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Episode 606: If the Law Took Animals Seriously, ft. Dr. John Adenitire

By Jasmin and Mariann — August 21, 2021

John Adenitire, PhD, joins the podcast this week for a truly fascinating episode about the philosophical underpinnings of animal law. A lawyer and a lecturer in the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London, John explains the differences between legal and moral philosophy, outlines the substantive theory of animal rights, and underscores why the rule of law is relevant, and crucial, to the lives of nonhuman animals. He also explores the role of animal welfare laws under current theories of philosophy of law and shares why those theories fail to protect the sentient beings who desperately need legal protection.

John Adenitire, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Italy, is now a Strategic Lecturer in the School of Law at Queen Mary University London and a Fellow of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences. He completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law, Fitzwilliam College. He has taught and researched at Cambridge, Durham, Birmingham, the UCL Constitution Unit, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, and the UK Commission on a Bill of Rights.

In the beginning of this episode, we are honored to be joined by Peter Brandt, Senior Attorney for Farm Animal Litigation at the Humane Society of the United States who has played an instrumental role in fighting some of the most challenging cases of animal abuse in the last ten years. Peter joined us as a guest in episode 559 and we’ve invited him back now to read a section from his book, Indefensible: Adventures of a Farm Animal Protection Lawyer. The book is part memoir, part manifesto and chronicles the development of Peter’s awareness of factory farming and the harm it does not only to animals but to human health and the environment, especially for those who live near them.

“Once we recognize a certain being has sentience and important basic interests—interest in living, interest in being alive and free from torture and physical intervention, a life of freedom to do as as they please, within limits—then we should recognize that they have certain fundamental rights that the law should recognize.”
– John Adenitire

Interview Highlights:

  • The problems with various philosophical theories of the rule of law as they pertain to animals
  • John’s alternative theory that animals should be seen as victims of arbitrary power
  • Why aquatic animals are often left unprotected by law
  • The difference between power and arbitrary power
  • How the law works to protect the fundamental interests that humans and nonhuman animals share
  • Why an adequate substantive theory of the rule of law would require enormous changes in the legal system
  • How the rule of law could accommodate the need for different species to have different rights
  • Are there certain situations where it would be justifiable for humans to kill animals and how should the law accommodate them?


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This episode is brought to you in part through the generosity of A Well-Fed World. A Well-Fed World provides the means for change by empowering individuals, social justice organizations, and political decision makers to embrace the benefits of plant-based foods and farming. Learn more at


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Don’t forget to tune into Our Hen House’s other two podcasts: The Teaching Jasmin How to Cook Vegan Podcast, and The Animal Law Podcast.

The Our Hen House theme song is written and performed by Michael Harren.

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