Matthew Dominguez ’11

A voice for the voiceless

A Voice for the Voiceless

Matt spending time with three spent hens rescued from an egg factory farm in North Carolina. Matt spending time with three spent hens rescued from an egg factory farm in North Carolina.

Chickens crammed in cages so small they can’t lift their wings. Mother pigs in metal crates too tiny to turn around in. Dairy cows’ tails cut off without anesthesia.

None of us likes to think about animal abuse, but this is reality for the vast majority of animals used to produce meat, eggs, and dairy products in the United States. One Lewis & Clark Law School alumnus has dedicated his life to combating these horrors.

Matthew Dominguez joined the Farm Animal Protection Campaign at Humane Society United States (HSUS) as its public policy manager in 2011. Since then, he has tirelessly traveled the country to expand the number and breadth of laws that protect farm animals from cruelty and to prevent the passage of laws that seek to aid the meat industry in covering up animal abuse, food safety issues, and environmental crimes on factory farms.

For the nine billion animals slaughtered for food each year in the Unites States and the people who are prosecuted for documenting farm animal abuse, Dominguez’s work involves high stakes: He specializes in preventing anti-whistleblower (“ag-gag”) legislation from being passed. These ag-gag bills seek to criminalize whistleblowing by punishing those who document and expose crimes committed on factory farms. Specifically, they make it a crime to take photos or videos of a factory farm or slaughterhouse facility without first obtaining permission. They also make it illegal for investigators to obtain work at factory farms and they drastically tighten the deadlines for reporting abuse. If convicted under these laws, a whistleblower typically faces more prison time and higher fines than those convicted of animal cruelty itself. Ag-gag laws have drawn criticism from legal scholars such as Erwin Chemerinsky, who argue these laws violate the First Amendment by restricting speech.

As one of the foremost experts on ag-gag, Dominguez has helped to defeat 35 of these bills in more than a dozen states, all while also working to ban the most egregious, outdated, and unnecessary factory farming practices. His work has been covered by the New York Times, CNN, and the BBC.

“For us to ignore the overwhelming suffering of pigs, chickens, and cows happening on America’s factory farms tears at the very fabric of humanity,” said Dominguez. “I’m proud to work for HSUS and spend my life shining a bright light on the dark world of factory farming.”

Dominguez graduated from California State University at Sacramento with a bachelor’s degree in business. While a law student, he was codirector of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund and sat on the executive board of Animal Law Review for two years.

Well-respected advocates such as Bruce Friedrich at Farm Sanctuary refer to Dominguez as the “HSUS director of war” due to his endless enthusiasm and commitment to protecting farm animals. “Fighting to protect farm animals from abuse wasn’t a choice for me,” said Dominguez. “It’s a moral obligation and debt I owe to those who can’t speak from themselves. I’m grateful for the opportunity to wake up each day and know I’m on the right side of history.”