Remembering Animal Rights Trailblazer Steve Wise

Animal rights trailblazer Steven (Steve) M. Wise passed away at the age of 73 on Thursday, February 15, after an extended illness. His experience with the anti-Vietnam War movement during his undergraduate years at the College of William and Mary led Steve to pursue a law degree at Boston University Law School, graduating in 1976. After reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, Steve was inspired to turn his career to protecting animals through the law — leaving his work as a criminal defense attorney to become the president of the Animal Legal Defense Fund from 1985-1995. In 1995, Steve then founded the Nonhuman Rights Project, as the “only civil rights organization in the United States dedicated solely to securing rights for nonhuman animals.” 

Steve Wise 1992.

Steve ultimately evolved into a world-renowned author and scholar, becoming integral to the development of animal law as a distinct academic pursuit. He taught some of the first-ever animal law school courses at Lewis & Clark Law School, Harvard Law School, Vermont Law & Graduate School, Stanford Law School, and others — impacting generations of law students across the globe as he later taught animal rights jurisprudence at international institutions such as Tel Aviv University and the Autonomous University of Barcelona. 

Steve’s contribution to the animal rights movement is truly immeasurable. And while we mourn the passing of this exceptional human, the Animal Legal Defense Fund will endeavor to honor Steve’s legacy by continuing to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.