Writing for the Weekly Standard , Wesley Smith speculates about the imminent legal recognition of nonhuman personhood:

For years, animal rights activists have been preparing the intellectual ground to overcome the “animals aren’t persons” legal impediment to their goal of allowing animals to sue their owners—a concept known as “animal standing”—by which they plan to destroy animal industries and eventually end all domestication of animals. They know that no legislature will pass laws elevating even the most intelligent animals to the status of persons. So they plan to file multitudinous lawsuits, hoping judges will bootstrap animals into the moral community.

But Charles Camosy at Catholic Moral Theology thinks Wesley is taking things too far:
Smith is worried that considering non-human animals to be persons may undermine the exceptionalism of human animals. He is correct to worry about this.  But Christians know that human beings are not exceptional.  Thomas Aquinas and many other Christian thinkers, for instance, argued that human beings had a rather modest place in the hierarchy of creation–especially when compared to angels.  A “person” is a “substance of a rational and relational nature” and refers to a metaphysical category, not a biological one.  Both angels and humans fit into this category, and it may very well be the case that non-human animals also count as persons.

Whether animals eventually acquire legal status as persons or not, or whether their doing so will do much against human exceptionalism, one wonders what Peter Singer might say about all this.

Articles by Mark Misulia

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