Utah Residents Must Act to Defend Animals and Democracy

The Rise for Animals Team, February 1, 2024

Last year, we asked you to join us in opposing a Utah bill that sought to prevent localities from regulating “animal enterprises”, including research facilities. Unfortunately, that bill passed . . . and now the Utah legislature is back with another ruinous proposition.

The Utah legislature is currently considering a bill – House Bill 249 – that would prevent the state government at any level, and including the courts, from granting legal personhood to other-than-human animals. 

In so doing, House Bill 249 would both further subvert the interests of other-than-human animals (and, indeed, humans, too) and further entrench the interests of the animal industrial complex, including the animal research industry.

Though legal personhood may not be necessary for animals to be given rights, Utah’s bill plainly seeks to forestall any recognition of such rights by further codifying animals’ status as objects.

This bill denies not only other-than-human animals’ sentience but, even more fundamentally, their very existence as living beings. 

Reinforcing animals’ current status as “mere things’”, the bill equates living and breathing animals with:  

  • “artificial intelligence”, 
  • “inanimate object[s]”, 
  • “bod[ies] of water”, 
  • “land” and “real property”, 
  • “atmospheric gases” [sic], 
  • “astronomical object[s]”, and 
  • “weather”. 

(Not included among this list, of course, are corporations – such as the animal enterprises the Utah legislature protected with 2023 legislation – which already enjoy legal personhood in the U.S.)

The animal industrial complex and its supporters fear legal personhood for animals because – in signaling not just “legal evolution” but “legal revolution” – it would  impede animals’ exploitation (including inside laboratories).

At present, and because animals are considered human property under the law, other-than-human animals’ interests cannot give rise to legal actions even when they are harmed by violations of laws purported to “protect” them. For example, the Animal Welfare Act – the only law in the U.S. that addresses the use of animals in laboratories – does not allow for a cause of action brought on behalf of animals harmed through violations of the Act.

And, though attempts at securing personhood for animals have almost roundly failed, a 2021 U.S. court came close, and legal efforts to this end are only expanding. Indeed, legal advocates have realized some success in other parts of the world where “persistent anthropocentrism–the cultural tendency to see the world solely through the lens of human values and experiences” does not control as fully as in the U.S.

The U.S. is already (as well as appallingly and embarrassingly) lagging behind other countries in the recognition of other-than-human animals’ rights, and, now, the animal industrial complex, through its legislative puppets, is working to prevent even the possibility of progress. 

We who seek a just society for all have no time to waste. 

Utah House Bill 249 has already passed the House and is being considered in the Senate.

If you are a Utah resident, please contact your Senators and ask them to oppose House Bill 249. And if you do not live in Utah but know someone who does, please forward this to them. 

Utahns: Act Now