Radical study claims critters should have a say on laws – but critics say the bizarre idea is laughable.
Giving your pet dog its very own voting slip on the way to the polling station may sound like a bizarre scenario.
But a researcher claims it may not be a bad idea.
Ioan-Radu Motoarcă, a former professor in the philosophy department at Rowan University in New Jersey, thinks certain animals should have voting rights.
In a new paper, he outlines his idea for a voting system that lets critters have their say on issues that affect them, like pet care.
However, it seems that not everyone agrees with this wacky idea, with one expert calling it ‘risible’.
In his paper, Professor Motoarcă, now at Ashman Law Offices in Illinois, admits that ‘the idea that animals should have the right to vote sounds preposterous’.
He continues: ‘Accordingly, most authors who have touched on the issue dismiss it in few words as obviously absurd.
‘However, I will argue that we can understand this idea as a natural outcome of our fundamental democratic commitments.
‘Consequently, I believe governments should recognize a political right to vote for at least certain categories of animals.’
Professor Motoarcă wants an animal voting system that involves appointed representatives – either individual humans or whole companies – casting votes on behalf of animals.
Under his proposed system, people would only be appointed representatives casting votes on behalf of animals in cases involving animal welfare.
This could include policies regarding animal husbandry, meat production standards, fishing regulation or pet care.
Because they do not worry about complex moral problems like abortion or the legalization of prostitution, animals would not be required to vote on such issues.
Professor Motoarcă draws comparisons to representatives acting on behalf of children or people with mental disabilities, ‘who need someone else to assert their rights’.
He also argues that the incompetence of animals to exercise voting rights is also not a valid reason to exclude them.
And while the idea may sound ridiculous, he claims it would be an extension of existing practices.
Certain governments already permit the enforcement of animal legal rights through representatives.
What’s more, in many US federal lawsuits, animals are named as the plaintiff – the one who brings a legal case against another.
Historically, various governments excluded certain categories – such as women and slaves – from having legal rights because it seemed justified at the time.
But any commonly-accepted reasons for blocking animal voting rights could appear similarly archaic hundreds of years from now.
Professor Motoarcă’s idea is an example of the ‘all affected interests’ principle where everyone who is affected by the decisions of a government should have the right to participate in that government.
This dates back at least to the Justinian Code in Roman private law that asserts ‘what touches all must be approved by all’.
However, Thom Brooks, a professor of law and government at Durham University, told MailOnline he does not agree with the new proposal.
‘At a time where public trust in our politics is at all time low, I believe time and energy is best spent focused on ensuring the voices of our fellow citizens are heard and their votes counted,’ Professor Brooks said.
Matthew Kramer, a professor of legal and political philosophy at Cambridge University, said giving a non-human animal an entitlement to vote would be ‘risible’.
More realistically, such a system would really involve the assignment of an extra vote to any human being voting on behalf of an animal.
‘That human being, rather than the animal itself, is the party who would make a choice on whatever matter is under consideration in the voting,’ he told MailOnline.
However, Professor Kenneth Ehrenberg at the University of Surrey’s school of law called it a ‘very interesting argument’ and not ‘preposterous at all’.
‘Animals clearly feel pain and have interests – they can be better off or worse off depending on the conditions in which they live,’ he told MailOnline.
‘It’s not unreasonable to believe that they are interest holders who would have a stake in the outcome of elections since their lives may be improved or worsened by what happens in those elections.
‘The only remaining problem is that animals are not capable of understanding the options or what is at stake in the election.’
The new paper has been published in the journal Analysis.
PUBLISHED: 06:37 EST, 24 January 2024 | UPDATED: 04:08 EST, 26 January 2024