"GGU SALDF at the Lewis & Clark
20th Annual Animal Law Conference"

October 19-21, 2012

From October 19th - October 20th, myself and three other members of Golden Gate University’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter attended the Annual Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark Law School, in Portland. With me was Rachel Brockl, our chapter’s President, Camille Glover, Vice President, and Jen Sterling, who is now our Event Coordinator. I am the 2L Representative for the night law school. While this seems like a small group, outside of Lewis & Clark’s own students, we were the largest contingent from any SALDF chapter at any law school. I was glad to be in such great company.

The conference is the oldest and largest event of its kind, and this was a special year, as the conference was celebrating it's 20th year. Joyce Tishler of ALDF and Nancy Perry of the ASPCA spoke very movingly at the opening reception about how far the animal rights movement has come in the last twenty years, which sounds like a very long time, but as Ms. Perry noted, the movement for women’s suffrage began a 100 years before their goal was achieved.

The conference officially opened on Friday night, and panels and other events took place from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on Saturday and until 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. I honestly wondered if I would have the stamina to attend all the panels and talk to all the interesting people I wanted to talk to, but it wasn’t a problem at all. While tiring, the conference was also extremely energizing. The topics were interesting, the speakers incredibly knowledgeable, and everyone, from attendees, to speakers, to the conference organizers, were friendly, helpful, and genuinely interested in meeting us.

Below are the highlights of some of the panels that I attended.

Webcasts of all the panels are now available here: law.lclark.edu

"Ag-Gag Laws: Suppressing Speech & Activism"
Will Potter, reporter, author “Green is the New Red”
Ani B. Satz, associate professor of law, Rollins School of Public Health

“Ag-Gag” laws are blanket prohibitions against recording (film, video, audio) inside of large-scale animal product production factories and CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). These are the places were animals are fed and processed, for things like milk, eggs, and meat. They are also sometimes the site of numerous health, safety, and animal cruelty violations. Potter and Satz talked convincingly about “Ag-Gag” laws hinder 1st Amendment free speech, and how severe and disproportionate the punishments for violations of ag-gag laws are, considering the non-violent nature of the “crimes.”

"The Long March: Towards Legal Protection for Animals In China”
Paul Littlefair, head of external affairs, RSPCA

Since hosting Morgan Lance of AnimalsAsia at GGU in March 2011 to talk about her organization’s work in China to stop the trade in bear bile, I have had an interest in animal rights in China. The Communist Party makes all laws in China, with no input from the populace or elected officials. Currently, there are few animal protection laws in place. The existing laws are aimed toward protecting some of China’s endangered wildlife, but allows for managed use, so that people can hunt these animals, but not to extinction. Laws regarding companion animals or treatment of domestic animals used for animal products are virtually non-existent. However, more Chinese citizens are becoming pet owners, conscious consumers, and overall more concerned with preserving their natural environment. All of this is good news for animal activists and may signal positive changes in the region in the future.

“What’s New in Litigation & Legislation”
Matthew Liebman, senior attorney, Animal Defense fund
Nancy Perry, senior vice president of government relations, ASPCA

This was one of my favorite panels. Both Mr. Liebman and Ms. Perry concisely summarized the legal landscape for animals in the past year. I urge you to review and listen to this webcast if you want a summary of the major cases and legislation regarding animals in 2011 until October 2012.

"Learning from Difficult Cases: Tilikum v. SeaWorld"
Kathy Hessler, clinical director and professor of law, Center for Animal Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School
Jeff Kerr, general counsel and vice president of corporate affairs, PETA Foundation

On October 25, 2011, PETA brought a lawsuit in the Federal District Court, Southern District of California, on behalf of Tilikum and other captive orcas held by SeaWorld. Far from an “ordinary” (is there such a thing?) animal cruelty case, in its Complaint, PETA alleged violations based on the 13th Amendment, prohibiting slavery. The Complaint was based on the theory that the orcas’ (for lack of a more inclusive term) human rights were being violated. The theory PETA advanced was that the orcas were wild and free, before being kidnapped from their natural environment, taken from their families, and placed in harsh and cruel conditions, for the purpose of being forced to both work for SeaWorld and to breed. This situation is the hallmark of slavery. The court ruled against Tilikum (see opinion at 842 F. Supp. 2d 1259 (S.D. Cal 2012)), but notably the suit was not deemed frivolous by the court, even though it advanced a very novel legal theory. I learned much about both orcas and constitutional law during this panel. I did not know that orcas can live for over 70 years, live together in close family groups, communicate with each other, recognize each other’s voices, and when not in captivity, travel hundreds of miles of day. To know that they are ripped from their mothers when infants and confined to spaces no larger than the human equivalent of a coffin, was truly shocking. As a law student, I was intrigued by the constitutional arguments. Considering that African slaves were not considered worth having rights, and children and women of any race barely so, in our country’s not-so-distant past, it does not seem absurd to me that one day animals will be recognized by our legal system as conscious, and deserving of a life free from terror, captivity, and abuse.

“Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act”
Lauren Regan, founder and executive director, Civil Liberties Defense Center
Odette Wilkens, executive director, Equal Justice Alliance

Ms. Regan and Ms. Wilkens are truly dynamic speakers. If you have the opportunity to meet, listen to, or work with either of them, do yourself a favor and do so. In addition to enjoying their panel, I also enjoyed watching Ms. Wilkens’ slide presentation and movie, created by GGU SALDF’s own Camille Glover. AETA is a complex piece of legislation, so I urge you to listen to the webcast to learn the details, but in essence, it states that many animal rights organizations are terrorist organizations, who threaten our national security. As with “ag-gag” laws, this is completely out of proportion with the alleged crimes committed, and borders on violations of free speech, free association, and acts as a prior restraint on speech - don’t speak for animals, or you’ll wind up in prison, perhaps for decades. A chilling and timely wake-up call not just for animal activists, who need to fight this badly drafted, overbroad law, but for American society in general. Regardless of your political beliefs, laws like AETA have no place in our constitutional democracy.

Sara Fox Dudley Attorney at Law