Legal, Legislative, and Ethical Careers

You may need to know something about ethics, general laws, and policies to understand many jobs fields creating social change through legal avenues. 

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. Visit their website to:

  • Learn about upcoming conferences and classic and new publications on animals and the law.
  • Analyze model anti-cruelty statues and other laws.
  • Find a student chapter of ALDF at a law school near you.
  • Sign up for a newsletter to keep you up-to-date on legal issues related to animals.
  • Try your hand at lobbying for animals by responding to action alerts on current issues.

The HSUS Animal Protection Litigation Section (APL) conducts precedent-setting legal campaigns on behalf of animals in state and federal courts around the country. With a staff of eight full-time lawyers, as well as numerous law clerks, administrative staff, outside counsel, and pro-bono attorneys, the section is the largest in-house animal protection litigation department in the country. They have opportunities for interns and fellows available on their website.

Learn about The HSUS Government Affairs department's activities and how you can take action for animals.

Ethical Considerations

You may also want to study the ethics behind the laws.

  • How do societies develop the rules they live by?
  • What is the relationship between a society's laws and its morals or ethics?
  • Are there moral arguments that people who care about animals and nature can use to fight for better laws?

To answer these questions - and be most effective in law or policy professions - you need to understand something about animal-related ethical theories. There are many competing theories to investigate.  Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Holmes Rolston III, and J. Baird Callicott are just a few of the prominent philosophers who write and speak about ethics related to animals and nature. These thinkers ask questions that shape our laws such as:

  • Do humans have responsibilities to animals?  Why or why not?
  • Do any animals have moral rights? 
  • Should an ethical person be more concerned about some animals than others?  What traits, such as intelligence, ability to feel pain, or rarity, make the difference?
  • Is nature valuable only as it is useful to humans?
  • Why should we care about endangered species?
  • Do people today have a duty to protect nature for future generations?

A book to begin with . . .  Dale Jamieson, Ph.D. , has written frequently on animal rights and environmental ethics that underlie human laws and actions.  His latest book is Morality's Progress:  Essays on Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature  (Oxford, 2002). 

But remember, reading the works of several philosophers will give you a much broader understanding of the diversity of viewpoints on these controversial issues.