Worst. Dunayer. Review. Ever.

So this web site may have seemed like it should have been called JoanDunayer.Net lately, but I’m still a long way from finished writing about Dunayer. On the other hand, Friends of Animals’ Lee Hall probably should have refrained from writing about Dunayer’s book Speciesism at all if he had nothing more to say than his horrible review, “Raising the Bar.”

Hall has a completely different — and stupid — take on Dunayer’s view of animals as person. Hall for some reason think that Dunayer’s book is somehow relevant to legal precedents which treat corporations as persons under certain circumstances.

Hall writes,

Consider this: Corporations according to our modern law, are legal persons. They are born, die, and have emergencies as well — often. When a conflict arises between the survival of a corporation and the survival of a sentient individual, should a corporation, which is essentially a collection of humans who get together in search of profits, automatically have the right to bolsters its own viability at the expense of a feeling, breathing individual’s life?

Without a continual stream of profit, a corporation might fail in its duty to shareholders, and be unable to sustain itself over time. A business may well claim its survival is at stake in a given transaction, for property owners’ interests are deemed, and will continue to be deemed, immense stakes. After all, wars are fought over them. If a company’s a person, money is personal survival and that trumps the very life of any animal who isn’t a legal person. An oil company’s profit will frequently prevail over entire communities of wolves, seals, birds, and others. With corporations now considered legal persons, every nonhuman animal is endangered.

Advocates for animal right will, at some point in the very near future, need to grapple directly with the new realities of corporate personhood as well as conflicts related to our rising population. Regarding the latter, as land is taken up for a burgeoning human community, nonhumans tend to be moved, killed, or otherwise controlled.

Joan Dunayer’s proposal would fashion a legal obstacle to this patterns, as freed nonhuman would be seen as owners of their eggs, milk, honey, pearls, nests, and hives. And they would have a claim to the natural habitats in which they live, so that emancipation from property status could be effectively enjoyed.

Okay, let me start by making a confession — in large measure I have no idea what the hell Hall is talking about. His review at times reads like Philip K. Dick’s Valis trilogy. But lets see what we can tease out.

If I’m not mistaken, In the last two paragraphs above, Hall is asserting that if Dunayer is correct than animals might have property interests not only in their natural products, such as eggs, but in their natural habitats. This would seem to follow from Dunayer’s views. I have a tree in my backyard that birds use to nest. If the birds are really persons, they would seem to have a much better property interest claim in the tree than I do.

A couple years ago, bees began nesting in an area near my home. We killed the bees because and destroyed their nest because we have children in the neighborhood who allergic. Was that self-defense or mass murder?

Hall’s claims about the limited personhood of corporations made no sense. First, treating corporations as persons is very old, going back to the 19th century in the case of the United States. Second, it is eminently sensible and obvious since a corporations is simply a device for human beings to carry out collective action and should have the same general sort of rights and obligations as a person.

For example, the New York Times is a corporation that happens to publish a newspaper? Should the New York Times have the same rights to free speech as individual persons do? Should the government be able to limit what the New York Times publishes because it is, after all, just a corporation rather than a real, flesh and blood person?

To us another example, Friends of Animals is incorporated. Should it have the same rights as a living person would have to organize protests and disseminate its animal rights views?

Of course it should. To not treat corporations and other collective instruments of human activity as persons would pretty much prevent any sort of collective or cooperative action by human beings.

Hall doesn’t seem to make any substantive claims about corporate personhood — lame ranting about “money is personal survival” is simply that.


Raising the Bar. Lee Hall, January 12, 2005.

One thought on “Worst. Dunayer. Review. Ever.”

  1. Lee Hall is a woman and, judging from her first book on animal rights, a very smart woman. It is difficult to judge Hall’s review based on the excerpt you’ve provided, so perhaps you’re assessment is fair. But consider reading other material by the author and see if she does not present a philosophy of animal rights that can deepen your own understanding and advocacy.

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