Animal Studies Journal

Article Title

Can Animals Contract?


Animals are, or are like persons, and so should not be treated as mere property. But persons are not just non-property; they are contractors. They interact with property and with other persons. This article analyses the possibilities for a range of animals to fit within market liberal society as contractors from a legal disciplinary perspective. Some animals are capable of contract-like relationships of reciprocal exchange, and can consent, in a certain sense, to parts of such relationships. However, the dangers of the contractual frame, which is used to legitimate exploitation, may exceed the benefits. Some scholars have begun to explore these issues through the lens of animal labour, animals as workers deserving protections and benefits for their efforts. I analyse the application of contract to a variety of non-human animals and consider the discursive implications of this application, then draw out lessons for the ongoing use of animal labour framing. If we are to think through animals as workers, we should be careful to oppose the contractualization of that work – just as human worker advocates do.