Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights

Living Edition
| Editors: Michael Kocsis

Animal Sovereignty Theory

Living reference work entry



Animal sovereignty theory is an approach to territorial rights in which wild animals are conceived of as sovereign communities, entitled to be recognized as the sovereign controllers of their own spaces.


Animals “are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” So writes Henry Beston in his 1928 book The Outermost House (2003, 25). The idea was one echoed in the defining works of twentieth-century animal ethics, which tended to defend the idea that, when it came to wild animals, we should simply “[let] them be” (Regan 2004, 357). In one sense, animal sovereignty theory – the claim that wild animals should be conceived of as sovereign communities, entitled to be recognized as the sovereign controllers of their own spaces – offers a theoretical grounding of this view. In another sense, however, it calls to step beyond...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and International RelationsUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Nick C. Sagos
    • 1
  1. 1.Humanities / Liberal ArtsSeneca CollegeTorontoCanada