be made illegal as it has been in a number of European Member States.[2] Although an immediate and natural, response from an animal rights advocate’s point of view would be to call for the ruling of illegality of religious slaughter, regard must be had to the welfare of animals in the long run. My question is, then, does the campaigning for a ban on religious slaughter truly serve in the best interests of animals?

It is beneficial to the substance of the essay to briefly explain the method of religious slaughter and the legal instrument allowing for its legality. In order to comply with Muslim and Jewish law, animals killed for consumption must be slaughtered by a particular method. The correct method consists of the slaughterer killing the animal by a single, continuous back and forth motion to the throat with a sharp knife. Pre-stunning of the animals, as is the common practice in ‘normal’ slaughterhouses, is not permitted in kosher slaughter and, although no longer ‘banned’ in halal slaughter with an estimated 88% of animals being stunned before slaughter in the U.K.,[3] is still a topic of widespread disagreement amongst Muslims. The practice of slaughter without pre-stunning is permitted via the European Union directive, ‘European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter’, which was implemented in Britain through The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995, and which states that ‘Each Contracting Party may authorize derogations from the provisions concerning prior stunning in the following cases:- slaughtering in accordance with religious rituals.’[4] 

As an advocate for animal rights, my concern will always be primarily for the welfare of animals and the consideration of their best interests. I must be clear that at no point in this essay am I condoning religious slaughter, because as a vegan, I condone no slaughter. However, as I will be taking an abolitionist view on this topic, it is my intention to discuss the dangers of the campaigns for the illegality of religious slaughter.   

The majority of the British population consume meat.[5] There are many reasons that people use to justify their support of the meat industry, but regardless of their reasoning, it would be fair to assume that most people would like their meat to have come from ‘humanely’ slaughtered animals. A welfarist viewpoint on the matter of religious slaughter, such as that held by John Blackwell, or the government funded but independent advisory body, Farm Animal Welfare Council, who recommend that the legal exemption which allows for religious slaughter without prior stunning be abolished, appeals to this group of people. It does so because it does not condemn nor question their meat-eating habits.

The above recommendations are not isolated. Indeed, several non-profit animal rights organizations such as, Viva! and Scotland for Animals, have taken the welfarist approach on this issue and released statements condemning the practice and demanding the Government prohibit such activity. However, these viewpoints, while serving in good will, inevitably allow for the justification of the moral superiority of others, which can only be detrimental in the fight against animal cruelty. This is because condemning only one particular method of slaughter suggests that there is only a problem with the ‘extreme’ uses of animals, perpetrated by particular groups of people, and that the these other ‘normal’ uses of animals that the vast majority of the public participate in everyday are justified. This viewpoint is conflicted, as animal rights organisations themselves promote veganism as a stand against all types of slaughter. There can be no humane slaughter; the phrase itself is an oxymoron. As Gary L. Francione, a Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, comments, ‘it would be an absurd use of the word to characterize any slaughterhouse as ‘humane.[6] Similarly, Brian Klug, a senior research fellow in philosophy at Oxford University, in response to journalist Nick Cohen’s article calling for the ban on religious slaughter,[7] states ‘Nick Cohen attacks orthodox Muslim and Jewish methods of slaughter as cruel, as if "secular" methods were humane. Anyone who has witnessed the latter knows better.’[8]

It is because of this false moral superiority that I have struggled to support the people and organizations campaigning for the illegality of religious slaughter. By focusing on one method of slaughter and expressing support for such a method as an animal rights activist in particular, this suggests to other that there is nothing morally incomprehensible about supporting the ‘regular’ meat industry. Perhaps there is the possibility that the hysteria surrounding religious slaughter will encourage persons, already sympathetic to animals, to question the exploitation of animals on a larger scale. That said, Francione has noted that single issue campaigns on a whole do not motivate most people to look beyond the single issue at hand; in this case religious slaughter. Indeed, Francione responded to Viva!’s online statement condemning halal slaughter, questioning their failure, as an animal rights organization, to use the opportunity of having a position of expertise in the animal rights field to explain to the concerned public ‘humanely’ produced meat does not exist as, in his words, ‘all meat- and all animal products- come from nonhuman animals who have been tortured under the very best of conditions’.[9]

There is no doubt that humans exercise a moral superiority over non-human animals. Indeed, this moral superiority allow humans to define their place in society, as Taimie L. Bryant, a lecturer of animals and the law at UCLA, comments ‘humans define themselves by opposition to animals’.[10] She also notes that ‘humans reinscribe their presumed superiority over animals whenever they use animals to serve humans ends.’[11] It is already difficult to dislodge humans’ beliefs that they are superior to nonhuman animals, and although this campaign has been positive in that so many people have taken an interest in farmed animal welfare, unfortunately it may well be damaging to the social justice movement for animal rights. The focus on the campaigning solely against religious slaughter places the ‘regular’ meat industry and those in support of it in a very dangerous position of a presumed moral superiority over both the animals and religious minorities involved and affirming that their exploitation of farmed animals is humane; when, of course, exploitation can never be humane. 

I am very much aware that we live in a world dominated by the exploitation of other sentient beings: whether that is of human or non-humans animals. I understand that veganism is still a strange concept to many and that by animals rights organisations taking this opportunity to speak out against all slaughter, many will still turn a blind eye. However organisations must be careful not to latch onto popular public views for their approval and support on just one animal welfare campaign when they can use this rare opportunity of public engagement to educate the public on the inequality and injustice served for all farmed animals. In the words of Gary L. Francione, no animal consumed by anyone in Britain or anywhere else on the planet was treated and killed in a manner that could be called “humane” without making an obscene misuse of that word.’[12]


[1] Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, 2nd edition, 1823, chapter 17.

[2] Namely Denmark, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.

[3] Food Standards Agency (2012) Results of the 2011 FSA Animal welfare survey in Great Britain. Great Britain: Food Standards Agency.

[4] Council Decision 88/306/EEC of 16 May 1988 on the conclusion of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter.

[5] Although vegetarianism and veganism is on the rise with 1 in 8 adults in the U.K. now living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Mintel, 2014

[6] Gary L. Francione. Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation,  Reflections on Animals, Property, and the Law and Rain Without Thunder, Columbia University Press 2008, Chapter 2.

[7] Nick Cohen,"God's own chosen meat" (2004).  New Statesman 133 (4695): 22–23.

[8] Brian Klug ‘Letters- In defence of religious slaughter’ (2004) New Statesman. 

[9] Gary L. Francione ‘Message to Viva!: The Problem is Not Religious Slaughter’ (2010)

[10] Taimie L. Bryant ‘Sacrificing the sacrifice of animals: legal personhood for animals, the status of animals as property and the presumed primacy of humans’ (2007-2008) Rutgers Law Journal Vol 39:247.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Gary L. Francione ‘Message to Viva!: The Problem is Not Religious Slaughter’ (2010) 



This is an exciting new area of the review for 2014/15. Our sub-editor for Animal Law is Eve Massie (GULS Vice President Academic) and any submissions in this area should be sent to