Everyone reading this Article is doubtless aware of the woeful lack of legal protection for farm animals in the United States. Not only do the laws fail to assure even a minimally decent life for the majority of these animals, they do not provide protection against the most egregious treatment. As both a philosopher who has helped articulate new emerging societal ethics for animals, and as one who has successfully developed laws embodying that ethic—notably the 1985 federal laws protecting laboratory animals—I will stress the direction we need to move in the future to enfranchise farm animals. I have seen ethics inform law and law potentiate ethics—for example, when preparing my testimony before Congress in 1982 in defense of the laws mandating control of pain and suffering in laboratory animals, I found in a literature search only two papers on pain control, a telling indicator of the failure of the research community to practice pain control. Today there are somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 such papers, and the practice of pain control has correlatively increased exponentially, all as a result of a legislative mandate. I also believe in the power of articulated societal ethics in effecting change—I was partly instrumental in convincing Smithfield to abandon sow stalls by ethical discussion with some of its senior executives. I will thus discuss the ethical basis of future laws.
Rollin, B. (2007). Animal Ethics and the Law. Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions, 106, 143.