Animal Legal Defense Fund Welcomes Kevin RyanPosted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on June 19, 2013
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is excited to welcome Ireland’s own Kevin Ryan as a litigation clerk with us this summer. Kevin hails from County Tipperary in Ireland, and is completing his law degree at Trinity College Dublin.
Meet Kevin Ryan
When he was only 16, Kevin co-wrote a science textbook called “Quick Questions and Accurate Answers Junior Cycle Science” still for sale at Easons and other large bookstore chains in Ireland. His writing skills also translate to his ability to debate, and he won an All-Ireland debating contest ‘As Gaeilge’ (in the traditional Irish language, which is spoken fluently by only approximately 45,000 people in the world). Kevin not only received top score on his Leaving Certificate, he also topped his Law class at Trinity in his second year. In his third year, the 21 year-old decided to study abroad at Emory University, where he was stranded without a vehicle in the sweltering heat of Atlanta, Georgia—a climate he was not acclimated to, to say the least.
Why Animal Legal Defense Fund?
While at Emory, Kevin became interested in getting more involved in helping animals and joined the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF). At the chapter’s first meeting they discussed animal law clerkships at ALDF. Initially, Kevin simply wanted to learn more about the concept of animal law, without any particular desire to live in California, nor knowing much about the world of animal law, and so applied and was accepted.
Kevin jumps into everything he does with two feet forward. He has been bravely exploring the terrain of Northern California, getting strong at the gym, and visiting San Francisco on his own. He is a bit taken aback by the weather: last week, he says, it was “splitting hot” in Sonoma County where the locals were wearing shorts and t-shirts. Taking the bus an hour south to San Francisco, however, the bay was so cold he was uncomfortable. But mostly, he says, the most unusual part of his experience clerking for the Animal Legal Defense Fund is that many staff members bring their companion animals to work. At home in Tipperary, Kevin’s family lives with three dogs, has a few horses and cattle. But, an office full of dogs is a new one on him.
So how did a young man, who comes from a small “hobby” cattle farm, end up in California at an all-vegan, animal rights nonprofit on the other side of the world?
Kevin expected it to be all animal cruelty cases. “I’m quite interested in the fact that it’s not. It’s expanding my understanding of the problems animals face. Like the false-advertising case ALDF has against a foie gras producer. That’s what I’m researching now. I find that really interesting, that we’re not compartmentalizing anything. I had envisioned only criminal prosecution of cruelty cases. Instead it’s much more, the work we do here.”
What does his family think?
“They probably think I’m a bit mad,” Kevin says. “I’m not so sure they liked the idea of me being away for a year and then saying oh and by the way… I’m going to be away for another ten weeks.” I’m not so sure that that went down well, but they are supportive,” he laughs.
Working for the rights of farmed animals is also new for Kevin. The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s stance is probably more radical than his own. But it’s a new world for him; not only that ALDF has dogs and cats, and sometimes bunnies, in the office but that everyone is vegan. “That’s unusual too. I’d heard of the word but only ever on American television. Now going shopping I see products that say ‘vegan-friendly.’ I told some of my friends at home and they said, “vegan?” What’s that? I say: if it has anything to do with animals, just keep away from it.”
What are his goals?
After Kevin completes his undergraduate degree he plans to work with a commercial firm. But it struck him one day that there are more laws protecting objects like cars than laws protecting an animal like a cat. He realized he didn’t want to spend all his time worrying about cars and that “looking after the cat is a nicer idea.” In general, he believes, Ireland doesn’t know much about animal law. He feels animal law might be a pro bono niche for him and hopes to bring this knowledge of animal law back to his home country.
Is there one particular issue he wants to focus on?
Kevin loves horses. As he explains, Ireland faces a variety of issues right now with its horses. Because the Celtic Tiger has finally quieted, the economic recession means many people can’t afford to feed the horses they already own. Unfortunately, Kevin says, “some people are just leaving them abandoned in fields, to starve.” He would like to find a way to help resolve this problem. With his skill, experience, and training, we are confident that Kevin Ryan will do just that.