Why I applied to law school instead of veterinary school

Posted by Kelly Levenda, Student Programs Attorney on January 17, 2017

kelly-150During the first week of December, Animal Legal Defense Fund founder Joyce Tischler presented the History of Animal Law at Harvard Law School. She discussed her path to founding the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its early cases, legal theories and victories. These included halting a U.S. Navy plan to kill more than 5,000 wild burros, bringing four Animal Welfare Act lawsuits to protect animals used in experimentation and the first legal challenges of cruel agricultural practices, like force feeding ducks to create foie gras and iron deprivation and confinement of calves who are slaughtered for veal. I heard Joyce give a similar talk eight years ago at the University of Chicago Law School, and it was a turning point for me.

I had just received my undergraduate degree in pre-veterinary animal science from one of the top agricultural science schools, but I did not apply to veterinary school as I had originally planned. During my undergraduate studies, my eyes were opened to the cruelties that animals suffer when they are farmed. This includes having their bodies modified (such as removing their testicles, tails, horns or parts of beaks) without painkillers, being kept in intensive confinement where they cannot turn around, extend their wings or lie down comfortably and calves being taken away from their mothers shortly after birth. After witnessing some of these injustices firsthand as part of my degree, I could no longer stomach veterinary school, and was committed to spending my life fighting to protect animals a different way.


During my last semester of college, I came across the Animal Legal Defense Fund website. I was thrilled at the idea of using the law to advocate for and protect animals. I saw that Joyce Tischler was speaking on the history of animal law a few weeks later. Hearing this talk was what inspired me to apply to law school to study animal law. I took advantage of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s resources and opportunities for students. I was able to receive an Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship, clerk and complete a fellowship for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, attend the Animal Law Conference and obtain Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) project grants so that the chapter I was leading could hold events. Now I’m an attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and I manage the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund program. I am fortunate to be able to assist the future attorneys, legislators and judges who will be influential in changing the law to better protect animals.

Are you thinking of attending law school and want to help animals? Check out our resources to guide you:

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