Florida A&M student group fights for animal rights

By Mark Powell | Apr 28, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – Animal Law Activists at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) have made great strides for Animal Rights over the past several years through fundraising and informative events meant to better educate the public on their four-legged brethren.

The college partnered up with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and created a student chapter to protect the lives of animals by fighting to advance their status in the state legal system.

The FAMU Student ALDF has taken on a number of issues since the birth of their partnership in 2009, including factory farming, animal cruelty, spaying/neutering pets, differences between a true animal sanctuary and a for-profit zoo, owning exotic pets, puppy mills, what circuses are really like, and greyhound racing.

“The motivation is to raise awareness about animal issues and to be a voice for the voiceless,” FAMU ALDF leader Ashley Baillargeon told the Florida Record. “The more knowledge people have about what really goes on in these different areas, the better informed decisions they will be able to make about causes they support.”

The distaste to how humans treat animals stems from their views of species-ism, which FAMU Law Professor and ALDF supporter Randall Abate defines as “our treatment of non-humans.” Abate states that Florida’s Animal Law reflects the belief that animals are meant to treat human needs.

“Our legal treatment reflects our species-ism in that animals are treated as property under the law,” Abate said. “Animal law helps to raise awareness of the need for efforts to promote animal welfare and rights to help undo the ill effects of our species-ism.”

Animal law activism is unique in that it can be directly tied to animal rights. Unlike various forms of protesting which are meant to raise awareness for a higher authority, animal law and rights simultaneously benefit from awareness.

In just the past 10 years, universities in Florida have taken notice, as nearly every law school now has a program in animal law. Last year also offered record attendance numbers to local and state ALDF events, showing that Florida citizens are taking notice.

Despite all of this, FAMU ALDF and animal law advocates are not yet satisfied.

“Many of the laws that are currently in place for animals are not strong enough, and they offer little to no protection,” Baillargeon said. “We hope with advocating for animals, it will bring stronger enforcement of anti-cruelty laws.”

While stricter anti-cruelty laws would be a step in the right direction, many activists believe that animals will not be fully protected under the law unless they are granted personhood in specific cases. As much as animal cruelty laws have expanded over the past several years, the penalties carried with these offenses are fairly light.

“There is significant work that remains for animal lawyers in Florida, at the national level, and at the global level,” Abate said.

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