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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $71.50

264 pp.
156 mm x 234 mm


Publication date:
November 2011

Imprint: OUP UK


A Political Theory of Animal Rights

Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka

Congratulations to Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, winners of the Canadian Philosophical Association 2013 biennial Book Prize for Zoopolis.

offers a new agenda for the theory and practice of animal rights. Most animal rights theory focuses on the intrinsic capacities or interests of animals, and the moral status and moral rights that these intrinsic characteristics give rise to. Zoopolis shifts the debate from the realm of moral theory and applied ethics to the realm of political theory, focusing on the relational obligations that arise from the varied ways that animals relate to human societies and institutions.

Building on recent developments in the political theory of group-differentiated citizenship, Zoopolis introduces us to the genuine "political animal". It argues that different types of animals stand in different relationships to human political communities. Domesticated animals should be seen as full members of human-animal mixed communities, participating in the cooperative project of shared citizenship. Wilderness animals, by contrast, form their own sovereign communities entitled to protection against colonization, invasion, domination and other threats to self-determination. "Liminal" animals who are wild but live in the midst of human settlement (such as crows or raccoons) should be seen as "denizens", resident of our societies, but not fully included in rights and responsibilities of citizenship. To all of these animals we owe respect for their basic inviolable rights. But we inevitably and appropriately have very different relations with them, with different types of obligations. Humans and animals are inextricably bound in a complex web of relationships, and Zoopolis offers an original and profoundly affirmative vision of how to ground this complex web of relations on principles of justice and compassion.

Readership : Scholars and students of political science, political theory, political philosophy, ecology, and animal rights.


  • "deeply serious and brilliantly written"

    "Zoopolis is in fact a courageous book and an intellectural tour de force. It is the most important philosophical work on human-animal relationships since Singer's Animal Liberation."

    "an inspiration to those people who want to change how humans treat animals"

    --Richard Keshen, Literary Review of Canada

  • "An always engaging, often persuasive mix of the particular and general, leavening and defending the more abstract claims with choice case studies"

    --Christopher Belshaw, Times Higher Education

  • "Eloquent and extremely thought-provoking ... astonishingly free of sentimentality while still brimming with passion."

    --Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly

1. Introduction
Part I: An Expanded Theory of Animal Rights
2. Universal Basic Rights for Animals
3. Expanding ART via Citizenship Theory
Part II: Applications
4. Domesticated Animals within ART
5. Domesticated Animal Citizens
6. Wild Animal Sovereignty
7. Liminal Animal Denizens
8. Conclusion

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Sue Donaldson lives in Kingston, Canada where she writes essays, plays, and books, including a vegan recipe collection (Foods That Don't Bite Back, Arsenal Pulp Press 2003) and a mystery novel for young adults (Thread of Deceit, Sumach Press 2004). Will Kymlicka is the author of six books published by Oxford University Press, including Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (1990; second edition 2002), Multicultural Citizenship (1995), and Multicultural Odysseys (2007). He is the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen's University.

Multicultural Citizenship - Will Kymlicka
Multicultural Odysseys - Will Kymlicka
Making Sense in the Social Sciences - Margot Northey, Lorne Tepperman and Patrizia Albanese

Special Features

  • Shifts animal rights debate from moral theory to political theory.
  • Clear elegant prose accessible to specialists, students, and general public.
  • Makes connections with larger debates in political theory about citizenship and the environment.
  • Provides a provocative research agenda.