NIU Law Review to Host Symposium on Animals & Environmentalism on 4/23

The Northern Illinois University Law Review will host its 2021 Symposium on Animals & Environmentalism: A Legal Perspective in the Wake of a Global Pandemic on Friday, April 23, 2021. This virtual event will explore how the legal system plays a part in the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases and what laws and regulations, or lack thereof, impact the spread.

$10 General Public – Register Now
Financial Hardship Policy
This program is FREE for NIU faculty, staff, and students. This group should contact Melody Mitchell at to register.

MCLE Credit:
4 hours MCLE Credit for eligible attorneys approved.

Speaker Bios
Speaker Presentation materials are listed under each presenter.

Symposium Agenda

Welcome & Introduction

The Legal Status of Animals & Its Potential Effect in the Wake of the Pandemic
Tracy McGonigle, Prime Law Group, LLC
Presentation Materials

This presentation will focus on mankind’s exploitation of non-human animals, which has led to countless zoonotic disease outbreaks and needless deaths of human and non-human animals.  It will explore how the unintended consequences of such exploitation, ironically may now lead to the end of speciesism and an elevated legal status and recognition of other species, even if only as a means of human self-preservation.

COVID-19 and Slaughter Line Speeds: An Animal Welfare and Environmental Disaster
Professor Delci Winders, Lewis & Clark Law School
Presentation Materials

As COVID-19 forced slaughterhouses—hotspots for viral outbreaks—to temporarily shutter, industry seized on the opportunity as cover to further entrench longstanding efforts to speed up slaughter lines. The impacts of these faster speeds on animals are devastating. In addition the environmental impacts of this increased production, both at the factory farm level and the slaughterhouse level, are massive and virtually unregulated. This presentation will detail the recent efforts to increase slaughter line speeds, the animal welfare and environmental impacts of those increases, and the efforts currently underway to challenge the increases.

Factory Farms: Generating Environmental Injustice in North Carolina
Christine Ball-Blakely, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Presentation Materials

Industrial animal agriculture is responsible for animal suffering, environmental degradation, and environmental injustice. But instead of regulating this destructive industry, the government shields it from legal liability and public scrutiny. This presentation will discuss the impacts of factory farms in North Carolina, which are disproportionately sited in low-income BIPOC communities. You will learn about the carefully-carved legal loopholes that allow factory farms to operate with limited protections for animals, the environment, or surrounding communities, and about how residents—and others—are fighting back.


Wildlife Market Supply Chains and Pandemics: A Role for International Action?
Erica Lyman, Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment
Presentation Materials

This presentation explores the causal relationship between international wildlife trade and zoonotic disease risk. After highlighting salient facts, it (a) identifies national efforts to address zoonoses that balance culturally appropriate solutions with the need to reduce the risk of emerging zoonoses and (b) draws attention to relevant international fora and how they could be proactively deployed to address zoonotic disease risk.  Throughout, the presentation emphasizes the diversity of private and public actors with a stake in responding to the wildlife trade and its relationship with zoonotic risk. 

Aquatic Animals in a Time of Political, Social, and Climate Change
Professor Kathy Hessler, Lewis & Clark Law School
Presentation Materials

The already challenging work of animal and environmental advocates is made more difficult by the social, political, and legal impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Addressing these issues within the framework of the pandemic offers us new opportunities to educate others about the need to improve our relationship with animals and to take more seriously our responsibility for protecting the environment.  Recent events have highlighted both how important, and how fragile, our legal systems are.  Because the pandemic and its effects will be with us for some time, it is important to learn how to navigate this new terrain, build stronger and more resilient laws, and develop more sustainable and flexible advocacy strategies.

Closing Remarks

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