Speaker Bios 2015
Ethan Brown, CEO and Co-Founder, Beyond Meat
Ethan Brown, chief executive officer and co-founder of Beyond Meat—a company focused on perfectly replacing animal protein with plant protein—gained a profound appreciation for the natural world from his father, a professor and conservationist. Ethan’s passions for the environment shaped the direction of his adult life. After earning an MBA from Columbia University and an MPP from the University of Maryland, he embarked on a career in clean energy which included eight years at Ballard Power Systems, the world’s leading PEM fuel cell company focused on helping to create a better world.
Although he enjoyed a successful career in the clean energy sector, Ethan felt a need to make a bigger impact by addressing climate change, global resource constraints, animal welfare and human health. As a committed vegan he often wondered if the staggering amount of animal protein produced and consumed could be significantly reduced if a perfect plant-based meat replication existed.
Pursuit of this idea led him to Dr. Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff at the University of Missouri. Their collaboration along with support from The University of Maryland, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and The Obvious Corporation led to the creation of Beyond Meat in 2009. The company also gained support from Morgan Creek Capital, The Humane Society, Closed Loop Capital and most recently, Bill Gates.
Will Potter, Journalist and Author, www.GreenIsTheNewRed.com
Will Potter is an award-winning journalist, author, and TED Fellow based in Washington, D.C. who focuses on the animal rights and environmental movements, and civil liberties post-9/11.
His reporting and commentary have been featured in the world’s top media outlets, including the Washington Post, NPR, Rolling Stone, El Pais , and Le Monde. He has testified before the U.S. Congress about his reporting, as the only witness opposing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
Will has lectured at more than 150 universities and public forums about his work, including Harvard Law School, Georgetown University, and the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin. International speaking tours have included Germany, Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Spain, and he is the international guest lecturer for Australia’s 2014 animal law lecture series. He is also an advisory board member of the Rosenberg Fund for Children.
His reporting has overturned criminal prosecutions, and it has both been praised in Congressional reports and monitored by the Counter-Terrorism Unit. His book, Green Is The New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, was awarded a a Kirkus Star for “remarkable merit.”
Speakers & Moderators
Leslie Brueckner, Senior Attorney, Public Justice
Leslie A. Brueckner is a Senior Attorney at Public Justice. She received her A.B. degree summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley in 1983, where she was awarded the University Medal for the Most Distinguished Graduating Senior. Leslie is also a 1987 magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. In December 1993, she joined Public Justice (then Trial Lawyers for Public Justice), where her areas of practice include Title IX, federal preemption, combating court secrecy, and objecting to illegal or unfair class action settlements.
Among other victories, Leslie served as lead counsel in Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine Corp., a 2002 federal preemption case unanimously upholding an injury victim’s right to sue a manufacturer for failing to install propeller guards on its recreational motor boat engines. (See below for more appellate rulings.)
In 2011, Leslie became the director of Public Justice’s new Food Safety & Health Project, which seeks to hold corporations accountable for the manufacture, distribution and marketing of food and other products that endanger consumers’ safety, health and nutrition. The Food Safety & Health Project spans the gamut of Public Justice’s key practice areas, from workers’ rights, consumers’ rights and access to justice to environmental protection. In fighting the myriad abuses against consumers, workers, animals and the environment, the Project works with other public interest groups, not only on litigation, but also in educating consumers about food safety and health issues. In 2012, Leslie was honored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund with its “Pro Bono Achievement Award” for her work fighting the unsafe and inhumane treatment of animals in factory farms.
In addition to her litigation work, Ms. Brueckner has taught appellate advocacy at American University Law School and Georgetown University School of Law.
Kelsey Eberly, Litigation Fellow, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Kelsey Eberly assists ALDF with its cases and projects as a litigation fellow. She graduated from UCLA Law School in May 2014, where she focused on animal, environmental, and administrative law. While attending law school, Kelsey was the chair of the UCLA Animal Law Society—that school’s student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter (SALDF). She was also a writing advisor to first year law students in UCLA’s Lawyering Skills clinical program. Prior to this, she earned a graduate certificate in Animal Policy and Advocacy from Humane Society University. In 2006, she received a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Middlebury College, with a double major in English and Spanish.
Kelsey is a former clerk for ALDF and before that served as a legal intern with Compassion Over Killing. She has concentrated her academic study on the abuse of factory farmed animals and is interested in the international trade of exotic animals, the free speech rights of animal advocates, and the humane management of urban wildlife. Kelsey enjoys running, vegan cooking, fostering kittens, and observing beautiful underwater creatures while scuba diving.
Carter Dillard, Director of Litigation, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Carter currently serves as Director of Litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund where he manages over half a dozen staff attorneys and dozens of participating pro bono law firms. Carter helped quadruple within less than three years the number of matters the organization had filed, and he has helped achieve judgments, settlements, and precedent that among other things replaced negligent management at public shelters, ended systematic abuses at factory farms and hunting facilities, moved wildlife from ramshackle roadside zoos into sanctuaries, improved standing for animal advocates, and halted false advertising of animal products. With his sister, Carter co-founded the organization Four Feet Forward, which helps small animal advocacy organizations with legal and media campaigns by offering professional services at no cost. He also serves as Executive Director of Uncrowded.org, an organization that simultaneously integrates human rights, environmental and child welfare advocacy by promoting smaller and more loving families.
Carter previously served as General Counsel for Compassion Over Killing, where he settled a case that resulted in one of the biggest changes in animal product advertising in U.S. history, and as Director of Farm Animal Litigation for the Humane Society of the United States, where he helped orchestrate one of the only animal cruelty prosecutions of a corporation for factory farming. Carter began his career as an Honors Program appointee to the U.S. Department of Justice and later served as a legal advisor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in the National Security Law Division. He has taught on the faculties or held appointments at Lewis and Clark Law School, Emory University School of Law, and Loyola University New Orleans, College of Law. He holds a B.A. from Boston College, a J.D., Order of the Coif and with honors, from Emory University, and an LL.M. from New York University where he wrote his thesis—on a deeply theorized right to have children—under Jeremy Waldron. Carter has written a dozen articles, including peer-reviewed pieces, on animal protection and human population ethics in journals published by Yale, Duke, Northwestern and other universities, and he currently sits on the Steering Committee for the Population Ethics: Theory and Practice research project at the Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford.
Lora Dunn, Staff Attorney, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Lora Dunn provides editorial and research support for ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program by tracking our legislative reports and assisting prosecutors throughout the country in animal cruelty cases. Lora received her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, where she focused on environmental and animal law and received the Dean’s Scholarship for Excellence.
As a law student, Lora served on the board of Lewis & Clark’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter, clerked for ALDF and the Animal Law Clinic at the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), and interned with the Oregon Humane Society’s Investigations Department. As an ALDF clerk, Lora assisted in the drafting of ALDF’s amicus brief in State v. Nix, a seminal Oregon Court of Appeals decision that ruled that every abused animal is a separate victim of a crime. Lora also helped coordinate the 2012 Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark, and helped draft one of Oregon’s most extensive animal cruelty bills—now state law—which sets tougher penalties and sentencing guidelines for animal abuse. Before law school, Lora was an associate managing editor for Carnegie Hall and editorial assistant for Oxford University Press. Though she is an East Coast native, Lora now calls Portland her home, where she enjoys a vegan lifestyle and lives with her husband and their rescued cat, Panther.
Chris Green, Director of Legislative Affairs, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Chris Green is ALDF’s director of Legislative Affairs, a program which helps pass tougher animal protection laws in state and federal legislatures, as well as county boards & municipal councils. Equally important, the program works to block bills proposed by those who seek to exploit or endanger animals.
Chris graduated from Harvard Law School and the University of Illinois. In 2004, he published a groundbreaking article titled The Future of Veterinary Malpractice Liability in the Care of Companion Animals, in the Animal Law Review. The article was the first to calculate the economics of veterinary malpractice insurance, strongly supporting the argument of awarding damages beyond a companion animal’s replacement cost or “fair market value.”
A founding Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee, Chris has served on the Board of the National Center for Animal Law, acted as an advisor to the National Canine Research Council, and is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association and Illinois Farm Bureau. Chris’s research also led to him being an invited member of the California Veterinary Medical Association’s Non-Economic Recovery Task Force, and an advisor to members of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Task Force on the Legal Status of Animals.
Chris has consulted on animal legal issues for CBS News, Dateline NBC, Science Magazine, Smart Money Magazine, Chicago Tribune, and Washington Post. He contributed a section on liability issues for the book Vet Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s Health, and frequently lectures on animal valuation and exotic animal ownership at law schools and veterinary colleges around the country. Next year, Chris will serve as Chair of the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee during its 10th Anniversary term.
Outside of his animal law work, Chris has spent the last couple decades working in the music, film and fine arts industries–conducting business in over 30 countries on five continents. Chris also manages a farm that has been in his family for over 175 years, and which allowed him to know and appreciate the animals on the farm. As a result, Chris has been a vegetarian for 25 years. He is happy to now be making animal law the full-time focus of his professional life.
Pamela Hart, Director of Animal Law Program, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Pamela Hart oversees ALDF’s programs dedicated to the development of animal law in academia and legal practice. These programs include supporting over 184 Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters, managing ALDF’s extensive Attorney Volunteer Network, and partnering with firms and attorneys interested in developing animal law opportunities with ALDF. Additionally, she was a Lecturer of Animal Law at the University of Chicago Law School for three years. Pam also helped launch the collaboration between ALDF and Lewis & Clark Law School to produce the first-of-its-kind Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS). As a world-class animal law program, the Center for Animal Law Studies provides essential programs and services for law students under the guidance of experienced animal law professors and ALDF attorneys.
Prior to joining ALDF, Pam was in private practice and co-taught the first animal law course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While in law school, she cofounded Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims (SAAV), a nonprofit animal protection organization dedicated to recognizing the role of animals in family violence. Pam is a frequent writer and speaker on animal law related issues, and has testified on a congressional panel regarding a federal Farm Animals Anti-Cruelty Act. She is frequently invited to be a guest judge at the National Animal Law Competition- most recently held at UCLA and Harvard Law Schools. Pam is currently co-authoring a book about animal law with Joyce Tischler and Kathy Hessler.
Lynn Henning, Regional Grassroots Coordinator, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project
Lynn Henning emerged as a leading voice calling on state and federal authorities to hold livestock factory farms accountable to water and air quality laws. With her husband, she farms 300-acres of corn and soybeans in Lenawee County, Michigan within 10 miles of 12 CAFO facilities. Because of her work to stop pollution from factory farms and to hold state and federal agencies accountable to enforcing laws, Lynn won the 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize – the environmental equivalent of the Nobel Prize. When Lynn isn’t testing water downstream of factory farms, she enjoys spending quality time with her grandchildren.
Kathy Hessler, Clinical Professor of Law and Animal Law Clinic Director, Lewis & Clark Law School
Kathy Hessler is a clinical professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School. She is the first and only faculty member hired to teach animal law full time in a law school. She graduated with a J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary and received her LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center.
After Law school, Professor Hessler worked at Legal Services of Northern Virginia. From there she went to a teaching fellowship at Georgetown University Law Center. Prior to teaching at Lewis & Clark, Professor Hessler taught in clinical programs at Case Western Reserve University Law School, Cornell Law School, the University of Dayton Law School, the Capital University School of Law, and Georgetown University Law Center. In those clinics Professor Hessler worked on domestic relations, consumer, housing, transactional, public benefits, and other civil matters.
Professor Hessler was previously a board member with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and helped found the Animal Law Committee of the Cuyahoga County Bar. Additionally, she was the chair and a founder of the Animal Law Section of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) and the Balance in Legal Education Section. She was also a co-chair of the Clinical Legal Education Section of the AALS and is on the board of the Center for Teaching Peace.
Professor Hessler co-authored (with Pamela Frasch and Megan Senatori) the amicus brief submitted in the U.S. v. Stevens case, on behalf of 45 law professors who teach animal law. She also co-authored Animal Law in a Nutshell (with Pamela Frasch, Sarah Kutil, and Sonia Waisman) and has written numerous other law review and other articles and she is co-authoring a new books on animal law.
Professor Hessler has been teaching Animal Law courses since 2001, and animal law concepts as a part of nonviolence class offerings beginning in 1989. At Lewis & Clark, Professor Hessler is the faculty advisor to SALDF and Outlaw, coaches the animal law moot court teams, and has been an advisor to the Animal Law journal since 1998. Professor Hessler lectures widely on animal law and animal law education issues in the U.S. and internationally. She also writes and lectures on alternative dispute resolution, First Amendment issues, and clinical legal education.
Elisabeth Holmes, Attorney, Blue River Law, P.C.
Prior to starting Blue River Law, Eli was a staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety where she managed the Center’s animal factory civil litigation and administrative docket, addressing issues ranging from potentially harmful animal feed additives to enforcement actions against animal factories. Eli continues to represent the Center for Food Safety on an Of Counsel basis in a RCRA lawsuit against four industrial dairies for contamination of groundwater, CARE and CFS v. Cow Palace, LLC et al., Case No. 02:13-cv-03016-TOR (E.D. Wash. 2013). For several years prior to joining the Center for Food Safety, Eli practiced family law and probate litigation where she specialized in high net worth divorces and complicated will contests. Eli serves on the Board of Directors of Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and is a member of Public Justice Foundation. Eli is admitted to practice in Oregon and Massachusetts.
Lindsay Larris, Los Angeles Regional Director, Animal Legal Defense Fund
As ALDF’s first regional director, Lindsay Larris directs ALDF operations and resources in Southern California. In this position, Lindsay develops objectives specific to the Los Angeles region and coordinates regional resources in support of ALDF’s national goals. Prior to working at ALDF, Lindsay spent seven years practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles, including in environmental litigation, trust and estate litigation, and international arbitration. While in private practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Lindsay served as pro bono co-counsel with ALDF on behalf of consumers in a “puppy mills” lawsuit filed against the Barkworks pet store chain for misrepresenting the care and origin of its puppies.
Lindsay graduated from University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2007 and cum laude from New York University in 2003 with a degree in political science. While a law student, Lindsay co-founded the Journal of Animal Law and Ethics, helped bring an animal law clinic to Penn Law, and served as president of her student ALDF chapter (SALDF).
Lindsay has been passionate about animal rescue and animal protection issues since she helped her father build a home for feral kittens as a child. Lindsay has fostered and found homes for numerous cats and kittens across the country, from New York to Los Angeles. Lindsay currently serves on the board of the Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats, a nonprofit rescue group in downtown Los Angeles, and she is committed to socializing feral kittens and reducing the number of animals killed in Los Angeles shelters. Lindsay lives in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles with her aggressively friendly cat Leo.
Ton Linney, Pro Bono Coordinator, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Tom Linney collaborates with ALDF’s Litigation and Criminal Justice Programs to assign appropriate pro bono counsel to ALDF projects and cases and is responsible for marketing ALDF’s Animal Law Pro Bono Program to interested attorneys and law firms. Tom also provides support to professors interested in teaching animal law and helps law students transitioning into the legal profession get involved in animal law. In addition, Tom has been a speaker at the national Taking Action for Animals conference and the Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark Law School. He has served as a judge at the National Animal Law Competitions and presented to state bar sections, law firms, and SALDF chapters throughout the country about ALDF and the growing field of animal law.
Tom is a graduate of The University of Texas School of Law. Inspired by ALDF staff members he met at an Equal Justice Works conference in Washington D.C. in 2005, Tom returned to UT Law where he established a Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter, successfully petitioned the school to add an animal law course, and coordinated several successful projects as SALDF President. While Tom was in law school, he gained experience working for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and an animal law practitioner. Tom also became the first student to receive a Baron & Budd Fellowship from UT Law to pursue animal protection work, and served as legislative intern for the Texas Humane Legislation Network. He is currently co-host of the radio show Animal Concerns of Texas.
Nicole Pallotta, Student Programs Coordinator, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Nicole Pallotta is the Student Programs Coordinator for ALDF’s Animal Law Program. In this capacity, she works with law students who share ALDF’s mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system, including members of over 190 Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters. Nicole helps law students form and maintain chapters and assists them with projects like getting animal law courses added to the curriculum at their schools. She also oversees ALDF’s animal law clerkship, scholarship, and project grant programs.
Prior to joining ALDF, Nicole completed her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Georgia, where she developed and taught the school’s first Animals and Society course. Her dissertation explored the process of becoming an animal rights activist, including key social factors and biographical experiences that led movement participants to resist the dominant cultural narrative regarding human-animal relations. Her writing has appeared in Sociological Perspectives, Society and Animals, The Journal for Critical Animal Studies, The Portland Tribune, and Animal Wellness Magazine. Nicole lives in the extremely vegan-friendly city of Portland, OR, with her friend Teagan, a sweet little one-eyed German shepherd. She blogs at www.alec-story.com.
Robert K. Rasmussen, Dean and Carl Mason Franklin Chair in Law, and Professor of Law and Political Science, USC Gould School of Law
Robert K. Rasmussen joined USC Law as dean and Carl Mason Franklin Chair in Law in August 2007. Dean Rasmussen’s scholarly expertise is focused on the interaction of market forces and corporate reorganization law, and his most recent work addresses fundamental changes in corporate reorganization practice. He teaches Contracts and Realities of Commercial Lending.
Dean Rasmussen earned his J.D. cum laude from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was comment editor of the University of Chicago Law Review, and his B.A. magna cum laude from Loyola University of Chicago. He clerked for the Honorable John C. Godbold, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and worked in the Civil Division Appellate Staff at the U.S. Department of Justice, handling litigation in the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court before joining the Vanderbilt faculty. He also has been a visiting professor at the University of Chicago and University of Michigan law schools.
A widely cited scholar, Dean Rasmussen is the author or co-author of dozens of articles published in some of the country’s leading law journals, including the Supreme Court Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, the Michigan Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. He has played a role in shaping the jurisprudence in his field as the principal author of an amicus curiae brief on behalf of nine law professors in the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case Bank of America v. 203 North LaSalle Street Partnership; was the principal author of an amicus curiae brief on behalf of three law professors in Integrated Telecom Express, Inc., a 2004 case decided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals; and was the principal author of an amicus curiae brief on behalf of seven law professors in Owens Corning, a 2005 case also decided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He is a member of the American Law Institute.
David Simon, Lawyer, Advocate and Author, Meatonomics
David Robinson Simon is a lawyer and advocate for sustainable consumption. He works as general counsel for a healthcare company and serves on the board of the APRL Fund, a non-profit dedicated to protecting animals.
David received his B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and his J.D. from the University of Southern California. He is also the author of New Millennium Law Dictionary, a full-length legal dictionary. He lives in Southern California with his partner, artist Tania Marie, and their rabbit, tortoise, and two cats.
Elizabeth Tissot, Co-Chair, UC Irvine School of Law SALDF
Elizabeth Tissot is a second-year law student at University of California: Irvine, School of Law. She is the Co-Chair of her local Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter and acts as Student Regional Representative to all Southern California SALDF chapters.
In addition to animal law, Elizabeth Tissot is interested in prisoners’ rights, criminal defense, and post-conviction proceedings. She currently works with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Jails Project Legal Team. As a member of Paul Hoffman and Michael Seplow’s Civil Rights Litigation Clinic, she also assists in civil rights litigation on behalf of prisoners and victims of excessive police force. This summer, she will be litigating criminal appeals with California Appellate Project, Los Angeles.
Elizabeth Tissot is especially passionate about vegan-eating and domestic animal issues, with a special interest in combating breed specific legislation. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, three cats, pit bull, and Chihuahua.
Paige Tomaselli, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Food Safety
Paige Tomaselli is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Food Safety, where she works on law and policy related to genetically engineered crops, organic standards, factory farming, and other food safety issues. Previously, she represented public water suppliers and public agencies in cases involving groundwater contamination and toxic torts at Sher Leff, LLP. Paige is a dedicated environmental advocate, with a focus on animal welfare and food safety issues. She co-wrote a chapter in the recently released CAFO Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories, entitled “Changing the Law: The Road to Reform.” She frequently speaks at the premier sustainable agriculture and animal law conferences in the U.S., and in 2013, she traveled to Japan to speak to the Japanese Parliament and Ministers of Environment and Agriculture on the impacts of genetic engineering. In 2011, Paige participated in the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations in Bangalore, India, where we presented dozens of cases illustrating how the sale and use of pesticides undermine internationally recognized rights to health, livelihood, and life to a panel of internationally recognized scholars and scientists. Paige holds a J.D. from Vermont Law School, where she was a member of the Environmental and Natural Resources Litigation Clinic, published an international comparative animal welfare article through the Animal Legal and Historical Center, and spent time at the University of Siena, Italy, studying international law.
T.J. Tumasse, Manager of Investigations, Animal Legal Defense Fund
T.J. Tumasse recruits, trains, and supports the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s undercover investigators, who document evidence, prepare cases, and conduct research on animal cruelty. He oversees all aspects of undercover investigations and creates a support network for investigators in the field.
Before coming to ALDF, T.J. worked as an undercover investigator for Mercy for Animals and PETA in 30 states and in many industries in which animals are exploited and abused. In 2011, T.J. helped expose animal cruelty at Sparboe Farms—one of the largest egg farms in the U.S.—while working for Mercy for Animals—as a result, McDonald’s, Target, and other retailers dropped Sparboe as a supplier. One of his most well-known successes brought about the first felony conviction for cruelty to factory farmed birds in the U.S., after an investigation he conducted while working for PETA exposed abusive operations at Avaigen Turkeys in 2008.
T.J. has been interviewed or quoted on ABC, Nightline, 20/20, and numerous podcasts, blogs, and websites, and in 2014 he presented on a panel at the Animal Rights National Conference. After witnessing and documenting horrendous cruelty to animals on factory farms, T.J. brings a particular focus to shining a light on abuses in this industry.
Stephen Wells, Executive Director, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Stephen Wells is the executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. For six years (until 2006), Steve founded and served as the director of ALDF’s successful Animal Law Program, which provides support and resources to ALDF’s law professional and law student members and pro bono opportunities for attorneys and firms to assist ALDF with its mission.
Prior to joining ALDF in 1999, Steve served as the executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance in Anchorage where he became known for his work to protect Alaska’s wildlife, particularly wolves and bears, and its unique wild places. He has committed himself to animal and environmental protection and over the years, in addition to his full-time work, he has continued to volunteer his time for local organizations and projects.
Steve has managed several successful businesses. In his native Chicago, right out of high school he started his own business called “Precise Instrument Repair Co.,” a repair and calibration business for industrial measuring equipment, which he later sold. In Alaska, Steve worked to clean up the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and was so horrified by what he saw he decided his life path included working for positive change for the environment and wildlife. He was awed by the wilderness and natural beauty of Alaska. His first year there, he lived in a cabin through the winter without running water or electricity. He even missed an interview one day by being trapped by grizzly bear cubs and their mom. He began going to school and volunteering for the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, a nonprofit wilderness protection agency, and was eventually hired there.
After eight months traveling in Africa, Steve returned for a full time position with the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. He threw himself into that with his natural entrepreneurial spirit and leadership abilities. He knows how to run a business and has a background in all aspects of business management, including the nuts and bolts of accounting and eventually became executive director. As executive director, he grew that organization by more than doubling its staff and activism. Steve was a primary leader in the successful ballot initiative banning “same-day airborne wolf hunting” (which allowed the use of airplanes to kill wolves). From this trial-by-fire lesson, Steve learned how to be the lone voice speaking for wildlife at community and state meetings amidst intense opposition. He also ran a successful construction business in Alaska with major contracts.
He left Alaska to start an animal sanctuary in California, but instead went to work for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Meanwhile, he opened a vegan restaurant called “Sparks” in Guerneville, California which included a highly successful retailing market of packaged goods sold across the Bay Area.
At the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Steve saw an opportunity to expand into law schools and involving attorneys directly–providing additional resources and pro bono connections. He helped stop wild animal trainers in Los Angeles from abusing primates in a landmark lawsuit. He helped to set up a sanctuary for hundreds of animals in the infamous North Carolina Woodley hoarding case. Steve has also raised significant funds to create the ALDF Fellowship program and helps ALDF fund an expanding vision for the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School.
When Steve started, ALDF had no litigation staff–so he created an in-house litigation program which, with the help of his new litigation director, Carter Dillard, allowed ALDF to triple its caseload. Steve expanded the Animal Law Program and helped to exponentially expand the student chapters (SALDF) of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. When he started SALDF had 6 chapters. That number is now at 184. There were 12 animal law classes offered in the United States and Canada–and now there are more than 140. Steve’s leadership also led him to create an ALDF pro bono program–and ALDF now has 1.2 million in donated legal services. When Steve began, ALDF’s revenue was at 3.7 million. In 2011, it was at 5.7 million, despite the economic hardships facing the US economy. As the leader at ALDF, Steve has been interviewed by CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and ESPN.
Steve has created a highly efficient, passionate, and talented team at ALDF. As he says, it is his job to create an environment where egos are out the door and everyone works together for one end–to end the exploitation and suffering of animals. And that is just what he has done. He lives in the western woodlands of Sonoma County, California with his dog Eve and his cat, Ocho.