Journal of Advances in Humanities and Social Sciences
Journal ISSN: 2414-3111
Article DOI:
Received: 16 October 2015
Accepted: 02 May 2016
Published: 21 June 2016
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  • Animals: ‘objects’ or ‘sentient beings’? A comparative perspective of the South African law

Boniface Amanda Elizabeth

Published online: 2016


This paper provides a comparison of the law related to the classification of animals as either “legal objects” or “sentient beings” and/or “non-human persons”. In this paper the definition of “objects” in the South African Law of Persons will be explored. An explanation of the difference between a legal “object” and a legal “subject” in South African law will be provided. Legal research is done with the focus being Interpretative Research. In order to understand the classification of animals in South African law, the relevant provisions of the Animal Protection Act 71 of 1962 and the Performing Animals Protection Act 24 of 1935 (as amended) will be explained. Secondly, the classification of animals in the law of other countries will be explored. Examples will include France, where the legal status of animals has changed from that of “personal property” to “sentient beings”; New Zealand, where the Animal Welfare Amendment Act 2 of 2015 recognizes animals as sentient beings; the legal reforms in Quebec, Canada, stating that animals are not objects and the declaration by India that Cetaceans are “non-human persons”. Implications of this research for practice may include a reclassification of animals as persons which would result in the need for changes to be made in South African law. In conclusion, suggestions are made as to whether the classification of animals as “objects” in South African law should be revised.