ALDF’s Animal Law Institute

Posted by Carter Dillard, ALDF's Director of Litigation on October 19, 2012

I can’t remember when I first saw the faded bumper-sticker that read “We May Be The Only Lawyers On Earth Whose Clients Are All Innocent," but I remember it struck me hard. “That is oddly true,” I thought. Representing the interests of defenseless and blameless animals against persons too dense or damaged to see and react to their suffering and desire for autonomy would be what my friends in the South call “God’s work.” It would be something altogether different from what most lawyers do, and it would mean playing a role in a progressive movement millennia ahead of what often passes for progressive today.

Today’s report, ALDF’s Animal Law Institute, details some of the recent work of the Animal Law Institute, the formal body within ALDF that trains lawyers through civil litigation to represent the interests of animals. The report hits some of the highlights of what ALDF has been doing to bring the interests of animals into the courtroom and before administrative agencies, and to train law students and other attorneys do to the same. Can we do more? Yes, and we will. But the report gives some small indication of what the law can do for animals, of what is possible in the future if lawyers put the well-paid work on hold and stand up – even for a short while–for those that need them the most.

Of course there are obstacles: courts remain inclined to frame animal cases as especially political and abstain, even when existing law applies; law firms run into positional conflicts when they represent industries that use and abuse animals; the general public, misled by years of animal industry campaigns, often suppose that because animals cannot represent their legal interests (go to court) they have no legal interests; and legislatures remain in the grips of corporate control–if corporations dominate workers in our ailing system you can easily imagine what they do to animals.

But inroads to improving the lives of animals are forming, and growing wider. ALDF’s Animal Law Institute report gives a glimpse of a few. Our hope is that it will inspire others to join us, and build more.

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