The issues are often marginalized in our culture, but 2L Megan Miller believes that when people hear about abused horses, the plight of captive orcas at SeaWorld, and efforts to stop the annual Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, China, they will respond sympathetically.
“Even if you’re not a dog owner or a cat lover, almost everyone feels compassion for animals, yet we do not know how we can help reduce their suffering,” she said.
With the support of the UC Hastings’ Animal Legal Defense Fund student chapter, Miller worked with Golden Gate University Law School 3L Camille Glover to convene this year’s day-long symposium that includes ten panels on a variety of animal law topics, and features top speakers working in animal defense.
“This symposium is an opportunity for interested students to discover what animal lawyers really do, and to reflect on legal solutions that can make the world a more compassionate place,” said Miller.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund holds a national conference every year championing the cause, but this is the only student-run symposium.
Miller says that the 30-year-old field of animal law is a growing specialty that touches multiple practice areas, from wills and trusts to criminal and environmental law. Environmental lawyers are particularly well-prepared to cross over into animal defense, since both fields frequently use administrative law.
Interest in the symposium is also growing. Twelve law schools are participating in this year’s conference, up from eight schools in 2013. “We hope this conference will create a stronger network among the student law groups working on animal rights issues,” Glover said.
Adjunct professor and animal rights litigator Bruce Wagman ’91 will be speaking about the plight of American horses at the symposium. “Roughly 150,000 companion and other horses are sent to slaughter annually for foreign palates, and American companies are trying to get in the horse slaughter business,” he said. Wagman also advocates for wild horses on public lands, which he calls “national icons of our frontier spirit.” Wagman’s talk will give an overview of current issues in equine protection, and help the audience “envision a day when American horses will not be slaughtered for food, wild horses will again roam the range freely, and the tide of equine cruelty is stemmed.”
Along with speakers from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, many speakers are covering topics that fall within the purview of the sustainable food movement. Keegan Kuhn, director of the documentary Cowspiracy, will uncover what he calls “the most destructive industry facing the planet today,” and explain why the world's leading environmental organizations have been silent about the ecological costs of beef production. Lauren Ornelas, founder/director of the Food Empowerment Project, will discuss her solidarity with farm workers and how to create access to healthy foods in low-income communities. David Simon, author of the book, Meatonomics, will survey the aggressive legal protections that animal food producers have put in place over the past several decades.
The symposium will practice what it preaches. Attendees will sample delicious vegan fare at a continental breakfast (with Cinnaholic rolls from the famed vegan bakery in Berkeley), and an Indian-inspired hot lunch. Cocktail hour in the Sky room will feature author David Grimm, a deputy news editor at Science magazine, who will speak and sign copies of his recent book, Citizen Canine. Grimm’s book provides an engaging account of how pets became like members of the family in the eyes of the American legal system.
The symposium is open to faculty, students, practitioners, and will be held at the University of California, Hastings, College of the Law, 198 McAllister Street, San Francisco, from 9 am – 5:45 pm on Saturday, September 13, 2014.
Students can attend the symposium for $10. General admission is $25, and attorneys can attend for $50, or $80 with MCLE credit.
The cocktail reception and book reading by David Grimm is in the Sky Room, 100 McAllister St., San Francisco, CA, 94102 from 5:45 – 7:00 pm. Tickets to attend only the cocktail reception are $10.