Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Rant and Rave About the Rise in Pro Bono Work for Animal Rights

I read an article this morning whose title started off making me feel hopeful. A few lines in, I was then left me mired in a desire for clarity and consistency. According to an article in the National Law Journal yesterday, pro bono work done by lawyers on animal rights issues has been spiking. A lot. The study of animal law, itself, is one of the fastest growing. So the article presents this increase as if it's a reflection of these attorneys' interest in defending non-human animals -- in defending animal rights. There are so many inconsistencies in it, though, and there's such ample opportunity to cock an eyebrow or two in suspicion or derision.

For instance, the article describes the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as an "animal rights" organization, when it's in fact a welfarist organization, and it focuses on HSUS and the Animal Legal Defense Fund as two groups to which attorneys seeking to do pro bono work are drawn. The article mentions that Latham & Watkins is one of the only firms HSUS will mention as one of its major contributors. Far from being goodly, Latham & Watkins has a lengthy history of fighting on behalf of everyone from humungous pharmaceutical companies to the Church of Scientology and Monsanto.

The article goes on to quote a Latham & Watkins attorney extensively, including how his summation of the various reasons behind attorneys' increasing involvement in animal "rights" and how he desbribes that what "makes the Humane Society and the ALDF attractive clients is they avoid most of the extreme stances and practices that some animal rights groups are known for" and then quotes him as stating: "I may not be a vegetarian, but I can still agree that a calf shouldn't live its entire life in an enclosure so small it can't turn around," he says.

So basically, an article presented as an increase in pro bono work for animal rights by compassionate attorneys who are purportedly getting behind the cause is really an article about an increase in pro bono work for new animal welfarism by attorneys of all ethical persuasions.

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