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5 J. Animal L. 1 (2009)
Animal Ethics and Breed-Specific Legislation

handle is hein.journals/janimlaw5 and id is 7 raw text is: Animal Ethics And Breed-Specific Legislation                             1
By way of orientation: This paper is not intended to assault the reader with a
barrage of facts showing breed-specific legislation is ill-conceived, though it would
not be hard to adduce such facts: For example, there are five times more people
killed by lightning per year (100) or by falling coconuts (150) or by hot tap water
(150 in Japan alone) than by dog bites (18 per year). Death by bug bite (54 per year)
is three times more likely than dog bite; death in virtue of being struck by a cow
also three times more likely (65 per year).2
Since I am a philosopher, the paper is conceptual (i.e., philosophers are smart but
lazy, and it is easier to reason than to assemble facts.) If you affirm that it is raining
and not raining, I don't need to gather weather data to prove you wrong. Similarly,
if I can show that there is a moral-conceptual flaw underlying breed-specific
legislation, then I don't need to assemble supporting facts. That is what I propose to
do in this talk, though I reserve the right to present a fact or two.
Just as 20th century science had disavowed any conceptual relationship to
ethics, to the detriment of both science and society, so too there is historically a
strong tradition of disconnecting law and ethics. Both of these positions are rooted
in positivism, the former in logical positivism, the latter in legal positivism.
Legal positivism views the law as determined solely by the conventions
through which it is decided - legislative creation or judicial decision. Whether
or not this hotly debated thesis is correct, it has furthered the tendency to see law
as conceptually separate from morality. Yet it is clear that morality is closely
connected with law in numerous ways; what laws are adopted are guided by moral
concern, for example the desegregation laws. Similarly, what laws are rejected -
for example state laws criminalizing intermarriage between blacks and whites, or
prohibitions on certain types of sexual behavior between consenting adults - are
rejected on moral grounds. And, as Ronald Dworkin has persuasively argued, hard
cases are often decided by reference to moral principles.'
This article was initially delivered to an ABA symposium on breed-specific laws held at NYU
Law school in December 2007. 1 am grateful to Ledy Vankavage for inviting me to speak and for
constructive suggestions. I must also warmly thank Chris Green for his exhaustive commentaries
on an earlier draft.
2 Matt Roper, Scientists Calculate Odd Ways to Die, DAILY MIRROR, May 30, 2008, available at

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