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Animals are the unknown victims of armed conflict. They are regularly looted, slaughtered, poached, bombed, and starved on a massive scale during hostilities. This concerns all groups of animals: domestic animals in farms and homes, wild animals, and military animals ranging from sniffer dogs to transport mules.

However, international humanitarian law (IHL) largely neglects animal suffering, habitat destruction, biodiversity losses, and the risk of species extinction coming with war. At the same time, the rhetoric of dehumanisation (qualifying humans as animals and denying their humanity) is widespread in war, and typically prepares and accompanies war crimes.

This talk argues that animals need to be put on the map of IHL. More concern for animals by the law would flatten the moral and legal hierarchy between non-human and human animals, would unmask the speciesist rhetoric, and largely blunt the dehumanisation strategy. Hence, a better protection of animals in wartimes might help to reduce everyone’s suffering in war.

Existing IHL could be creatively and dynamically interpreted to cater better for animals’ needs. Animals can be qualified as ‚living‘ objects under IHL which leads to their presumptive protection as civilian objects. The proportionality assessment must factor in that animals experience pain, suffering, and distress. Animals might even be included into the categories of combatant/prisoners of war or of civilians. A long-term objective might be a new international instrument specifically aimed at protecting animals in war, notably prohibiting their employment as weapons and for military testing.

Speaker: Professor Anne Peters

Professor Anne Peters is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg (Germany), a Professor at the universities of Heidelberg, Freie Universität Berlin and Basel (Switzerland), and a L. Bates Lea Global Law professor at the Law School of the University of Michigan. She is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and an associate member of the Institut de Droit International. Born in Berlin in 1964, Anne studied at the universities of Wurzburg, Lausanne, Freiburg and Harvard. Her current research interests relate to public international law including its history, global animal law, global governance and global constitutionalism, and the status of humans in international law.

Chair: Dr Maria Varaki

Dr Maria Varaki is a Lecturer in International Law at the War Studies Department, King's College London, and co-director of the War Crimes Research Group. Before moving to London, she has held posts at the Erik Castren Institute of International Law and Human Rights in Helsinki, Kadir Has University in Istanbul, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the iCourts Centre at the University of Copenhagen. Additionally, she has worked for the OHCHR in Geneva, the UNHCR in New York and the Legal Advisory section of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Since November 2017, she is a member of the ILA Committee on Human Rights in times of emergency.

At this event

Maria Varaki

Lecturer in International Law