University of Chicago Law School: Animal Law Week

This spotlight was submitted by Vince Field, President of the University of Chicago SALDF.

University of Chicago Law School SALDF membersFounded in the Summer of 2008, the Student Chapter of the Animal Legal Defense Fund of the University of Chicago Law School has already been very active in raising awareness of animal welfare issues at the law school. In November we hosted Animal Law Week, a weeklong symposium of events that featured more than a dozen speakers from organizations like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. Animal Law Week was centered on the law school’s annual Dewey Lecture in Law and Philosophy, which this year was delivered by esteemed Harvard philosopher Christine Korsgaard. Dr. Korsgaard presented a very interesting paper entitled Interacting with Animals: A Kantian Account, which discussed the merits of various philosophical approaches to advocating for animal rights.

Animal Law Week also featured special panels on Combating Animal Fighting, Advocating for Animals, and The Pet Food Recall and Food Safety. We were fortunate to have a host of tremendous speakers including Pamela Hart, director of the animal law program at ALDF, John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues at HSUS, Tio Hardiman, special consultant to the HSUS campaign to end dogfighting, and Delci Winders, associate at Meyer Glitzenstein and Crystal. More important, these events drew considerable interest from the student body and virtually all of the talks were attended to capacity. This was the first event of this kind at the University of Chicago and we are already in the process of planning an even larger symposium for this year.

Another major achievement for the SALDF of the University of Chicago Law School this past year was successfully petitioning the law school administration for an animal law course. This course will mark another first for the law school and will be offered as early as the spring. Our goal is to make the animal law course a regular offering and we are currently discussing with the administration the possibility of bringing in a permanent lecturer in this area.

Our plans for the winter quarter include working with Jordan Matyas, Illinois State Director of the HSUS, on various legislative initiatives including an attempt to get attending a dogfight in Illinois a felony offense (bringing Illinois in line with other Midwestern states). A number of students may also be working with Brooks McCormick Jr. on a project with the Chicago Police Department to combat violence against animals. Mr. McCormick, through the McCormick Companion Animal Fund, was one of the sponsors of Animal Law Week and is a staunch advocate for animal rights. We also have plans for a student social which will feature vegan/vegetarian cooking demonstrations from various Chicago-area vegetarian restaurants. We are very excited about the progress we have made in such a short period and are delighted with the interest we have generated among fellow students and the administration. The future of animal law at the University of Chicago Law School looks very bright indeed!

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