The Animal Legal Defense Fund would never be able to use the law to
advance the interests of animals without the support of legal
professionals nationwide. In this first of a series of spotlights,
ALDF’s Animal Law Program salutes attorney Gabriela Sandoval.
For Gabriela Sandoval, nothing is more important than helping those in need. And as part of ALDF’s volunteer attorney network, she is putting her skills to work. This Denver-based attorney recently helped draft an amicus curiae brief ALDF filed on a companion animal custody case, for example.
Even in her teens, Gabriela knew that her life would involve fighting on behalf of the exploited. Deep in Maine’s North Woods as part of an Outward Bound wilderness program, she realized that the flora and fauna around her deserved protection, and her career path was set soon afterward as a Colorado State University freshman. Attending environmental ethics, philosophy, and politics courses, Gabriela knew she would become a legal advocate representing the interests of non-human animals and the environment. "I’m still not exactly sure how I didn’t feel it or see it before, but when I finally came to face the reality of the exploitation and abusive practices in which we as humans were engaging with regard to animals, I was filled with motivation to help protect them," she says. "Not necessarily because I loved this animal or that animal – that wasn’t the point. The point was that I felt there was an opportunity to protect those who needed the most protection and who endured the greatest suffering."
For Gabriela, helping to alleviate this suffering meant making more humane, conscientious choices – and studying law. "My drive to enforce the animal protection laws, push for new progressive animal legislation, and engage in animal advocacy is the reason I went to law school," she says. "During law school, what I already knew had been reconfirmed. I wanted to pursue a career working toward progressive legal rights for animals."
Children, too, benefit from Gabriela’s legal expertise, and she sees a distinct parallel between children’s rights and animal rights. "Historically, children were viewed as property, without any rights of their own," she explains, noting that the same is true of non-human animals. "Animals have individual needs. They too have interests. By virtue of the fact that they can suffer, they too deserve protection and representation. Like children, animals are easily victims of abuse and exploitation. Too often the abuse goes unnoticed because of the simple fact that they can’t call out for help. Abuse goes unnoticed because people are misled and misinformed."
"ALDF is very fortunate to have the support of and opportunity to work with legal professionals like Gabriela," says Pamela Hart, director of the Animal Law Program. "The time and expertise she and hundreds of volunteer attorney members contribute make it possible for ALDF to further our mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interest of animals through the legal system. Their efforts have a direct impact on animals, whose lives we are diligently trying to protect."
Gabriela regards her contributions as essential to who she is. "The way I see it, if I feel strongly about something, I need to try to do something about it," she says. "If I don’t, I fear that I only become part of the problem. While the work I do with children and on behalf animals may be the most difficult and often emotionally draining, it’s also, interesting, complicated, and most rewarding."
You can learn more about Gabriela Sandoval and her practice, the Rocky Mountain Legal Center for Child & Animal Welfare, by visiting www.childandanimalaw.com.
To become a member of ALDF’s Animal Law Program and assist animals as part of our pro bono network, please complete and return our Attorney Membership Application.
Despite all that ALDF’s hometown of Cotati, California, has to offer, I have opted to live in Berkeley, where I have ready access to the Bay Area’s best vegan donuts, best vegan brunch, best produce, best vegan horror movie potluck, and best vegan soul food. (OK, admittedly, some of those are in Oakland, but that’s next door to Berkeley...).
One of the downsides of living in Berkeley, however, is that I have a very long daily commute. I spend at least two hours of the day in my car (it’s a hybrid, so the gas consumption isn’t as bad as it could be). As a result, I end up listening to a lot of music and a lot of podcasts to keep myself from driving off the Richmond Bridge in a fit of road rage.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite animal-themed podcasts. Each of these podcasts is available for free through iTunes. For the less technically-inclined readers, more info about podcasts and how to download them are available here: Mac or Windows.
I know that there are other great vegan and animal protection podcasts out there that aren’t listed below, so please use the comment feature if you’d like to recommend a good podcast that I’ve missed.
As much as I enjoy all the podcasts listed here, my favorite is Animal Voices. With almost 250 shows archived online, Animal Voices has covered just about every animal topic imaginable. What I love most about the show are the incredibly sophisticated and in-depth interviews that the show’s host, Lauren Corman, conducts. Lauren is a doctoral student in Environmental Studies, and her interests lie in cultural studies and critical theory. Those interests are reflected in fascinating shows such as: Literature and the Postcolonial Animal; Feminism, Animals, and Science; Animal Liberation, Critical Theory, and the Left; New Media and Animal Life; Cows, Colonialism, and Capitalism; When Species Meet; and Animal Rites.
In addition to these theoretical topics, Animal Voices also covers practical and strategic questions of animal activism, including activist burnout, direct action, and legal reform. The pair of shows entitled Animal Rights in the Courtroom and the Classroom (Part 1; Part 2), featuring Tamie Bryant, Gary Francione, and Bob Barker, will be of particular interest to ALDF members.
(On a side note, Animal Voices has also interviewed several of the other podcasters I recommend in this blog, including Erik Marcus and Bob and Jenna Torres. I told you they were thorough!)
Veg Talk is an interview-based podcast hosted by longtime vegan activist and author Erik Marcus. Prior to starting Veg Talk at the beginning of this year, Erik hosted the long-running Erik’s Diner podcast, one of the very first vegan-themed podcasts (maybe the first), featuring news items, Erik’s commentary, and interviews with members of the animal protection movement. Veg Talk has featured interviews with Bizarro artist and vegan advocate Dan Piraro, farmed animal activists Paul Shapiro and Nathan Runkle, and vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, among others.
For those interested in making the transition to veganism, I highly recommend the series of shows that Erik recorded to coincide with Oprah’s 21-day vegan cleanse experiment. Over the course of those three weeks, Veg Talk covered every topic of concern to new vegans in an easy and accessible way, from cookbooks, to supplements, to grocery shopping, to ethics.
Vegetarian Food for Thought
Vegetarian Food for Thought is hosted by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, founder of Compassionate Cooks and author of The Joy of Vegan Baking (the cinnamon rolls are awesome). Colleen has covered a variety of topics, including how to cook without eggs, why vegans need to be conscientious about getting enough B12, and what ten nutritious vegan foods you should be eating (Part 1 and Part 2).
Colleen has also done many shows responding to common questions people ask about veganism, from "Where do you get your protein?" to "What’s wrong with free-range eggs and 'humane' meat?" Perhaps these are questions you yourself have, or maybe you just aren’t sure how to respond to them when they are asked of you. In either case, Colleen’s podcasts are a great resource for thinking about these issues.
One unique feature of Vegetarian Food for Thought is Colleen’s reading of animal-themed short stories and essays in their entirety. Among my favorites are The Anarchist: His Dog by Pulitzer Prize winner Susan Glaspell, Beyond Lies the Wub, by brilliant sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, and Pig by famous British author Roald Dahl.
Vegan Freak Radio
The Vegan Freak Radio podcast is hosted by Bob and Jenna Torres, authors of the popular book Vegan Freak, which offers lots of practical advice to new vegans, while celebrating the virtues of being a "freak" in a society that exploits animals so ruthlessly. (As the Dalai Lama put it, "It is no sign of mental health to be well-adjusted to an insane world." Or in the words of the punk band Propagandhi, "I consider it a measure of my humanity to be written off by the living graves of a billion murdered lives."). Bob is also the author of Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights.
Vegan Freak Radio features conversations between Bob and Jenna, commentary on news stories, the occasional interview, and phoned in questions and comments from listeners. Bob and Jenna are avowed abolitionists in the vein of Gary Francione (hear their recent interview with him here), so Vegan Freak Radio is often highly critical of animal welfare reforms that operate within the traditional paradigm of animals as property. I can’t say I agree with everything they say (I can’t say that for any of these podcasts), but the show is always entertaining, funny, informative, and challenging. And thoroughly laced with profanity.
Rural Route Radio
While the four previous podcasts approach animal issues from a decidedly liberationist (or at least welfarist) perspective, Rural Route Radio comes at the issues from the perspective of agriculturalists. Host Trent Loos is a sixth-generation rancher from Nebraska. Rural Route Radio doesn’t focus solely on animal agriculture, but several of its shows have dealt with animal issues, including the episodes Let’s Talk About Meat, Let’s Talk About Arkansas Poultry, The Purpose of Animals, and Caring for our Animals. Without a doubt, the show is in favor of raising and slaughtering animals for their flesh; it defends abhorrent confinement practices as "humane" and maligns animal rights and animal welfare groups. But, to its credit, the show often interviews animal protection advocates and gives them a (more or less) fair opportunity to present their side of the story. I highly recommend the episode featuring Nathan Runkle of Mercy for Animals. Rural Route Radio offers an important perspective that animal advocates ignore at their peril. Listening to voices from within the industry can ensure our outreach efforts are effective, accurate, and well-informed. Of course, we should never take industry at its word, but knowing how its constituents think and what they say can only work to our benefit.
I hope you’ll consider subscribing to these podcasts and listening to them on the way to work or school, or while you do chores around the house or brainless tasks at work. Doing so is a great way to dedicate a small portion of each day to thinking about, and ultimately acting on, issues and questions related to animal liberation.
As was widely reported, the Spanish Parliament became what is believed to be the first national legislative body to adopt the principles of the Great Ape Project, which includes the right to life, protection of individual liberty, and a prohibition on torture.
Although as the reports note, Spain is an odd first nation to have passed such legislation, given it has next to no great apes within its borders. But this is still a very significant step towards broader recognition of the principles of the Great Ape Project, and animal rights more generally, within the international legal community.
Animal shelters and other animal protection organizations may gain
temporary custody of animals who have been rescued and evacuated from
the fires sweeping through California.
Shelters without the resources to house large numbers of animals can
adapt and use foster care forms developed by the Animal Legal Defense
Fund’s Criminal Justice Program as part of a foster care program to
establish temporary foster homes for the animals.
Instructions for using ALDF’s foster care agreement and application forms
Sample foster agreement
Sample foster care application
One day several years ago, a committed animal activist who I very
much respect proclaimed that all animal advocates should periodically
force themselves to watch videos depicting animal cruelty and
suffering, in order to remain inspired to help animals. With a mental
image of a scene from the film "A Clockwork Orange"
(in which the main character is forced to watch violent images as a
type of aversion therapy), I asked my friend if people who have already
seen these types of videos and have changed their lives accordingly
need to continue watching such footage. The answer was a firm,
At the time, I stayed silent, for fear of looking like a "bad animal activist." You see, I am someone who has a very difficult time viewing pictures of (or even reading about) abuse and cruelty. For quite some time after our discussion, I started feeling secretly ashamed when I would feel the need to avert my eyes, stop reading or click "stop" to take a break from particularly gruesome online footage. Unfortunately, I was feeling that guilt quite often, working at ALDF where photos, video and written accounts of horrific abuse are forwarded to our staff on a regular basis.
My guilt about finding it difficult to watch or read about such vicious acts continued until one day several years later, when I was on a break with some of my ALDF coworkers. Somehow the subject came up, and I was both surprised and relieved to discover that I am not the only animal advocate who has an especially hard time viewing such video or pictures, and I’m also not the only one who avoids exposing myself to such things during my "off" time, away from my ALDF job. I appear to be in very good company.
Certainly, there would be something terribly wrong with us if we enjoyed watching such graphic suffering. And if we were apathetic or desensitized to such violence, that would be a concern as well. But the question is, if we have a difficult time watching videos documenting monstrous acts of animal abuse, does that mean that we are "soft" on animal protection issues? Does it mean we are not committed animal activists? That we don’t care about the animals and what they experience? Are we (gulp) "wimps"?
To watch, or not to watch?
The coworkers I spoke to that day are committed activists and, like me, have seen (and continue to see) their fair share of videos containing animal cruelty, from vivisection to abuse of factory farm animals to dog fighting. Because they once viewed these videos, today they are 100% committed to ending the suffering of animals. Except when they need to view such footage to effectively do their jobs at ALDF, they remain committed without repeatedly and deliberately subjecting themselves to the visual horror that has already been burned into their minds forever. After all, are we truly effective advocates for the animals if we haven’t slept for days or weeks due to insomnia and nightmares? Do we really need to keep viewing animal cruelty over and over to remain committed?
On the other hand, my friend who made the original statement believes that one cannot stay motivated and committed to the cause without viewing such misery on a regular basis, and that if the animals have to suffer through such horrific pain, the least we can do is partially share in that horror by viewing it. If they have to go through something so atrocious – whether they’re being cut open and experimented on in a lab with no anesthesia, or torn limb from limb while still conscious in a slaughterhouse, or fought to the bloody death in a dog fighting pit – don’t we owe it to them to at least be a witness to their torment, to hear their cries of pain? Even though that particular animal in that particular footage may be free from pain (either rescued or now deceased), somewhere another one, or hundred, or million are suffering a similar fate, alone and voiceless. Shouldn’t we watch their suffering, to motivate ourselves to be their voice?
The late Gretchen Wyler summed it up quite eloquently: "We must not refuse to see with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies."
Ms. Wyler’s words have haunted me, and they have come to me with stabs of guilt when I have felt so sickened (and sometimes, almost panic-stricken) by what I am viewing, to the point of turning it off. But after many years of thought about this subject, and after talking with many different people who have made such strides for animals over the years, the conclusion I’ve come to is this: what deeply inspires one person can cause another to mentally, emotionally and even physically shut down. I’ve also learned that those of us who must watch such footage, or even see the results of animal cruelty first-hand - animal control officers, shelter workers, district attorneys, animal rights activists - may need to counteract such experiences with more positive motivators, away from the job.
A great example of an inspirational motivator is visiting a farm animal sanctuary. There we can see how good life is for the ones who escaped a fate worse than death, and how good life could be for others who are still suffering that terrible fate. Speaking from experience, when one leaves such a sanctuary, it is with positive mental images of those rescued animals, animals who now have actual names instead of being tagged and numbered in a feed lot, waiting for slaughter. Theirs are the names and faces that keep me going, after being pummeled with and sickened by the very worst that humans are capable of doing to animals.
There are a huge number of people who haven’t yet made significant changes in their lives to help animals. The animals desperately need them to see pictures depicting cruelty and abuse, to shock them out of their complacency. And I have the utmost respect and admiration for activists like my friend, who stay inspired to help animals by forcing themselves to view footage of inhumane acts toward animals, and then channel their anger into action. But for the rest of us, especially those who are all too familiar with the horror of animal cruelty, perhaps forcibly and repeatedly subjecting ourselves to such horror can be a one-way ticket to paralyzation if we don’t also experience any significant relief or uplifting experiences to counteract the effects of watching such brutality. The animals need each of us to be their witness, but what good will we be to them if we are so sleep-deprived, shell-shocked and depressed that we can’t get out of bed in the morning? The animals also need us to be strong, both physically and mentally, so we can continue to fight for their right to exist without being exploited, tortured and terrorized.
It may just be the Libra in me, but I think that maybe, as with most things in life, balance is the key.