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The Law, Ethics & Animals Program (LEAP) at Yale Law School is a multidisciplinary think-and-do tank dedicated to: (1) drawing the attention of leading thinkers and doers to the deep questions of conscience and law that human-animal relationships and industrialized animal cruelty raise; and (2) empowering Yale University scholars and students to produce positive legal and political change for animals, people, and the environment upon which they depend.
LEAP leads and coordinates a diverse program of activities that serve students and scholars at Yale, and that contribute to defining, expanding, and advancing the field of animal law. LEAP’s programming includes: academic and experiential animal law courses; the Climate, Animals, Food, and Environment Law & Policy Lab (“CAFE Lab”) — the first of its kind in the nation — where students work with experts to develop new legal and political strategies to address the multiple externalized costs of industrial animal agriculture; a student fellows program and active support for student research projects and publications; regular lectures, panels, and speaker events that bring leading thinkers — including lawmakers, scholars, artists, scientists, advocates, and journalists — to Yale’s campus to inspire, enrich, and inform the Program’s work; and the “When We Talk About Animals” podcast series. The Program’s work is highly interdisciplinary and we often partner with schools, departments, and other centers and programs across Yale University and beyond.
Why Animal Law
LEAP was founded in 2019 because this is a pivotal moment in history for animals: industrial animal farming is causing the most systemic animal abuse in human history and the consequences for our planet are catastrophic; wildlife is quickly disappearing in what has been called the planet’s sixth great extinction; new technologies such as CRISPR and artificial intelligence may change our very definition of what it means to be a living being or a human; new discoveries about what animals think and feel are overturning past beliefs about human exceptionalism; and on and on. And yet, as our power over animals has been amplified by industry and technology, today’s U.S. laws regarding animals are often outdated, insufficient, or non-existent. LEAP’s purpose at Yale Law School is to help respond to these urgent challenges with thoughtfulness and action.
LEAP is founded on the belief that studying humanity’s relationships with non-human creatures forces our society to address vital questions about human power, the consciousness of animals, the conscience of humankind, and the consequences of human action for all living beings. In humanity’s relationship with animals, humans hold all the power. How we use our power over animals is a vital test of our moral character and stewardship of species — and of the laws and policies that shape our actions.
LEAP’s approach to animal law, a field still in its nascency, is expansive and creative. We seek to engage an increasing number of exceptional thinkers, doers, and leaders from a broad array of disciplines to think about, understand, and develop new strategies to help animals. When we say ‘animal law’ at Yale Law School, we include environmental law, labor law, immigration law, health law, consumer protection law, antitrust law, media freedom law, and more, as each can be harnessed in new ways to help animals, people, and the environment. LEAP focuses on responding to systemic and industrialized abuses of animals, rather than one-off acts by individuals. Law never happens in a vacuum, so LEAP simultaneously works to advance thoughtful scholarship, new ideas, powerful storytelling, and new voices that expand society’s moral imagination about, appreciation of, and humility towards the more-than-human world.
LEAP is supported by generous gifts from The Quinn Foundation, Chuck and Jennifer Laue, Directors; the Brooks McCormick Jr. Trust for Animals Rights Law and Policy; the Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law and Policy, Inc.; Animal Welfare Trust; and an anonymous founding donor.
Banner photo credit: Steffen M. Olsen/DMI