The Animal Law Section of the Texas State Bar held its Annual Animal Law Institute on April 4, 2014 in Austin. It was a success! Approximately 60 Texans converged on Austin to hear speakers from around the world speak on various Animal law matters. Pertinent to Texas after attention to the Dallas Safari Club, we heard presentations from regarding various economic stimuli as a means of preserving endangered species, particularly the rhino. Interesting facts regarding their horn growth, socialization methods, and traditional medicine play heavily into the discussion of diverse methods. Timothy Fitzgerald from Montana State University and Annecoos Wiesema from Denver University spoke on methods of conservation from economic and legal perspectives.
Later, we heard from our own Texas wonderstars, Don Feare and Randy Turner. These gentlemen spent time talking about the nuts and bolts of representing animal welfare groups, animal activists, and pet owners in Texas. Although they had several high-level topics to discuss, there was so much interest in procedural and strategic issues, not all topics were covered. Both gentlemen spent time outside their talk interacting with folks regarding their specific topics, and there are already plans to invite each of them back to help practitioners with more of nuts and bolts of taking an animal issue to court.
Shelby Bobowski from the Texas Humane Legislative Network was put on the spot after another speaker was sidelined by an automobile accident. As always, folks were interested to learn about the legislative updates going on in the State of Texas. It is impossible to fit all the activities of the legislative maneuvering into one thirty-minute segment but there was very positive feedback on the matters she was able to cover with such short notice.
We also heard from Chris Green of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Several of us had previously heard his discussion on veterinary affairs in Texas, but it is always interesting to see how little some things change and how much others change. Much of the discussion involved last year’s Texas Supreme Court activity regarding sentimental value and predictions for the future.
The mother of Animal Law, Joyce Tischler of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, also joined us to discuss Concentrated Animal Farming Operations (CAFOs), which is particularly relevant in Texas. Her talk primarily focused on the environmental consequences of current CAFO activity, though it was difficult to ignore the implications of the CAFO’s conditions on animals. CAFOs are uniquely capable of creating massive amounts of waste product and the treatment of that waste has significant legal consequences, many of which were discussed at the conference.
Peter Li, from the University of Houston-Downtown, is from China and brought us a fascinating discussion of the historical, current, and possible future manner in which China regards its animals. The talk covered the way ancient rulers legislated for the benefit of the kingdom with regards to animals. It contrasted that history with some examples of the ways animals are currently regarded by legislation by introducing us to some husbandry practices that are foreign to an American audience, such as the harvesting of bear bile. Additionally, Mr. Li made some predictions for the way rulers may, or may not, handle legislation for animals in the future based on the increase in animal welfare activists, international pressures, and realizations about the effects of certain practices on environmental and economic sustainability.
Please check back for more information about the 2015 Institute in the coming months.