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Thematic Issue: Life Sciences: Ethics, Innovation and the Future of Law

Evolving Conceptions of Legal Personhood: What might Recent Legal Developments Herald for Non-human Animals in Australia?


Jane Kotzmann, Morgan Stonebridge and Paulien Christiaenssen

Legal personhood has traditionally been associated with human persons and their representatives, for example, corporations. Recent years, however, have seen the binary conception of legal personhood challenged and reconceived, and the circle of legal persons expanded in numerous jurisdictions. In particular, the utter failure of environmental laws to protect the environment has led to the recognition of nature bodies as legal persons. Within this context, this article considers whether these developments might lead to recognition of animals as legal persons in Australia. The parallel deficiencies of environmental and animal laws, together with the willingness of some Australian legislatures to entertain legal personhood for nature, may suggest that the concept of legal personhood for animals in Australia is not completely far-fetched.

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(2023) 46(2) UNSWLJ 347: