Reviewing philosopher Mark Rowlands’ 2012 work Can Animals Be Moral?, Jessica Pierce wrote in the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, “The question, ‘Can animals be moral?’ has suffered the worst kind of philosophical denial: an almost complete lack of interest by ‘serious’ philosophers.”
No longer. In an effort to apply “general canon[s] of contract interpretation,” the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania – in a recent insurance-coverage opinion of all places – implicitly (if not explicitly) considered this timeless, vexing question and concluded that “[a]nimals do not have conscious agency and are not subject to human law.”
In the honorable pursuit of robust coverage law – really, is there a more noble pursuit? – the court rendered raccoons and their woodland “companions” as nothing more than legal roadkill. Their demise, however, was not in vain. The court’s decision serves as a good reminder to all that just because a term used in an insurance policy is not defined does not mean that it is ambiguous.