School navigation

Center for Animal Law Studies

Lewis & Clark Law School is Recognized for its Animal Law Program

January 25, 2017

  • News Image

University of Limoges, France

The University of Limoges launches a diploma to defend animals

- Audrey Garric, Le Monde, Sept. 8, 2016

Twenty-nine students, aged between 21 and 61 years, gathered at the University on September 5th to obtain a degree in animal law. This is a unique course in France.

For obvious reasons, the animal law degree is not an ordinary one. NGO logos are printed on the civil law code available for students and students show up with laptops plastered with stickers of organizations like Foundation d’amis Million, L214, WWF, or Sea Shepherd. On the campus of Brive-la-Gaillarde (Corrèze), which is part of the University of Limoges, the first generation of 29 students started their studies on September 5th to obtain the first-ever university diploma (DU) in animal law in France. Nine professors teach the course over a period of two weeks - 54 hours in total – “to advance the protection of animals.”

“Since February 16, 2015, the French Civil Code considers animals as living sentient beings, and thereby removed them from the category of goods,” – that is how the first class on the legal status of animal starts. This class is taught by Jean-Pierre Marguénaud, professor of private law, founder of a biennial journal of animal law, and co-creator of the diploma. Professor Marguénaud argues that the university degree he created with his colleague Lucille Boisseau-Sowinski and “30 Million d’amis” is a “major legal breakthrough,” for this field that is “growing, yet complex and badly managed.”

“Animal law is difficult to grasp, because it encompasses many fields, such as civil, criminal, environmental, agricultural, and European law and touches on other disciplines, such as natural science that deals with the well-being of animals,” notes Ms. Boisseau-Sowinski, Senior Lecturer in private law. “Until this day, animal law has never formed part of a law curriculum in France.” Only the University of Strasbourg has offered a single course in animal law (“Animals: science, law and ethics”) which is part of its “Ethics and companies” masters program.

French universities remain far behind those of the United States, where animal law has been taught for twenty years. “75% of U.S. law schools teach animal law, and the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland (Oregon) even offers a masters degree specifically in this field,” says Olivier Le Bot, professor of public law at the University Aix-Marseille. Professor Le Bot is also involved in the masters program offered in Strasbourg and the two-week class available in Limoges.

“The demand is not high enough to create a full-fledged masters degree,” says Lucille Boisseau-Sowinski, who is also a judge. “The CEOs of animal law NGOs and other lawyers who take animal law cases usually do so in parallel to other activities. This is why our degree, open to undergraduates and higher, does not create a new profession per se, but instead ensures that students acquire knowledge and obtain additional specialization.”

Vegan cookies in the country of cows

What students receive from taking this course is a broad qualification. The University received 83 applications and admitted 29 students. 17 students are currently in the initial training and 12 are in the advanced course. They come from 17 different departments (a military officer, numerous lawyers, a professor of philosophy, a behavioral scientist and students of political science, law, and ethology) and are between 21 and 61 years old. It is remarkable that a majority of students (24) are female, while a minority are male (5).

The group of students debate vegetarianism over breakfast at the university Corrèze, while sharing quinoa salad and vegan cookies – an unusual scene in the heart cow country. “I have always been sensitive to animal issues, but only fully developed awareness for this topic when I adopted a dog that had been beaten,” says Perrine Ferrer, a dynamic, 26 year old doctoral student in family law at the University Paris-1. “Humans do not have grounds to decide the life or death of animals. This is my moral conviction, and with the law, we can make a difference.”

She continues: “animal abuse is not sufficiently punished today,” because “animal law is not taken seriously among lawyers; it is only met with laughter.” When the student announced that she would do the 2-week course at the University of Limoges, people responded: “It will be useless for your career, but if it makes you happy, go for it.”

Taking this course thus means more than having just another CV accomplishment, because students are intrinsically motivated by the goal to protect animals. All of them have been passionate about the topic starting with the first class, especially activists. Alice Rodriguez, 23 years old, holds a masters degree in ethology 1 in Paris-13 and has joined the organization “amis du mouvement Nuit Debout” to organize debates and create animal sanctuaries. “I really love cats,” she says, “I realized they were threatened by extinction and that they need protection in the wild.”

250 to 1050 EUR per training

Cats are also the domain of Fabienne Cacciapaglia, a biology and geology professor at the Isère college. In her function as the CEO of “Les EntreChats,” she has sterilized over 750 wild cats and offered them for adoption. “Through the animal law class, I will acquire solid knowledge about the options available to our association, and about ways to get students involved by presenting them with clear and rigorous information,” she says.

Pierre Georget, whose hair matches his white shirt, headed a supermarket chain before resuming his law studies in order to “help associations make legal proposals that parliamentarians can effectively use.”

Even where solid legal knowledge results in case law advantageous for animals, “the best achievements to end animal exploitation cannot come from courts, but must come from the parliament,” says Lucille Boisseau-Sowinski. Until that happens, the University of Limoges will have charged students between 250 and 1050 EUR (excluding university fees), depending on their profile. The University hopes to build up a network with veterinary schools and the judiciary for the 2017 academic year.


– Translated to English by Charlotte Blattner, PhD


45.833619; 1.261105