SALDF Spotlight: University of Texas School of Law
The University of Texas School of Law (UT) SALDF was founded by Tom Linney, who is now senior pro bono manager at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Ten years later, the chapter is still going strong! During the 2015-2016 school year, UT SALDF expanded their membership base, collaborated with other student organizations, and held an array of events.
This year, UT SALDF and the Women’s Law Caucus hosted attorney Victoria Rambo from Texas Advocacy Project, who spoke about the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse. The chapter teamed up with the American Constitution Society to present Challenging Ag-gag: Protecting Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, which focused on the constitutional implications of the ban on documenting animal abuse at farms and slaughterhouses. The event was even covered by the Daily Texan, featuring quotes from the UT SALDF co-president.
The chapter has worked to increase the visibility of animal protection and animal law within their school. At the beginning of the school year, they tabled with vegan treats to introduce new students to SALDF. The chapter participated in ALDF’s Speak Out for Farmed Animals Week by putting on their first “pay per view” event to educate students about the cruel treatment of farmed animals. They played Farm to Fridge and gave those who watched the video one dollar or a vegan cupcake. The event brought many new students, professors, and staff to the SALDF table. UT SALDF also worked with the school administration to add animal law projects to the school’s pro bono list and get an animal law course added to the curriculum.
In October, UT SALDF sent six chapter members to the annual Animal Law Conference. The chapter was able to obtain funding from the UT Law Student Affairs Office to partially cover the students’ travel costs. The rest of their costs were paid for with a travel grant from ALDF.
UT SALDF is also active in their local community. They volunteered at the Society for Animal Rescue and Adoption (SARA) with two other student organizations, the Environmental Law Society and Students against Cruelty to Animals. They cleaned kennels, repaired old fences, and assisted in feeding the animals. They also raised over $400 for SARA through their Second Annual Professor Pet Picture Fundraiser. UT SALDF also partners with the Environmental Law Society for monthly dog-friendly hikes that are open to all law students. The chapter supports Austin’s vegan community by having local vendors, like Vegan Nom, Vegan Yacht, Capital City Bakery, NadaMoo, and Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery cater their events.
Finally, UT SALDF has six more events planned for the remaining spring semester. In March, they are hosting Like Fish in a Barrel: Captive Hunting, Wildlife Law, and Conservation Impacts in Texas, Endangered Species in Texas, and Will Potter speaking on Criminalizing Activism: From the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act to Ag-Gag Laws. In April, the chapter will be participating in their law school’s “Wellness Week” that encourages healthy living, by hosting Farm Sanctuary’s Gene Baur, who will speak on the benefits of plant-based diets. The chapter is also hosting Our Hen House’s Jasmin Singer to speak on her work in animal rights.
UT SALDF will end the semester with two events featuring ALDF attorneys. (If you’d like to request an ALDF speaker, you can do so here.) The chapter is co-sponsoring the Texas Environmental Law Journal’s annual symposium, where ALDF attorney Kelly Levenda will speak about the welfare of fish and proposed legislation to protect them. (This is the first time a presentation with an animal welfare focus will be given at the symposium!) For their last event of the year, UT SALDF is co-sponsoring (with the Chicano/Hispanic Law Students Association, American Constitution Society, and the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights) a talk by local attorneys and Stefanie Wilson, ALDF litigation fellow, on worker rights and animal rights in poultry farms.