Student Chapter Spotlight

UCI Law Animal Legal Defense Student Chapter Celebrates National Justice for Animals Week!

National Justice for Animals Week 2014 was a huge success! Overall, 34 chapters participated. Many chapters tabled and held bake sales to fundraise for Animal Legal Defense Fund, another participated in a letter writing campaign, and some chapters screened movies, such as Dealing Dogs. Check out what the University of California, Irvine School of Law Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter planned for the week:

Monday: To kick off National Justice for Animals Week, our chapter held a reception in the law school courtyard. We served vegan wine, beer, and pizza (thanks Z Pizza!). The goal of this event was to get people excited about, or at least aware of, animal rights. This event was an overwhelming success: between 40 and 60 law students and professors stopped by! We had informational pamphlets and copies of VegNews available, which many students took time to flip through. Some of these students followed us to a neighboring building for a screening of Speciesism by Mark Devries. Students appreciated that the film wasn’t overly graphic, though many were still visibly affected by the content.

Tuesday:  On Tuesday we hosted Kevin O’Neill, the ASPCA’s Senior Legislative Director, Western Region. About 30 students joined us for vegan falafel sandwiches and Kevin’s informative and wonderfully illustrated “Lobbying 101” presentation, which introduced students to lobbying using the lens of animal law issues. Many students followed up with us regarding the event, expressing how valuable they found it. Some of our members later used the information they learned during the presentation to lobby senators and representatives during the ASPCA’s Legal Voices for Animals Day.

Wednesday: On Wednesday, we hosted author and lawyer David Simon to talk about his recent best-selling book Meatonomics. We served Veggie Grill to an audience of almost 40! People in the audience, including some of our law professors, were viscerally moved by David’s presentation. Since the presentation, a few students and one teacher have reached out to me inquiring about veganism. David seems very amenable to pairing up with us again in the future!

Friday: On Friday, we hosted Claudia Swing, Debbie Ploghaus, and Denise Trager of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the San Bernardino County Animal Cruelty Task Force (ACT). They spoke for two-hours about the link between violence against people and animals, and the work of ACT. ACT provides training to law enforcement officers on handling animal cruelty cases, and works to facilitate cross reporting between animal cruelty officers, domestic violence shelters, social workers, and law enforcement.  We served Native Foods, though the distressing subject matter of the presentation made it difficult to eat.

We went into this with the understanding that it is difficult to get people to care about animal rights. People tend to put up a mental block in response to animal issues, or even respond to the topic with hostility. That being said, these events were successful beyond our wildest dreams, and we succeeded in bringing animal issues into the mainstream of our law school.

Our law school’s administration has certainly gained notice of how active our organization is. In fact, several members of the faculty have reached out to us recently expressing their interest in expanding our animal law program. We are also planning to capitalize on this momentum by submitting an application to host UCI Law’s next symposium, which comes with a $20,000 budget! Our goal is to continue bringing animal rights issues into the mainstream.

We are deeply grateful for the continued support of Animal Legal Defense Fund!

This student chapter spotlight was submitted by Elizabeth Tissot, co-chair of the University of California, Irvine School of Law Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter.

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