The Future of Animal LawPosted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on April 16, 2010
Last weekend, the Animal Legal Defense Fund held its Future of Animal Law Conference at Harvard Law School, drawing a sold-out crowd of more than 300 people, with speakers and attendees coming from around the world, including Spain, Puerto Rico, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The event was a huge success.
ALDF coordinated and participated in a wide variety of panels on issues in animal law.
“Charting a Course for the Protection of Farmed Animals” brought together a fantastic group of economists, attorneys, and professors to discuss the ethical and environmental challenges posed by the future of factory farming. I talked to several attendees who told me that the panel was among the most engaging and informative they had ever attended. “Canine C.S.I.” addressed some of the legal and technological challenges of prosecuting animal cruelty cases, including the recovery of digital evidence and the emerging field of veterinary forensic science. “Pet Theories” raised groundbreaking new theories in companion animal law, including new measures of calculating the value of companion animals in injury and death cases, proposals for new legislation, and an analysis of pathways for companion animal litigation. “Almost a Person” analyzed issues in chimpanzee protection, with talks covering chimpanzee sanctuaries, domestic and foreign laws protecting chimpanzees in research, and the current status of the groundbreaking Nonhuman Rights Project, which hopes to establish legal rights for chimpanzees through litigation. “Replacing the Use of Animals in Toxicity Testing” discussed the recent position paper from the National Academy of Sciences, Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and A Strategy, which proposes a transition towards non-animal testing for toxicity tests. “Defining the Second Wave of Animal Law” confronted directly the theme of the conference by asking what the future of animal law holds, with talks on both strategic and theoretical next steps, and institutional and educational support systems for the growing animal law movement. “Proposing a Federal Animal Protection Commission” analyzed the possibility of establishing a body within the federal government to coordinate animal protection policy. Finally, “Putting the Critter in Critical Legal Theory” addressed the relevance of critical legal theory to animal law. Panelists discussed how basic concepts in Critical Race Theory, Critical Legal Studies, and postcolonial theory can help us analyze speciesism and how animal advocates can navigate the promises and pitfalls of legal change for animals.
I left the conference feeling energized and optimistic about the future of animal law, ready to push forward in our work to liberate animals from exploitation.