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Center for Animal Law Studies

CALS’ LL.M. Alumni Come Together To Make The 2019 Cape Town Animal Conference A Resounding Success

September 17, 2019

  • Cape Town Animal Conference 2019
  • Professor David Bilchitz, professor of Fundamental Rights and Constitutional Law at the University of Johannesburg
  • ALRSA Legal Panel at the Cape Town Animal Conference 2019
  • Cape Town Animal Conference 2019

The 2019 Cape Town Animal Conference was held at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa this past weekend (September 14-15, 2019). The Conference was organized by the Cape Town Animal Conference Organizing Collective, composed of: Animal Coalition of Southern Africa, We Are Animals, Animal Law Reform South Africa (ALRSA), and the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School (CALS). ALRSA is a non-profit co-founded by Amy P. Wilson (LL.M. Animal Law alum ’18 and current Aquatic Animal Law Initiative Fellow at CALS).

This was the second year that the event was held, and is about animals broadly- combining presentations from academics, practitioners, NGOs, activists, and other specialists. This year, the Conference agenda emphasized opportunities to protect animals in the legal arena, as well as the theme of “justice for animals”, in different areas.

On Friday, September 13, 2019, there was a special session for UCT Students organized by ALRSA, CALS, and We Are Animals student society at UCT. The session, entitled “Justice for Animals in South Africa and Beyond”, described the status of animals in South African law, as well as its philosophical basis. Presenters raised the question of whether the time has come to recognize that animals have rights. In addition, the session introduced students to the exciting field of animal law in the United States and South Africa and provided information concerning a fully-funded scholarship opportunity to study towards a Master of Laws degree in Animal Law at CALS. The session was presented by Professor David Bilchitz, Professor of Fundamental Rights and Constitutional Law at the University of Johannesburg. (Professor Bilchitz is also the Director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC) and Secretary-General of the International Association of Constitutional Law.) Presenting with him was Ms. Wilson, and the session was chaired by Chloe Kingdom of We Are Animals. Approximately 50 students attended the session. We would like to thank the University of Cape Town for their assistance with the promotion and organizing of this well-attended and exciting student session.

The Conference officially kicked off on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at UCT and there was a broad array of presentations throughout the day from a range of experts in their field. Two presentations were by CALS’ LL.M. alumni. The first was CALS’ alum Jim Karani ’16, now Attorney for WildlifeDirect and Director of Lawyers for Animal Protection in Africa. Jim presented on: “Interventions for Co-existence between Humans & Wildlife” with a focus on human wildlife conflict, rights to life, rights to property, and animal rights. 

Also presenting on Saturday, was Amy P. Wilson, who discussed “Animal and Nonhuman Animal Interests: The need for an integrational approach”. On Sunday, Professor Bilchitz discussed the important and somewhat controversial question as to “Are the SPCAs properly structured for Animal Protection in South Africa”. There were many other exciting presentations that can be referenced in the full program of the Conference, which can be accessed here.

The Conference culminated in the Legal Panel (organized by ALRSA and sponsored by CALS) entitled: “Justice for Animals: The role of law in protecting nonhuman animals”. The Panel highlighted animal law as a burgeoning field in South Africa as well as delved into the complex relationship between the law and nonhuman animals. Topics covered included: the current status of animals in law, animals and the South African constitution, wildlife crimes in Africa, the role of government in the protection of animals, translating activism efforts into law, recent developments, looking ahead, and more. The prepared presentations were followed by a Q&A session with the panelists.

Collectively, the Legal Panel has decades of experience in the protection of animals - in South Africa, Africa, and around the world. The presenters included Professor David Bilchitz, CALS’ alum Jim Karani, Attorney Sarah Kvalsig (Consultant, Cullinan & Associates Inc), and Dr. Andrew Rowan (Wellbeing International). The session was moderated by another CALS’ LL.M. alum Tony Gerrans ’19, Executive Director of Humane Society International - Africa, on behalf of Animal Law Reform South Africa.

In addition to all of the activities of the Conference, there was an Essay Competition (organized by ALRSA and CALS), where students and researchers from South Africa were encouraged to write an Essay on the subject of “Justice for Animals in South Africa and Beyond”. We received fantastic papers written by passionate activists and professionals, and we are very proud of their work. Winners have been selected and notified and will be announced shortly.

The Conference was a huge success and has received extremely positive feedback. CALS was proud to co-organize and sponsor the legal panel and happy to see so many of its alum come together to make meaningful change for animals. Well done to Animal Law Reform South Africa and the other organizers for all their hard work.