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“Ecuador” becomes First Country to recognize animal legal Rights

By April 11, 2022April 15th, 2022Geography, GS1

 Geography

Ecuador Becomes First Country to recognize animal legal rights

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Context

  • At a time when the world is battling climate change and exploitation of animals, Ecuador, in South America, has made history by becoming the first country to recognize the legal rights of individual wild animals.
  • The historic decision came as the country’s highest court heard the case of a woolly monkey named Estrellita, who was taken from the wild when she was only one-month-old and was raised as a pet but died within a month after it was shifted to a zoo.


Points to Know

  • Her owner, librarian Ana Beatriz BurbanoProaño filed a habeas corpus petition — a legal mechanism to determine if the detention of an individual is valid. She asked for Estrellitato be returned to her and for the court to declare that the monkey’s rights had been violated.
  • In its ruling, the court noted that both the authorities and Burbano violated Estrellita’s rights, the former for failing to consider her specific needs before relocating her and the latter for removing her from the wild in the first place.
  •  It is important to note here that owning wild animals is illegal in Ecuador.
  • Delivering its judgment in the case, the apex court of Ecuador said that wild animals have the right “not to be hunted, fished, captured, collected, extracted, kept, retained, trafficked, marketed or exchanged” and the right to the “free development of their animal behaviour, which includes the guarantee of not being domesticated and not forced to assimilate human characteristics or appearances.
  • Those rights emanate from animals’ innate and individual value, and not because they are useful to human beings.
  • The court also called for Ecuador’s ministry of wildlife to create more rules and procedures to ensure that the constitutional rights of wild animals are respected.

Significance – 1 

  • While Rights of Nature were enshrined in the constitution, it was not clear prior to this decision whether individual animals could benefit from the rights of nature and be considered rights holders as a part of nature. The court has stated that animals are subject of rights protected by rights of nature.
  • The verdict raises animal rights to the level of the constitution, the highest law of Ecuador.

What are the “Rights of Nature”?

  • According to the “Rights of Nature” doctrine, an ecosystem is entitled to legal personhood status and as such, has the right to defend itself in a court of law against harms, including environmental degradation caused by a specific development project or even by climate change.
  • The Rights of Nature law recognizes that an ecosystem has the right to exist, flourish, regenerate its vital cycles, and naturally evolve without human-caused disruption.
  • Furthermore, when an ecosystem is declared a “subject of rights,” it has the right to legal representation by a guardian — much like a charitable trust designates a trustee — who will act on their behalf and in their best interest.
  • This guardian is typically an individual or a group of individuals well versed in the care and management of said ecosystem.
  • The goal of conferring rights to nature is to secure the highest level of environmental protection under which an ecosystem can thrive and whose rights are not violated.


 

Rights of Nature – Equador

  • In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to formally recognize and implement the Rights of Nature, which Ecuadorians refer to as the Rights of Pachamama (Mother Earth). The constitutional provisions regarding the Rights of Pachamama state: “Nature, or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and occurs, has the right to integral respect for its existence and for the maintenance and regeneration of its life cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes.
  • All persons, communities, peoples, and nations can call upon public authorities to enforce the Rights of Nature.”
  • In 2011, the first lawsuit using the Rights of Nature provision was filed by the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (GARN) and others against a construction company for building a road across Ecuador’s Vilcabamba River and dumping rubble into the river.
  • The Provincial Justice Court of Loja ruled in favor of the river. 
  • However, the construction company did not comply with the ruling and the GARN reportedly could not afford to bring a second suit.

Significance – 1   

  • While Rights of Nature were enshrined in the constitution, it was not clear prior to this decision whether individual animals could benefit from the rights of nature and be considered rights holders as a part of nature. The court has stated that animals are subject of rights protected by rights of nature.
  • The verdict raises animal rights to the level of the constitution, the highest law of Ecuador.

Significance – 2   

  • This ruling could also help in setting precedence at a time when the world is facing its sixth mass extinction, the worst loss of life on the planet since the time of the dinosaurs..

Six Mass Extinction

  • Mass extinction refers to a substantial increase in the degree of extinction or when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short period of time .
  • All these extinctions were caused due to the catastrophic alterations to the environment, such as massive volcanic eruptions, depletion of oceanic oxygen or collision with an asteroid.

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  • Sixth extinction is human-caused and is more immediate than climate destruction. 
  • The ongoing sixth mass extinction is referred to as the anthropocene extinction.
  • The researchers have observed that the ongoing sixth mass extinction is one of the most serious environmental threats to the existence of civilization .

UPSC -2018

Q. The term “sixth mass extinction/sixth extinction” is often mentioned in the news in the context of the discussion of 

  1. Widespread monoculture practices in agriculture and large-scale commercial farming with indiscriminate use of chemicals in many parts of the world that may result in the loss of good native ecosystems. 
  2. Fears of a possible collision of a meteorite with the Earth in the near future in the manner it happened 65 million years ago that caused the mass extinction of many species including those of dinosaurs. 
  3. Large scale cultivation of genetically modified crops in many parts of the world and promoting their cultivation in other parts of the world which may cause the disappearance of good native crop plants and the loss of food biodiversity. 
  4. Mankind’s overexploitation/misuse of natural resources, fragmentation/loss of natural habitats, destruction of ecosystems, pollution and global climate change.

 

Prelims – Ecuador 

Mains

GS 1 – Geography

GS 2 – Rights of Nature 

GS 3 – Environment  +Biodiversity  + Sixth Mass Extinctions  

GS 4 – Environmental Ethics 

Essays 


 

PRACTICE QUESTION

Q) Which of the following is/are part of Lithium Triangle?

  1. Argentina
  2. Bolivia
  3. Chile 
  4. Colombia 

 

  1. 1,2 and 3 
  2. 2,3, and 4
  3. 1,3 and 4
  4. 1,2 and 4 

 

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