It’s no secret that the Earth is going through a significant period of extinction – quite possible the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history. But unlike the past, it isn’t being caused by super-volcanoes or meteors.
It’s being caused by us. Our appetite for the planet’s resources leaves many animals simply without a home, contributing to upwards of 200 extinctions a week.
One philosopher and professor has an unconventional solution: give property rights to wild animals.
“It’s just a way of giving animals a voice during a land management process that is putting their lives at risk,” says John Hadley, a teacher at Western Sydney University who a book on the subject.
Under this principle, if someone wanted to develop a wild habitat, they would need to endure a lengthy process with a human legal guardian for the animals. It’s similar to what is required for developing land that an endangered species lives on, but for all animals.
“It’s trying to reform the existing system, not overturn it,” says Hadley. “It doesn’t require a huge change in terms of what’s involved. There are existing habitat conservation systems in place now that we can sort of insert this idea or this concept into.”
This isn’t the first time it’s been argued that animals should have legal rights, like land ownership. Recently a lawsuit successfully argued that a pair of chimps being subjected to laboratory research should be freed.
“This is a novel way of addressing a serious problem,” he says. “When the mechanisms we have in place now don’t seem to be working, it’s worth a try.”