Seminar – how to use the law effectively in animal welfare campaigning

On November 12th 2012 ALAW hosted its last seminar of the year. ALAW’s trustee, Alan Bates chaired the gathering of over 40.

ALAW seminar

The seminar’s aim was to introduce animal welfare organisations to how the law can be effectively used in their campaigning work. At the moment very few organisations employ legal techniques to achieve their goals. This is mostly ascribable to the fear of costs but also due to a lack of knowledge as to how the law can be approached and utilised to organisations’ advantage on a day-to-day basis without financial burden.

Solicitors Gwendolen Morgan and David Thomas who are well acquainted with the work of animal organisations and the relevant areas of law agreed to share their insight into this topic and to pass on the general knowledge and encourage more activity in this area.

Gwendolen MorganGwendolen who successfully represented the Badger Trust before the Court of Appeal provided a very helpful introduction to judicial review and explained how this judicial challenge can work for animal welfare organisations alongside their campaigns. Gwendolen opened her presentation by explaining that many decisions made by public bodies which relate to animal welfare issues may be open to challenge in the courts by way of judicial review which is a type of litigation whereby public bodies’ decisions are reviewed by judges to ensure that they are lawful according to public law principles. The grounds of challenge under which an organisation can have their case heard were explained and useful examples of recent case law in relation to the different grounds were provided. Gwendolen also explained the possible outcomes of an application for judicial review in terms of the sort of remedies that an animal welfare organisation can request in these types of proceedings. Moreover, the importance of adhering to time limits and a brief step-by-step explanation of how to bring a judicial review challenge was set out. Lastly, a list of funding possibilities was offered and ways of protection from incurring high costs in unsuccessful challenges were also briefly discussed.

David ThomasDavid who has been involved with various animal welfare organisations all over the world and who recently founded Legal Help for Animals talked about the law and animal protection campaigning based on his own extensive experiences. David’s key messages were: 1) the law is underused in animal protection campaigning; 2) there are opportunities to use the law at every stage of the campaigning process along with science, media and lobbying; 3) the only thing that works with campaigning is pressure applied in different ways including legal techniques; and 4) use of law need not be expensive. After defining campaigning David proceeded to explain how the law can be used during the different campaigning stages. Stage one centralises on obtaining information and informing those that need informing: the public, politicians, media and officials. David explained the various tools which can be employed to obtain the necessary information such as the Freedom of Information Act 2000, policy letters, parliamentary questions or EU Regulation 1049/2001. The next stage is battle for hearts and minds and based on David’s experience even here the law can have positive effects. Stage three involves securing changes through the various available foras notably use of the media, responding to governmental consultations, drafting legislation, or giving evidence to parliamentary or other inquiries. Realising and maximising the gain falls under stage four. This can be achieved by among others ensuring that EU legislation is properly transposed at national level, securing the intended and best interpretation of legislation, and litigation. The final stage concerns retaining gains by for instance intervening in cases at EU and international levels as well as resisting negative change via litigation possibilities as in the badgers’ judicial review.

Both presentations were inspirational and we hope that those that joined us were able to use the tips offered by Gwendolen and David in their work or will be considering doing so in the future. We would love to hear from you if that is the case.

In case you were not able to make it to the seminar but would like to see Gwendolen’s and David’s power point presentation please contact ALAW at [email protected].

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