Current DPhil in Medical and Animal Law: Q and A with Robyn Trigg

Robyn TriggCurrent DPhil in Medical and Animal Law: Robyn Trigg

What is the title of your research and what is your research about?

My thesis is titled ‘Animate objects? – analysing the application of property law to animals through the lens of justice’.  I principally explore the relationship between subjecthood and objecthood through a study of one category of objects: animals.  In the course of this research, I assess the concept of legal personhood and ask what it means to be a legal person and who is presently considered a legal person.  I seek to go beyond the mere assumption of human legal personhood and instead look to identify what might be valuable about the essence of human life, which the law seeks to protect.  To this end, I explore medical law cases concerning end of life decisions as a means of identifying the essential qualities the law deems valuable in human life and to try to observe the circumstances where we may determine that continued existence ceases to be in someone’s best interests.  I focus on end of life decisions as a way to decentre the archetypal (the most privileged) human and instead centre some of the most vulnerable humans, to underscore the important essence of their lives that the law aims to protect.  In light of this exploration, I conclude that the fundamental value of human life is represented by an irreducible core comprised of four interrelated elements.  I then go on to use these elements to formulate a non-anthropocentric theory of moral and legal personhood. Finally, I use this theory as the starting point for conducting an analysis, through the lens of justice, of property law as it applies to animals.

Who is your supervisor? 

Dr Justine Pila.

When will your research be submitted?  

Hopefully later this year (2021).

How did you think of your research topic? 

Prior to commencing my DPhil, I was practising as an IP litigation solicitor and I worked on a case relating to a patent concerning transgenic mice.  This got me thinking about how we characterise animals as objects (or potential objects) in law, which laid the foundations of my research topic.

How has your past research continued to feature in your current research interests or projects?

My interest in intellectual property and transgenic animals has continued and features in my current research.  I am particularly interested in how the insertion of human DNA into an animal’s genome does not alter our perception of that animal or their legal status.