LEAP’s Climate, Animal, Food, and Environmental Law & Policy Lab (“CAFE Lab”) launched in Spring 2020.

Students in the CAFE Lab gain firsthand experience working with faculty, outside experts, and non-governmental organizations to develop innovative law and policy initiatives to bring systemic change to the global food industry, which is one of the top contributors to climate change, animal suffering, human exploitation, and environmental degradation worldwide. The Lab’s mission is to devise and propagate novel legal and policy strategies to compel industrial food producers to pay the currently uncounted, externalized costs of industrial agriculture for animals, workers, communities, and the environment. The Lab focuses on patterns of exploitation that jointly affect multiple social causes, including animal welfare, worker and immigrant rights, environmental protection, consumer safety, rural communities, fair markets, and public health.

Students enrolled in the Lab work in small teams on initiatives to create a more equitable food system. Potential projects for the CAFE Lab include developing legislative, regulatory, and litigation prototypes to reduce suffering of factory farmed animals; stop physical abuse, labor violations, wage theft, and other methods of exploiting workers; require reporting and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from industrial agriculture operations; hold corporations accountable for self-declared deadlines for climate, labor, and animal welfare reforms; remove legal barriers to sustainable alternatives products; and challenge false “humane,” “sustainable,” “green,” “fair trade,” or “environmentally friendly” marketing claims.

The CAFE Lab course has four core modules. First, the Lab provides hands-on skills training designed to teach students how to apply systems thinking; select interventions that actually work; and build durable interventions in policy, legislation, and litigation. Second, the Lab hosts a small number of guest speakers who will share case studies showing how they accomplished law and policy changes that most advocates in their field had declared to be impossible or infeasible, and who will help inspire aggressive and innovative thinking about social change. Third, the Lab includes workshopping sessions on each team’s draft intervention to apply the learning from skills sessions and case studies, and facilitate collective evaluation, brainstorming, and feedback. Fourth, the semester culminates with a final presentation by each team of one prototype intervention (and accompanying white paper) to a panel of NGO, philanthropic, governmental, and industry experts for feedback, and potential adoption and deployment of the best prototype intervention ideas beyond the Semester course. All intervention prototypes developed in the Lab are posted online and available to any interested stakeholder in open-source format with the purpose of fostering adoption by a wide-ranging cross-section of non-profit, government, and corporate leaders.

Examples of past case study speakers include:

  • Lisa Zucker, speaking on campaigning for equal treatment of New York farmworkers,
  • John Hughes, discussing North Carolina hog nuisance lawsuits, and
  • Ben Goldsmith, presenting Farm Forward’s successful corporate campaign strategies.

Yale Law School students and other Yale graduate and professional students may enroll in the CAFE Lab for credit with the permission of instructors. The official course listing for the CAFE Lab is available here. Students interested in other opportunities to contribute to CAFE Lab’s work should email LEAP Faculty Co-Directors Jonathan Lovvorn (jonathan.lovvorn@yale.edu) and Doug Kysar (douglas.kysar@yale.edu).