Invest in Our Planet This Earth Day!
Annually, April 22 marks the birth of the environmental protection movement 52 years ago. In 1970, it was novel to devote a day to honor this planet of ours. Today, Earth Day is a worldwide celebration to remind us of the natural beauty and life all around us. And, it encompasses a focus not only on the environment, but also our role in caring for the animals with whom we share the planet. Adopting a greener and more humane lifestyle helps the planet and creates a better future for the animals.
So today, we are joining the billions around the globe who are honoring the occasion by sharing our top five actions to invest in our planet and the animals on this Earth Day and every day!
1. Invest in Personal Change Through Daily Choices
The seemingly mundane choices that each of us make every day have ripple effects that can mean a compassionate future or one of suffering for animals. These decisions include what we eat, what we wear, and what products we use. We begin our list with this item because it is an investment that we, ourselves, control.
Starting with diet, reducing consumption or, better yet, avoiding meat and dairy, is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental footprint on the Earth. Why does a plant-based diet help? Habitats that wild animals depend upon are increasingly being cleared for agriculture, with researchers finding this to be the single biggest threat to much of the world’s plants and animals. Industrial animal agriculture is also a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimating that livestock is responsible for approximately 14.5% of human-caused emissions globally. As a society, we are not discussing the impact of climate change on animals—or the impact of farmed animals on climate change enough and each of us can do more to nurture this important discussion.
Meanwhile, the state of the plant-based industry is strong and growing all the time! In addition to consuming a plant-based diet, investing in plant-based and cell cultivated companies is a great way to “seed” your dollars and help grow a more sustainable future for food production. And, it also saves animal lives! A recent report found that the availability of plant-based choices at fast food restaurants saved 600,000 animal lives in 2021 alone. For those interested in learning more about laws and regulations that open pathways for alternative proteins, CALS and the Center for Business Law and Innovation recently hosted a forum with experts exploring the theme “Sustainable Protein: The Legal, Business, and Ethical Dimensions.” The panels are available on the CALS YouTube channel.
But, it’s not what we eat alone that matters. What we wear counts too. Fast fashion has become prolific over the past few decades, as consumers demand purchases that are “on trend” at bargain prices. Consumers of “fast fashion” may not realize that their desire to stay fashionable on the cheap is contributing to environmental destruction, the loss of animal lives, and inhumane working conditions. Animals are killed for their fur and hides to provide consumers with cheap clothing and accessories that are often discarded when the latest fad passes. Moreover, fast fashion has significant environmental impacts, from contributing to climate change, to the toxic chemicals used to produce the clothing, to the enormous and wasteful consumption of water.
So, what’s a fashionable consumer to do? A few tips:
- Avoid fads; purchase well-made clothing and accessories that will last a long time.
- Learn more about how your clothing was made and where the materials come from.
- Avoid wearing animal products: fur, leather, wool, animal skins.
- Less is better: clean out your closet and only keep the clothing that you really love and wear often. Don’t buy something unless you really need it and enjoy it.
- Recycling is chic, as well as environmentally and animal friendly: buy used clothing, swap clothing with others, repair worn clothing and shoes.
And, finally, consider the other products we consume that contribute to harming animals and the planet: most notably, single-use plastics. The ease and convenience of using plastic hides its devastating impact. Single-use plastics creep into our daily lives, often without much thought: plastic bags, straws, cups, bottles, and food containers abound. As explained in our blog “A Core Threat to Wild Animals and Marine Life: The Importance of Reducing Single-Use Plastics,” by Professors Erica Lyman and Nicholas Fromherz of our Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment, these plastics are staggeringly lethal and, in the ocean, especially, they wreak havoc on an industrial scale. Their blog provides steps everyone can take to reduce the global harm being caused by plastics.
Imagine the impact that your investment in compassionate food, clothing, and lifestyle choices can have over a lifetime!
2. Invest in Legislators Who Advocate for Animals and the Environment
It’s easy to feel like you can’t make a difference, but the cliche about how your vote matters is true. As we evaluate the positions of candidates on the array of traditional subject matter areas (taxes, health care, reproductive rights, and more), it’s critical to add animals and the environment to the list. More and more often, politicians are voicing their position on these issues and the public is demanding that they do so.
U.S. farm policy is dictated by politicians who overwhelmingly cater to Big Ag, at the expense of the exploitation of the animals, the environment, and small family farmers. It is encouraging that more and more politicians are proposing legislation that positively affects food policy. For example,the Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act is a newly proposed bill that would “create a voluntary grant program for school districts to help schools provide healthier, climate friendly, and culturally appropriate plant-based entrée options to students.” Another example is the Farm System Reform Act, federal legislation that would restrict the growth of industrial animal agriculture (concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs) and phase out existing CAFOs by 2040.
The more we demand that protecting animals and the environment be included in policy platforms and election debates, the more we will create a system that demands accountability from our leaders on these issues that are critical to the future of the Earth. So, next time you vote, consider not merely the “traditional” areas, but also those that pave the way for a better future: ask the candidates what they will do to fight climate change, fix our broken food system, improve the treatment of animals, and, of course, better protect the environment.
3. Invest in Animal Law Education To Create A Better Future for Animals and their Planet
The power of an individual to make a difference cannot be underestimated, and our work at the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) is built on that premise. Our mission is to educate the next generation of animal law advocates and to advance animal rights and protection through the law. We’re “playing the long game” as they say, recognizing that each of the individuals we train will make important contributions, and that our investment in them will create affirmative change over time.
Through litigation, policy work, education and advocacy, our alumni are making a difference for animals and the planet every day by speaking power to the status quo that harms animals and the environment and providing advocacy where it’s most needed. Our alumni also contribute to the development of scholarship and academia to ensure that how we treat animals and the planet are not fringe issues, but rather part of the core of how we create a better future.
We’re creating the legacy that we want to see as we envision a kinder and more compassionate future for animals. CALS is 100% donor and grant funded, so by investing in our mission you are investing in the power of education to create change for animals and the environment, in the U.S. and around the world. By donating, you can invest in the world that CALS is building.
4. Invest in Farmers Transitioning Away from Destructive Industrial Animal
With environmental impacts and climate change growing all the time, investing in farmers who are transitioning away from industrial animal agriculture is one key to a sustainable future. Growing crops solely to feed animals raised in intensive confinement is unsustainable. It not only causes immense suffering to the animals, but it’s also bad for the planet. Transitioning from industrial animal agriculture to new models offers a path forward.
The Transfarmation Project is one innovative example. This program by Mercy for Animals seizes upon the growing demand for plant-based food choices, the growing dissatisfaction of animal agriculture farmers who are being exploited by Big Ag, and the ever-louder call for change to create a more resilient food system. The pathway forward includes growing crops for human consumption—not to feed animals raised in intensive confinement—thereby better utilizing the land and water resources. And, of course, it’s kinder to the animals.
It’s encouraging to see barns that formerly housed tens of thousands of suffering chickens being transformed into habitat for mushrooms. At CALS, I teach one of the few full semester courses in the nation on Industrial Animal Agriculture Law. Students studying in my course learn how the industrial animal agriculture food system harms not only the animals, but also air quality, the Amazon and other key forest areas, rivers, streams and other waterways, soil, nearby communities, industry workers and public health and food safety. And, through our food law course, students learn how to pave the way for alternatives to industrial animal agriculture through regulatory, policy, and legal advances that create a more level playing field for plant-based industry.
5. Invest in Raising Awareness By Sharing What You Learn With Others
We all have an important role to play in compassionately raising awareness on behalf of animals and the environment. How we behave on social media can go a long way toward raising awareness or creating more suffering in the world. For example, “liking” or “sharing” posts featuring wild animals for tourism, or sharing other content that exploits animals normalizes behaviors that cause harm to animals.
In contrast, social media can be used effectively to raise awareness and to lead by example and show others what is possible. Here at CALS, we report on what our faculty, staff, students, and alumni are doing to protect the animals and the environment. A great example is the work of a committed group of lawyers, including our own Dr. Rajesh K. Reddy and two of our Animal Law LLM students, who are raising awareness about global animal well-being, public health, and the environment by broadcasting about activities that harm animals and increase the risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks and advocating for an International Convention on Animal Protection.
This Earth Day, there is so much we can do to invest in a better future! In honor of Earth Day, please share this action list with your colleagues, friends and family who want to protect animals and the environment. These are just a few ideas to help you on your path.
Happy Earth Day from all of us at CALS!
Joyce Tischler is Professor of Practice in Animal Law at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School, where she teaches Animal Law Fundamentals and Industrial Animal Agriculture Law. She is a trailblazer who was instrumental in establishing the field of animal law. She is currently co-authoring the first casebook on industrial animal agriculture law. Joyce is passionate about raising awareness regarding farmed animal protection.
The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) was founded in 2008 with a mission to educate the next generation of animal law advocates 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. In addition, CALS is the only program that offers an advanced legal degree in animal law (for lawyers) and a Master of Studies in Animal Law (for non-lawyers), both offered both in-person and online. CALS is a nonprofit organization and is only able to provide these educational opportunities through donations and grants.