Just got back from Dunedin, where last night I gave a guest lecture as part of Animal Law week, a production of the Student Animal Legal Defence Fund (SALDF) chapter recently established at the University of Otago – the first ever Chapter outside of North America.
It was a hell of an experience, and one I enjoyed immensely. After years struggling to get a viable student group working at Auckland, it was refreshing to see a student-created group with so much focus and vigour – and so much concern for animal law issues. In addition to my talk, the Otago group has set up a whole week of seminars, stalls and discussions, many of them student led and researched. Quite a feat, especially when you consider that animal law has never been taught at Otago – and is not currently on the agenda.
The talk itself went well, and I received some wonderful feedback. A packed house learned about the animal welfare construct and why it fails animals, and we continued talking afterwards as well. I was pleased to hear that this SALDF chapter is planning to host further events through the year, and with the support of the Otago administration, an animal law course might not be far off.
It goes to show what students can do when they put their minds to it. As Margaret Mead once sagely wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I couldn’t agree more. This small group of students committed to learning more about animal law issues has really stirred things up at Otago. I must confess that the only sad thought arising from this was how the same thing has not progressed at Auckland, where I teach. Despite considerable effort from myself and one or two others, SOLVE currently lies dormant – aside from The Solution, of course – because we weren’t able to get that “small group of thoughtful, committeed people together with a vision to get matters moving on the agenda.
There will be at least one SOLVE event this year, however, and I plan to organize it. Late in September, we will show excerpts of FOOD Inc. at the Faculty, and follow it up with a moderated panel discussing the relevance of the issues raised.
I’m going to go continue reflecting upon the wonderful work of those students down in Otago. I wish you all the best for the rest of the week – and let’s hope this is the beginning of a lot more to come. Thanks for having me out!
By the way, I’ve finally joined the revolution and now Tweet about all things animal law. If you wish to check out what I can say in 140 characters or less, click here and follow me!