According to Harvard Law School lecturer Jonathan Lovvorn, saving the planet and its inhabitants from climate catastrophe begins with the world’s most vulnerable population: animals.
“We have populations everywhere around the world in environmental distress, in economic distress, in political distress,” said Lovvorn, who is senior vice president and chief counsel for the Humane Society of the United States’ division of animal protection litigation. “In those countries, especially in terms of climate change, what we see regarding the exploitation and destruction of wildlife is deeply intertwined with the exploitation or destruction of people, communities, and cultures. We can learn a lot about our own social and legal problems by studying our legal problems with wildlife.”
Raising the profile of animal law to match the stakes
In his classes, he is often repeating “The key to wildlife law or other collective issues like climate change is to figure out where you can make a difference, and to talk about how we might change institutions to make them more effective.”
Harvard program aims to protect more than wildlife
According to Lovvorn, “the greatest threats to animal welfare are institutional and commercial in nature, but for the most part, animal laws are focused on one-off acts of animal cruelty.” Climate change is on the syllabus, as are fish, which despite comprising the vast majority of wild vertebrates generally fall outside of the legal framework.
However, the professor believes that there is hope, with “Harvard leading the way.” He said, “The animal law program here has more courses, more conferences, more speakers, more student group activity, more visiting scholars. It’s an amazing program…and other schools are taking notice and increasing their programming in this area.”