For years, the animal rights movement has pushed for a court ruling that would grant animals the legal standing to sue. Currently, animal right activists cannot represent animals in court. If such a ruling passed, these activists could sue restaurant chains and farmers on behalf of cows waiting to be slaughtered, for example.
Some feel that the possibility of animals achieving legal standing is heightened with the appointment of President Obama's regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein. There are few benefits to animal standing, writes Wesley J. Smith in the Weekly Standard:
...Animal standing would do more than just plunge the entire animal industry sector into chaos. In one fell swoop, it would both undermine the status of animals as property and elevate them with the force of law toward legal personhood.
But Mother Jones paints Sunstein and the issue of animal standing with a less hyperbolic brush, first with her own words, and then with those of a former colleague. Here’s Sunstein in 2002:
I believe that it is excessive to ban experiments that impose a degree of suffering on rats or mice if the consequence of those experiments is to produce significant medical advances for human beings.
And here’s a University of Chicago colleague of Sunstein’s:
…What Sunstein is asking is that humans be able to go to court as advocates for animals who are being ill treated, when that treatment violates existing law. So it is not a radical move; it is a move that solves a problem: We pass laws against animal cruelty, and then we have no mechanism to ensure that these laws will be enforced.