Akisha is World Animal Net’s senior policy and legal resource advisor. Prior to joining the organization, she served as assistant legislative counsel at the Humane Society of the United States. In addition to her role at World Animal Net, Akisha is a legislative consultant, Associate Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and a member of the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee. She received her B.A. from Stanford University, and her law degree from Georgetown University.
On the weekend of December 12 and 13, 2015, something monumental happened—representatives of 195 nations adopted a climate agreement in Paris at COP 21. For the first time in history, nearly every country on the planet is committed to working to limit dangerous greenhouse emissions to combat the worst impacts of climate change. More specifically, these nations have agreed to pursue efforts to slow the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 Celcius degrees above pre-industrial levels. Among the legally binding elements of the agreement are the requirements to submit emission reduction targets and regularly review those goals.
Legal advancements for animals can often come at a painfully slow pace. But last week, we couldn’t help but notice how many wins and promising animal law-related news items kept coming in. Here are a few of the highlights:
Just because summer is coming to an end doesn’t mean things aren’t heating up in the world of animal protection law. We at World Animal Net are very excited about a number of new developments in the field. Here are our top picks worth mentioning:
Lots of great things have happened for animals this summer. In Nepal, half a million animals will now be spared from slaughter in what has been deemed the "world's bloodiest animal-sacrifice," and replaced with new and peaceful alternatives. In the U.S., groundbreaking new restrictions have been proposed to eliminate the market for illegal ivory. In the wake of the death of Cecil the lion, a growing list of airlines including Delta, Air Canada, American and U.S. Airlines are refusing to ship big game trophies. And Costa Rica became the first nation to ban sport hunting.
The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) recently granted World Animal Net Special Consultative Status. Since 2001, when World Animal Net was first granted consultative status, we have worked to build partnerships and collaborative relations at the United Nations. Our elevated status will increase our capacity to represent animal protection interests through intergovernmental advocacy. We are also pleased that FOUR PAWS International, another animal protection organization, has also recently received Special Consultative Status.
Animal protection organizations with an interest in brushing up on their general knowledge of animal law or offering their expertise in a certain area of animal law may just be in luck. An increasing number of animal law committees are forming to help educate attorneys, professionals, and often the general public on legal issues surrounding animals. And occasionally, these events are even free to attend.
In the past several days, much attention has been riveted on a newly published document spanning nearly 200 pages. No, it isn’t the latest best seller, or the script for an award-winning film. It is Laudato Si', the latest papal encyclical on the protection of “our common home,” issued by Pope Francis. While encyclicals have historically been written with a Roman Catholic audience in mind, what makes this one unique is that it is addressed to every person on the planet. Given the pattern of Pope Francis’s embrace of and appeal to people from all walks of life to date, this inclusive call to action is hardly surprising.
Think it’s impossible to stand up for animals at the voting booth? You may wish to reconsider. From politicians who vocally support strong animal protection legislation, to citizen-directed animal protection initiatives presented directly to the voting public, opportunities for putting the ballot to work to improve the lives of animals abound. Public discourse around animals and politics is also becoming more frequent, as illustrated by a recent conference in Bristol. There’s even a fully funded Ph.D. program that welcomes a concentration on the political representation of nonhuman interests.
Perhaps many of us have seen a version of this familiar story unfold on the set of a television drama. In a groundbreaking case, a chimpanzee takes the stand while his attorney uses sign language to defend his right to freedom from captivity. While the details won’t play out exactly like this in an upcoming hearing next month, something groundbreaking has happened in U.S. legal history for animals. Brought by attorneys from the Nonhuman Rights Project, a precedent-setting lawsuit seeks a “writ of habeas corpus” for Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees currently held in a New York research institute. Advocates hope that this step will allow them to successfully challenge the chimps’ detainment while answering a fundamental question: whether nonhuman animals can be entitled to the right of bodily liberty. Last week, the nonprofit received a bit of potentially positive news after a New York judge issued an order to show cause, compelling the defendants to provide legal justification for their detainment. If the nonprofit prevails, the chimps could be moved to a sanctuary within the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance.
Who knew giant pandas enjoy doing somersaults? This month, World Animal Net celebrated the second annual World Wildlife Day through humane education in our own community.