How you can mark Animal Law Day
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Why an Animal Law Day?
Animal Law is a neglected area of law, but while it has been slow to develop, this is changing and A-Law is increasingly seeing interest in how the law can be used to achieve important social justice reforms for animals, who rank amongst the most vulnerable in our society. We declared Animal Law Day to raise awareness and provide an impetus for lawyers to support the valuable legal work for animals that goes on throughout the year. #ALawDay
22 July 1822
A landmark in British history
In 1822 Parliament passed the first legislation protecting animals from deliberate acts of cruelty. It was the first law in the United Kingdom to protect animals and one of the earliest in the world. The statute became known as Martin’s Act after it’s sponsor, Richard Martin MP. While it only protected a limited number of species from certain types of abuse, it was the first time that legislation had been passed with the interests of animals as it’s heart. This act of Parliament was to the first of many animal welfare laws that would cement Britain’s reputation as one of the world leaders in animal welfare.
Who was Richard Martin MP?
The Member of Parliament who introduced the legislation was the MP for Galway, Richard Martin. Martin bravely advocated for animals in Parliament, making a number of attempts to improve the lot of animals, as he attempted to prohibit bull baiting and dog fighting. As a result of his efforts, he endured ridicule from his peers, who thought animal protection unworthy a subject of Parliament’s attention.
Martin’s efforts did not stop at Parliament. He ensured the law didn’t sit on the statute books unused and it is reported that he personally brought defendants before the magistrates, thus creating living law that would become embeded within society and built upon over the years, as animal welfare law developed incrementally.
Richard Martin MP was also an instrumental figure in the foundation of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the forerunner of the modern day, RSPCA.
Continuing to strive for better laws to protect animals
While we mark this landmark anniversary, it is also a reminder that we cannot afford complacency, as we see mass species loss, alongside billions of animal lives being compromised by suffering in intensive agriculture systems and laboratories around the world.
We must continue what Martin started two hundred years ago. We must ensure that laws protecting animals are robust and that national and international systems of governance have mechanisms to ensure that animal ethics and wellbeing are taken into account in the law making process.
We must also strive for existing laws to be properly implemented and enforced with adequate penalties when those laws are violated.
For Animal Law Day, we are sharing some of the highlights from this first UK national Animal Law Week in 2023
42 Bedford Row’s Animal Welfare team shared a succession of posts during Animal Law Week, culminating in a great article about why they support animal welfare law and the #ALawDay initiative.
The Wild Animal Welfare Committee posted:
‘We’re happy to support #ALawDay @ALAWAnimalLaw
– where would wildlife protection be without law? But it could be improved by application of international consensus principles for ethical wildlife control. See our new paper…’
Young Animal Lawyers Network
Our networking event welcomed guest, Fernanda Sanchez to talk about her book, ‘Animals as the Subject of Rights’ and A-Law volunteers, Rob, Paula and Laura discussed their current programmes and aspirations.
Talking Animal Law
We have had some great reviews of our podcast.
How we marked 200 years of Animal Law in 2022
In 2022 we marked the 200 year anniversary of Martin’s Act with an international, online conference that drew speakers and delegates from around the world. The conference took place over a week with opportunities for delegates to watch content on demand, making it accessible to those wanting to wrap watching the presentations around work and family commitments. The conference reflected on past learnings and we invited leading experts from the legal, scientific and advocacy communities to share their vision and roadmap towards better animal protection law. We were also able to offer free places to delegates from countries where the exchange rate would otherwise make attendance prohibitive.
Learn more about animal advocacy: past, present and future.
A sponsor of the Martin’s Act conference, the Culture and Animals Foundation also sponsored Chart2050: Martin’s Act at 200, an audio documentary series marking the 200 year anniversary of Martin’s Act in 2022. The series explores the past, present, and future of the animal protection movement. Visit the dedicated website for a wealth of resources at Chart2050.