From Inside the Cage to Outside the Box
Natural Resources as a Platform for Nonhuman Animal Personhood in the U.S. and Australia
Nonhuman animals are currently treated as property under U.S. and Australian law, leaving them open to various kinds of exploitation. There has been a gradual evolution away from this property paradigm in both countries, but significant work remains to ensure that nonhuman animals are afforded adequate legal protections. This article considers the legal avenues available to protect nonhuman animals in the U.S. and Australia, focusing particularly on the attribution of legal personhood. Section 2 of the article reviews attempts by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) to establish legal personhood protections for nonhuman animals through writ of habeas corpus petitions under U.S. common law. Section 3 surveys the options for recognition of animal personhood under Australian law, discussing issues of standing, habeas corpus, and guardianship models. Section 4 discusses the growing movement to assign legal personhood rights to natural resources. The article proposes that to the extent that natural resources have received legal personhood protection to recognize their inherent value, similar protections should be afforded to animals. In the meantime, habeas corpus, standing, and guardianship theories provide valuable procedural platforms for incremental progress toward protecting nonhuman animals in both the U.S. and Australia.