It is hard to conceive of a greater blemish on our justice system than the punishment of innocent persons. The idea of imprisoning or executing an innocent person almost defies the human capacity for empathy; it is nearly impossible to imagine oneself in such circumstances. Advances in science and the work of non-profits like the Innocence Project have made the exoneration of more than 300 people possible. And while the struggle to liberate unjustly incarcerated persons must continue, and should be accelerated, the cruelty of punishing innocents is not limited to the incarceration of human animals. It is time to consider the need to liberate at least some nonhuman animals from the most horrible confinement. These nonhuman animals are unquestionably innocent, their conditions of confinement, at least in some cases, are uniquely depraved; and their cognitive functioning, much less their ability to suffer, rivals that of humans. It is time to seriously consider habeas type remedies for nonhuman beings.
We are cognizant that the call for nonhuman habeas may cause some to construe this project as one that dishonors or diminishes the efforts that have led to exonerations and the work that remains to be done in the context of human innocence. Nothing could be further from our purpose. One of us has been involved in death penalty defense and litigating claims of wrongful incarceration since graduating from law school, and the commitment to those issues remains unflappable. Indeed, we hope the salience of the cause of liberating humans will be reinforced by our efforts to cross the species barrier. It does no disservice to the cause of innocent humans to suggest that we pay closer attention to the suffering of nonhuman animals. Just as we look back in disgust at our forefathers who were less careful in their protection of human innocents, we predict that our grandchildren will judge us for the way we collectively treat nonhuman animals.
This Chapter proceeds in three parts. First, it analyzes the question of whether exoneration or innocence in the context of nonhuman confinements is illogical. Second, assuming it is a proper question at all, it examines why we would consider exonerating nonhuman animals, that is to say, what are the scientific and social reasons for contemplating relief for humans? Finally, the Chapter considers the practical viability of nonhuman habeas at least for a limited class of nonhuman animals subject to particularly harsh conditions. In so doing, the Chapter discusses the cutting-edge cases filed in recent years by the Nonhuman Rights Project (“NhRP”) seeking habeas review for chimpanzees.'Meaning in the lives of humans and other animals' by Duncan Purves and Nicolas Delon in (2018) 175(2) Philosophical Studies 317–338 argues that
contemporary philosophical literature on meaning in life has important implications for the debate about our obligations to non-human animals. If animal lives can be meaningful, then practices including factory farming and animal research might be morally worse than ethicists have thought. We argue for two theses about meaning in life: (1) that the best account of meaningful lives must take intentional action to be necessary for meaning—an individual’s life has meaning if and only if the individual acts intentionally in ways that contribute to finally valuable states of affairs; and (2) that this first thesis does not entail that only human lives are meaningful. Because non-human animals can be intentional agents of a certain sort, our account yields the verdict that many animals’ lives can be meaningful. We conclude by considering the moral implications of these theses for common practices involving animals.The authors ask
Can animals1 have meaningful lives? This question has been largely omitted from discussions of meaning in contemporary analytic philosophy. It has also been largely ignored by the animal ethics literature. Perhaps the omission is a result of philosophers thinking that the question is misplaced or that it involves a category mistake. Yet, we will argue, the omission is important, because assessing the possibility of meaning in animal life is vital for understanding the full scope and content of our ethical obligations to animals. If meaning is a constituent of a good life, and some of our practices deprive animals’ lives of meaning, then this may be an overlooked way in which our practices harm them.
In this paper we argue for two theses about the meaningfulness of animal life: (1) that the best account of meaningful lives requires acting intentionally in ways that contribute to final value; and (2) that this does not entail that the lives of animals are necessarily meaningless. A life can count as ‘meaningless’ either because it possesses zero meaning or because attributing meaning to a life of that sort would be a category mistake. To illustrate the difference, the number 2 is heatless, not because it is cold, but because it is not the sort of thing to which the concept HEAT applies. Analogously, a virus’s life is meaningless, not because it possesses zero meaning, but because the concept MEANING simply doesn’t apply. Our second thesis can be understood as a rejection of the claim that the lives of animals are meaningless in either of these senses. To the contrary, to the extent that animals can be intentional agents, our account of meaning yields nuanced verdicts concerning which animal lives are meaningful. It also accounts for the intuitively right range of cases involving humans. Section 2 discusses some prominent theories of meaning in the recent philosophical literature and their associated problems. In Sect. 2 we also propose and defend our intentional theory of meaning. In Sect. 3 we consider the implications of this theory for the possibility of meaning in the lives of animals. In Sect. 4 we discuss the ethical importance of the possibility of meaning in animal life.