Where Are They Now? Kevin Schneider
Kevin Schneider is the executive director of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), a nonprofit organization working to achieve legal rights for nonhuman animals. NhRP’s mission is to “change the legal status of appropriate nonhuman animals from mere ‘things,’ which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to ‘persons,’ who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty.” Kevin manages NhRP’s administrative, communication, and fundraising operations, and also assists NHRP’s president, Steven M. Wise, in long-term strategic planning. He also works with volunteers and consultants in all major program areas, including legal, fundraising, communications, and media. He assumed the executive director position in October 2015, after volunteering with the organization for about five years.
An animal lover since childhood, Kevin grew up with birds, hamsters, dogs, and a guinea pig named George. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
It was in college that Kevin stopped eating meat and began educating himself more about the issues facing animals in our society. A presentation about NhRP at the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) Future of Animal Law Conference held at Harvard Law School in 2010 first introduced Kevin to the idea of using the law to help animals.
When Kevin started law school at Florida State University in Tallahassee, one of the first things he did was encourage the Animal Law Society to affiliate with ALDF as a Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter. (Through ALDF’s student chapter grants program, SALDF chapters are eligible to apply for funding from ALDF to support animal law projects that advance ALDF’s mission, as well as travel to animal law conferences and competitions.) He was on the chapter’s board during his first year, and served as president during his second and third years. The chapter brought speakers to the law school; ran a program in which students could earn pro bono hours by analyzing animal-related legislation pending in the Florida legislature; and participated in community outreach, such as helping the local animal shelter landscape its grounds.
“I went to law school because I wanted to find my way to help animals, and being involved with SALDF definitely helped with that,” said Kevin. “I got valuable practice in addressing animal issues to a legal audience and access to resources and opportunities, including a $5,000 ALDF Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship that helped me pay for my living expenses while interning with Mercy for Animals in Chicago. I also got access to a wide network of like-minded law students and practitioners, relationships that have been very valuable to me.”
Kevin clerked for ALDF during his second year of law school, working under Director of Litigation Carter Dillard. “It was a fantastic experience,” he remembers. “The highlight for me probably was drafting a complaint against Tyson Foods for false and deceptive claims about its food with the Federal Trade Commission. Seeing it worked into a formal complaint and filed was a gratifying experience. I felt extremely fortunate to be doing meaningful work that I cared about, gaining real experience, and earning some money to help pay for law school.”
As to the future, Kevin hopes to see legal personhood and genuine legal rights granted for at least some species of nonhuman animals within the next couple decades. “I hope that we will continue to see progress toward a new way of thinking in which humans, nonhumans, and the planet are all given their fair consideration,” he said. “I look forward to the day when the idea of ‘animals don’t matter’ is left in the dustbin of history with all the rest of our outmoded prejudices and ignorance.”