In an article published by the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law in February, Professor Randall Abate argues that the animal and environmental law movements should join forces on legal action that would compel the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries to cease practices that are accelerating climate change.
According to Abate, the Rechnitz Family/UCI endowed chair in marine and environmental law and policy, the two industries are major greenhouse gas emitters that have been shielded from accountability through regulatory loopholes and are heavily subsidized by American taxpayers. He contrasted this to the auto industry, which has gradually improved its environmental track record in response to decades of bipartisan federal legislation such as the Clean Air Act of 1970.
“A number of recent lawsuits seek to break through the federal government’s protective circle, which enables these destructive private sector entities,” Abate said. “Collaboration is essential to realize the threat of massive common law liability and incentivize cooperative federal regulation. This two-headed dragon of fossil fuel and industrial animal agriculture can be slayed only if the animal and environmental law movements work together.”
Although both have common interests, including their concern for climate change, Abate contends there has been little coordination between these two movements on legal matters to date. He also observed that while animal law advocates have largely embraced environmental causes, environmental advocates have not always shown the same support for animal law movement issues like encouraging Americans to transition to plant-based diets.
“Given that fossil fuel combustion and industrial animal agriculture are two of the largest contributors to climate change, addressing them as connected threats rather than independent problems to be addressed by different advocacy efforts is the proper way forward,” Abate said. “Operating in silos is counterproductive in this era of urgently necessary transformation of our economy and society.”
Click here to read the full article, “Anthropocene Accountability Litigation: Confronting Common Enemies to Promote a Just Transition.”
Abate has delivered several talks on the article, including an Oct. 2 McGill University Faculty of Law (Montreal) lecture; a Nov. 11 Osgoode Hall Law School (Toronto) lecture; a Jan. 18 kickoff lecture at the Meat the Law Series, hosted by the University of Amsterdam; a Feb. 3 Daksha Fellowship Lecture hosted by Sai University (Chennai, India); a Feb. 10 lecture at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University; and a presentation at the March 9 Climate Change Symposium hosted by the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law.