After three years since Advocates for Animals launched, Edie takes the opportunity to reflect on what we have learnt and why continued professionalisation in this area is so important.
Animal welfare has been a part of public discourse for a significant period of time, with impressive wins along the way. However, it is undeniable that the conversation of animal welfare and rights has grown louder in the past few years with ever growing public interest.
The catalyst for this is not one thing, but more of a collection of things coming together to form the fertile ground for the discussion to grow. Such factors include the birth of the internet, an increasingly educated public and, most optimistically, an evolving collective conscience and consciousness. Undoubtedly, the increasing sophistication of animal groups has also played a significant role in this development.
The activities of a standard animal group include campaigning, lobbying, outreach, undercover investigations, fundraising, and generally holding industry and government to account. Groups conduct all of these activities at an extremely high level and have been seen to reap the rewards, such as changes of law, changes in public opinion and, most importantly, changes in behaviour.
How the law adds value
As animal protection groups become increasingly sophisticated and undertake the above activities, it would be counterproductive to use anything other than professional and expert legal services.
As a professional service, we have helped ensure undercover investigations are as watertight as possible, ensured campaign materials and activities are compliant with the law and provided thorough information and insights into animal laws. Through this guidance we have helped animal protection groups determine the direction of numerous campaigns. We’ve also used numerous channels to ensure wrongdoers and regulators are held to account and started to litigate against some of the worst systems animals are forced to endure. All of these activities have helped level the playing field, which is so often in favour of industry.
Why it is important to ensure animal law is professional
Prior to Advocates for Animals there were some firms that did some animal law; however, this was largely inaccessible to most groups and activists with limited funds. Other than that animal law was a volunteer-led practice area and still is in many countries. Volunteer support is important and we have been grateful to receive it (and have all spent our fair share doing it). However, it is only by establishing animal law as a professional area of law that animals can start to get their legal protections adequately enforced, whether that be through litigation or simply through providing expert and timely guidance; as would be the case in any area of law that affects humans.
In areas that affect humans, it is professional and specialist lawyers you encounter, from property transactions and family disputes through to defending and prosecuting potential criminal activity and ensuring human rights are protected. It is an injustice that for so long animals have not had their legal protections covered in the same way. Even if animal legal protections exist on paper, can they be called law if they are not adequately considered or enforced?
Having a professional area of animal law means time and expertise are made available to focus solely on the task of upholding animal legal protections, which, in turn, means an unparalleled depth of knowledge is being accumulated. It also means sustainable infrastructure is being built to ensure a continuity of the practice of animal law. None of this would have been possible if the practice area remained volunteer-led, as, unavoidably, animal law would be picked up and put down as and when other commitments dictate. It would also have meant a lack of honed expertise, time, resources and commitment, and a lack of status for animal legal protections.
Finally, it is symbolically powerful to have a law firm highlighting that animal legal protections do matter.
One could argue that animal law is not one field, but spans many, e.g. public, criminal, civil etc. However, whilst it is true that animal law spans many areas, it is our experience that without a firm solely dedicated to animal law, it remains a very small part of someone’s wider practice without sufficient expertise being developed towards the animal aspects of the law, which is only possible if fully specialised on this area.
At Advocates for Animals we work with a range of clients from NGOs and activists to individuals who just want to ensure justice for animals.
Our work with these clients is extremely broad due to the nature of the field, which means we are more akin to highly specialised in house lawyers responding to all our clients needs; from proofing their campaign materials through to assessing legal opportunities to meet their campaigning objectives, this may involve possible prosecutions, judicial reviews, advising on undercover investigations and more.
The role we take on serves the animal protection community, as it means that not only are we providing expert legal advice, but we understand the other considerations at play when it comes to our clients activities and their appetite for risk and impact.
Since our launch we have received ongoing instructions from most of the well known animal groups and some smaller, but still effective, ones. We have advised on areas that have informed powerful campaigns, been involved in cases that have directly saved animals and worked on projects both in the UK and overseas. We have also spoken on animal law issues in the UK Parliament, the French Senat and the East African Legislative Assembly, and been grateful for positive media coverage.
As we go forward we hope to continue to provide professional legal assistance on some much needed work and continue to build the much needed infrastructure to ensure legal services remain sustainable and efficient. Advocates for Animals’ sole goal is to ensure it provides the best service possible to help animal groups, activists and animals now and in the future.
If you have any questions on the services we offer at Advocates for Animals, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org