Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lessons From the 18th Annual Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark

Well, the 18th Annual Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark has come and gone, and what a weekend! I so enjoyed my first Lewis & Clark conference. I felt proud to be a member of this remarkable community and to share our school with people from around the world. I learned vast amounts about many different animal law issues and was both daunted by all the work that has to be done for the animals as well as inspired by all the groundbreaking achievements that have been done.

The most striking piece of information I learned this weekend was in a panel with Nancy Perry, vice president of government affairs at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). She was discussing the bills that she is hoping will get passed before the end of this congressional session, rapidly approaching on January 3rd. One of the bills being considered is The Truth in Fur Labeling Act (H.R. 2480). If passed, it would close the loophole left in the Fur Products Labeling Act of 1951 that exempts the labeling of fur products valued under $150.

According to Congressman Jim Moran, author of the bill and co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, 13% of the fur market falls beneath the $150 threshold. Additionally, recent investigations conducted by HSUS found “a proliferation of falsely labeled and falsely advertised fur on fashion clothing sold by some of the largest names in U.S. retailing.” Of the mislabeled (labeled as “faux fur”) and unlabeled fur-trimmed jackets tested by HSUS, 96% were found to be domestic dog, wolf, or raccoon.

Here is the text of the Act that desperately needs amendment:

(d) The term "fur product" means any article of wearing apparel made in whole or in part of fur or used fur; except that such term shall not include such articles, other than any dog or cat fur product to which section 308 of the Tariff Act of 1930 applies, as the Commission shall exempt by reason of the relatively small quantity or value of the fur or used fur contained therein.

I was both shocked and disgusted to learn this. I don’t know how many times I’ve bought boots with “fur” on the interior, assuming that since it wasn’t labeled as fur and the boots only cost $30, well then of course the fur wasn’t real! Was it? I certainly hope not. The realization of this possibility really drove home for me how significant each subtle word is in the law. Yikes. Every word counts. A single clause allows products containing dog fur to go unlabeled – unbelievable.

On a lighter note, I was so excited this morning to come to school and see all of my animal law peers. I feel like we all bonded this weekend. I was particularly struck by something L&C Animal Law Clinic Director Kathy Hessler said in the last panel, “Student Career Summit.” She advised us students to not consider our peers as competition, but rather as colleagues. The spirit of the conference really supported that notion - that everyone in this field needs to support each other.

Pamela Frasch and Joyce Tischler offered an engaging panel on social movements, examining the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements and using them to predict the future of the animal rights movement. A question that arose was, is it good or bad that the animal rights movement is so dispersive?

While I have mixed feelings on that, I do believe what is perhaps most important is not that we all agree on what is the “correct” way to go about securing rights for animals, but instead, that we all need to help each other help animals. I think for this field to really see wide success, we will all need to put our varying creative ideas together and support each other in our efforts.

That said, I am so excited to work with my peers at Lewis and Clark Law School, with my peers nationally who are passionate about making a difference for animals, and with the remarkable leaders already paving the way for present and future change.

Thanks to everyone for making this conference such an enriching experience!

Jaclyn Leeds J.D. Candidate 2013 Lewis & Clark Law School Jaclyn Leeds & Fellow 1Ls, Kelly LaToza & Lora Dunn

Nancy Perry, Vice President of Government Affairs, The Humane Society of the United States ( L&C Alumna)
Kathy Hessler
Animal Law Clinic Director, Lewis & Clark Law School

Pamela Frasch Assistant Dean/Executive Director, Center for Animal Law Studies & Joyce Tischler Founder/General Counsel, Animal Legal Defense Fund
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1 comment:

  1. It was a wonderful conference. It is always important to get re-inspired and to re-connect with so many amazing people doing such important work. One of my favorite talks was that given by Alberto Arguello from Nicaragua, a shining example of what one determined individual can accomplish in a small country with no resources. Thank you all for having him speak at the conference. Can't wait to see you again next year. Holly Trief