Animal Law: A World Phenomenon!

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on July 16, 2014


The Second Global Animal Law Conference has just concluded in Barcelona, Spain, and I was honored to represent the Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”), one of the main sponsors of this historic event. I spoke to the audience about how successful social movements use three interdependent approaches: litigation, legislation and public outreach (education), and how animal protection litigation is creating broad-based changes in the U.S., as well as in other countries.


This was a truly international gathering, bringing together participants from China, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, England, Spain, France, Germany, U.S., Canada, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Italy, Austria, Argentina, and several other nations.

The major themes rising to the surface were that almost every country’s laws are based on the concept that animals are “things” and resources to be used at-will by humans. This fosters the mass amount of suffering that the law does little or nothing to stop. No jurisdiction anywhere in the world currently deals adequately with the basic problems faced by animals. Not surprisingly, the industries that exploit animals are in control of the laws, the codes, the regulations—or lack thereof—and they are always looking for ways to silence their critics. Interestingly, ag-gag, addressed by law professor and ALDF board member, David Cassuto, was a topic of great interest to this international audience.

Listening to each panelist, I was inspired by the great social and cultural diversity represented in that room: we come from different cultures, religions, races, and yet we have common ground in our shared understanding of the enormity of the problems we face in trying to protect animals from largely unregulated suffering. The good news is that our colleagues from different parts of the world are completely committed and passionate about improving the lives of animals.

The question arose, as it always does, about how much we ought to focus on welfare/protection and how much on rights. And, we reviewed the challenges: how do we strengthen animal protection laws and gain basic legal rights for all sentient beings? How do we win more of the battles? It is not enough to be right; we must be strategic.

It was heartwarming for me to share this special experience with two old friends who served on the Board of Directors of ALDF for many years, and have worked to build ALDF as well as the field of animal law: Professor David Favre and renowned author, Steven Wise. In the earliest days of ALDF, when there was just a small group of us, we could not have imagined that someday, animal law would become a worldwide phenomenon. Dear friends and colleagues, Pamela Frasch, dean of the animal law program at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Kim Stallwood, author of the newly released book, Growl, added depth to the conference.

Conferences such as this provide me with the opportunity to reconnect with remarkable leaders, such as Professor Song Wei, champion of animal protection in China, and Professors Deborah Cao and Alex Bruce, who are defining the field in Australia. I was also delighted to make new friends, such as Assistant Professor Maria Baideldinova, who has introduced the first ever animal law course in Kazakhstan, and generally has 80+ students in her class. At dinner, Maria and I compared notes on our approaches to teaching animal law. Presentations by younger scholars, such as Moe Honjo of Japan and Lois Lelanchon of France, reminded me that the future of animal law is in very capable hands.

Muchas gracias to Professor Marita Gimenez-Candela, who has introduced and championed the study of animal law in Spain, and who arranged for the conference to be hosted at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, where she directs the first European master’s program in animal law and society. Equal thanks to David Favre and Pamela Frasch, who worked closely with Marita over the past year to bring this prestigious event together. They even managed to get the Mayor of Barcelona to officially welcome our attendees and the subject of animal law to the City of Barcelona!

Animal law is no longer solely an American movement. There is enormous value to holding international conferences in which the challenges and advances in animal law are discussed and shared, and at the end of the conference, we committed, as a group to meet again at least every four years. Viva Animal Law!

7 thoughts on “Animal Law: A World Phenomenon!

  1. Great description of the conference. It was very motivational to hear you speak. Nice meeting you!

  2. Peggy says:

    In the world of rescue, where I live, the daily horrors we see and hear about, and strive to fix can be daunting. To know that our home grown struggles, no matter where we live, are being recognized world wide is so encouraging. We no longer feel alone in our quest to end animal abuse. Simply, thank you.

  3. Rina Mumtaz says:

    This means there is still hope!

  4. Frances says:

    Please celebrate and acknowledge you difficult and important work! I love listening to young students. They understand a need for change to protect. How do people currently justify leaving a practice of cruelty for their children who want to care and protect. Trade violence training with compassion and right thinking training!

  5. Shirley Trottier says:

    This is so encouraging. Hopefully someday animals will have the respect they deserve and laws to protect them that are enforced so they cannot be “used” for human whims or thought of as “things” or be anyone’s “property”. They will be able to live without cruelty. Hopefully, someday. Thank you for all you do and please continue forward with this important goal.

  6. Christopher says:

    Was S. Korea amongst those “several other nations” which attended? The Busan Gupo Dog Meat Market in South Korea is an abhorrent example on how our “ally,” S. Korea, the maker of many products the USA buys. (Hyundai / Kia, Samsung, LG, etc.) is terribly on animals.

    Each year in South Korea, two million cats and dogs are captured by butchers and sold in open markets for human consumption. They suffer atrocities—dogs are slowly torn apart, electrocuted, strangled, or beaten to death, while cats are bludgeoned and boiled alive.

    Pet dogs are being bought or abducted and slaughtered for dog meat and dog liquor all the time. A recent Korean TV program exposed the world of dog meat industry where the former pets that were abandoned or stolen are readily being sold and slaughtered for meat.

    I have boycotted those companies. One understands that this is a $2 billion industry, however, the export revenue, the positive image and the goodwill within the international community that S. Korea stands to lose could be worth far more than $2 billion by continuing this vile and inhumane industry.

  7. Barbara Griffith says:

    I wish something could be done to stop the
    BLM (Bureau of Land Management)from doing the welfare ranchers bidding about rounding up the few wild horses still left on public lands. Every time the ranchers complain about the forage or water the horses eat and drink the BLM comes sliding in to the rescue. They have rounded up so many horses their holding pens are bulging and can’t hold any more. Yet they keep spending tax payer dollars to round them up to extinction.
    So far there seems like there is no way to stop them, the ranchers want all of the public lands for themselves all the while destroying the public lands and blaming the horses for it when they all know including the BLM its the cows and sheep doing 100% of the damage. I have often wondered who are they going to blame for the damage when all of the horses are gone, ghost horses? I suspect as do many others that the BLM sneaks truck loads to slaughter by selling herds to their friends and they in turn truck them either to Canada or Mexico. Its against the law but when did that ever stop crooks.

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