New York Animal Law SymposiumPosted by Andrea Rodricks, SALDF Regional Representative for the New York City area and President of the Pace Law School SALDF chapter on May 16, 2015
On Saturday, April 18, 2015, more than 60 attorneys, law students, and animal advocates came together to attend the first Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) New York Symposium. At this premiere event, top experts discussed the legal aspects and harmful impacts of animal agriculture and ag gag laws on animals, humans, and the environment. This student-organized event was made possible through the collaboration of SALDF chapters at Pace Law School, CUNY Law School, Brooklyn Law School, Yale Law School, Columbia Law School, and NYU School of Law. It was held at Pace Law School and sponsored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
ALDF speakers include David Cassuto, Chris Green, T.J. Tumasse, Jeff Pierce, and Justin Marceau. The day began with a panel on the environmental impacts of animal agriculture on wildlife, air, and water. This was followed by a panel about the importance of plant-based diets as a remedy for these many ills.
A lunchtime keynote address followed, presented by David Cassuto, Pace Law School Professor and ALDF board member. Professor Cassuto’s inspirational keynote presentation focused on the intersection of animal law and environmental law, and how we cannot talk about environmental law without having a discussion about what is happening to animals. He then addressed the significant dearth of environmental protections for animals because animal suffering is not considered an environmental issue. Using ag gag statutes and anti-cruelty laws as examples, Professor Cassuto argued that the pitiful legal protections afforded farmed animals derive from imaginatively disassociating animals from the environment.
Improvements to animal protection laws, in the U.S. and abroad, shaped the rest of the afternoon’s discussions. This included current and future initiatives to improve animal protection in farming, updates on ag gag legislation, and the effects of these laws on First Amendment rights and the criminalization of undercover investigations that expose the cruelty of factory farming. The day concluded with a bonus “Hot Topics in New York” panel, which discussed such important topics as bans on carriage horses and captive exotics.
With this symposium, attendees were armed with new knowledge, strategies, and connections to bring to the fight against animal agriculture.