Inaugural Student Convention Energizes the Future of Animal Law

The first annual Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Convention hosted over 70 law students from all over the world on October 13, 2017 in Portland, Oregon! The Student Convention provided Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) members opportunities to meet and mingle before the kick-off reception for the 25th Animal Law Conference, co-presented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School, and the Lewis & Clark SALDF chapter. There are now 220 SALDF chapters in the United States and internationally and these chapters consist of law students dedicated to improving the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. Chapters host speaker events, plan volunteer trips, lobby their state representatives, and so much more! Representatives from 56 SALDF chapters from the United States, Canada, India, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand were welcomed with a delicious plant-based breakfast options and gorgeous views at the top floor of the Hilton Downtown Portland.

Helping Animals in Any Career

For the first event, students gathered for a career panel with experts in animal law. The career panel featured professionals with diverse backgrounds and careers to show students their many options for post-graduate plans. The overall theme of the career panel was to create opportunities for yourself when you notice gaps and to not feel limited by the mindset that you must work at a non-profit to make lasting change on behalf of animals. Some of the speakers spent years doing amazing pro bono work before finding a position working exclusively with animals, such as through a solo practice. Another literally wrote her own job description to ensure that animals were being protected in her district attorney’s office. One speaker discussed the ways in which her legal education helps her every single day, even though she doesn’t practice law.  There are also opportunities to teach and lead the next generation of animal law attorneys. And those who do work at a non-profit discussed the ways they landed their positions.

“The speakers all had positive outlooks, were full of empowerment, and made me hopeful for a future that is cruelty free. I learned that we have a long way to go, but together we are getting there!” said Laurel Tallent, a 2L at Florida State University College of Law. It is this hopeful curiosity among law students that made the career panel, and Student Convention overall, so successful.

Law Students Share Their Research

After an inspiring career panel, students had the opportunity to hear from their peers. Earlier this year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund put out a call for papers for the second annual Law Student Scholarship Panel. This year had a specific focus on factory farm issues. Students presented  winning submissions on topics like the effect of factory farms on communities of color in North Carolina, the problem with labeling and false advertising in the egg industry, and a comparative analysis of the US and EU policies on animal welfare. It was inspiring to listen to the incredible work being done by students on such important topics within animal law. Students truly are the next generation of animal law attorneys and their accomplishments so early into their careers speak volumes on what will they will achieve in the years to come.

A Message to Mend the World

A special keynote by Joyce Tischler, founder and general counsel of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, was the highlight of lunch. Joyce detailed her personal story of the creation and formalization of animal law and left students with a favorite phrase: Tikkun Olam, a concept from Judaism which means mending the world. “This concept encourages each of us to stretch our hearts and embrace more of this world. To stand beside the wounded and the defenseless, to embrace those who suffer, and to acknowledge and reach out to those who are ignored or abused,” Joyce explained. It was an unforgettable moment to see every single person in the room enthralled with her words and ready to do what they can to mend the world.

Joyce ended her talk by recognizing two SALDF chapters that have shown incredible efforts in advancing the field of animal law and advocating for animals through original projects and initiatives. Both Vermont Law School and University of Otago Faculty of Law were presented the Chapter of the Year Award in celebration of their recent achievements. We applaud their dedication to the field of animal law!

The Future of Animal Law is Strong

The Student Convention concluded with a chance for SALDF members to share ideas, concerns, and ask questions during the annual SALDF Summit. This is a safe space for students to dig deep and discuss difficult topics regarding advocacy efforts and ways to encourage their student body to care about animal issues.

“I felt like the Student Convention was a special moment for those of us studying animal law. We got to meet each other, collaborate, and share our ideas all with the sincere purpose of helping each other. It was inspiring, and I genuinely mean that. Although I haven’t felt unmotivated to study animal law, it definitely reinvigorated my passion for getting out there and doing what I can to help animals. Making the connections with other students was also a great opportunity that I don’t think I would have gotten elsewhere.” said Madison Steffey, a 1L at Lewis & Clark Law School. It was a very rewarding experience listening to all the great things that chapters have already accomplished this year and plan to do in the near future. It was also inspiring to see how SALDF members from different chapters empowered each other; whether it was giving advice, sharing personal experiences, or sympathizing with others’ concerns, the students really came together to unite their efforts in creating a better world for animals.

We are already looking forward to next year, and we hope to see even more students join us for a day just for them!

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