Defending the kingdom | Issue 20

Defending the kingdom | Issue 20

Animal Law Week

From 4–8 August the University of Otago chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) hosted “Animal Law Week 2014.” You may have noticed some of our posters around campus, especially in the vicinity of Richardson Building. You may even have gone to a few of our events. But who exactly are SALDF? And what do we do?

To answer that question we must go back to 1979, not in New Zealand, but in the United States of America. There, legal professionals who were active in shaping the then-emerging field of animal law founded the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). ALDF has since worked to protect animals through the law in a variety of ways, including: filing lawsuits to stop animal abuse; expanding the boundaries of animal law; providing free legal assistance to prosecutors handling animal cruelty cases; working to strengthen anti-cruelty laws; encouraging the American government to enforce existing animal protection laws; and providing public education.

Part of their work also saw the creation of many SALDF chapters, which as the name suggests are law student groups that are affiliated with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and share its mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.

Most SALDF chapters are located in the United States and Canada. This Otago chapter, founded in 2010, is unique in that it is one, if not the only, chapter of SALDF outside of North America, something we are incredibly proud of as we come to the end of our fifth year. Our aim is to help protect animals in New Zealand through the law and make sure they are fairly represented in the legal system. We do this in a number of ways, including: hosting guest speakers; attending workshops; documentary screenings; and holding student-run seminars on animal welfare issues. However, our busiest time of the year is our annual “Animal Law Week,” where we dedicate a week to hosting events and seminars to spread animal law issues across campus and beyond, and this year’s Animal Law Week has been one of our most ambitious ever. We’ve had superb guest lectures on “An Introduction to the New Zealand Animal Welfare Act” and on “Research on Marine Mammals and the Law,” a meet-and-greet with famed Australian judge the Honourable Michael Kirby, a fitness class fund-raiser at UNIPOL in support of the SPCA, some student-run seminars, and we even teamed up with the Otago University Veganism and Animal Rights Society for a vegan lunch and documentary screening.

Otago SALDF would like to thank all those who attended our events and helped make this year’s Animal Law Week our best ever. We also wish to thank Nicola Wheen, Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere, Michael Kirby, the Otago University Faculty of Law, UNIPOL staff, Otago VARS and Dunedin SPCA for their work and support in the organising and running of Animal Law Week events. Also our special thanks go to Danielle Duffield, Otago SALDF's founder, who has since graduated from Otago and moved to work in Auckland.

If you would like to know more about Otago SALDF please join us on Facebook.
This article first appeared in Issue 20, 2014.
Posted 12:53am Monday 18th August 2014 by Christian Hardy.