Chapter 6 Global Migration Crises, Nonhuman Animals, and the Role of Law

In: Like an Animal: Critical Animal Studies Approaches to Borders, Displacement, and Othering

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Traditionally, human and nonhuman animal migration were thought to occupy distinct and separate sociopolitical spheres of knowledge. We romanticize the migration of other animals, taking an overly naturalistic view of the journey of gray whales, caribou, or deer as they follow the change of seasons across international borders. But when we theorize about human migration, we tend to do so with worry and concern about displacement, persecution, safety, and the threat of mass movements. As a consequence, human and nonhuman animal migration are considered in separate categories, with different demographics and definitions, governed by wholly separate legal documents.

This chapter shows that the idea that human and nonhuman animal migration must be understood separately and in isolation from one another is rigorously put to the test by climate change. Whole populations of humans and other animals will be threatened to migrate toward the poles as their habitat is destroyed by global warming, mounting environmental disasters, and the encroaching ocean. The law—compartmentalized, siloized, reactive, and often oppressive—is not prepared to face these challenges. To address and begin to resolve the challenges of climate change on migration, we must resolve the deep-seated, structural problems that plague human and nonhuman animal migration law—including deregulation, illegalization, and securitization, and the human-animal borderlands that connects these. Drawing on the work of human and nonhuman animal migration experts and new research on rehumanization, this chapter examines this cutting-edge intersection from a legal perspective and sketches the policy goals and measures that can help avert a global migration crisis and build up interspecies resilience.