Animal Law Progress Slow, Uneven, But Advancing

by Mary Haight on February 17, 2009

Voltando à querência
Image by Eduardo Amorim via Flickr

It wasn’t all that long ago that animal rights were a topic of discussion held only at the fringes, and not many gave consideration to what happened to animals abused behind closed doors, or were aware of such cruelties as fighting dogs for money.  Laws for animal rights had remained almost unchanged since the early 19th century. 

Today, enlightened police departments have changed the way they see and report animal abuse, given the studies connecting animal abusers to evolving violent behavior towards people, and new laws acknowledging changing social concerns.  The animal welfare communities tireless  campaigns against cruelty, citizen court advocates witnessing sentencing of abusers, coupled with contemporary criminal profiling psychological findings, and changing cultural values about the place of animals in our society have resulted in some really interesting trends in law.

Joseph B. Frazier, Associated Press, reports that in the year 2000 only 9 law schools had courses in animal law, and today 100 schools have animal law curriculums.  He goes on to note that the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a one-office endeavor in 1992, now has branches at 115 schools in the US and Canada.  The demand is student driven according to professors, and it is the area of animal rights that is the most engaging for practioners and observers alike.  Will all animals be equal under law?  Pretty big topic! Frazier likens animal law to being in its early stages, akin to where environmental law first got its legs.  Public conscience combined with court advocacy and the internet’s facility in disseminating news is a powerful combination, pulling animal law out of the victorian age. 

Transparency has come into vogue, thanks in large part to the fraud and graft on Wall Street and the influence of the internet culture.  People now ask questions about what is not seen–behind the curtain at the slaughterhouse, the meaning of “quality control” on imports, FDA ineffectiveness in the recent food debacles of melamine poisoning and salmonella-tainted peanut products recalls, and even what goes on behind closed doors, once considered to be no one’s business. 

People are expecting answers and solutions.  It’s remarkable how simple it seems: shine a light where it’s dark.  People will see.  Things will change once attention is paid. It can take decades, yet it is good to be involved in the process. 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Previous post:

Next post: