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11 Austl. Animal Protection L.J. 5 (2015)
The Sentience of Plants: Animal Rights and Rights of Nature Intersecting

handle is hein.journals/ausanplj11 and id is 5 raw text is: 

                           The Sentience of Plants:

      Animal Rights and Rights of Nature Intersecting?

                          Alessandro  Pelizzon3 and Monica  Gagliano4

The emerging  legal theory known as 'Earth Jurisprudence' has grown exponentially in the last decade.
One of the most notable proposals of this novel legal theory is the attribution of subjective legal status
to nature, a proposal that has already been legislated in a number of jurisdictions, as discussed below.

The recognition of nature as a subject of and with rights raises a number of questions, most notably
concerning the issue of agency of and  on behalf of nature.  Similar questions have been already
explored by the animal rights discourse, in its attempt to confer subjective legal status to animals. The
importance of the intersection between 'Earth Jurisprudence' and animal rights is thus readily apparent.

Emerging  scientific research has revealed that plants show all the traditional indicators of sentience.
This casts doubt upon the utility of the traditional rigid division made between plants and animals. It
also suggests that sentience is a contingent and fluid concept; one that depends upon a constantly
changing combination of scientific and cultural assumptions.

These developments  suggest that the fundamental  proposal of 'Earth Jurisprudence', that all things
have rights by virtue of their very existence, may not need to be based on such as 'sentience', but may
be used as the premise for a radical challenge to many anthropocentric legal principles. In doing so,
'Earth Jurisprudence' can learn from the legal tradition that has developed around the concept of
animal rights, while at the same time stretching all previously established boundaries that traditionally
extended rights exclusively to non-human animals alone.


           In 2012, one of the authors of this paper, founder and then board member of the Global
Alliance for the Rights of Nature, the Australian Wild Law Alliance and the Earth Laws Network at
Southern Cross University, convened a colloquium entitled 'Animal Rights and the Rights of Nature -
Intersections and Tensions', to explore the intersection between the rights of nature and animal rights
discourses. Although many  might  consider animal protection law advocates  and rights of nature
proponents  natural allies, this very quickly appeared not to be the case during the colloquium. The
classical divide between eco-systemic approaches faced against the specific concerns of individual
animals was  rehashed,s with dividing arguments as to the actual interaction between the two legal

At the same time, the other author of this paper was exploring communicative and cognitive abilities of
plants. By adopting a quantitative approach commonly  used  to test these abilities in animals, the
exploration delivered innovative, rigorous, experimental evidence showing that plants can not only
acquire learned behaviors (i.e. behavior that is not innate but one an individual develops by being
taught or by observing others) in a matter of seconds but that they also remember what has been

3 Dr Alessandro Pelizzon is a Lecturer in the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross University.
4 Dr Monica Gagliano is a Research Associate Professor in the Centre for Evolutionary Biology at the University of Western
5 See, for example, R Nash, The Rights of Nature (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1989).
                                       (2015) 11 AAPLJ                                         5

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