We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

Posted by Pamela Hart, Director of ALDF's Animal Law Program on February 24, 2010

Warm beer, french fries, snowed in at Boston Logan Airport – we’ve come a long way, baby!

Allow me to explain. My friend and ALDF attorney member, Megan Senatori, and I are debriefing at an airport bar after our weekend at Harvard Law School where we served as judges at the National Animal Law Competitions (NALC), sponsored by the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, in collaboration with ALDF. As we discuss how impressed we were with the competition, law students, judges and the mere fact that such a competition exists, we can’t help but recall our law school days.

You see, Megan and I met our first year of law school during a time when there wasn’t an animal law course being offered, a Student ALDF chapter and certainly not a fantastic competition like the one we participated in at Harvard. As we munch on our greasy fries, we can’t help but marvel about how far the animal law movement has come since we were fresh law students eager to use our law degrees to advocate for animals. Not only are there amazing opportunities such as NALC, generally speaking, there has been an explosion of animal law related opportunities at law schools across the country. For example, when ALDF’s Animal Law Program (ALP) was developed and launched in 2000 by ALDF’s current executive director, Stephen Wells, there were only a handful of animal law classes and chapters. Since the launch of ALP, animal law courses have grown from a meager nine offerings to 116 such courses. Additionally, Student ALDF chapters have increased remarkably from 12 to 149 chapters over the past decade.

In addition to the skyrocketing growth of animal law courses and SALDF chapters, there are more and more exceptional animal law opportunities for law students to participate in. For example, ALDF’s Northwestern student chapter is co-hosting a fantastic training workshop with Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) for the Humane Education Project of the American Bar Association’s TIPS Animal Law Committee. The primary objective of the Humane Education Project is to cultivate compassion and empathy in our youth toward animals and foster respect for the environment. Humane education examines many of the challenges facing our world, and the specific lessons we are offering focus on people’s relationships to animals and the environment. With studies that show there is a direct link between one’s treatment of animals and one’s treatment of people, along with the growing concern for the state of our planet, these lessons are imperative for creating a more peaceful and sustainable world. During the program students will consider the choices they make in their own lives and consider how they can do the most good in the world and cause the least amount of suffering to themselves, other people, animals, and the earth. The program invites students to become problem-solvers, engaged young citizens, and conscious choice-makers so that their lives become part of the solution to persistent challenges.

Of course, one of the most impressive developments of the past decade has been the cutting-edge Future of Animal Law conference, sponsored by ALDF and our Harvard Student ALDF chapter. This year, attorneys, law students, professors, and activists from around the world will convene at Harvard Law School over the weekend of April 9-11, 2010, to explore vital issues relative to animal law and activism. Additionally, we are privileged to have Bob Barker as our guest keynote speaker at this event, where he can be appropriately honored for his contributions to the animal rights movement, including the establishment of the Harvard Law Bob Barker Endowment for the Study of Animal Rights Law to support teaching and research in this emerging field.

As I coordinate travel plans for my return to Cambridge for the Future of Animal Law conference, I can’t help but reflect, again, how far the movement has come. Cheers!

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