The Second Global Animal Law Conference has just concluded in Barcelona, Spain, and I was honored to represent the Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”), one of the main sponsors of this historic event. I spoke to the audience about how successful social movements use three interdependent approaches: litigation, legislation and public outreach (education), and how animal protection litigation is creating broad-based changes in the U.S., as well as in other countries.
This was a truly international gathering, bringing together participants from China, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, England, Spain, France, Germany, U.S., Canada, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Italy, Austria, Argentina, and several other nations.
The major themes rising to the surface were that almost every country’s laws are based on the concept that animals are “things” and resources to be used at-will by humans. This fosters the mass amount of suffering that the law does little or nothing to stop. No jurisdiction anywhere in the world currently deals adequately with the basic problems faced by animals. Not surprisingly, the industries that exploit animals are in control of the laws, the codes, the regulations—or lack thereof—and they are always looking for ways to silence their critics. Interestingly, ag-gag, addressed by law professor and ALDF board member, David Cassuto, was a topic of great interest to this international audience.
Listening to each panelist, I was inspired by the great social and cultural diversity represented in that room: we come from different cultures, religions, races, and yet we have common ground in our shared understanding of the enormity of the problems we face in trying to protect animals from largely unregulated suffering. The good news is that our colleagues from different parts of the world are completely committed and passionate about improving the lives of animals.
The question arose, as it always does, about how much we ought to focus on welfare/protection and how much on rights. And, we reviewed the challenges: how do we strengthen animal protection laws and gain basic legal rights for all sentient beings? How do we win more of the battles? It is not enough to be right; we must be strategic.
It was heartwarming for me to share this special experience with two old friends who served on the Board of Directors of ALDF for many years, and have worked to build ALDF as well as the field of animal law: Professor David Favre and renowned author, Steven Wise. In the earliest days of ALDF, when there was just a small group of us, we could not have imagined that someday, animal law would become a worldwide phenomenon. Dear friends and colleagues, Pamela Frasch, dean of the animal law program at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Kim Stallwood, author of the newly released book, Growl, added depth to the conference.
Conferences such as this provide me with the opportunity to reconnect with remarkable leaders, such as Professor Song Wei, champion of animal protection in China, and Professors Deborah Cao and Alex Bruce, who are defining the field in Australia. I was also delighted to make new friends, such as Assistant Professor Maria Baideldinova, who has introduced the first ever animal law course in Kazakhstan, and generally has 80+ students in her class. At dinner, Maria and I compared notes on our approaches to teaching animal law. Presentations by younger scholars, such as Moe Honjo of Japan and Lois Lelanchon of France, reminded me that the future of animal law is in very capable hands.
Muchas gracias to Professor Marita Gimenez-Candela, who has introduced and championed the study of animal law in Spain, and who arranged for the conference to be hosted at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, where she directs the first European master’s program in animal law and society. Equal thanks to David Favre and Pamela Frasch, who worked closely with Marita over the past year to bring this prestigious event together. They even managed to get the Mayor of Barcelona to officially welcome our attendees and the subject of animal law to the City of Barcelona!
Animal law is no longer solely an American movement. There is enormous value to holding international conferences in which the challenges and advances in animal law are discussed and shared, and at the end of the conference, we committed, as a group to meet again at least every four years. Viva Animal Law!