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Belmont L. Rev.


Of all the living things on earth, humans have the unique ability to destroy all life. Paradoxically, even though our lives will ultimately be destroyed too, we also seem to have the inability to stop the destruction, or at least alack of will to stop it. As the daily litany of new destructions2 piles up and both the pace and the quantity increase, each loss is buried in the pile beneath humanity’s other problems. When humans start prioritizing, the living environment—both flora and fauna—is often neglected, and sometimes purposely harmed.3 Even nonliving elements of nature are harmed. In short, humans destroy the ecosystems necessary for human survival in order to effectuate some other human interest, a lack of balancing that is incomprehensible.This article turns on its head the idea that if we are better human beings, we will behave better toward each other and other living things. This article starts instead with the premise that if we learn to value (and treat accordingly) all living things, we will be better human beings. Although there are undoubtedly several social lenses through which to discuss this idea, the intersection of animal law and environmental law provides a place, not just for discussion, but also for action. Specifically, there are three legal constructs at the intersection of animal law and environmental law that could significantly reduce human harm to nature: one should be dismantled, one should be strengthened, and one should be reconstructed. This article starts in Part I by looking at the dichotomy of the animal welfare and environmental movements. Although they developed separately and have interests that often compete, the two movements do intersect. Part II argues that state “ag-gag” laws4—which provide legal cover for the animal cruelty, environmental harms, and social injustices caused by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)5—should be dismantled and repealed. Part III analyzes the issue of who has and who should have constitutional standing under statutes like the Endangered Species Act (ESA).6 These statutes that are meant to protect the environment and animals could be more effective at doing so with both judicial and legislative fixes to allow courts to more often consider their injuries. Finally, Part IV tackles the role of environmental law in shifting paradigms of how we view the human/nonhuman dichotomy in nature. Legal systems are human constructs that can be reconstructed on a framework that redefines the legal status of nonhuman animals and elements of nature in order to provide ecocentric justice. In the face of some quite dire destructions and losses in the ecosystems humans inhabit and depend on for survival, human legal systems must safeguard nonhuman interests.