Cornell University: Bob Barker Invitational Beer Pong Tournament for the Animals

Since its creation in Fall 2006, Cornell University’s Student Animal
Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) has focused on bringing together graduate
students across the university to stimulate cross-disciplinary dialogue
on issues of animal protection. At the intersection of strong programs
in law, veterinary medicine, and animal agriculture, Cornell is just
the place for students from diverse perspectives to tackle vital issues
of animal treatment.

In early April, Cornell SALDF teamed up with the
Cornell student chapter of the Animal Hospital Association of America
for a debate on whether civil damages should be made available to pet
owners in cases of veterinary malpractice. Perspectives were presented
by animal law consultant Chris Green, assistant director of state and
legislative affairs at the American Veterinary Medical Association,
Adrian Hochstadt, and practicing veterinarian Dr. Robert Nichols. The
discussion lasted an astounding three hours as vet and law students
wrestled with the difficult question of whether the torts system is an
effective means for protecting animals against veterinary negligence.

This March, the group hosted local organic farmer
and leader in Cornell’s Small Farms Program, Karma Gos, for an
outstanding presentation on the true meaning of egg labels, such as
“organic” and “free-range,” for animal welfare. Karma’s presentation
emphasized how the quality of animal care can vary wildly, even among
products with identical labeling claims, and recommended getting to
know local farmers as the only sure way to obtain humanely-raised food.
As a small farmer and someone who had been active in animal rights
causes, Karma offered a unique perspective on issues of farm animal
welfare to an enthusiastic audience of over thirty faculty and

SALDF’s hallmark event, held once per semester, is the Bob Barker
Invitational Beer Pong Tournament for the Animals benefiting the
Tompkins County SPCA’s low-income spay and neuter program. The event,
co-sponsored by Cornell co-ed veterinary fraternity Omega Tau Sigma, is
by far Cornell SALDF’s most popular event, drawing over 250 law, vet,
business, and engineering grad students to a sixty-four team, single
elimination tournament and one huge party.  Named for the nation’s most
ardent spokesman for spaying and neutering, the Bob Barker Invitational
features music, food, and prizes including gift certificates to
Ithaca’s vegetarian institution, Moosewood Restaurant, autographed
photos of Bob Barker, and the Bob Barker Invitational official t-shirt.
The fundraiser, conceived of by SALDF co-founder Deborah Press and vet
student Matt Steyling, has raised close to $3,500 for the SPCA over the
span of only three tournaments and has been a great vehicle for student
groups to give back to the Ithaca community. In recognition of the
fundraising effort, the Tompkins County SPCA recently acknowledged
Cornell SALDF with a certificate of appreciation.

Finally, Cornell SALDF’s greatest accomplishment
has been working successfully to add animal law to the Cornell Law
School curriculum. Characteristically welcoming of student-initiated
ideas, law school administrators approved SALDF’s proposal on the
condition that students locate a course instructor. After meeting ALDF
attorney Dana Campbell at the Future of Animal Law conference
last April, SALDF members had the good fortune to successfully recruit
her to teach the first animal law course at Cornell this past Fall of
2007. The course enjoyed high enrollment and enthusiastic reviews from
students. Ms. Campbell will teach the course again this Fall semester.

This spotlight was submitted by Deborah Press, president of the Cornell University Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.

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