Live From the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights in Brazil

Elizabeth Bennett

DAY 1 Ola from the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights.  First, I would like to say that I am very thankful that Pace Law School and the Center for Environmental Legal Studies provided me with the opportunity to attend this prestigious and world-renowned conference and for all of the conference organizers’ hard work and hospitality.  As the presentations I have attended thus far have been informative and thought-provoking for me, I will do my best to share my experience with you.

Upon arrival, a symphony was playing.  After introductions and honorariums, Professor David Cassuto of Pace Law School and Director of the Brazil-American Institute for Law and Environment (BAILE) spoke about current trends in environmental law and the animal world.  He discussed the intersection of animal and environmental law and how they often clash, despite the many common grounds upon which they merge.  He went on to discuss the legal framework for protecting animals, distinguishing between animal welfarists and animal rights activists, stating that animal welfarists wish for stronger laws, while animal rights activists believe that humans should not use animals at all.  He also pointed out that in the United States legal system, animals are property and the laws concerning animals regulate relationships between humans about animals.  He made an interesting comparison between the appropriateness of humans making laws on behalf of nonhuman animals and politicians enacting laws on our behalf without truly knowing us, what we desire, or how we would like to be protected.  This comparison comes as an interesting response to doubts about human ability and right to make laws about non-human animals when they do not completely understand what animals want or need.

Professor Cassuto also discussed whether animals can be considered “persons” under the law and how this would change the way we protect them.  This served as a great opening to the Conference, as many of the presentations that followed addressed these questions and dealt with similar issues. Continue reading

Blogging from the Animal Moot

I blog from Cambridge, MA, where tomorrow the National Animal Law Moot Court Competition begins.  I have the honor of participating as a judge – something I have done for each of the last 5 years.  This year’s competition is sponsored by Lewis & Clark Law School’s Center for Animal Law Studies in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).  It is hosted (as it has been since its inception) by Harvard Law School’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF).  Law schools from all over the country will participate – a testament to the growing recognition of animal law as a legal discipline as well as to student interest in the field.  For the final round, Judges D. Brooks Smith of the 3rd Circuit, Susan P. Graber of the 9th Circuit and Lee H. Rosenthal of the Southern District of Texas will preside.

I’m delighted to report that Pace Law School will field teams in both the moot court and the closing argument competition for the second consecutive year.  Go teams!  My rooting interest aside (and, of course, I will not judge any rounds in which Pace is involved), this competition routinely features some of the best student advocacy it has ever been my privilege to witness.  This year will no doubt produce more of the same.

The moot problem involves the applicability of the federal 28 Hour Law (requiring that no animal be transported for more than 28 hours without food, water or rest) to chickens.  This is a live issue; a number of federal laws, including the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Animal Welfare Act exclude birds from their coverage and the legislative history of the 28 Hour Law offers little clarity on the matter.  Another issue centers on whether the 28 Hour Law preempts state anti-cruelty statutes for animals involved in interstate transport.  It’s an interesting set of issues that require advocates to grapple both with the stark, unlovely reality of the animal transport industry and with the law’s apparent indifference to same.

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