Free-ranging domestic cats (Felis catus) impact biodiversity through predation, disturbance, competition, disease and hybridisation. Scientific knowledge regarding these impacts has recently increased. This article interprets the European Union (EU) Birds and Habitats Directives (Nature Directives) in light of this knowledge. The outcome indicates that various obligations in the Directives, particularly concerning Natura 2000 sites and the generic protection of birds and other species, have significant implications for the management of free-ranging domestic cats. Regarding (unowned) stray and feral cats, these must be removed or controlled when they pose a threat to protected species and/or sites. Regarding (owned) pet and farm cats, the Nature Directives require EU Member States to ensure that letting cats roam free outdoors is forbidden and effectively prevented. Current practice across the EU does not yet conform to these requirements. Whereas the article identifies and assesses various factors that may explain this compliance gap, legally valid justifications appear absent.
Trouwborst, Arie & Han Somsen, ‘Domestic cats (Felis catus) and European nature conservation law: Applying the EU Birds and Habitats Directives to a significant but neglected threat to wildlife’ (2019) 32 Journal of Environmental Law 391-415
The discussion commences with ‘loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions)’, which is the first of two core boundaries. Han Somsen and Arie Trouwborst argue in Chapter 12 that the accelerating rate of biodiversity loss and extinctions should be of existential concern. Challenges to measure biodiversity and articulate thresholds notwithstanding, the planetary boundary of biosphere integrity has an important role to play for both present and future environmental law. For current law, first, the state of transgression of the biosphere integrity boundary amounts to a strong claim in support of a teleological interpretation of nature conservation legislation, and its rigorous enforcement. Second, they show that it brings into sharp focus obvious gaps and weaknesses of current legal regimes, in particular in terms of levels of legal commitment towards achieving concrete results. The planetary boundary of biosphere integrity should therefore be central on the transformative agenda heralded by the Anthropocene. The authors conclude that nature rights, substantively expressing the planetary boundary of biosphere integrity, and procedurally operationalized and enforced with the help of existing and emerging technologies, are an important, if not an indispensable, part of that future endeavour.
Somsen, Han & Arie Trouwborst, ‘Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions)’ in D French & L Kotze (eds) Research Handbook on Law, Governance and Planetary Boundaries (Edward Elgar 2021)
This article, introducing a new extended form of the journal, offers some reflections on the changing context in which we now research law, innovation, and technology. Three major changes are highlighted: the evolving landscape of Law 3.0, potentially de-centring both rules and humans from the legal enterprise; the new ‘normal’ of life with pandemics, underlining the vulnerability of humans; and, threading through all of this, the Anthropocene, destabilising a host of baseline distinctions, and a constant warning about the fragility of the global commons and the human condition. In this changing context, the question is whether technology can provide the solutions to our global challenges without involving an irreversible erosion of human agency. With this, we open the floor to our contributors.
Brownsword, Roger & Han Somsen, ‘Law, Innovation and Technology: Fast Forward to 2021’ (2021) Law, Innovation & Technology (forthcoming Spring 2021)