Student Chapter Spotlight

Cornell University’s Bob Barker Invitational Beer Pong Tournament for the Animals

Since its creation in Fall 2006, Cornell University’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter focused on bringing together graduate students across the university to stimulate cross-disciplinary dialogue on issues of animal protection. At the intersection of strong programs in law, veterinary medicine, and animal agriculture, Cornell is just the place for students from diverse perspectives to tackle vital issues of animal treatment.

In early April, Cornell’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter teamed up with the Cornell student chapter of the Animal Hospital Association of America for a debate on whether civil damages should be made available to pet owners in cases of veterinary malpractice.

Perspectives were presented by animal law consultant Chris Green, assistant director of state and legislative affairs at the American Veterinary Medical Association, Adrian Hochstadt, and practicing veterinarian Dr. Robert Nichols. The discussion lasted an astounding three hours as vet and law students wrestled with the difficult question of whether the torts system is an effective means for protecting animals against veterinary negligence.

This March, the group hosted local organic farmer and leader in Cornell’s Small Farms Program, Karma Gos, for an outstanding presentation on the true meaning of egg labels, such as “organic” and “free-range,” for animal welfare.

Karma’s presentation emphasized how the quality of animal care can vary wildly, even among products with identical labeling claims, and recommended getting to know local farmers as the only sure way to obtain humanely-raised food. As a small farmer and someone who had been active in animal rights causes, Karma offered a unique perspective on issues of farm animal welfare to an enthusiastic audience of over thirty faculty and students.

Cornell’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter’s hallmark event, held once per semester, is the Bob Barker Invitational Beer Pong Tournament for the Animals benefiting the Tompkins County SPCA’s low-income spay and neuter program. The event, co-sponsored by Cornell co-ed veterinary fraternity Omega Tau Sigma, is by far Cornell Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter’s most popular event, drawing over 250 law, vet, business, and engineering grad students to a sixty-four team, single elimination tournament and one huge party.

Named for the nation’s most ardent spokesman for spaying and neutering, the Bob Barker Invitational features music, food, and prizes including gift certificates to Ithaca’s vegetarian institution, Moosewood Restaurant, autographed photos of Bob Barker, and the Bob Barker Invitational official t-shirt.

The fundraiser, conceived of by Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter Co-founder Deborah Press and vet student Matt Steyling, has raised close to $3,500 for the SPCA over the span of only three tournaments and has been a great vehicle for student groups to give back to the Ithaca community. In recognition of the fundraising effort, the Tompkins County SPCA recently acknowledged Cornell’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter with a certificate of appreciation.

Finally, Cornell’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter greatest accomplishment has been working successfully to add animal law to the Cornell Law School curriculum. Characteristically welcoming of student-initiated ideas, law school administrators approved Cornell’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter proposal on the condition that students locate a course instructor.

After meeting Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter attorney Dana Campbell at the Future of Animal Law conference last April, Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter members had the good fortune to successfully recruit her to teach the first animal law course at Cornell this past Fall of 2007. The course enjoyed high enrollment and enthusiastic reviews from students. Ms. Campbell will teach the course again this Fall semester.

This spotlight was submitted by Deborah Press, president of the Cornell’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter.

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