Sam Skinner

PhD Candidate
Sam Skinner photo
Dissertation Title
Tolerated Farmed Animal Abuse: Issues with Criminal Law and the Legal Status of Animals

Sam Skinner is a PhD student at Osgoode Hall Law School, researching intersections of animal law, criminal law, and constitutional law. Their work has been published in Animal Law Review, Animal & Natural Resource Law Review, and Global Journal of Animal Law. Sam defended their LLM thesis “Doomed to Fail: Ag-gag Laws and the Canadian Charter” in 2021, and they hold both a JD degree and a lawyer’s licence in Ontario. Sam has worked as Animal Law Research Associate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and currently teaches in York University’s Law & Society Program.


Despite the Criminal Code section on animal cruelty not differentiating between animals or industries, the agriculture industry seems to be de facto exempted from criminal law enforcement. This apparent exemption from criminal law reinforces human control over farmed animals, and subjects billions of animal individuals to abuse in the agriculture industry every year.

What does the exceptional status of the agriculture industry from criminal animal cruelty law enforcement reveal about both the purpose of criminal law and the legal conception of animals? My project is the first of its kind in Canada to empirically research the agriculture exception from animal cruelty law in case law.

The illuminated rule of law exception calls for an interrogation to the purpose of criminal law, and a critical approach highlights how the criminal law serves to reinforce human interests in animal ownership as legal property. True animal justice is discussed by eroding both the human/animal hierarchical relationship and the status of animals as legal property.