LEAP Announces Three Student Grant Program Recipients for 2024

Daniel Blokh, Ilaria Cimadori, and Lauren Killingsworth

The Law, Ethics & Animals Program (LEAP) at Yale Law School is thrilled to continue the LEAP Student Grant Program this year. Chosen from a highly competitive applicant pool, three students from across Yale are undertaking projects that build understanding of, draw attention to, and/or develop new strategies to address the urgent threats facing non-human animals. This year’s set of awards will support multidisciplinary projects in documentary filmmaking, comparative animal law, and the history of science. The 2024 LEAP Student Grant recipients include:

Daniel Blokh

Blokh is a senior at Yale College majoring in Comparative Literature and Russian and a writer and filmmaker from Birmingham, Alabama. His LEAP project is "Looking Back with Laika," a short documentary about the famous dog who became the first living creature in space. Through interviews with citizens of the former Soviet Union, he aims to explore the wide range of feelings Soviet citizens harbored toward Laika, from pride and patriotism to sadness and ethical uncertainty. By capturing the wide range of feelings Soviet citizens harbored toward Laika, the film will convey the importance of non-human animals in forming our political identity, our fears and hopes, our ethical beliefs, and our worldviews generally. Laika is an extreme example of the mutual interdependence that characterizes our relationship with all non-human animals, reminding us how greatly our actions impact (and currently threaten) animal life, as well as how greatly animals impact our lives in return.

Ilaria Cimadori

Cimadori is a third-year Ph.D. candidate at the Yale School of the Environment. Her academic and professional interests revolve around animal protection, particularly the exploration of animal protection within national and international law. With her LEAP Student Grant, Ilaria will conduct a comparative law analysis across the U.S., the E.U., and Switzerland assessing the adequacy of laws safeguarding farm animal welfare against detrimental applications of breeding techniques and emerging biotechnologies such as gene-editing. Gene-editing, particularly CRISPR, has an unprecedented power to modify animals' genomes to pursue desired traits — from productivity to fitness — and presents novel issues, like off-target mutations. It is also, however, considered a new breeding technique in addition to the techniques already in use. Thus, a key concern is not only the technology used, but also the design of breeding programs for farm animals more broadly. In the current project, Ilaria will explore how different jurisdictions approach this problem. Because of her commitment to enhancing animal protection and the absence of global consensus on gene-editing applications, breeding practices, and animal welfare coupled with an increased societal concern for animal welfare, Ilaria hopes to provide policy recommendations that would improve the protection of animals in breeding thanks to insights from different legal systems.

Lauren Killingsworth

Killingsworth is an M.D.-Ph.D. student at Yale School of Medicine in the Department of History of Science and Medicine. She centers the non-human in her interdisciplinary scholarship on emerging infectious diseases, environmental history, and public health. Her project examines the practice and history of biological control, the use of living organisms (such as mosquito-eating fish and parasitic insects) to eradicate vector-borne diseases. The strategy gained traction in the early twentieth century as part of imperial public health campaigns. With the LEAP grant, she will study the archives of the World Health Organization, the Commonwealth Institute for Biological Control, and other international organizations involved in this global exchange of species. She hopes to examine the ethical dilemmas raised by biological control: the valuation of different species, attempts to control non-human reproduction, and the promises and consequences of environmental manipulation in the name of human health. 

Read more about the 2023 cohort, 2022 cohort, and 2021 cohort of LEAP student grantees and learn more about the LEAP Student Grant Program on LEAP’s website.