ALDF’s Animal Law Institute Looks Back Across Four Years of Strategic Efforts

Posted by Jeff Pierce, ALDF Litigation Fellow on November 5, 2014


Thurgood Marshall, who would become the nation’s first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, founded the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1940. Steering the first and most prominent strategic impact litigation firm in the country, Marshall and his colleagues pioneered the use of test cases to expand substantive and procedural protections for those to whom the states and feds alike had denied equality and due process. Today, virtually every public interest legal organization uses Marshall’s strategy in striving to achieve a vision of human rights, civil rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental justice, or animal protection.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund entered that stream 35 years ago. Joyce Tischler and those she gathered around her modeled the emerging Animal Legal Defense Fund after Marshall’s Legal Defense Fund, litigating strategically for a different under-protected clientele, the nonhuman animals with whom we share our lives and our planet. In the intervening years ALDF has expanded its legal capacity and refined its legal strategy, growing its ranks and articulating outcomes-based criteria that inform the organization’s efforts.

In the fall of 2010, in keeping with ALDF’s simultaneous expansion and refinement, an anonymous donor committed generous and ongoing support for ALDF to embark on a new strategic venture entitled the Animal Law Institute. The Institute advances dual goals. It pursues a civil litigation and regulatory docket that develops—rather than merely applies—the law to improve animal welfare, increase animal autonomy, secure legal recognition of animals as interest-bearing entities who impose duties on humans, and eliminate particular practices that cause animals to suffer.

In doing so, the Institute likewise cultivates the strategic and practical—the substantive and procedural—abilities of newly emerging animal attorneys, aiming to grow the ranks of advocates capable of leveraging the law for animals. The anonymous support enables ALDF to hire newly minted attorneys to work as paid fellows in its litigation department, and to hire law students to work as paid full-time interns during the summer or as paid part-time interns during the academic year.

The Institute also partners with hundreds of attorneys working in private practice, many at the most esteemed law firms in the country. These attorneys bring their considerable legal expertise and institutional resources to bear on behalf of animals. Some 1600 private practice attorneys now volunteer for ALDF, having contributed more than 5,300 hours of pro bono lawyering in 2013 alone, totaling some $1.7 million in donated legal services.

Since its founding roughly four years ago, the Institute has filed dozens of civil lawsuits and regulatory petitions that strategically target institutionalized forms of animal abuse and exploitation. This report details the Institute’s efforts to expand the universe of protections the law affords to farmed animals, companion animals, research animals, and wildlife both captive and free. Through the Institute, the Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue its efforts to align our legal system with cognitive science, evolutionary biology, a robust environmental ethos, a deep expression of human compassion, and a vindication of human intuition.

Download the Report (PDF)


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