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Public Interest Law Project

Geoff Evans

October 10, 2011

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Humane Society of the United States

This summer I was lucky to clerk for Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in their recently created Animal Protection Litigation Section. HSUS, the nation’s largest animal protection organization, brought together some of the best animal law attorneys in the nation, including several Lewis & Clark alumni, to create the Section in January. Located in Washington, D.C., the Section now houses eight attorneys and numerous law clerks. HSUS created the Section to support its campaigns in various areas, including wildlife, farmed animals, fur, and animal cruelty. The Section, which began in January, is the most concentrated, and likely most powerful, voice for animals in the courts to date.

Most of my work this summer was done in the area of farmed animals. Neither federal nor state legislation offers much protection to farmed animals, a vast majority of whom are reared and slaughtered in cruel, industrial “farm” settings. The federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which only offers some protection to farmed animals during slaughter, exempts chickens. Chickens represent about nine billion of the ten billion animals slaughtered for food in the United States last year. Most states have agricultural practices exemptions in their animal cruelty code, or they exempt farmed animals from the definition of animal in the code altogether. Thus, faced with almost no protective law, I mainly researched various state cruelty codes to find ways to use existing laws to protect farmed animals. Academically, it was fun to be given free reign to create novel theories for protections in different jurisdictions. On a practical level, I was able to work on various stages and issues of real, novel animal protection cases. I felt I was making a tangible difference in farmed animals’ lives every day.

As one of many Lewis & Clark students that came to law school hoping to serve the public interest, PILP offered me a great way to fulfill that goal during school. This summer was a truly wonderful learning experience. I am extremely grateful to PILP and its supporters for funding such focused, effective public interest work on behalf of too-oft-forgotten animals.

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