Our Annual Student Prize

The UK Centre for Animal Law (A-law) launches a national student essay competition every November. This gives students the opportunity to explore and research an area of the law that would not typically come up in their taught legal studies. The competition is open to students at all stages of study, and the winning entry is published in The UK Journal of Animal Law, our peer reviewed publication.

2021 Competition

The title of our 2021 Essay Competition is:

Invasive Species: Is the UK's legal approach to "invasive" species of animals justified in the interests of protecting the UK's "native" wildlife?

In December 2019, the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019 (“ISO 2019”) came into force in England and Wales, implementing EU Regulation 1143/2014. Amongst other things, ISO 2019 makes it an offence to release, or allow the escape into the wild of, species that are either expressly listed or are otherwise “not normally resident in, or visitors to, Great Britain”. The offence specifically applies to several invasive alien species present in England and Wales, including the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), muntjac deer (Muntiacus reevesi) and ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). Meanwhile, in Scotland, it is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2012) to release, or allow escape from captivity, any non-native species outside of its so-called 'native range'.

Some ecologists argue that invasive species can significantly impact biodiversity and disrupt established ecosystems. Other conservationists question the anthropocentric parameters applied when determining whether a species is alien, given that many species we view as “native” were in fact introduced into Great Britain from overseas. Moreover, members of any species are still individual animals whose welfare should be protected somehow.

This question encourages entrants to consider how we should approach the regulation and management of widespread invasive species. Is it possible to 'manage' invasive species ethically? How should we safeguard the welfare of invasive individuals? Ultimately, how should the law balance the interests of conservation and animal welfare? Entrants may choose to focus on the regulatory approach in the nation in which they live, or may wish to compare approaches across the UK's different nations.

The closing date is February 26th 2021.

We are offering a prize for first, second and third place as well the first-place winner will have their essay published in the next edition of the UK Journal of Animal Law.

See below for further information about our Competition rules and guidelines.

2020 Competition

The title of our 2020 Essay Competition was:

Will increasing the maximum sentence for causing unnecessary suffering, contrary to the UK’s Animal Welfare Acts, enhance the effectiveness of the offence?

This topic was selected in light of a bill before Parliament, which is scheduled to receive a second reading on Friday the 23rd of October 2020: Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill 2019-21. This bill will amend the Animal Welfare Act 2006, in terms of mode of trial and maximum penalty for certain offences.

We are delighted to announce that this year’s winning entrants are:

  • 1st place – Violet Smart
  • 2nd place – Helen Walden
  • 3rd place – Denise Osei

Violet Smart’s winning entry will be published in a forthcoming edition of The UK Journal of Animal Law. Details of the 2021 Competition will be released in November 2020.

2019 Competition

The title of our 2019 competition was, 'Explain the potential significance of granting legal personhood to animals in the UK'. Attempts to secure legal personhood for non-human animals have famously been made - and continue to be made - by the Non-human Rights Project in the US. We are delighted to announce that this year's winning entrants are:

  • 1st prize - Sam Groom
  • 2nd prize - Miranda Harrison
  • 3rd prize - Samuel March

Sam Groom's winning entry will be published in a forthcoming edition of The UK Journal of Animal Law. Details of the 2020 Competition will be released in November 2019. 

2018 Competition

The title of our 2018 competition was, “Consider whether animal welfare legislation should be extended to include decapods.” Decapod crustaceans, such as lobsters, crayfish, and crabs are not protected by animal welfare legislation in the UK. However, scientific evidence strongly suggests decapods are capable of feeling pain. A-law chose this question after the launch of Crustacean Compassion's campaign to have decapods included in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2018 competition are:

  • 1st prize Jessica Allen
  • 2nd prize Melisa Oleschuk
  • 3rd prize Charlotte Mekis

2017 Competition

The title of our 2017 competition was, “Boycotting dogs bred in puppy farms will increase these dogs’ suffering further and therefore cannot be justified. Discuss.” Puppy farming is a topical issue at the moment in the UK, and it is one of the areas we are focusing on in our project work. We received a number of fantastic entries, and the winners were:

  • 1st Prize: Chris Sangster
  • 2nd Prize: Robyn-Florence James
  • 3rd Prize: Marcia Hagon

2016 Competition

Our 2016 competition saw students address the title, '“The Hunting Act 2004 has been a useless piece of legislation and therefore should be repealed.” Discuss.' The Hunting Act 2004 has received broad public support sinces its enactment. However, the legislation remains unpopular amongst advocates of hunting and some farmers. Debate continues about whether or not hunting with dogs should be permitted. Congratulations to our winners, who all submitted fantastic entires:

  • 1st Prize: Natalie Kyneswood
  • 2nd Prize: Grace Wright
  • 3rd Prize: Emily Au


1st prize

Published article in A-Law Journal and £150 book vouchers.

2nd prize

£70 book vouchers.

3rd prize

£30 book vouchers.

Essay competition guidelines

The following guidelines apply:


Word Document


Students at any stage of their studies from any country


5pm on the last Friday of February 2020

Winners announced



Send your entry to [email protected]

Word Limit

1,500 (excluding footnotes and references, which are unlimited)


Should be as follows: author (year), Title, publisher, place, page number


Please provide a list of references at the end of the essay as follows: author (year), title, publisher, place


Essays must be the student’s own work and a student will be instantly disqualified for plagiarism


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