The History of the Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School
The establishment of the Animal Law & Policy Program (ALPP) dates to the summer of 2014. Kristen Stilt had accepted an offer to join the Harvard Law School faculty as a Professor of Law and was seeking to further develop the study of animal law at HLS. That work began in 2000 when Harvard became only the ninth law school to offer a course in Animal Law – a move considered so progressive that it was reported on the front page of the New York Times. That course, taught by Steve Wise, and the attention it generated, led to the creation of the Bob Barker Endowment for the Study of Animal Rights at HLS in 2001 – Harvard being the first of several law schools to receive such a gift in Bob Barker’s honor. As of 2014, thanks to the Barker gift, HLS was offering one bi-annual course related to animal law, which Paul Waldau had been teaching for most of the intervening years.
Kristen sought to build on that history and create a full-fledged research program at Harvard Law School. At the time, David Wolfson was a partner at Milbank (and now is also its Executive Director) who had taught Harvard’s Animal Law course in 2004 and done much to advance the academic study of animal law and policy. He made the crucial connection between Kristen and Bradley L. Goldberg, the founder and president of the Animal Welfare Trust. Mr. Goldberg already believed in the power of academic programs, having helped establish an undergraduate minor in Animal Studies at NYU. At a meeting in David’s office during the summer of 2014, David, Kristen, Brad, and Dean Martha Minow discussed the potential for a research program dedicated to animal law at Harvard Law School and the impact it could make at Harvard and around the world. As a result of those conversations, and Kristen’s proposal outlining plans for the new program over the first five years, Brad made a foundational gift to establish an animal law program at Harvard Law School so that Kristen could launch the Animal Law & Policy Program (ALPP) when she arrived at HLS in the fall of 2014.
The major milestones of the Animal Law & Policy Program are outlined below by academic year. For more detailed reports of our activities, please see our annual Years in Review.
On the inception of the Program in the Fall of 2014, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow noted: “Once at the margins, legal questions about the status, interests, and treatment of animals increasingly take their rightful place across society. Now is the time for the resources of tort, property, family law, environmental law, constitutional law, and legal change strategies to make a crucial difference in the lives of animals.”
In that first year, Kristen’s work as Faculty Director of the Animal Law & Policy Program was supported by her Faculty Assistant, Marina Apostol. Kristen worked with Harvard’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) co-presidents Alicia Rodriguez and Alene Anello to hold several events that year. A collaborative working relationship between the ALPP and SALDF, later renamed the HLS Animal Law Society, has been an enduring aspect of the ALPP since that time. Events in the first year included putting on HLS’s first annual Animal Law Week of speakers and hosting the National Animal Law Competitions in collaboration with Lewis & Clark’s Center for Animal Law Studies. For Marine Mammal Day, on April 15, 2015, the ALPP hosted events at HLS and across the Harvard campus, including Kristen’s moderated conversation with David Kirby, author of Death at SeaWorld, a subsequent panel discussion that added renowned marine biologist Naomi Rose, and a screening of the documentary Blackfish. For their work re-invigorating student interest in animal law issues, the HLS SALDF was awarded ALDF’s Student Chapter of the Year. That summer Kristen co-organized the first of three annual Research Roundtables on Animal Law and Regulation with the Searle Center on Law, Regulation, and Economic Growth at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
The fall of 2015 saw a crucial expansion of the ALPP when Chris Green joined the Program as Executive Director. Chris is an alumnus of Harvard Law School, and as a student, took the school’s first Animal Law course, then served as an officer of the HLS SALDF when the Bob Barker endowment was established. Prior to returning to Harvard, Chris had been serving as the Legislative Director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Chair of the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee.
Kristen and Chris initiated a period of strategic growth that continues to the present, expanding the Program’s work in crucial ways. These included offering new courses, developing a Visiting Fellows program, hosting academic workshops, inaugurating a Washington DC student career trip, and holding a broader range of public events. Also in the fall of 2015, Delcianna Winders became the first Academic Fellow, a position designed to provide a promising academic the time and resources to establish a scholarly agenda, publish scholarship, and prepare for the law school job market.
The first new course the Program added to the HLS curriculum was the Wildlife Law seminar, taught in the fall 2015 term by Jonathan Lovvorn, the Senior Vice President & Chief Counsel for the Humane Society of the United States. In February 2016, we held our first academic workshop, Animals in Comparative Constitutional Law. This workshop established the ALPP as a crucial incubator for outstanding scholarship in the area of animal law and policy. Participants submitted working drafts in advance of the event, and workshop time was spent with all offering comments, critiques, and suggestions to the papers’ authors. Our next workshop was held that May on Animals, Law & Religion to foster a conversation among scholars about how different religious traditions approach the interrelated topics of animals, ethics, and law.
During the summer of 2016, Kristen and Chris were thrilled to recruit Ceallaigh Reddy to join as the Program’s half-time Program Administrator, a role very much needed given the expansion and the new ideas they had for further development.
With a period of new growth on the horizon, Charles Thomas made a substantial gift to further support the work of the Program. That prompted former Harvard President Drew Faust to announce that “The Charles Thomas Fund will support the critically important work of the Animal Law & Policy Program. I look forward to seeing how it will advance research and teaching to improve the welfare of animals.”
Academic Fellow Delci Winders proposed hosting a major conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the Animal Welfare Act, the landmark legislation that was the focus of her own scholarship. In December 2016, the Program held The Animal Welfare Act at 50, its first major conference, featuring 40 speakers and over 200 attendees. The conference was accompanied by an associated academic workshop to cultivate published scholarship on the subject.
The Program co-hosted its second large conference in March 2017. The Ivy League Vegan Conference brought together faculty and scholars from across Harvard University to discuss how humans raise animals for food around the world and the implications that has on animal welfare, human health, food safety, workers’ rights, as well as climate change and the environment. Over the course of three days, the conference featured over 30 speakers including Kristen, Chris, and Delci, along with the world’s most cited legal scholar, HLS Professor Cass Sunstein, and the world’s most cited nutritionist, Professor Walter Willett.
Later that spring, the Program collaborated with Harvard’s South Asia Institute (now the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute) to host a workshop on Animal Agriculture from the Middle East to Asia, and also organized the panel session “Lives on the Line: Labor Conditions in Meat & Poultry Processing Facilities” for the annual Just Food? Conference.
To further encourage student scholarship by HLS JDs and graduate students, the ALPP launched the annual Animal Law & Policy Writing Prize. The winners from that year were announced at the 2017 HLS Commencement ceremony.
In 2017, Jonathan Lovvorn joined the Program to spend the 2017–18 academic year as the Program’s first Policy Director. In that role he taught HLS’s inaugural Farmed Animal Law & Policy course and helped supervise the Program’s first public policy report. That report on the potential unintended consequences of the “King Amendment” to the U.S. Farm Bill was authored by ALPP Research Fellow Ann Linder, who oversaw a team of student research assistants working on the project. Within 24 hours of the report’s release, it was quoted during the final House Agriculture Committee hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill, and legislative advocates say it was instrumental in ultimately defeating the potentially devastating King Amendment.
The fall marked the Harvard Law School Bicentennial and the ALPP was part of the large celebration which featured a public panel that the Program organized entitled “The Death of Factory Farming.”
The 2017–2018 academic year also saw the formal launch of our Visiting Fellows program, which provides opportunities for outstanding scholars from a range of disciplines and legal practitioners to spend from three months to one academic year undertaking research, writing, and scholarly engagement on academic projects in the field of animal law and policy. That initial cohort of six Fellows produced substantial published scholarship and went on to full-time positions in academia, policy, and advocacy.
January 2018 began with the Program holding its third major conference, “Future Directions for Laboratory Animal Law in the United States,” in collaboration with HLS’s Petrie-Flom Center and the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Laboratory Animal Research.
The following month the Program hosted its first book manuscript workshop. Justin Marceau received feedback from a group of scholars on his book manuscript, which subsequently was published as Beyond Cages: Animal Law and Criminal Punishment by Cambridge University Press. The book initiated a re-evaluation of traditional carceral approaches within the animal protection community.
In the summer of 2018, the Program hosted the Clean Meat Regulatory Roundtable, its first such policy summit that convened experts and stakeholders from science, industry, government, law, academia, and advocacy to participate in a closed-door roundtable to confidentially assess the regulatory landscape surrounding cultivated meat and dairy products, identify potential challenges, and recommend strategic paths forward.
The 2018–2019 academic year began with major developments for the ALPP. In October, the Program hosted an afternoon of the Animal Grantmakers Conference, which featured Kristen and other speakers focusing on farmed animal welfare and climate. By that time, the Program had developed a relationship with the recently established Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law and Policy. Tim Midura, Executive Director of the Brooks Institute, attended the Animal Grantmakers event, which provided the opportunity for him to formally announce the Brooks Institute’s generous gift that would enable the inauguration of a new Animal Law & Policy Clinic the following fall.
Just as the Program was preparing for expansion with the Clinic and a larger cohort of Visiting Fellows, we were honored to be offered space in HLS’s newest building at 1607 Massachusetts Ave. The Program’s space encompasses about half of the third floor with seven separate offices, ten student Clinic workstations, and a conference room. Space is one of the most precious commodities on the Harvard campus, and having our own dedicated workplace facilitated the development of the ALPP Workshop Series, which involves convening a group of about 15 participants every other week during the academic year to review and critique drafts of each other’s scholarship in progress.
The ALPP also became a founding member of the Brooks Animal Studies Academic Network (BASAN), formed to foster collaboration among other institutions that also are working on animal protection issues, with Kristen serving as one of the network’s organizers.
To add to the advocacy capacity of the field, in February 2019 we hosted a three-day roundtable to explore the concept of establishing a nonprofit organization to accelerate innovation in alternatives that will improve scientific discovery without using animals for testing, research, and science education. The Roundtable’s participants included scientists, doctors, veterinarians, government officials, academics, attorneys, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and representatives of animal protection organizations and ultimately led to the formation of the Center for Contemporary Sciences.
Later that spring, Kristen gave a presentation for the Federal Judicial Center to over 40 federal judges on the many health, environmental, and animal welfare issues associated with factory farming and provided them with a primer on cell-based and plant-based alternatives to animal agricultural products.
In the summer of 2019, the Program hosted the Egyptian Humane Education Workshop in partnership with the HLS Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World to explore developing a curriculum of humane education with the MEK Foundation, which operates over 1,000 schools in Egypt.
In the fall of 2019, with the support of the Brooks Institute and other donors, the Program launched the Animal Law & Policy Clinic to provide students with direct, hands-on training in legal advocacy on behalf of animals. Katherine Meyer joined the ALPP as Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of the Animal Law & Policy Clinic, working alongside Clinical Instructor Nicole Negowetti. Kathy is one of the most experienced animal protection litigators in the country, and Nicole is a nationally recognized food systems policy expert who has focused her teaching, scholarship, and advocacy on the impacts of industrial livestock production on animal welfare, the environment, and human health.
As Harvard Law School Dean John Manning noted during the announcement of the Clinic, “Animal law is a vitally important and rapidly growing field. Our new Animal Law & Policy Clinic will give students real-world experience in this burgeoning field, build on Harvard Law School’s long tradition of innovative pedagogy, and prepare future graduates to address significant societal challenges.” Within the first month, the Clinic filed its first lawsuit against the USDA generating exclusive coverage by the Boston Globe.
Such exposure was made possible by the addition of Sarah Pickering as a full-time Communications Manager for the Program and Clinic. Sarah joined the ALPP team with over 20 years of media experience with both animal protection and environmental organizations. This also has enabled the public reach of the Program to grow with the scholarship and expertise of the Program faculty, staff, and visiting fellows––who collectively have been quoted by ABC, CNN, CBS, the ABA Journal, The Atlantic, Daily Mail, The Economist, Financial Times, Fox, The Guardian, Independent, The Intercept, Medium, The New York Times, TIME, The Washington Post, Wired, and Vox. Our public outreach expanded further with the initiation of our ALPP Film Series that brings in experts speak in conjunction with some of the field’s most impactful documentaries.
To more deeply inform those already engaged in the field about the latest developments in animal law and policy, in the fall of 2019 the Program partnered with the Brooks Institute to launch the Brooks Animal Law Digest. The support of the Brooks Institute allowed us to recruit recent graduate Kate Barnekow ’19 as our first Clinical Fellow to perform daily research and create weekly summaries that are disseminated by the Brooks Institute without charge for the benefit of the animal welfare community at large.
In March 2020, HLS moved all activities to a remote format due to the rapid spread of Covid-19. The ALPP immediately shifted all activities online, finishing our ALPP Workshop Series through Zoom. The ALPP determined that this world crisis was a moment for careful attention to animal law and policy, so we initiated a collaborative international research project examining global policy responses to live animal markets and their role in the spread of zoonotic disease. Turning to our fellow institutions in BASAN, we quickly built a coalition of academic partners and hired Research Fellow Ann Linder to manage the project.
With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to cause all learning, teaching, academic programming, and events to be conducted remotely, the Program is using technology to share our work even more widely throughout the world and attracting many new listeners who can engage with our events in real time. As an example, our third bi-annual event on Antibiotics in Agriculture: Preventing the Next Pandemic recently drew nearly 350 registrants.
Our live animal markets collaborative research project continues to develop and now has over a dozen participating institution including BASAN members and several other universities in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Our comprehensive assessment, which will culminate in a substantial published report in early 2021, will aid policymakers considering regulatory decisions, contribute to public education about these issues, and serve the human health and animal protection NGO communities.
The Clinic also continued its impactful work, which included suing the USDA over its failure to require humane handling of poultry at slaughter, filing a petition with the US Supreme Court challenging Indiana’s Right to Farm Act, which prevents compensation for damage caused by industrial factory farms, filing a petition with the National Institutes of Health to include cephalopods (octopus, squid, and cuttlefish) among the animals entitled to humane treatment in federally funded research, urging the USDA to adopt a sensible and fair labeling approach for cell-based meat and poultry products, filing an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of listing the Pacific Walrus as a “threatened species” under the Endangered Species Act, and filing a petition with the US Supreme Court in support of a challenge to the Trump Administration’s waiver of all environmental and other laws in connection with the construction of a massive border wall along the Mexico-United States Border.
Not only are our students getting direct experience through the Clinic that will assist them as they enter practice, but students seeking to enter academia are getting support as well, with two of our current students, Elizabeth MeLampy ’21 and Andy Stawasz ’21, both recently being awarded the Brooks Institute’s Emerging Scholars Fellowship.
As we celebrate our sixth anniversary, the Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School is proud to share the work we have done to benefit the lives of animals farmed for food, animals used in biomedical research, animals affected by climate change, and those suffering a multitude of other harms. We also have continued our efforts to benefit animals by addressing the regulation of plant-based and cell-based alternatives to animal products and working to achieve justice for families affected by noxious factory farms being built beside their homes.