Volume 86, Number 5

November 2011

Judicial Review and the Humane Treatment of Animals

Craig A. Wenner

Humans have a complicated relationship with animals. Animals are at the same
time companions, food, subjects of research, and competitors for resources. Determining
how we should treat them in these different contexts—setting the standards
that capture our concern for their welfare—is difficult. Our contemporary scientific
understanding of animal behavior and physiology should ultimately inform our
standards for animal welfare. However, what science cannot determine is how
much concern we should have in the first place.

This Note focuses on those laws that aim to set humane standards for the treatment
and care of animals. When legislatures place the burden of setting those standards
on administrative agencies, courts should ensure that the meaning of “humane”
relied upon by an agency reflects more than science alone. Through examining a
recent opinion of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, this Note argues that such
standards must incorporate the social value that we place on mitigating animal pain
and suffering and provides examples of how such value should be measured. Furthermore,
judicial review of agency action can be conducted in a manner that both
respects the institutional role of the court and ensures that agencies have actually
made tough ethical decisions.