October 27, 2023

Animal Advocates Join Together for the 31st Annual Animal Law Conference

Co-hosted by the Center for Animal Law Studies and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Law Conference is the preeminent event in the ever-burgeoning animal law field.

Over the weekend, from October 20-22nd, over 325 animal law attorneys, advocates, scholars, and students joined together both in person in Los Angeles, California, and virtually. With over thirty panelists covering a wide breadth of captivating topics in animal advocacy—from wildlife to farmed animal law, to even tribal, insect, and artificial intelligence law—attendees gained insight into recent innovations in the field and inspiration to continue the fight for animal justice.

Pamela Hart, Assistant Dean and Executive Director of the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), and Chris Green, the new Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), warmly welcomed attendees at Friday’s evening reception. Conference attendees from around the country and world had the opportunity to mingle with one another. Given the upwards battle that animal advocates face, community-building is key to both our movement’s strength and individual emotional well-being. The Animal Law Conference provides invaluable networking opportunities to cultivate this crucial community support sustaining our struggle for animals.

On Saturday morning, Joyce Tischler, CALS Professor of Practice and renowned “Mother of Animal Law,” kicked off the first panel of the conference—Animal Agribusiness Exposed: Harming Animals, Communities and the Environment. Tischler provided an overview of pending federal legislation that would impact the plight of farmed animals in the US, including the ominous EATS Act that threatens to remove state-level farmed animal protection laws. Christine Ball-Blakely, ALDF Staff Attorney, spoke on the rampant greenwashing in the animal agriculture industry. Writer and producer Jamie Berger showed a trailer and discussed her groundbreaking documentary, The Smell of Money, which follows a North Carolina community fighting the pork industry’s environmental racism. Then the audience was treated to a trailer of Adam Linzey and Jesse Fox’s The Animal Thing, charting the life of animal rights trailblazer and theologian Reverend Andrew Linzey.

The second panel, Interconnections Between Animal Law and Tribal Law, featured Gussie Lord, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Tribal Partnerships Program, and Jessica Chapman, ALDF Criminal Justice Program Fellow. Chapman interrogated how animal law can be used as a tool to advocate for Indigenous peoples and animals simultaneously. Given past and ongoing colonization, she emphasized the importance of building relationships with Indigenous communities and employing a bottom-up, rather than top-down, approach to promoting companion animal welfare within these communities. Lord discussed how the Ojibwe tribe’s treaty rights provided the basis for its legal struggle with the Wisconsin government to protect gray wolves from hunting, a fascinating legal battle implicating Indigenous, animal, and environmental rights.

After lunch, the Animals in Harm’s Way: Legal Arguments and Hands-on Intervention session centered on how the law deals with humans intervening in response to animal maltreatment. Criminal defense attorney Mary Corporon shared her experience representing an animal rights activist in the 2022 Utah piglet open rescue case. Afterwards, Vanessa Shakib, Co-founder of Advancing Law for Animals, described her pending civil litigation work on the heart-wrenching case involving Cedar the Goat, which has gained national attention. Cedar belonged to a 9-year old girl who showed him in 4-H. The little girl changed her mind about selling Cedar for slaughter in the 4-H meat auction, but government authorities seized Cedar, and he was ultimately slaughtered. David Rosengard, ALDF Managing Attorney and CALS Adjunct Faculty, closed out the panel with a discussion on the potential legal frameworks for animal emergency relief and rescue.

The next panel, Global Developments in Animal Personhood Jurisprudence, featured Hira Jaleel, CALS Animal Law Teaching Fellow, and Diego Plaza, Founder of CEDA Chile and Interspecies Justice Foundation, and Cristina Kladis, ALDF Staff Attorney. The rich discussion centered upon the expansions of legal personhood to animals—and the implications of those expansions—in countries such as Argentina, Chile, India, Pakistan, and even within the US. Russ Mead, Shared Earth Foundation Visiting Professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, concluded the Saturday’s session with his annual, interactive ethics presentation geared towards animal law attorneys.

Conference attendees enjoyed a banquet dinner, awards ceremony, and remarkable keynote presentation from science journalist Ed Yong on Saturday evening. His presentation explored the incredible, wide-ranging sensory experiences and capabilities of animals, inspired by his award-winning book, An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us. Afterwards, Ed graciously participated in a book signing and met audience members.

On Sunday morning, the third and final day of the conference, panelists spoke on a range of novel animal law topics in the Emerging Frontiers in Animal Advocacy session. Rajesh Reddy, CALS Assistant Professor Law and Animal Law Program Director, described the fascinating, emergent field of insect law, an oft-overlooked topic even among animal advocates. Interestingly, Germany passed insect protection legislation in 2021, which includes the phasing out of certain pesticides and insecticides, and addresses light pollution and pollinator habitat protection. Jennifer Jacquet, Professor at the University of Miami, delved into niche octopus law and the ethical implications of octopus farming, a hot topic that’s made international headlines. Motivated by the hundreds of billion shrimp farmed each year afforded no legal protections, Andrés Jiménez Zorrilla then shed light on his work as the Shrimp Welfare Project CEO. Jeff Sebo, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University, ended the panel with an enlightening presentation on the potential overlaps between animal law and the exponential growth of artificial intelligence technology.

For the next session, attendees elected to attend either Animals at the United Nations: Sustainable Development and Climate Goals, moderated by Hira Jaleel, or the Local Activism for Animals: What Can You Do? panel. Daina Bray, Clinical Lecturer at Yale Law School, and Pamela Frasch, CALS Professor and Brooks McCormick Jr. Scholar of Animal Law and Policy, led the roundtable conversation focused on how animal welfare goals can be integrated into the United Nations sustainable development goals. In the concurrent panel, Rebeka Breder, David B. Casselman, Aaron Leider, and Matt Rossell discussed how they, as legal professionals, are positively impacting individual animals at the community level from Los Angeles, to Vancouver, Canada, and beyond, and how to get involved with grassroots activism.

The 31st Annual Animal Law Conference concluded with two concurrent panels: The Power of Pro Bono Work to Facilitate Change for Animals and Animal Law Education: Innovations, Impacts, and Opportunities. The former consisted of an enriching roundtable discussion with Andrea Rodricks, ALDF Pro Bono Managing Attorney, and pro bono attorneys Tarak Anada and Brian Saunders. They covered the importance of pro bono work to extending legal protections for animals, as well as cutting-edge cases the two pro bono attorneys have worked on. The latter panel featured moderator Pamela Hart, Matthew Liebman, Chair of the University of San Francisco School of Law’s Justice for Animals Program, and Megan Senatori, CALS Associate Director and Adjunct Faculty, who discussed the rapid development of animal law education, pedagogy, innovations in the field, collaborations with other movements, and emerging opportunities for both students and faculty devoted to animal law.

In its 31st year, the Conference provided an incredible forum for animal attorneys, academics, students, and advocates from around the globe to learn from one another and stay abreast of current developments in our rapidly expanding field. Thank you to all those who attended the 2023 Animal Law Conference in person and remotely, and for your dedication to making the world a better place for animals. A big thank you to all of our speakers, who bolster the movement by inviting others to learn from their critical animal advocacy work across diverse disciplines.

Finally, a special thanks to Carol House Furniture, the Brooks Institute for Animal Rights and Policy, Stray Dog Institute, and Beyond Meat, whose generous support made this year’s Animal Law Conference possible.

Next year’s conference will be held October 11-13, 2024 in Portland, Oregon, and virtually. Be sure to mark your calendars and subscribe to the CALS Newsletter to stay in the loop!

The Center for Animal Law Studies 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. Our Animal Law LLM Program is the first in the world and was launched in 2012. CALS’ Alumni-in Action from more than 25 countries are advancing legal protections and making a difference for animals around the globe.