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The Animal Rights Movement — Should Animals and People Have the Same Rights?

When it comes to animals and people, conventional wisdom suggests that human beings are exceptional by comparison. After all, we invented coffee and iPads, right? But this human exceptionalism is founded on some underlying assumptions. These include the notion that humans have the capacity for moral reasoning and that they have a heightened level of self-awareness. However, increasingly, these notions are being challenged, and the animal rights movement has gained increasing support. And science appears to be providing some basis that offers support for animal rights.

While attitudes that support both the rights of animals and people have advanced, debates still exist. A sizable portion of the world population is unable to meet their own survival needs. Thus, questions about the importance of animal rights are being raised when human needs aren’t being addressed well. When these types of situations exist, it seems priorities are being misplaced. It’s therefore not surprising that issues surrounding the animal rights movement are increasingly coming to the forefront.

Some Yaley talking about animal rights.
Animals and people have traditionally been considered different classes under the law – but statutory protections for animals are expanding.

The Rise in the Animal Rights Movement

Throughout history, humankind has enjoyed significant advantages of power over animals of all types. Some animals are well-recognized today as pets, while others represent vital sources of our food supply. But particularly in the last century, advances in industry and technology have allowed us even greater dominion over the animal world. And as the global food industry is increasingly recognized as detrimental to ecosystems, social attitudes are shifting. Sustainable practices are being demanded. This detail includes not only a rise in veganism but also the increasing support for the animal rights movement.

Recent polls in America have shown that many now support equal rights for animals and people. To some extent, discoveries related to animal abilities have encouraged this shift. Many animals are now acknowledged to have not only complex cognitive capacities but also social and moral abilities as well. Specifically, chimpanzees and elephants have shown such abilities. But even more powerful has been the heightened awareness of mass animal suffering among global food supply chains. All these have been major factors that have attributed to today’s current animal rights movement.

Congressional Representative talking animal rights.
Congress has given the Animal Rights Movement a big boost.

Shifts in Politics and Law Toward Equal Animal and People Rights

The increased support for the animal rights movement is not simply being validated by public surveys. This same level of support for the rights of animals and people are being noted in political actions and the study of law. In terms of political action, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. The PACT states that any intentional injury to an animal is a federal crime, and it aims to work in conjunction with local laws. This act is a major advance in legislation that animal rights movement supporters applaud.

Politics is not the only area where increased support for the animal rights movement exists. Yale Law School recently added several courses that will address how to advocate for animal rights. The courses cite that current perspectives regarding animals and people are outdated. As a result, new laws and litigation efforts fighting for animal rights are needed. In fact, some attorneys are actively seeking to ascribe human rights to some animal species. Cases in both New York and Connecticut have heard arguments that some animals should not be held against their will in captivity. While none of these cases have succeeded yet, Yale Law School hopes to evoke future changes in animals’ favor.

ASPCA guy talking animal rights.
Animals and people may never be on equal legal footing, but that doesn’t mean animals don’t deserve protection.

An Argument Against Equal Rights for Animals and People

Indeed, support for the animal rights movement is grounded in science, ethics and morality. But from a practical standpoint, equal rights for animals and people may not be feasible. As the global population continues to hike, food supply shortages become a real issue. Implementing greater animal protections for livestock may pose a practical impossibility. We should note that the most vocal animal rights movement groups tend to arise from areas with high standards of living. Notably, advocating for animal rights when one is in a position of comfort offers a privileged position. Those who are less fortunate may not share similar views.

In this regard, no one is suggesting that animal cruelty should be allowed. However, deterring animal cruelty is a far cry from pushing for equal rights for animals and people. Resources are limited, and human beings must ensure they care for themselves and their families first. Guaranteeing animals and people the same rights may undermine that. And if one is not able to care for oneself, then the ability to care for animals as well will be lacking. While the animal rights movement supports equal rights for animals and people, such a case is simply not believed to be a possibility by many.

a photo of animals and a human drinking beer at a bar counter with a gorilla serving as the bartender, symbolizing the current talks of equality for animals and people
Yes, support for the animal rights movement is grounded in science and morality. But, what is the core issue of this equality case for animals and people?

Can Bold Businesses Provide Solutions Supporting Animal Rights?

Most of the practical arguments against the animal rights movement involve shortages of various resources, particularly food supplies. But increasingly, bold businesses are developing food opportunities that do not require livestock and animals. For example, Impossible Foods and other plant-based foods are becoming increasingly popular. Likewise, CRISPR technologies also offer some promise in this regard to lab-based food production. Thus, while technology has increased dominance over animals, it may also provide an answer for the future.

The core issue is whether one believes animals are intelligent, sentient and thoughtful creatures worthy of personhood status or not. If so, then animals and people should share basic rights that respect them as living beings. In this regard, science clearly supports this mentality, and social and legal-political shifts do as well. Therefore, it is up to humankind to find solutions that are not only practical but also ethical in nature. And that includes not only supporting the animal rights movement but also their environment and ecosystem as well.

Liability from Above: Do Drone Laws Sufficiently Protect Us?

Most of us have become accustomed to seeing the occasional flying drone from time to time. Drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), have a ton of beneficial uses. These range from real estate imaging, pipeline diagnostics, to even emergency services. Despite these uses, however, a number of challenges remain – mainly of the legal variety. While worries over a lack of flying drone laws are not new, rising interest in drone regulations is occurring for other reasons. Several companies are beginning to launch delivery drone services, which makes key issues associated with drones more relevant. These issues include things like privacy protections, trespassing, noise control, and even drone-related injuries. With this in mind, there are new proposals that could change such laws significantly in the years to come. And how these changes play out could greatly affect the impact drones have in our lives.

drone regulations, Arthur Holland Michel quoted.
Drones are becoming mainstream. Safety and privacy are two of the main concerns that need to be addressed.

Key Issues Demanding Flying Drone Laws

When drones were a novelty, drone regulations were not much of a concern. But as businesses and individuals increasingly use these low-cost flying resources, this is changing. In fact, recent polls have shown that most people have concerns about privacy issues associated with drones. As these UAS devices come closer and closer to the airspace surrounding our homes, many are demanding better drone regulations. To date, privacy and ownership of the air space around private property have not been well addressed. But with rising numbers of drones soon to come, this will need to change.

Other than privacy and trespassing, there are other issues concerning drone regulations and the public. In addition, liability issues and noise pollution are also notable issues for which some are requesting stricter flying drone laws. For example, Wing (an Alphabet company) had to address noise issues among its delivery drones in Australia. From 50 feet away, the drones made noises comparable to a loud television set. And in terms of liability, it’s unclear whether drone operators, businesses using drones, or drone manufacturers are subject to accountability. To date, flying drone laws have not identified which entity carries the greatest risk.

Flying drone laws, Arthur Holland Michel quoted
Specific laws on drones have yet to be created.

Reasons for Rising Demand for Drone Regulations

The key issue that is making drone regulation a priority issue currently involves the advances that are occurring in the marketplace. Recently, Wing launched its drone delivery service in Australia, as well as in a small town in Virginia. Its drone deliveries involve a variety of products common for household use. Likewise, UPS recently attained permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide drone delivery services in college, corporate, and hospital campuses. And Amazon similarly is heavy in the field, having introduced its own new drone delivery system this past summer. In essence, the writing is on the wall with drone traffic on the rise and a need for greater drone regulations to be considered.

Part of the issue in terms of flying drone laws is the autonomy of the FAA to regulate airspace. State and local governments have not been able to even make policy changes to air space around individuals’ homes. Prior legislation awards this regulatory power to the FAA. But this is progressively being challenged. If these legal or judicial challenges award greater control to local governance, new flying drone laws will certainly emerge. But to date, all air space even immediately outside one’s home is considered fair game for drone travel. Past legislation has focused on the rights of aircraft to avoid interference while in the air. And thus, drone regulations addressing issues like privacy, trespassing, and noise do not exist.

Drone regulations, Ryan Wallace quoted
Citizens are concerned about their privacy and they have every reason to be until drone regulations are completely sorted out.

Newly Proposed Drone Regulations

Without existing flying drone laws to guide current drone use, new legislation is being proposed. Specifically, two U.S. Senators from Utah are introducing a bipartisan agenda of drone regulations at a federal level. The new bill states that the property owner owns any air space below 200 feet and is off-limits to drones. Likewise, the airspace between 200 and 400 feet would be accessible to civilian drones only. These begin to provide flying drone laws that might address key evolving issues if passed by the Senate.

While these drone regulations and proposals offer some better guidance, they are also pursuing another important goal. In essence, these drone regulations challenge the autonomy of the FAA to regulate all air space. State and local governments might, therefore, be able to introduce their own flying drone laws for air space closer to properties. Without question, there will be a challenge to these pursuits by the FAA and subject to legal and judicial debates. Thus, it remains unclear what the final outcome will be for most flying drone laws.

Keeping Up with Technological and Market Change

The major issue with drone regulations relates to the rapidity with which markets and technologies are evolving. The advances in drone usage and product deliveries are pushing for new resolutions to address public concerns. Notably, there’s a limit to the regulations that addressed these areas, and thus there’s a need for new flying drone laws. It will be interesting to see just how these legal and social issues evolve over the next few years. One thing is for certain, however. Drones are clearly going to play an increasing role in our lives. And new drone regulations will be essential in finding the right balance between these services and existing social preferences.

Digital Justice: The Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Courtroom

The cliche of overburdened judges and overcrowded courtrooms isn’t actually a cliche – it’s a reality. Expensive, complicated, and bureaucratic legal processes constrain the judicial system. They make the wheels of justice grind excruciatingly slow. Thus, the shift to digital justice–by integrating artificial intelligence in the courtroom–is gaining traction.

Case in point: Beijing, China, launched an online litigation service for “repetitive basic work”. The high-tech facility features a female AI judge. The e-service offers a complete user experience with human facial expressions and bodily gestures and actions. Meanwhile, in Europe, Estonia is developing a robo-judge to take care of small claims cases below €7,000. In the US, artificial intelligence in the courtroom and data analytics have already been used in various points within the justice system. Predictive policing to pre-trial risk-assessment to sentencing to parole and probation already utilizes artificial intelligence and data technology in the courtroom. When it comes to technology aiding with the scales of justice, the future is already upon us!

Digital justice in the Augmented Age, Maurice Conti quoted.
In the Augmented Age, we no longer just ask the tools we use to assist us – they are actively doing what we need done.

Data Technology: Augmenting the Judicial System

The digital revolution has made a significant impact on almost every facet of modern life. The judicial system is no exception. Thus far, artificial intelligence in the courtroom and data technology application in the judicial ecosystem has been largely around data analytics and research. Decision-makers in the judicial system appreciate the value of objective and unbiased data processing and analysis through AI and Data technology.

Cartoon of robot serving digital justice.
Digital justice is transforming the justice system.

For instance, Equivant was a foremost software company used by several US courts across the country.  Equivant developed COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions) which is a tool to assess and manage recidivism among defendants. Similarly, the bail system is also getting a digital justice revamp. With the aim of reducing the use of cash bail, Freecog uses mobile technology to help defendants who are awaiting trial.

On the other hand, law firms benefit from legal analytics tools such as Lex Machina and Ravel Law. By collecting vast amounts of litigation data and using advanced algorithms, law firms draw valuable insights that can be advantageous for the case. Furthermore, lawyers contribute to the implementation of digital justice through efficient legal research. With startups Ross Intelligence and Luminance, legal research is done faster and more efficiently. Citizens who cannot afford to hire the services of a lawyer can now turn to the world’s first Robot Lawyer – DoNotPay. This AI-powered legal counsel can help in the appeal parking tickets and sue anyone in small claims court.

Artificial intelligence in the courtroom, Rashida Richardson quoted
Technology is good, but we should not turn our backs on tried and tested methods. 

AI-Powered Biases and Other Uncertainties with Digital Justice

Assimilating digital technology within the judicial system’s processes certainly affords several benefits. Moreover, the potential of digital justice has already been demonstrated with the presence of artificial intelligence in the courtroom. But for critics, exclusive reliance on AI for efficiency and objectivity raises several concerns.

  • As a practice, an intuitive and insightful analysis of information is critical in the judiciary profession. While AI can aid in research and cross-referencing evidence against preceding cases, intuition and cognition incorporate compassion and balance.
  • Practitioners within the field – lawyers, judges, barristers – hone their cognitive and intuitive skills through years of practice. AI systems, on the other hand, solely rely on patterns lifted from troves of legal data.
  • The legal data and litigation records accessed by AI systems cannot and should not be filtered. Regrettably, this data includes mistrials and biases. Artificial intelligence systems learn from the data that is fed to them. As such, critics of digital justice are concerned that these biases and predispositions will be reflected in the algorithm.
  • With security threats and data breach, there is constant concern about unscrupulous actors tampering on AI systems and legal data records. Consequently, these intrusions may influence the AI system’s recommendations.
  • Scores obtained from Risk Assessment systems are highly disputed due to unclear methodologies and questionable data sources. False positives and partiality to certain demographics have been noted.

Justice delayed is justice denied – so states a legal maxim. The adage underpins the truth that the implementation of justice must be in a timely manner. For the party who suffered from the inequity, a delay in serving justice is, in fact, an injustice.

Certainly, with the help of technology, artificial intelligence and data technology can handle repetitive tasks. This can assist courts and legal offices to focus resources on more complex cases. Consequently, societies can look forward to a faster and more efficient digital justice system.