IUCN Academy Colloquium — No Animal Law Here…

David Cassuto

I’m currently in China having all kinds of interesting experiences.  For example, it was only in Shanghai a few days ago that I saw my first wheelchair-accessible urinal.  I’ve also seen more pictures of Chairman Mao in the last 2 days than I had seen in the previous . . .  well, ever.   I’m here for a series of meetings.  Presently, I’m in Wuhan attending the Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law – an annual meeting of an organization dedicated to the teaching of environmental law around the world.

I did not speak about animals at this Colloquium.   Neither has anyone else.  In fact, today’s lunch speaker presented some data about the research interests of the membership and animal law merited mention only as one the disciplines least often listed as a primary research interest.  Indeed, I’m one of only 6 academy members who did list it.

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GEIG – A Coda and a Step Forward for Animal Ethics

This was a very productive 5 day meeting of GEIG.  In addition to attending some fine discussions and papers over the last several days, I also officially joined the IUCN CEL Ethics Specialist Group, something I mistakenly thought I had done in Barcelona at the IUCN Congress back in the fall.  The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is the world’s largest NGO and the oldest environmental organization in the world. The Commission on Environmental Law (CEL) is a subsidiary organization of the IUCN and the Ethics Specialist Group (ESG) forms a subgroup of the CEL. The ESG wishes to add animal rights to its agenda, a development about which I could not be more happy.

The IUCN (the parent organization – not the CEL) has traditionally excluded animal organizations from membership because their aims do not align with those of the Species Survival Group, a powerful constituency within the IUCN, which advocates for traditional hunting.  As I mentioned a while back, I believe this policy of exclusion serves only those who oppose a diverse environmental agenda.  Environmentalists do not agree on everything but we share a common goal.  Given the stakes, we would be wise to focus on the areas where we agree rather than where we differ.  Part of my mission for the next few years involves working to open the IUCN to animal groups and to the vision such organizations bring to the world’s environmental agenda.

I feel very good about joining the ESG and even better about the warm welcome my animal advocacy agenda received.  The larger IUCN moves slowly (it convenes only quadrennially) but this is important work and I am willing to (try to) be patient.

–David Cassuto