Non-lawyers have an important role to play in animal protection. Whether serving as an expert witness, helping to shape policies or legislation, running a non-profit organization, working with survivors of abuse or neglect, providing scientific or other research that contributes to animal well-being, professionals in disciplines other than the law provide an integral piece of the puzzle when it comes to animal welfare. Now, these professionals can improve their skills and go even further for animals by obtaining a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) in Animal Law from the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) at Lewis & Clark Law School.
Who Should Consider the MSL Degree?
The Animal Law MSL Program at CALS is designed for non-lawyers from the U.S. and abroad who hold a Bachelor’s Degree. With the scope and contours of animal protections determined by the law, knowing the fundamentals of Animal Law is a valuable resource for individuals seeking to build on their existing skillsets to generate a positive impact for animals.
Concern about animal welfare is increasingly being recognized as an important public policy issue in countries across the globe. As a result, animal protection is an emerging topic in various fields of knowledge. However, lawyers are not the only ones who can make a difference for animals. Professionals in other disciplines such as education, science, arts, business, medicine, engineering, journalism, social work, and policy are just a few examples of professionals who are integral to animal protection.
While it is important that animal welfare issues are discussed in all environments, legal knowledge regarding the foundations of animal law boosts the work developed by professionals from all backgrounds. That is what the CALS Animal Law MSL Degree was designed for: to help non-lawyers develop a robust understanding of animal law to complement their work.
The Importance of Studying Animal Law for Non-Lawyers
What is “animal law”? It is a rich and expansive area of law that addresses common law, statutory law, and policy issues relating to the rights and interests of animals. It intersects with an array of traditional areas of law, including administrative, contract, constitutional, criminal, environmental, family, property, torts, and more. Thus, for U.S. or international Bachelor’s degree holders seeking to focus on animal protection in teaching, research, academia, advocacy, policy, and more, the Animal Law MSL Degree is an important pathway to improving the world for animals.
Law is an important tool for any social justice cause, and animal protection is no exception. While significant changes can be initiated through a number of pathways, it is through law that the norms and values of a society are announced and established. What is in the law is seen as legitimate and, in democratic systems, represents the will of the people. Yet the law sometimes lags behind societal values. This is the case with animal protection, as the law routinely fails to reflect the regard for animals that societies increasingly expect. Accordingly, interrogating how the law treats animals aids non-lawyers in four key respects.
First, how the legal system works provides non-lawyers with the insight and capacity to change the current system to improve the lives of animals. The rights and interests of animals, as well as animal-related activities, are regulated in the U.S. by federal laws, as well as state statutes, and local ordinances. Similar statutory schemes exist in countries around the world, with the content of the law varying by jurisdiction (even within the same country or state). In order to promote changes in any system, it is essential to have a solid grasp on how the system works.
Second, studying substantive animal law provides an understanding of how the interests of animals are implicated or even restrained by existing law. Non-lawyers gain the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the law as an instrument to improve behaviors and societal values. Non-lawyers may be surprised to learn that some of the most exploitative and cruel practices that are inflicted on animals are legally condoned. Thus, having a legal background in animal law provides an understanding of many of the issues that impact animals’ lives, and this substantive legal knowledge empowers non-lawyers to change these institutionalized cruel practices.
Third, studying existing impediments built into the law to try to block advances for animals creates the opportunity for innovation. “Ag-gag” laws, or statutes that prohibit or restrict recording at industrialized farming operations, are one example. Ag-gag laws protect industrial animal agriculture operations and were designed as an obstacle to undercover investigations that reveal cruel practices committed against animals.
A thorough understanding of these legal roadblocks not only helps professionals navigate them but also inspires other avenues to create change and to advance animals’ interests. The dynamic and growing plant-based food industry is another example of using innovation to improve the lives of animals by providing alternatives to industrial animal agriculture. Building a resilient food system will take professionals from all disciplines to seize upon this opportunity to fuel change by looking toward the future of how society can feed a growing population without contributing to climate change, environmental harms, worker injustices and exploitation, and the suffering of farmed animals.
Finally, the MSL program equips non-lawyers for success by exploring the legal systems and animal laws of other countries. The study of differences and similarities between the legal systems of different countries enables professionals to identify how animals’ interests are being advanced through law in various nations, with professionals being able to replicate those advances in their own countries
Careers for Animal Law MSL Graduates
Animal Law MSL graduates are equipped to work for animal protection organizations in positions where a knowledge of animal law would be helpful or even required, but where the position would not require practicing law. Such areas include lobbying work for a state or national animal protection entity, including wildlife, equine, aquatic, companion, and farmed animal law organizations, as well as those indirectly related to animal protection, such as plant-based food law, and environmental justice organizations. Other careers include animal law education, journalism, science, outreach and advocacy, policymaking, and more.