Our First Careers Event

On Friday 13th January 2017, ALAW hosted its very first Animal Law Careers Event at Doughty Street Chambers, London.

ALAW’s Student Officer, Edwina Bowles, and Student Co-Ordinator, Sally Shera-Jones, introduced the event, and announced that the student team would be launching student branches across the UK, with one trial group already confirmed in London.

Paula Sparks then went on to discuss ALAW in more depth, touching on the organisation’s role and philosophies, whilst also discussing the regulatory regime in the UK. Paula highlighted that ALAW sees education and student and academic groups as key to the development of Animal Law as a discipline in the UK. Paula also highlighted the importance of recognising the tension between human and animal interests, which are at the heart of the current regulatory framework, and of contributing to that debate.

Next, Iain O’Donnell discussed his work prosecuting animal cruelty cases at the Bar, usually under the instruction of the RSPCA. Iain touched on some of the difficulties associated with this kind of work, including that judges often have limited experience of animal cruelty cases, which can sometimes lead to bad decisions being made. According to Iain, one of the most rewarding aspects of this type of work is the level of cross examination involved. However, Iain did stress that only a handful of barristers get to do this kind of work on a regular basis.

David Thomas then went on to discuss Animal Law and Public Law. Giving examples from his work with Cruelty Free International, David discussed a range of public law options that can be used to advance animal protection. These include the use of FOI requests, judicial review and ‘soft’ law techniques, such as using planning laws. David gave a number of tips on how to use the law to advance animal protection, including using the law as an integral part of campaigning, using creative solutions to find ways around obstacles, balancing passion with objectivity, and applying consistent pressure.

Next, Animal Aid’s Farming & Slaughter Campaign Manager, Luke Steele, discussed some of the ways in which students can advance animal protection. Luke recommended that students take their universities to task over their animal protection records, and touched on some of the ways in which he and others had used the law to make positive changes. This included successfully challenging Harvey Nicholls at the High Court over their attempts to stop campaigners showing fur production videos to its customers.

Anthony Cooke followed, and provided some tips to aspiring animal protection lawyers. Anthony’s advice included gaining relevant voluntary and work experience, looking to the area of human rights law for inspiration, building commercial awareness, and gaining overseas experience. Anthony also highlighted the importance of developing empathy for the opposition’s point of view, particularly as animal protection can be very emotive.

Fiona Cooke and Mike Radford concluded the event. Mike suggested that there may not be a role as an ‘animal protection lawyer’ in the UK any time soon, but that there is a role for lawyers in advancing animal protection causes. For instance, Mike argued that lawyers can help bridge the gap between animal welfare science and law, and can help debunk the law for scientists. Mike also suggested that there are opportunities in academic research and policy making, fields where animal law has largely been ignored.

ALAW would like to thank all of the speakers, organisers and attendees for helping to make the event a success.

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