Courses in Animals & Law

The Law School regularly offers an overview course on animal law and an experiential course dedicated to developing new legal strategies to address exploitative industrial practices that jointly impact animals and other social causes. In addition, the Law School periodically offers novel, specialized and timely animal law and policy courses and seminars as well as a wide range of supporting experiential and academic classes. These courses include Environmental Law and Policy, Administrative Law, Health Law, Bioethics and Law, American Indian Law, Food and Drug Administration Law and Policy, The Regulations of Labor Relations, Immigration Law, Land Use, Property, and more. Multiple Yale Law School legal clinics are currently, or have recently been, involved in animal welfare-related cases, including the Goldman Sonnenfeldt Environmental Protection Clinic and the Media Freedom Information and Access Clinic. 

The Advanced Climate, Animal, Food, and Environmental Law and Policy Lab, offered in the spring 2021, spring 2023, fall 2023, and spring 2024 semesters, allows students who have already completed the CAFE Lab course to continue working on projects that advance industrial animal agriculture reform. Enrollment limited. Permission of instructors required.

The Climate, Animal, Food, and Environmental Law and Policy Lab, offered in the fall 2020, fall 2022, spring 2023, fall 2023, and spring 2024 semesters, allows students the opportunity to work with faculty, outside experts, and non-governmental organizations to develop innovative litigation and legislative 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 primary focus areas for 2023-24 include litigation to address GHG emissions from industrial agriculture and legislative models to hold industrial food producers accountable for the currently uncounted, externalized costs of industrial agriculture for animals, workers, communities, and the environment. Enrollment limited. Permission of instructors required.

This course will examine the application of the law to non-human animals, the rules and regulations that govern their treatment, and the concepts of "animal welfare" and "animal rights." The course will explore the historical and philosophical treatment of animals, discuss how such treatment impacts the way judges, politicians, lawyers, legal scholars and lay people see, speak about, and use animals; survey current animal protection laws and regulations, including overlap with such policy issues as food and agriculture, climate change, and biodiversity protection; describe recent political and legal campaigns to reform animal protection laws; examine the concept of "standing" and the problems of litigating on behalf of animals; discuss the current classification of animals as "property" and the impacts of that classification, and debate the merits and limitations of alternative classifications, such as the recognition of "legal rights" for animals. Students will write a series of short response papers. An option to produce a longer research paper for Substantial or Supervised Analytic Writing credit will be available.

This course will examine the relationship between climate change, humans, and animals. With few exceptions, researchers and policy advocates looking at the impact of climate change on animals tend to focus on species loss and biodiversity at a macro level. But climate change is also having profound impacts on the individual lives and well-being of billions of animals. Large-scale human use of animals for food is also a significant and often overlooked cause of climate change emissions. The course seeks to develop a deeper understanding of the impacts of climate change on animals, the power dynamic between privileged human actors and the disenfranchised victims of climate change, and the intersection of animal welfare, environmentalism, food policy, and climate change. The course will be organized partly as a traditional seminar and partly as a collective research endeavor to gather and analyze information on this significant and neglected topic. As part of the course experience, students will work in small groups to conduct research and write a report on an underdeveloped topic concerning animals and climate change. The various sub-reports will be edited into a single white paper that will be distributed to the animal welfare, environmental, food policy, and climate change advocacy communities. Depending on the scope of their work, YLS students may be eligible to receive Substantial Paper or Supervised Analytical Writing credit. Paper required. Enrollment limited. Permission of the instructors required. Also F&ES.

Courses Outside the Law School

There is a tremendous amount of work being done across Yale University about what nonhuman animals think and feel, and the nature, complexity, and significance — ecologically, morally, legally and politically — of human-animal relationships. The University offers courses on these topics in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences through Yale College, the School of Forestry & Environment Studies, the School of Public Health, the Divinity School, and more. Examples of courses offered currently or in recent years include: 

Research Topics in Animal Cognition
The Ecology of Food
The Mind of a Dog
The Evolution of Beauty
Human-Wildlife Conflict in Africa
Making Climate Knowledge
Animals in Modern American Fiction
Animals in Indian Religions
Multispecies Worlds
Global Food Challenges: Environmental Politics & Law
Food & Documentary
Agriculture: Origins, Evolutionary, Crises
Primate Behavior & Ecology
Topics in Evolutionary Theory
Global Aspects of Food & Nutrition
Conservation Biology
Comparative Physiology
Biology of Terrestrial Arthropods
The Nonhuman in Literature since 1800
Animals in Literature & Theory
Multifunctional Carbon Sequestration
Wetlands Ecology
Native American Religions & Ecology
Social Movements
Human-Animal Encounters

American Environmental History
Mental Lives of Babies and Animals
Speaking for Others: Law & Literature
Being a Person
History of Life
Biological Oceanography
Writing about Science, Medicine and the Environment
Studies in Sound and Voice
Food, Race & Migration in the U.S.
Ecology, Economics & Politics of Species Invasion
Conservation in Practice: International Perspectives
Toolkit for Conservation Project Planning
Pests, Pathogens & Parasites
Climate Change & Societal Collapse
Ecological Urban Design
Problems in the History of Science
American Indian Law & Policy
Perspectives on Environmental Injustices
Bioethics in Neuroscience
Evolution of Primate Intelligence
Large-Scale Conservation
Theories in Human Uniqueness
Wilderness in North American Imagination
Other Minds
Law, Environment and Religion
Age of Extinction Risk
Animal Ethics
The Evolution of Morality