Where Are They Now? Michelle Pawliger
Michelle Pawliger is farm animal policy associate with the nonprofit Animal Welfare Institute. In this position, she works to improve the lives of animals through the regulatory system and urges companies and animal welfare certification programs to raise their animal care standards. She also lobbies Congress and the USDA. Last year, for example, she helped draft a regulatory petition asking the USDA to better regulate how they approve animal welfare label claims like “humanely raised.”
Michelle’s passion developed from being raised on a horse farm in Miami. “Working and riding on a horse farm helped me understand that animals are not just cute, sweet creatures; they are individuals with unique personalities, like humans,” she explains. This awareness inspired her to join a local animal group—Animal Activists of Alachua—while in college at the University of Florida. Through this activism, she learned how farmed animals are slaughtered by the billions each year. In response, she held demonstrations at farming events, vegan-cooking demos on campus, and volunteered at farmed animal sanctuaries. “Being an animal lover means more to me than loving animals: it means fighting for them and their freedom.”
After college, she interned with Humane Society of the United States in the government affairs department, and then lived and worked at a farmed animal sanctuary. But she still wanted to help animals on a larger scale—and that’s where law school came in. “Once I discovered Lewis & Clark Law School, I knew there was no other school for me. It had everything: an animal law program, a SALDF chapter, and a community of people dedicating their lives and careers to animals.”
At Lewis & Clark, Michelle immediately got involved with the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter. She became the SALDF speaker series coordinator and later co-director of her chapter. She helped plan the 20th Annual Animal Law Conference, started a Meatless Monday campaign, and participated in Meat Out, an annual, internationally observed day that encourages people to eat cruelty-free food. She also served as submissions and associate editor for the Animal Law Review. In 2012, she was awarded an ALDF Advancement in Animal Law Scholarship. “I was honored to receive the scholarship,” she says. “It gave me the freedom to delve into animal advocacy projects that I might not have had the opportunity to explore without the generosity of ALDF.”
She encourages new animal attorneys to be creative in their plans to help animals. “While in law school, our views often narrow regarding how we can help animals. We start to think that the only way to do so is through the law. We need to create new and exciting ways to help animals,” she says. Further, she encourages lawyers to keep sight of the connections between the exploitation of animals and other injustices in the world. “In order to fully help animals we need to connect with other movements to truly make the world a better place for all beings.” Michelle lives with her partner Jake in Washington, D.C.