Leader of Yale Law ‘animal rights’ program: ‘Past beliefs about human exceptionalism’ no longer legally relevant

A brand new program at the Yale School of Law aims to address the “legal rights” of animals.

In addition to for-credit courses, the initiative is opening a new lab focused on creating “legal and policy strategies” to combat industrialized agriculture's impact on issues such as “climate change” and “animal suffering.”

A professor involved in leading the project claims that “new discoveries” have negated “past beliefs about human exceptionalism” and that current laws are “outdated.”

Yale University is launching a new program with the goal of addressing America’s “outdated” and “insufficient” animal rights policies. 

Doug Kysar, a law professor at the Ivy League school, and law professor and Humane Society chief counsel for animal protection litigation Jonathan Lovvorn are heading up the new Law, Ethics & Animals Program (LEAP) at Yale Law School along with Viveca Morris, an associate research scholar in the law school.

Yale published Kysar’s assertion that society is in the midst of an important time for animals, due to factors such as revelations in animal intelligence that allegedly “overturn past beliefs about human exceptionalism,” according to a news release.

Kysar believes that while human attitudes about animals are changing, “our laws regarding animals are often outdated, insufficient, or nonexistent.”

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“The past two centuries, and particularly the last two decades, have witnessed a massive transformation in human attitudes towards animals, underscored by fundamental shifts in scientific understanding of animals and ethical thought regarding our obligations to nonhuman creatures,” the professor continued. “At the same time, our power over animals has been amplified exponentially by industry and technology.”

Kysar hopes that the new LEAP program will help bring America’s “outdated” laws up to speed. 

As part of the program’s launch, he will teach a fall “Animal Law” course along with Lovvorn in which students will earn up to three credits as they “examine the application of the law to non-human animals,” as well as the notions of “animal welfare” and “animal rights.”

According to the course description, students will also address the “problems of litigating on behalf of animals,” as well as animals’ classification as property. This will include debating the merits of recognizing “legal rights” for animals.

During the spring 2020 semester, Lovvorn will teach Climate, Animal[s], Food and Environmental Law & Policy Lab (CAFE Lab), which will “develop innovative law and policy initiatives to bring systemic change to the global food industry, which is one of the top contributors to climate change, animal suffering, human exploitation, and environmental degradation worldwide.”

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“The damage wrought by industrial agriculture is staggering and rapidly expanding, and beyond the capacity of any one legal discipline to mitigate or reform,” Lovvorn said in the news release. “By engaging leaders from a broad array of disciplines, the CAFE Lab presents a unique opportunity to develop new strategies to understand, respect, and protect those who have been left behind by the current legal system.”

Yale notes that LEAP will conduct unspecified “additional research and policy work,” as well as assist in the distribution of a podcast about animal rights. The program is also expected to collaborate not only with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies but also with the School of Public Health and the School of Management. 

Yale Animal Law Society Co-Chair Manny Rutinel said that he is “genuinely ecstatic” about the program, which he believes will “give the Yale community a unique opportunity to make an impact on issues that affect our environment, the health of our population, and the billions of animals used in industrialized agriculture,” according to the release.

“Human-animal relationships raise profoundly important questions of power, conscience, and the consequences of human actions for all living beings,” the student added. “The topic of animals and the law quickly reaches some of the deepest questions of what it means to be a good human.”

Campus Reform reached out to the program directors for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

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