Salvador in Hindsight

David Cassuto

The Brazilian tour has been and continues to be a whirlwind.  Here’s a first installment of updates, live from Brasilia but a few days behind in terms of news.  More soon.

As Liz & Gloribelle’s posts make clear, the Salvador Conference was fab-o.  I felt and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to hear and exchange ideas with such terrific scholars and activists.  Furthermore, I am delighted to report that animal advocacy is a real and growing movement in Brazil.  The area outside the auditorium where we gathered was filled daily with activists involved in outreach as well as people selling vegan food and wares.  In addition, several of us were interviewed by a Brazilian filmmaker for a documentary she is making about animal rights.

And, of course there is the organization, Instituto Abolicionista Animal which sponsored the conference (along with the Federal University of Bahia, about which more in a moment).  This organization was founded by Heron Santana, public prosecutor and professor of environmental and animal law.  In his capacity as public prosecutor (public prosecutors are essentially government lawyers whose job is to sue the government to enforce the rights of the public), Professor Heron filed a ground-breaking habeas corpus action on behalf of a chimpanzee in Brazil.  In addition to winning the animal’s freedom, his goal was to force the courts to recognize the fact that there is no legal basis for denying nonhuman animals the protection of the laws.  He likely would have succeeded but for the fact that chimp, whose body was ravaged from years of vivisection, died just before the court could render its decision.

In the years since the habeas battle, Professor Heron has continued the legal fight and has also spread the word through the institute.  After 4 years as president, he has just stepped down in favor of Tagore Trajano, the other conference organizer and a rising star in the world of animal law.  Professor Tagore, who, in addition to serving as editor in chief of the Revista Brasileira de Direito Animal, a Brazilian journal devoted to animal law, also teaches at several law schools and is an indefatigable champion of animal law both in and outside of Brazil.

Of course the conference would also not have been possible were it not for the Federal University of Bahia, the site of the conference and intellectual home of Brazilian animal law.  The school is vibrant, engaged and bold – everything one looks for in an institution of higher learning.  I am consequently very honored to report that the University has appointed me a visiting professor, which means that I will periodically come down and teach short courses on topics of environmental and animal law.  My hope is that when the students finish chuckling at my Portuguese, I will be able to actually contribute something.  In any case, the other exciting new development is that I have also been offered (and have accepted) an appointment to the board of Institute.  These are indeed exciting times.

3 Responses

  1. Congrats, David! And thanks for the Brazilian perspective. (Thanks also to the students who reported.) It’s nice to be reminded that not EVERY place is like the rural American West, where animals are mere commodities, and feared as too wild, or hated as competition, or slaughtered because they affect the bottom line; where they are trapped, shot, poached and left to rot, made into trophies, etc. etc. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that a wider, more intelligent and compassionate world exists.

  2. Thanks very much, Kathleen. There’s a lot of ugliness out there; that’s for sure. But a lot of beauty also. Some days I have to tell myself that a lot.

  3. I’m happy to hear that it was such a success. I know many Americans find it unbelievable that Brazil is so progressive even with environmental laws. It’s wonderful that you’ve met so many intelligent and passionate individuals for animal welfare issues as well.

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