Political Rights for Animals

ERI 149
Wednesday 27 February 2019 (15:15-17:00)

Dr Alasdair Cochrane (University of Sheffield)

Alasdair is Senior Lecturer in Political Theory in the Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield.

He received a First Class BA in Politics from the University of Sheffield in 2000. He then went on to complete an MSc in Political Theory, a PGCHE and his PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He was then Fellow in Human Rights and then Lecturer in Human Rights at the LSE. He rejoined the Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield as Lecturer in Political Theory in January 2012.

Alasdair’s main research interests include: contemporary political theory, rights theory, human rights, environmental ethics, animal ethics and bioethics. He is a co-founder of the Centre for Animals and Social Justice.


The question of our appropriate moral relations with animals is a longstanding issue in ethics. And a great deal of ink has been spilt on the topic of whether animals can have moral rights, and if so, which ones. The question of our political relations with animals, however, has received far less attention. And the idea that animals might have political rights has usually been ridiculed. This reflects a traditional understanding of politics as an exclusively human concern. This talk challenges that traditional view, arguing that since our societies are necessarily multi-species communities, the question of our political relations with animals is unavoidable. The talk reviews a number of means of relating to animals politically, and concludes that in order to respect their intrinsic value, sentient animals must enjoy political rights of membership in our communities, and to democratic representation within their institutions.

This seminar is part of the 2018-19 Global Ethics Tea Seminar Series hosted by the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics.

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities