Animals have always featured prominently in the vast landscape of media. Animal mascots are used in advertisements, animal lives are put on display in nature documentaries, animal actors feature in television shows and films, and many people spend at least a small portion of their day watching cute animal videos on social media. From the majestic wildlife showcased in groundbreaking documentaries like BBC’s “Planet Earth” to the endearing fictional characters in animated classics like “The Lion King,” animals have captured our hearts and sparked our curiosity in countless ways.
Media serves as a powerful tool that can either shine a spotlight on the remarkable lives of animals, fostering awareness and understanding, or cast a dark shadow on their existence through exploitation and abuse. On one hand, heartwarming stories of animal rescue and rehabilitation flood our screens, inspiring positive change and advocacy for animal protection. On the other hand, undercover investigators often go to great lengths to obtain footage of animal cruelty behind the closed doors of factory farms and slaughterhouses, to use the media for public awareness and education. Similarly, popular documentaries such as Blackfish and the Smell of Money help to highlight problematic animal use industries and their adverse effects on human and animal life.
Moreover, the media’s portrayal and the use of animals in entertainment cannot be ignored. The entertainment industry has a history of exploiting animals for cinematic purposes, often at the expense of their well-being. Disturbingly, the internet has given rise to the cruel subculture of animal crush videos, where animals are subjected to unthinkable abuse for the perverse pleasure of viewers. Similarly, not all animal rescue videos are as altruistic as they first appear. In fact, the trend of people deliberately putting animals in perilous situations to “rescue” them for social media, is increasingly becoming an animal welfare concern.
This dual narrative doesn’t just stop at the emotional impact on viewers; it extends to the legal realm as well. The media’s portrayal of animals can shape public opinion, influencing legislation and policies aimed at protecting or exploiting them. Simultaneously, legal frameworks dictate how animals can be used in the media, seeking to strike a balance between artistic expression and ethical treatment. The use of animals in modern media gives rise to interesting legal questions, involving the regulation of content and the limits on freedom of speech.
Emerging Topics in Animal Law – Animals, the Law & Modern Media
As the world’s leader in animal law education, the Center for Animal Law Studies offers more courses than any other program, many of which are aimed at interrogating intersections between animal law and other fields of academic inquiry. In that vein, CALS is pleased to introduce a first-of-its-kind course in our online advanced degree program entitled “Animals, the Law & Modern Media”. Designed for U.S. LLM students, and taught by CALS’ Assistant Dean and Executive Director, Professor Pamela Byce, the course explores the relationship between law and the representation of animals in modern media.
The course surveys the ways in which modern media treats animals, how the media influences the lives of animals, as well as how the media shapes animal advocacy. Students will analyze and discuss a wide range of different types of media featuring animals, including relevant legal cases and issues. Some of the key questions addressed in the course include:
- How has the treatment of animals working in the film and television industries changed over time? What laws govern the use of animals in the entertainment industry?
- How have documentaries and other platforms been used to advocate for animals? How can documentaries be a tool to make animal law more accessible for the general public?
- How have animals been used to influence consumer psychology? What are the legal implications of incorrectly advertising products as “humane”?
- What are some problems associated with the portrayal of animals on social media? How does the law regulate the portrayal of animal abuse via online mediums?
Along with substantive knowledge of the law and modern media in relation to animals, students will benefit from a range of practical skills including being able to:
- Develop a comprehensive understanding of the various forms of media and assess the effectiveness of these platforms for advancing animal advocacy and legal protection.
- Analyze the applicability and effectiveness of current federal laws, state laws, and industry regulations, specifically for animals used in media.
- Apply legal knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between animals, the law, and media, along with the ability to critically assess factual scenarios in actual cases and hypotheticals.
Gain Insights from Media Experts
With more than 15 years of experience in animal law education and advocating for animals using different forms of media, Professor Byce brings a wealth of knowledge and legal expertise to the course. Additionally, students enrolled in the course will also hear from other experts in the field of animals in the media, some of whom have been pivotal in shaping the media’s relationship with animals. Some of these experts include:
- Jo-Anne McArthur: Jo-Anne is an award-winning photojournalist, sought-after speaker, photo editor, and the founder of We Animals Media. She has visited over sixty countries to document our complex relationship with animals. She is the author of three books: We Animals (2014), Captive (2017), and HIDDEN: Animals in the Anthropocene (2020), and is the subject of Canadian filmmaker Liz Marshall’s acclaimed Canadian documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine.
- Natasha Daly: Natasha is an award-winning editor, who spent more than seven years building National Geographic’s animal welfare storytelling beat, for which she won several awards for her investigative reporting. She is currently the Senior Manager for Content Strategy at the National Geographic Society.
- Jamie Berger: Jamie is the writer and producer of the award-winning feature-length documentary The Smell of Money, a film about a community fighting the pork industry’s environmental racism. Throughout her career, Jamie has used writing and visual storytelling to draw attention to issues ranging from environmental racism to the climate crisis to other injustices wrought against people, animals, and the planet.
Lewis & Clark’s Online Animal Law Programs
The online Animal Law LLM degree for lawyers and Animal Law MSL degree for non-lawyers are designed to prepare students for successful careers in the field of animal law. Graduates with advanced degrees in animal law are well-equipped to serve as animal law attorneys, educators, and contributors to animal protection organizations or other entities where knowledge of animal law is essential. CALS alumni, including judges, attorneys, policy-makers, and academics, are actively engaged in endeavors aimed at creating a better world for all.
The online program is designed to be accessible and flexible for students who have professional or personal obligations. Additionally, all candidates to both programs are automatically considered for scholarship support.