Bringing Together Science and Animal Law

The Kimmela Center presents a new Continuing Law Education (CLE) webinar: “Using Law and Science to Help Animals.”

Produced jointly with the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School. The one-hour webinar features Kimmela Director Lori Marino and Clinical Professor Kathy Hessler, Director of the Animal Law Clinic & Aquatic Animal Law Initiative at Lewis & Clark. Together, they discuss how lawyers can effectively use science in their animal protection legal work.

Science and animal law are closely linked, as much of animal law is based on the science of welfare, animal cognition and even genetics. Thus, scientific knowledge and familiarity can empower animal law and policy efforts in the great majority of cases.

Kimmela is committed to bringing relevant scientific knowledge to practicing attorneys, law students and scholars and advocates to help them learn how to employ scientific knowledge to optimize their work for animals.

This webinar is part of an ongoing project being conducted in collaboration with the Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law and Policy, an organization dedicated to advancing animal law and policy to protect animals.

The webinar is approved for one Oregon continuing legal education credit. (Check for eligibility in other states.)

Kimmela Center Launches Scholar Advocacy Webinar Series

The Kimmela Center has launched a webinar series on scholar advocacy, an empowered professional path that combines scholarship in various fields with advocacy (for animals in this case).

The main reason for this series is that students, especially those in the natural sciences, are often led to believe that academic scientists should not engage in animal advocacy. They are often told that they can either be a scientist or they can be an advocate, but that they cannot (or should not) do both.

Similarly, working scientists who advocate for the animals they study are often criticized for their advocacy work. The claim is that “science is objective.”

It is true that the process of scientific inquiry and methodology needs to be rigorously objective. But how scientific data are employed to create change does not have to be neutral. Indeed, it is anything but neutral in advocacy for humans – for example in relation to children, patients and homeless people. And there is no reason why this should not apply equally to advocacy for animals. It takes advocacy based in science and scholarship to drive the cultural shift that’s taking place in how we relate to nonhuman animals. Animal advocacy is becoming mainstream.

The Kimmela Center is at the forefront of the movement to promote scholar advocacy for animals.

This year we initiated a live webinar series on scholar advocacy beginning with Scholar Advocacy in Neuroscience and Psychology. Dr. Lori Marino of The Kimmela Center was joined by Dr. Greg Berns of Emory University, Dr. Syd Johnson of Upstate Medical University, Dr. Bob Jacobs of Colorado College, and Dr. Becca Franks of New York University, as they discussed their professional paths as neuroscientists, neuroethicists, and animal psychologists who also advocate for animals in different ways. Greg Berns talked about how he advocates for animals as a neuroscientist by limiting his research to non-invasive and non-coercive studies. Becca Franks discussed how she engages in animal welfare research and teaching. And the whole group provided valuable advice to students in the webinar audience who are navigating the often-complex world of academic neuroscience and animal advocacy.

Our second live webinar, Scholar Advocacy in Marine Mammal Science, featured Dr. Marino, Dr. Naomi Rose of the Animal Welfare Institute, Dr. Deborah Giles of Wild Orca, Kara Elizabeth Henderlight of the American Cetacean Society, and Mariah Kirby, a biology educator. Together, they talked about why they believe it is important to advocate for the protection, conservation and rights of marine mammals, both free-ranging and in captivity.

Upcoming webinars will focus on scholar advocacy in animal law, farmed animal protection, and many other areas.

Please go here for updates on upcoming scholar advocacy webinars and news about other activities and events sponsored by The Kimmela Center.

And thank you for making these good things possible. Your tax-deductible donation, large or small, helps support young scholar-advocates, develops scholar-advocacy professional programs, and empowers scholarship-based animal advocacy efforts of all kinds.

Coming Soon: a Generation of Scholar Advocates for Animals

When I gave a TEDx Youth talk at the Nueva School for gifted children in California, last year, I met Aton, a 10-year-old who loves science. Aton is not only a brilliant student; he’s a passionate advocate for whales and the oceans, and he told me he studies biology and other subjects at Nueva so he can help make the oceans free of plastic and healthy again.

Only a few years ago, Aton would have had to make a choice at the end of high school: He would have had to decide whether he was going to become a scientist OR an advocate for animals.

That’s because being a scientist and an advocate would not have been an option.

To become an accredited scientist, Aton would have had to give up his advocacy, since scientists were expected to be entirely neutral when it came to morality. And if his priority had been to make his voice heard on behalf of the animals, he would have been expected to forego an advanced degree or the kinds of academic positions traditional scientists occupy.

He could have become a scientist or an advocate, but not both. But all of this is now changing. And the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy has been at the forefront of this change.

That’s because our mission is to bring academic science and animal advocacy together.

When I visited the Nueva School again recently to give a talk in one of Aton’s science classes, I told his mother that her talented, empathic son has a very bright future ahead of him as a true scientist/advocate.

It takes advocacy based in science to drive the cultural shift that’s taking place in how we relate to other animals.

The scientific papers we produce at the Kimmela Center bring the best scientific findings to the cause of animal protection. For example, our Someone Project (with Farm Sanctuary) presents cutting-edge knowledge of cognitive, emotional, personality and social complexity in farmed animals in our peer-reviewed and white (popular) papers:

  • Sheep Never Forget A Face! Our paper on “Intelligence, Complexity and Individuality in Sheep” offers robust scientific evidence that sheep are highly intelligent, individualistic and socially complex beings with personality to spare.
  • Eating Someone! Our essay in the popular online magazine Aeon explored the psychology behind why humans continue eat animals despite knowing they suffer in factory farms.
  • Dissection Hurts Everyone: In talks and interviews like this one, I explore the harmful effects on students when they’re required to conduct dissection and vivisection as part of their biology curriculum. It’s all part of an outdated belief that science should be a cold and dispassionate exercise in which there is no place for recognition of nonhuman animals as autonomous beings with the right to live according to their nature.
  • Bringing Science to Animal Law: Science has an important role to play in legal and regulatory efforts on behalf of nonhuman animals. Kimmela has been contributing to the growing field of animal law for many years, and we are now developing academic courses and scientific training for animal law students, beginning in the United States and Canada.

This coming year, the Kimmela Center will announce new initiatives and collaborations to build bridges between scientific institutions and animal-advocacy organizations, along with podcasts, conferences and professional education in order to accelerate our goals.

Your tax-deductible donation, large or small, helps support young scholar-advocates, develop scholar-advocacy programs and meetings, and empower animal advocacy efforts of all kinds.

Thank you for being part of this work, and I wish you a very Happy Holiday and a good year ahead.

Scholar-Advocacy Shines at Superpod 6

On July 18th, a group of nine young scholar-advocates took the stage at the San Juan Island Community Theater at Superpod 6 as part of the Second Biennial Scholar-Advocacy session.

Superpod 6 is a gathering of marine mammal experts, advocates and policy makers who convene on San Juan Island for several days to share their knowledge and ideas. This year scholar-advocates as young as 11 years old presented their original work for marine mammals and the oceans.

Here are links to these wonderful talks. Enjoy!

Heirs to Our Oceans – Our Water, Our Planet, Our Cetaceans, and Us:

The Heirs shared their learning and experiences from their journey of the past two years and their plans to continue their work in ocean conservation to empower youth of all backgrounds around the world.

Andrew Robinson –  The Case Against Captivity:

Andrew presented an eloquent classical discourse or argument that SeaWorld should release the killer whales in their parks to a seaside sanctuary.

Jenny KaticMarine Mammal Inventory Report: A Preliminary Research on Bottlenose Dolphins:

Jenny presented her preliminary research on the usefulness of the Marine Mammal Inventory Report (MMIR) for obtaining accurate information about captive dolphins.

London FletcherStanding on the Shoulders of Giants:

London showed a video which gave a brief update on her advocacy work since the last Superpod meeting, her fight to save the Southern Resident Killer Whales, and her internship with the Orca Research Trust.

Mariah KirbyUntil Toki is home: Miami Seaquarium, STL Rally, and Blackfish the children’s book:

Mariah presented parts of her YouTube video entitled “A day at Miami Seaquarium. Toothless Dolphins?!” in which she documented Lolita and other marine mammals at the aquarium. She also discussed her self-published children’s book, Blackfish: From Planet to Park (available on Amazon).

Jessie HawkCall of the Wild: The Importance of Shifting Public Opinion:

Jessie discussed the results of her survey of 50 respondents on the most effective way to change the general public’s opinion of keeping orcas in marine parks.

Thank you for your support. Please follow us on our Facebook page as we bring you more examples of students using their talents and education to advocate for other animals and our planet.

Superpod 5: Scholar-Advocacy at Its Best

About 200 people gathered on San Juan Island, Washington, from July 19 -23 for the Superpod 5 meeting. It was the fifth in a series of annual gatherings on the island open to the public and attended by an international group of scientists, filmmakers, authors, journalists, former trainers, naturalists and orca advocates.

The theme of this year’s gathering was “The Future”, and a new feature was added, the Scholar-Advocacy Conference, which highlighted students and young people applying their education and professional skills to marine mammal conservation, welfare and advocacy in a broad range of ways.

The Scholar-Advocacy day featured outstanding talks by several young scholar-advocates.

Mariah Kirby, a 20-year-old biology major and aspiring marine mammal researcher from the University of Missouri, St. Louis, discussed how she uses social media to advocate for orcas and other cetaceans.

A powerful and professionally-produced exposé of the plight of captive dolphins and whales.

Michelle Strom, a 15-year old high school sophomore from Columbia, South Carolina, who has created a popular website called Cetacean Awareness, a user-friendly and informative site featuring information about captive and wild cetaceans, a blog, and suggestions for how the public can get involved in advocacy, talked about her goal of becoming a marine mammal scientist.

Ella Van Cleave, a college student in British Columbia and a “Superpod veteran” at age 18, showed her latest project, a trailer for her film proposal aimed at reconnecting teens with the oceans entitled “To The Sea”.

And Katie and Abbie Emmons, two young filmmakers who founded the international non-profit student advocacy group Blue Freedom, premiered their documentary “Voiceless”, which earned them a standing ovation. The film is a powerful and professionally-produced exposé of the plight of captive dolphins and whales, capturing in a unique way all of the high emotional points of the films “The Cove”, “Blackfish” and “A Fall from Freedom” in about 30 minutes. Katie and Abbie, with wisdom beyond their years, explained that they chose to make a short film that can easily be shown in classrooms.

scholar advocacy-superpod5-2

The panel discussion comprised a mix of established scientists, including Dr. Jeff Ventre, Dr. Naomi Rose, Dr. Ingrid Visser and myself, joined by the Emmons sisters, Ella Van Cleave and Mariah Kirby. All talked about what scholar-advocacy means to them and how important it is to be informed and educated about marine mammals when advocating for them. Katie Emmons reiterated the message of scholar advocacy – knowledge is a tool that can be used to create positive change in the world. And Ella Van Cleave spoke eloquently about how important it is to not be pigeonholed into one area or another while in school. The more well-versed you are in a variety of areas the more effective you are as an advocate.

Naomi Rose, Ingrid Visser and I also shared our own stories of how we became scholar-advocates for marine mammals and some of the unique professional issues we face from being prominent scientists and advocates. All of us have faced professional criticism from the scientific community because of our advocacy for other animals, but we also realize that, as scientists, we are especially formidable advocates for the animals we want to protect. You can view the panel session here to hear everyone’s insights.

As these teenaged scholar-advocates talked about their projects the audience’s attention was also captured by an even younger voice: that of 9-year-old London Fletcher from Washington State. London is already an outstanding scholar-advocate with intelligence and maturity beyond her years. A cute wisp of a girl with big eyeglasses, she is an active volunteer responder for the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and was awarded Volunteer of The Year in 2015. She is also working currently to raise awareness about the need to free salmon from the lower Snake River dams to help the starving orcas and other cetaceans in the region.

This was the first scholar-advocacy conference at Superpod but it will surely not be the last. I was inspired by the intelligence, energy and compassion of all of the young advocates representing the future, and the whole experience reinforced the view that knowledge is power.

The future is in very powerful hands!