Animal Law Week links animal rights, environmentalism and activism

animal-law-visixHow do climate change, animal testing, and corporate strategic partnerships fit together? These topics were among the issues explored during the third annual Animal Law Week, a series of events hosted at Harvard Law School from Feb. 27-March 3 by HLS’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) and the Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program. Weeklong programming featured lunch talks by animal law advocates and scholars from a variety of disciplines and perspectives.

Will Potter, the Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan, kicked off the week with a lecture entitled “Big Ag’s Dirty Secrets: Corporate Efforts to Criminalize Journalism, Whistleblowing, and Research as “Terrorism,” about free speech rights, dissent, and the classification of non-violent animal rights and environmental protesters as “eco-terrorists.” An internationally recognized civil liberties advocate, Potter testified before the U.S. Congress as the only witness opposing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and discussed his investigations of “ag-gag” laws before the Australian Parliament.

In another talk, “Climate Charge Beyond Environmentalism,” Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the Humane Society, detailed the intersection of climate change and animal and environmental law. Lovvorn, an expert in the field of animal law, has taught the popular Wildlife Law course at HLS for the past two years.

Dr. Theo Capaldo, president and executive director of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) and its educational affiliate, the Ethical Science Education Coalition, explored efforts and innovations to reduce unnecessary suffering of lab animals in a session on “Ending Animal Testing.” Capaldo approached the conversation through the lens of her leadership role in NEAVS’ national campaign Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories.

During a lecture on “Nonhuman Rights? Unlocking the Cage,” Steven Wise discussed his organization’s efforts to change the legal status of certain nonhuman animals from “things” to “persons,” entitled to fundamental rights such as bodily integrity and bodily liberty. Wise is the director of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), a civil rights organization best known for its 2013 cases arguing for habeas for chimpanzees in New York state courts.

Leah Garces, the USA Director for Compassion in World Farming, an organization that provides strategic and technical advice to food businesses on humane policies and practices, delivered the final talk in the series, on “Corporate Strategies for Animal Welfare.” She focused on the potential for corporate partnerships with food businesses to produce real and practical improvements for farm animals

SALDF hosted its first Animal Law Week in 2015, in response to steadily increasing interest in animal law at HLS. The law school first entered the field with an animal law class in 2000 and continued its activity with the receipt of the Bob Barker Endowment for the Study of Animal Rights at HLS, a gift honoring game show host Bob Barker. HLS added a course on wildlife law in 2015, and a new class on farmed animal law will debut in the Fall 2017 semester.

The Harvard Animal Law and Policy Program was established in 2014 with the support of Bradley L. Goldberg, founder and president the Animal Welfare Trust. The program, under the direction of Professor Kristen Stilt, also a director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program, aims to engage with academics, students, practitioners, and decision makers to foster discourse, facilitate research, develop strategic solutions in the rapidly evolving area of animal law and policy.

A key feature of the Animal Law and Policy Program is its two-year, full-time residential fellowship. The Program’s first Academic Fellow, Delcianna Winders, will conclude her term in August 2017. Winders helped to develop an Animal Law program at NYU Law School and has published several scholarly works in the field.

Upcoming events sponsored by the Program include an academic workshop on Animal Agriculture from the Middle East to Asia in May (co-sponsored by the Harvard South Asia Institute and the Harvard Law School Islamic Studies Program: Law and Social Change).