November 09, 2017

Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Christopher Berry Speaks to LC SALDF

On Thursday, November 9th, 2017 the Lewis & Clark Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (LC SALDF) chapter hosted Christopher Berry, a staff attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) for one of its Speaker Series Events.

On Thursday, November 9th, 2017 the Lewis & Clark Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (LC SALDF) chapter hosted Christopher Berry, a staff attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) for one of its Speaker Series Events.

Christopher was introduced to the chapter by LC SALDF’s co-director, Maral Cavner, who detailed Christopher’s work in ALDF’s civil litigation program, where he serves as the creative force behind many of the organizations filings including: the Cal-Cruz Hatcheries case, where he and ALDF applied the animal cruelty code to a chicken hatchery through a consumer protection law and Glover v. Mahrt, a class-action lawsuit in which they alleged that that egg packaging depicting outdoor hens mislead consumers who wanted to buy more humanely produced eggs.  Christopher is also one of the attorneys working to increase government transparency by suing the United States Department of Agriculture to compel them to publish the animal welfare records they dramatically took offline this year and so brought a wealth of litigation experience with him to share with LC SALDF.

Christopher’s Speaker Series talk centered on “ag-gag” laws, which ALDF has been leading the fight against for years.  Christopher explained that ag-gag laws seek to ‘gag’ whistleblowers and undercover animal protection activists for recording and disseminating footage of what goes on at ‘ag’ricultural facilities, like production plants and slaughterhouses.  In function, these laws prevent the public from learning about cruelty to animals, which is imperative not only to the lives of the animals affected, but also to the health and safety of the human beings who interact with and/or eat these animals.

Christopher highlighted the significance of undercover investigation work by showing examples from undercover investigations conducted in previous years, which revealed systemic and horrific cruelty.  The undercover investigation examples he used provided a sobering realization to the LC SALDF chapter about the importance of the public being able to see what goes on behind the thick curtain that is the animal agriculture industry, which in turn also functions as a thick curtain to vital public interests in health and safety.

Christopher then explained the three primary types of ag-gag laws and took the time to go through each form, as well as the arguments he and the rest of the team at the ALDF have made to defeat these laws, explaining intricacies that could easily go unnoticed to the non-trained eye and were fascinating to the aspiring lawyer audience.  Weaving in examples from popular culture, including Nicholas Cage movies, Christopher helped the LC SALDF chapter develop an understanding of and later analyze laws from states which currently have ag-gag in operation.

Thanks to Christopher and the ALDF, the number of states with ag-gag laws is dwindling.  Prominent examples of these victories by the ALDF team, and their coalition members, include: in August of 2015 when a federal district court in Idaho declared the state’s ag-gag law to be a violation of the First Amendment and in July of 2017 when another district court, this time in Utah, ruled that the ag-gag statute in its state was also unconstitutional.  Christopher walked the audience through the courts’ reasoning in each of these cases and touched upon ALDF’s most recent filing in the state of Iowa, where the organization is a part of a coalition working to defeat the state’s ag-gag statute.

Christopher concluded his talk by answering student questions and giving practical career-advice to the audience full of law students beginning to investigate summer employment and long-term job prospects, which were both widely appreciated.

Our LC SALDF chapter is very thankful that Christopher took the time to speak with us and looks forward to hosting him again in the future!