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Center for Animal Law Studies

Animal Law Goes to Oxford

August 14, 2018

  • Becky Jenkins (AALI fellow), Kathy Hessler (Animal Law Clinic Director & Professor), Raj Reddy (Visiting Professor and LLM Interim Director), and Amy Wilson (LLM candidate)
  • Kathy Hessler and David Rosengard (adjunct professor and staff attorney at ALDF)

The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics’ Summer School was held at St. Stephen’s House at the beautiful University of Oxford, England between 22 – 25 July 2018. This was the fifth time that the annual event was held, and the subject of the conference was “Animal Ethics and Law: Creating Positive Change for Animals”.

Representatives from the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) presented on a variety of topics over the course of the three-day conference. CALS clinical professor and Director of the Aquatic Animal Law Initiative (AALI), Kathy Hessler, had three sessions. The first, discussing “Legal and Ethical Issues for Sanctuaries”, provided an introduction into some of the various considerations that sanctuaries, (and those that allege to be sanctuaries), should be considering in their role of animal protectors. As the clinical professor for the Animal Law Clinic, Kathy drew on some of her experience advising sanctuaries in order to address these issues and develop a larger template to help facilities recognize and respond to relevant issues.

The second, was a co-presentation with adjunct professor and staff attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Lewis & Clark J.D. and LL.M. alum, David Rosengard, regarding the groundbreaking “Desmond’s Law” recently passed in Connecticut and allows pro bono attorneys or law students to advocate for the interests of justice in animal cruelty or neglect cases involving dogs or cats. While animals still do not have standing in their own right to bring cases protecting their interests, this new law allows the court to hear additional information that pertains to their injuries in the interest of justice. Professor Hessler and Attorney Rosengard discussed their work to create a similar law for Oregon and other states.

Professor Hessler’s final presentation discussed “Animal Custody: Alaska and Illinois and Beyond”. As of January 2017, Alaska became the first state with a law  addressing the issue of the disposition of companion animals during a legal divorce or dissolution proceeding. In December 2017, Illinois became the second state to pass a law addressing this issue. These legislative approaches will both open the door for more appropriate and creative judicial resolutions, and also reflect the fact that many people treat their companion animals as family members rather than property.

Dr. Rajesh Reddy, Visiting Professor and Interim LLM Director, had two sessions at the Conference. He presented on “Animals in Art or Animal Cruelty?: Debating Depictions of Dog Fighting and Free Speech at the Guggenheim Museum”. The session explored the jurisprudence that governs the relationship between art and depictions of violence, and looked at a constructive path forward for international animal rights advocates, with particular regard to the recent outcry over the proposal by the Guggenheim Museum to show a clip of the “Dogs that Cannot Touch Each Other” exhibit. In addition, he also spoke on “Meeting the Challenge of Animal Law Education and Advocacy in the Era of the Global Marketplace” and examined the international growth of animal legal education in the context of the realities of an increasingly global economy and made suggestions as to how international animal advocates may best approach this issue, in order to combat the exploitation of animals beyond their jurisdiction

Rebecca Jenkins, the Aquatic Animal Law Initiative (AALI) Fellow and Lewis & Clark LL.M. alum addressed “Lab Grown Meat: The Final Frontier for Agricultural Animal Law” and some of the legal, economic, policy, social and ethical questions arising out of the new “cultured meat” being developed around the world as well as what the role of animal advocates should be in this exciting new field.

Current Lewis & Clark LL.M. student, Amy P. Wilson, analyzed whether the “Legalization of the Rhino Horn Trade Would be an Effective Mechanism to Protect Rhinos” from extinction. The presentation scrutinized the current legal framework and raised some of the legal, political, social, racial, ethical, economic and cultural considerations pertaining to this issue. It sought to provide some new information on the subject while challenging traditional ideas.

The Conference raised interesting ideas and there was a lot of lively decision and debate. There were speakers from all of the world and it was rewarding to see so many passionate people doing groundbreaking work for animals.