February 23, 2021

American Bar Association Calls for the Negotiation of an International Animal Welfare Treaty

The ABA adopted a resolution calling for the U.S. Department of State to lead the negotiation of an international convention for the protection of animals to protect public health, the environment, and animal well-being. Professor Raj Reddy co-authored the resolution.

The American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates adopted a resolution on February 22, 2021 calling for the U.S. Department of State (State Department) to lead the negotiation of an international convention for the protection of animals to protect public health, the environment and animal well-being.

The report supporting the resolution highlights how the risk of diseases spilling over to humans from animals (zoonotic diseases) is directly related to human mistreatment of animals, including through the wildlife trade and destruction of natural habitats. COVID-19 is one such spillover event, but the list includes other deadly viruses such as AIDS, SARS, Nipah Virus, and Ebola. While this interconnection between public health, the environment, and animal welfare is recognized by the concept of One Health embraced by the United Nations and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no international treaty by which nations have agreed to minimal standards of animal welfare. A plethora of widely differing national standards is not an adequate response to risks that do not respect national boundaries.

One of the co-authors of the resolution and report, Dr. Rajesh K. Reddy, who chairs the International Issues Subcommittee of the Animal Law Committee of the ABA’s Tort, Trial, and Insurance Practice Section and directs the Global Animal Law Program at the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) at Lewis & Clark Law School, spoke to the significance of the ABA’s decision. He stated, “The adoption of this resolution attests to a shift in our collective consciousness whereby animals are increasingly being recognized as deserving of moral consideration, and I applaud the world’s largest voluntary association of lawyers for advancing this vision.” The resolution passed the ABA House of Delegates with considerable support, with 251 voting in favor and 103 against.

Joan Schaffner, Associate Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School and co-chair of the ABA’s International Animal Law Committee, led the group who worked on the report and resolution. Ze observed, “Our planet is a shared space and our failure to ensure proper respect for the interconnectedness of human and animal life has had devastating consequences which have affected all of us. An animal welfare treaty is a unique opportunity to ensure minimum standards of conduct towards non-human animals that will have benefits not only for the welfare of the animals themselves but for public health and the environment. It is well overdue and I urge the State Department to take up this challenge.”

Other co-authors of the resolution and report, arguably one of the most progressive animal-related resolutions to come out of the ABA, include Professor David Favre of Michigan State University, whose international convention for the protection of animals proposed served as the inspiration for the resolution, and Nigel Blackaby of the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

The full ABA Resolution and Report can be found here

CALS has been at the forefront of working to address the link between zoonotic diseases and the wildlife trade on the international stage through our Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment. Led by Clinical Professor Erica Lyman and Senior Staff Attorney, Nicholas Fromherz, the Global Law Alliance recently published a legal opinion that examines options to either amend the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) or to add a protocol in order to address the role that wildlife trade plays in zoonotic disease risk. CALS Animal Law CLE Webinar “Legal Tools to Address Zoonotic Disease and Extinction Risk from the Wildlife Trade“—available free and on demand—unpacks some of the more important legal tools available to address zoonotic disease risk from wildlife trade, with special attention paid to opportunities under CITES and recent national legislative initiatives in the United States and China. The CLE analyzes these and other legal tools against the backdrop of the realities of the wildlife trade—both legal and illegal—and its role in driving zoonotic risk.


The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) was founded in 2008 with a mission to educate the next generation of animal law attorneys and advance animal protection through the law. With vision and bold risk-taking, CALS has since developed into a world-renowned animal law epicenter, with the most comprehensive animal law curriculum offered anywhere. CALS recently launched the Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment, as champions for wild animals and wild spaces. In addition, CALS is the only program that offers an advanced legal degree in animal law and three specialty Animal Law Clinics. CALS is a fully self-funded nonprofit organization operating under the Lewis & Clark College 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and is only able to provide these educational opportunities through donations and grants.