Media credit: Krishna Rajpara | Photographer
Coconut, a resident of Shenkman Hall, walked around campus to GW Law on Wednesday.
The GW law is forming a partnership with a non-profit animal rights organization to establish animal rights as a stand-alone legal discipline.
The law school said the Animal Legal Education Initiative will partner with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to introduce a series of courses, four new scholarships, training programs and a clinic on legislative animal law for a period of five years. years. The type of law understand any legal practice involving animals and is an interdisciplinary study that can be applied to practices such as environmental and family law, where pets and farm animals may be the subject of a decision.
Stacey Gordon Sterling, director of animal rights at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said GW would work to expand scholarships and teacher training to increase the number of law teachers. She said the initiative sets the law school apart from flagship animal law programs like those at Harvard and Yale universities that focus on scholarship.
“We need lawyers who have had some education and experience in animal law and can start well,” she said. “The only way to get these lawyers is if animal rights are integrated into law school curricula across the country.”
Sterling said the law school and Animal Legal Defense Fund have created a five-year plan and raised enough funds to fund a new assistant dean position through the initiative, but the partnership will need to raise between $5 million and $10 million to launch the clinic and develop the curriculum – a process of about three years. She said the initiative should raise funds in new markets beyond regular sources like the defense fund and other organizations, like general legal education organizations.
Sterling said animal rights programs should expand to respond to the influx of cases in recent years, due to growing public concern about animal rights and climate change. She said GW’s program will focus on trial and litigation training for law professors and students to enhance their exposure to the field.
“I think this one is even more hands-on, experience-building and hands-on for teachers but also for students,” she said.
Animal rights cases have made national headlines in recent years, including in 2016 when a Cincinnati Zoo gorilla named Harambe was shot and killed after a toddler slipped into the enclosure. in 2016, causing outrage and fueling the public. requests for animal advocates to question its legality. National lawmakers also hoped the popularity surrounding the Netflix show ‘Tiger King’ would rally support for a bipartisan bill. introduced before the US Senate to increase protection for big jungle cats like tigers and lions.
Joan Schaffner, an associate professor of animal law who is the law school’s primary contact with the advocacy fund, said similar programs at other schools often only employ adjunct professors who can teach. one or two lessons. Ze said the program would develop a discipline to “comprehensively” address animal rights disparities, such as animal rights policy and research, which are currently only addressed by programs in schools. such as Yale and Harvard universities.
“This initiative is designed to fill this void, dedicated to scholarship and education in animal law, while simultaneously providing opportunities for students to learn and practice animal law, influence policy, and develop a discipline of animal law more broadly,” Schaffner said.
Schaffner said the number of requests for assistance received by the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Pro Bono Network increased by about 341% in the first nine years of the program. Ze said animal rights cases and discussions have increase in recent years with larger interest into the possible origins of animal-related diseases throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the “exponential” growth of the vegan food industry and alternatives to animal products.
Animal rights experts said the program can highlight cross-disciplinary applications of animal rights in the legal realm, including in ongoing conversations about animals’ connection to climate change.
Mariann Sullivan, adjunct professor of animal law at Cornell University, said the practice can be applied in a number of other areas of law, such as divorce law regarding custody. disputes on pets, landlord tenant law regarding pets restriction and tort law involving a dog bites.
“Virtually any course you take in law school could have a section on animal rights because it touches on so many areas,” Sullivan said. “There seems to be a real focus on integrating it so that it’s not just a small cohort of animal advocates, but everyone coming to understand an important part of preserving our world and make it a better place to live. ”
Penny Ellison, adjunct professor of animal law at the University of Pennsylvania, said animal attorneys face a number of organizations and departments in their litigation. She cited animal law cases like the Animal Law Defense Fund argued against the Department of Agriculture, as well as city and state departments of agriculture, the National Park Service and private food companies such as a dairy company tillamook.
“Between climate change and the rate of species extinction, the need to prepare advocates to fight the much better funded opposition is critical,” she said in an email.