A Carolina POV on the Animal Law Conference

  • E-mail E-mail
  • Google+
  • Reddit Reddit

2L Uttara Kale was in Portland last month at the 19th Annual Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark. This year, the conference’s theme was Standing Up for Animals: Can a Bad Economy Inspire Greater Goodness? Topics explored included: the nuts and bolts of building an animal cruelty case; using a law degree to help sanctuaries and shelters; wolf protection and exotic animal issues; and ethical issues surrounding animal-based cultural traditions.

Uttara shares her thoughts and experiences with us:

Describe the conference :

Everything at the conference was extremely well done. The food was gourmet (vegan) food. We received packets with all the necessary information and free pens.

It was easy to meet people as there were several cocktail events with open bars. The conference body was very diverse, with several people from parts of Canada, as well as some from Europe (Sweden), New Zealand, etc. We had several speakers with inspirational speeches. There was food and coffee throughout the day. They even had rice milk, which is something I had never tried.

The venue was gorgeous – it was easy to get to by a bus from the Paramount Hotel downtown, and the actual law school at Lewis & Clark is beautiful and a great place for a conference.

Describe Portland!

Portland is completely unlike any place on the East coast. It is lush and green, with a variety of trees and animal life everywhere. It is always a bit overcast which is probably why the area is so fertile. Public transportation is great from the airport to the city. It’s only about $2 each way and takes about 45 minutes. The transportation around the city is just as good and even free within certain zones.

Portland has a very European feeling. It has cobblestone roads and random water fountains around town. It has a beautiful river which you cross when entering the city which is lined with an interesting combination of shipping and quaint homes. The city obviously has all the amenities one could want, with restaurants and bars strewn about everywhere. The Paramount Hotel is definitely a great location to stay if visiting the city. Not only is it easy to get to the conference, but the hotel has a couple restaurants and bars where many of us met to mingle afterward. Overall, it’s a great place to visit, even for the weekend!

What was your favorite panel session?

Wild Animals are Not Pets was my favorite. Exotic animals have always intrigued me, and this session provided a lot of guidance on the situation in the United States and Europe. Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation and Sanctuaries spoke about ownership of wild animals in the United States and the European Union.

He was an especially important speaker because his parents were the creators and stars of the movie Born Free, and he began with footage of his life as a child living among big cats. His father was also involved in releasing the now famous Christian the Lion, purchased at Harrods, back into the wild. He spoke about peoples’ mindsets in owning dangerous creatures, outreach efforts, federal and state regulation, and statistics about exotic animal ownership. All of this information was especially helpful for my ongoing research into private ownership of tigers in the United States, my chosen animal law paper topic.

Finally, Mr. Travers gave some insight into the Born Free Foundation, its mission and goals, and its sanctuaries located here and abroad. It is clearly an important foundation which helps spread awareness and protection of exotic animals. It was most exciting that I got to speak with Mr. Travers after the talk and inquire about volunteer efforts with his foundation both here and abroad. He seemed very intent on getting volunteers “real experience” and urged me to call them so they could set up some “real work” for me if I ever decide to get involved. I think everyone could find their own niche at the conference and really get involved with whatever subject interests them the most.

What other sessions did you attend?

I attended Humane Science – Is the end of Animal Testing Within Reach? which examined the approach to animal law testing via toxicology testing which can be done through new, technologically advanced methods that do not require animal testing, which is not only inefficient but expensive. The session presented problems with animal testing in the toxicology realm, including regulatory actions, and possible approaches and solutions.

The session Enforcement: Building a Case Against Animal Cruelty went into very detailed explanations on how important it is to gather evidence in animal cruelty cases, as well as current law in the west coast which has helped the animal cause. It spoke about intentional and negligent actions, the hurdles to overcome, and specifically important things to look for in: neglect cases; animal hoarding cases; organized abuse – bloodsport cases; and spoke briefly on animal sexual assault and ritualized abuse. It spoke also about the importance of VETS in cruelty cases.

Global Animal Concerns (comparative law approach) spoke about industrial agriculture as well as approaches to animal law in different communities including the USA, Brazil, Sweden, Norway and China. The first expert spoke of the difficulties in China and the lack of regulation in protection of animals.

I also met with other SALDF members to discuss possible new ideas or solutions. Some suggestions I received were making a Pet Photo Contest Calendar, getting local speakers on animal law issues (ALDF has a website with resources on how to find local speakers), and coordinating with other law school organizations to hold joint events.

Learn anything that surprised you / that you found immediately applicable to your everyday life?

Although I already knew that tiger ownership in North Carolina was unregulated, I learned a lot more about other states with no regulation, as well as those states which claim to ‘regulate’ ownership, but simply require easily obtainable permits or something similar. This all became quite telling after the events in Ohio where over 45 exotic animals were killed.

It also surprised me to see the range of people at the conference. There were those who were vegan and completely focused on animal law, those that had attended the conference for years, and newcomers who have only recently began to fight for the animals. Everyone got along well and shared their experiences. I learned as much from others as I did from the sessions themselves. I also gained a few friends which I know I can keep in touch with in the future.

Finally, the conference really made me feel like more of an advocate. There were several inspiring speeches which gave us reassurance that our lives are well spent doing things we love rather than things that others may tell us to do. We found camaraderie in our cause, one which is often difficult to understand in the legal community. I definitely came out knowing there was a community of people who felt as passionately about animals as I do. However, it did not at all feel like an activist type of conference. We spoke of many issues with many differing view points, and I was happy to know there was no judgment for those of us, like me, who may not be vegan, or those who advocate for exotics but are not necessarily against eating meat. There is an opportunity there for a wide variety of beliefs with no judgment.

Would you recommend the conference to fellow UNC law students?

I would absolutely recommend this conference to law students. It’s a great opportunity to experience a wonderful city, and can often be completely funded by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the law school’s conference fund.

For anyone who is passionate about animals in a wide spectrum of ways, be it as an activist or someone who is just interested in learning. It’s definitely a great way to network for those interested in public interest work with animals, as there are many important people in the ‘business’ at this conference. It is also a great learning experience for those who want to learn more about animal law and find what interests them the most.


Posted by Elizabeth H. Choi on Fri. November 18, 2011 8:00 AM
Categories: Interviews

Comments for this post are now closed.

UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106


If you are seeing this, you are either using a non-graphical browser or Netscape 4.x (4.7, 4.8, etc.) and this page appears very plain. If you are using a 4.x version of Netscape, this site is fully functional but lacks styles and optimizations available in other browsers. For full functionality, please upgrade your browser to the latest version of Internet Explorer or Firefox.