The Scientist, “the magazine for life sciences professionals,” recently ran an opinion piece by P. Michael Conn on the growth of animal law courses at American law schools.
Conn, the Director of Research Advocacy at Oregon Health and Sciences University and Oregon National Primate Research Center, collects some interesting facts: 55% of American law schools offer animal law courses, including 36 of the top 50 schools; 73% of law schools have some sort of animal law presence, through either animal law student groups or animal law courses; 68% of law schools are affiliated with universities that conduct animal research; of the law schools that offer animal law classes, 69% are at universities that conduct animal research.
While these statistics are interesting, their significance to animal research is not at all clear. Conn claims, with little explanation, that the growth of animal law may threaten animal research at universities that have both animal research programs and animal law courses. Conn suggests that some courses aim to indoctrinate students into the animal rights movement. Without citing a single example, he claims that “programs championing animal rights or ‘liberation’ set up adversarial potential on campuses and pose a serious risk to the future of animal research.” Where such “programs” exist remains a mystery. There is no doubt that increased legal awareness of animal rights could, and hopefully will, limit our ability to use animals as objects, but given the disciplinary organization of universities, even courses that do investigate fundamental questions about legal rights and animal personhood have no mechanism for interfering with the conduct of other departments.
Cryptically, Conn warns that “[f]ailure to address developments in the education of law students is likely to have a long-ranging impact on the ability to develop new treatments needed for human and animal well-being.” How exactly animal researchers hope to “address developments in the education of law students” is unclear, but there is no doubt that at least a few animal research programs have attempted to block the addition of animal law courses or at least alter their content. (Curiously, these are often the same researchers who wave the flag of “academic freedom” whenever anyone questions the merits of their research.) Considering the numerous reports of intense animal suffering at Conn’s own OHSU, perhaps he should turn his attention back to what happens in his own department.
Reprinted from Animal Legal Defense Fund; posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on December 14th, 2009
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