Legal Rights for Non-Human Beings? Theological Impulses for Ecological Justice as a Key Concept of an Ecocentric Ethics

  • Traugott Jähnichen Ruhr-University Bochum
Keywords: Theocentrism, Integrity of Creation, Sustainability, Dignity of Nature, Participation


For more than five decades, representatives of the animal liberation movement and of a biocentric or even ecocentric perspective have been demanding that legal rights should be recognised for non-human beings. In 1780, the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham was the first to argue in favour of granting legal rights to animals (cf. Sezgin 2016). More generally, the United States jurist Christopher Stone (cf. Stone 1972) demanded legal rights for trees and for all elements of nature. Such concepts have been legally implemented in a few cases since the beginning of the 21st century, although there are still fundamental questions and differentiating rejections of the idea of legal rights for nature. This article develops a theological-ethical argumentation for the recognition of dignity for non-human beings with the consequence of granting legal rights in an ecocentric perspective.

Author Biography

Traugott Jähnichen, Ruhr-University Bochum
Chair of Christian Social Studies Protestant Theological Faculty Ruhr-University Bochum
African and German perspectives on ecojustice