John Hadley'sAnimal Property Rights: A Theory of Habitat Rights for Wild Animals (Lexington Books, 2015) presents a novel approach to addressing habitat and biodiversity loss: extending liberal property rights to wildlife. Hadley argues that a guardianship system could effectively protect the rights of wild animals to resources in the territories they inhabit. In turn, the guardians of particular animals or a particular species could challenge land use plans that might threaten the ability of these animals to meet their basic needs.
Though grounded in philosophical theory, Hadley's focus is pragmatic. He is interested in producing an institutional design that could be effectively incorporated into policy and practice. His proposal also aims to solve some key problems in wildlife conservation. It bridges the seemingly divergent interests of environmentalists focused on the protection of the collective (e.g., ecosystems) and those of animal rights proponents focused on the survival of individuals. Here, common ground is found in habitat protection, a shared value that reconciles the differences between these groups. Hadley's proposal also ensures animals become vocal stakeholders in land use and conservation initiatives, able to compete with agendas that might be incompatible with animal or habitat protection. It also begins to overcome the anthropocentrism that (perhaps inevitably) pervades conservation practice. By determining animal property rights boundaries on the basis of territorial behavior, Hadley's proposal privileges animal actions and interactions over human-centric interests. Although their rights would be advocated by a human guardian in a person-centered legal system, if implemented, this theory would ensure the interests of wild animals are taken seriously. This is a book of critical relevance to those interested in issues of human-wildlife conflict, biodiversity protection, and human/nonhuman relationships.