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FOUNDING OF ANIMAL LAW
IN THE UNITED STATES: JONES v. BUTZ

A useful definition of Animal Law is “a combination of legislation and statutory and case law in which the nature—legal, social or biological—of nonhuman animals is an important factor. Animal Law encompasses companion animals, wildlife, animals used for entertainment and animals used for food and research.”

In her seminal law review article, “The Birth of Animal Rights Law: The Role of Lawyers in the Animal Rights/Protection Movement from 1972-1987,” Joyce Tischler, Esq., founder and former president of Animal Legal Defense Fund, “explored the roots of a large scale, organized movement, which started in the early 1970s in the United States, spearheaded by attorneys and law students with the express purpose of filing lawsuits to protect animals and establish the concept of their legal rights, regardless of the species of the animals or the ownership interest of humans.” In that article, Ms. Tischler identified as “the first animal rights lawyer” in the United States, ISAR’s long-time chairman, Professor Henry Mark Holzer.

Ms. Tischler credits Professor Holzer with three accomplishments crucial to establishing the field of what today is known throughout the world as “Animal Law.” With the support of ISAR, he:

1. Brought the first federal (Jones v. Butz [1974]) and first state (Jones v. Beame [1978]) lawsuits to explicitly invoke in American courts the moral concept of “Animal Rights.”

2. Founded the Animal Rights Law Reporter [1978], which became “the legal clearing house for animal rights law information.” 

3. Organized the “First National Conference on Animal Rights Law”[1981]—an undertaking, in Ms. Tischler’s words, “[t]he significance of which cannot be overstated.” 

In Jones v. Butz, on behalf of a wide-range of plaintiffs Professor Holzer challenged sections of the federal Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act on the ground that its religious exemption—which effectively nullified the act’s protection for countless livestock animals— violated the religious freedom provisions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

In Beame, Professor Holzer on behalf of ISAR’s Helen Jones and ISAR itself, sued in a New York Court to close the Central Park zoo in New York City, because treatment of the animals confined there violated the anti-cruelty statutes of the State of New York.

The Animal Rights Law Reporter, edited by Professor Holzer and published by ISAR, began publication in 1980. Each issue contained a segment entitled, “In the Courts,” which outlined significant cases involving animals, and included a section entitled “In the Legislatures,” where recent animal-related laws were discussed. “In the Legal Literature” provided updates on pertinent legal articles. Finally, the Reporter included quarterly “Bulletin Board” and “Available Resources” sections, and an “Editor’s Comment” written by Professor Holzer. 

In 1981, Professor Holzer and ISAR organized and sponsored the “First National Conference on Animal Rights Law,” attended by Joyce Tischler and a few other lawyers around the country interested in Animal Law. At that conference, for the first time Professor Holzer publicly articulated to a group of lawyers his vision for using law and the judicial system as tools on behalf of animals. Throughout the conference, Holzer consistently used the phrase “Animal Law.”

Largely thanks to Ms. Tischler and a few colleagues, the major accomplishment of the Conference was to coalesce the attending lawyers and others into an informal network of like-minded individuals, and to identify the tools necessary to create an entirely new, separate field of law—one which would take its deserved place among other long-recognized practice areas such as corporate law, property law, criminal law, and many others. That network morphed into what for decades has been the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

A decade later, ISAR and Professor Holzer organized and sponsored a conference in Washington, D.C., entitled “Killing the Crisis, Not the Animals: An International Symposium on Dog and Cat Overpopulation,” an infamous source of Animal Rights’ violations, and one of ISAR’s major programs.

The conference’s prestigious attendees included India’s Maneka Gandhi. At the conclusion of the conference, Gandhi was quoted as saying “By attending ISAR’s International Symposium on Dog and Cat Overpopulation I learned a great deal and ISAR probably changed all of India as a result.” (Emphasis added.)

Throughout the ensuing years, Professor Holzer and ISAR provided general legal information, analyses and guidance to the Animal Law movement. 

In addition, they have counseled animal protection organizations on legal topics, developed widely distributed reports on animal legal issues, presented seminars on Animal Law subjects,  participated in related symposia, advised individuals, governments, and non-governmental organizations, on issues affecting animals, helped educate the public about the legal rights of animals, contributed to the creation of Animal Law literature, and produced considerable writing on the subject of animal protection and the use of law to further it. 

 

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