Legal Week – ‘Rights for non-human persons?’, 14 February 2017

Legal Week is an informal discussion group, where students discuss current issues in the news headlines that have legal implications. One or more Law academic will act as discussant or make some introductory observations but the discussion is led by the audience.

The first Legal Week for semester two will take place this coming Tuesday 14 February in the Council Chamber at 17:00. The topic of the discussion will be ‘Rights for non-human persons?' We shall be discussing whether certain non-human animals should be entitled to basic legal rights, and whether we should redefine the notion of personhood to elevate the status of animals from legal 'things' to legal 'persons'.  This TED Talk on chimpanzee rights could act as a useful springboard for the discussion.

The new Law and Welfare of Animals Group who are working within the Law Society will also take this opportunity to introduce themselves and open the debate.

pdf file Event Poster (pdf)

Date and Time: Tuesday 14 February 2017, 17:00

Location: Council Chamber, First Floor, Fielding Johnson Building

All staff and students are welcome and no legal expertise or prior knowledge is required.

Further Information:

Past Debates

The first Legal Week session was The World After Brexit’.

The first Legal Week topic will re-visit Brexit but from a different perspective. Not a discussion about whether the UK electorate should have voted differently or whether UK should stay in the EU but a discussion about the future of the UK in the post-Brexit era, focusing on the implications government decisions and how these will affect the UK, its people, the EU and the rest of the world.

The topic of the second Legal Week is ‘Women Unite in a Protest against the Ban on Abortion’ following the recent ban in Poland. We will focus on whether and to what extent the availability of abortion can or should be regulated, limited or forbidden. This interesting though controversial issue covers medical law and human rights in the context of the modern society. Professors Jose Miola and Liz Wicks as well as Dr Tracey Elliot has agreed to offer their expert views on the topic and lead the discussion.

The second Legal Week, organised by Dr Stelios Andreadakis, Ewa Zelazna and Laura Rodes Saldana, took place on 1 November 2016. The title of the session was ‘Women Unite in a Protest against the Ban on Abortion’ following the recent ban on abortions in Poland. Prof Jose Miola, Prof Liz Wicks and Dr Tracey Elliot introduced the topic and led the discussion sharing their expertise and their knowledge of medical law, ethics, human rights and philosophy. The main question of the session was whether and to what extent the availability of abortion can or should be regulated, limited or forbidden in the context of the modern society. Reference was made to specific countries like Poland, Ireland and Malta, but there was unanimity that it is an international issue, which involves a sensitive balancing exercise. Such balancing exercise involves not only law and ethics, but also social norms and religious beliefs. The participants raised a number of very interesting points and towards the end of the discussion it was clear that there is no ‘one size fits all approach’ or solution and this was evidenced by the recent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights which confirmed that the answer to the above question is within the margin of appreciation of each country. Finally, there were some thought-provoking observations made regarding the role of men and women before an abortion is decided, the interplay between human rights and religion, the rights of the foetus and whether regulation of abortion is indeed within the public interest.

The third Legal Week will shed some light on the popular topic of the American elections and the new President of the United States, Donald Trump. The discussion will take place this Tuesday 15 November 2016 in L67 (Fielding Johnson Building) at 5–6pm.
The topic of the discussion will be ‘Trump Presidency: What to Expect’ and with the assistance of Dr Marianna Charountaki from the Department of Politics we will attempt to deal  with the unexpected outcome of the elections, the first reactions and to discuss what we can expect to happen in the next 4 years. Much has been already been written about Donald Trump but it is important to perform a reality check ahead of the new era.

The last Legal Week topic of semester was ‘The Rise of Nationalism’ and take place on Tuesday 29 November 2016.

Recently we have become witnesses of increasing examples of intolerance, authoritarianism, and nationalism across America and Europe. Nationalism as a belief system, which instils a sense of common identity among the members of a nation, dates back centuries. These recent political stirrings on both sides of the Atlantic indicate a drift rightward, which seems to make international cooperation difficult at different levels.

The 2015–2016 Legal Week programme was extremely successful and well-attended. The topics covered the migration crisis in Europe, the Volkswagen Emissions scandal, the Future of the Human Rights Act, Freedom of Speech on campus, the TTIP Agreement, the Psychoactive Substances Act and, of course, the EU Referendum amongst other things.

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