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Friends of Every Friendless Beast Carceral Animal Law and the Funding of Prosecutors (Justin Marceau)

In the mid-nineteenth century, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Henry Bergh, saw criminal punishment as the lynchpin of the protection of animals. Bergh lobbied the New York legislature for the adoption of animal cruelty laws, and took it on himself to enforce those laws. Animal law has evolved considerably since then, but Bergh’s tactics have experienced a renaissance. The animal protection movement’s reliance on criminal law and incarceration to prop up animal status is the subject of a book-length critique by Professor Justin Marceau in Beyond Cages: Animal Law and Criminal Punishment.

Picking up on the book’s call for greater scholarly attention to the relationship between criminal justice and animal protection, this essay focuses scrutiny on three aspects of the modern animal protection’s fixation with criminal justice: (1) the animal protection movement’s renewed interest in privatizing the prosecutorial function; (2) the view that by framing the animal as a victim, social change will be more readily possible; and (3) more generally, the view that prosecutors will serve as catalysts for the sort of radical social change the animal protection movement is pursuing.

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