A note from Compassion Over Killing’s Board of Directors:
We are so proud to celebrate Cheryl Leahy’s 10-year anniversary at COK! As General Counsel, Cheryl proves that no sector of animal agriculture is beyond the reach of COK’s challenge. She has led investigative efforts against the egg, dairy, chicken, pork, beef, turkey, and foie gras industries, and spearheaded groundbreaking legal actions against animal abusers, factory farms, false advertisers, and government agencies. Her innovative and tireless work has shuttered slaughterhouses and other institutions of cruelty, and has guided the development of animal law in the United States.
COK, and most importantly — the animals, have truly benefited from the work of this defender of the defenseless!
As I come upon ten years as General Counsel at Compassion Over Killing (COK), I reflect upon my own journey, and how it fits into the amazing arc of progress the animal protection movement has made.
I went to law school because I had an interest in finding a way to maximize what the law could do to change the system. My thoughts focused on bringing to light and fighting against the worst abuses being inflicted upon the largest numbers of animals, which led me to factory farming issues and to my work at COK.
Defending the Animals: COK’s Legal Advocacy Program
In the last ten years, COK has been on the front lines of developing legal advocacy for farm animals into a thriving field. We’re seeing unprecedented, sweeping changes that few of us could have predicted a decade ago.
Our undercover investigations are the only meaningful tool we as a society have to expose the lies that the secretive animal agriculture industry tells the public in order to maintain business-as-usual. We were one of the first to adopt the employment-based model of undercover investigations, allowing us to take hidden cameras inside factory farms and use that footage to seek prosecutions, support lawsuits, encourage changes to corporate practices, and educate people about the realities of the tragically commonplace egregious abuses to farmed animals and the cruelty of standard industry practices.
We have also led the charge in innovative litigation projects, often using laws that weren’t originally intended to directly help animals.
Shaping the Future of Animal Law
Animal law is of growing interest and top schools are investing in it. I’ve had the privilege of creating and teaching one of the first-ever U.S. law school courses focused on agricultural animals, at UCLA Law.
What Lies Ahead
Looking to the future, I can’t even imagine what the next ten years might bring. I envision our movement truly shifting the fundamental ways people think about our relationships with animals.
The brightest and most compassionate minds from all fields will continue to get involved, to offer new perspectives, to innovate, to validate this movement, and to create real and lasting change. We see influencers from the fields of law, policy, economics, business, psychology, nutrition, art, and many others stepping in to help people truly see this suffering and death and feel empowered to make the life-affirming choice to change it.