Our Legal Advocacy Interns & Externs: In Their Own Words

jennyLegal Advocacy 2 Comments

Each law school semester — spring, summer and fall — Animal Outlook’s Legal Advocacy Program hosts two to four law students as externs or interns to work with us using the legal system to fight the systemic injustices of factory farming. 

Our interns and externs work under the direct supervision of our attorneys and play a vital role, contributing meaningful work to litigation and policy projects aimed at protecting farmed animals. Interns and externs learn to employ a variety of legal theories relating to areas such as state criminal cruelty laws, administrative law, false advertising and unfair competition laws, tort liability, and corporate law. In addition to making valuable contributions, our interns and externs gain valuable, practical experience in the field of animal law, building their substantive knowledge base, honing research and writing skills, and preparing for a future legal career helping animals. Our students regularly have the opportunity to develop and work on novel case ideas, in addition to ongoing projects.

Hear from three recent Animal Outlook Legal Advocacy interns and externs, about their experiences in this program:

lawDanielle Palermo, Vermont Law School, third year

As an undergrad, I studied biology with a focus in aquatic and marine ecology. My studies highlighted the interconnectedness of climate change, human activity and pollution, and biodiversity loss. I wanted to pursue a career researching amphibians; however, amphibians were (and still are) suffering catastrophic species decline and mass extinction caused largely by human influence. Then, I decided to pursue a career dedicated to advancing animal and habitat protection.

The theme of interconnectivity recurred throughout my law school career. My interests grew from protecting wild habitats to captive wildlife and protecting animals in trade, as traded animals often introduce disease into new environments. Finally, I realized the interconnectedness of suffering farmed animals on surrounding ecosystems. Understanding that any animal suffering cascades into ecosystem suffering inspired me to apply for Animal Outlook’s litigation externship.

I was constantly motivated to help put an end to animal suffering. As someone whose interest had been piqued by “non-charismatic” microfauna, protecting farmed animals—another often overlooked group of animals—was an easy transition. When farmed animals suffer from deplorable conditions and abuse, the people in the facility, and the surrounding ecosystems, suffer too.

My time at Animal Outlook allowed me to improve on the necessary skills of an animal litigator. I was able to work on a tremendous amount of legal research projects and create litigation strategies using state, environmental and constitutional laws to advance farmed animal welfare and prevent animal suffering. Most importantly, I felt supported and guided by my externship advisor and the litigation department throughout my externship. With their feedback and their guidance, I grew as an animal advocate. I will look fondly back on my time with Animal Outlook as one of the highlights of my law school career.

lawTiffany Jenau Ottenga, Chicago-Kent College of Law, third year

Aristotle famously said, “the law is reason, free from passion.” And, for my first two and a half years of law school, that was my experience until I began my internship at Animal Outlook in my final semester. Throughout my internship at Animal Outlook, I had the absolute pleasure of working alongside a group of individuals who radiate passion for ending animal exploitation and who use their legal knowledge to protect animals.

I have always felt a sense of serenity around animals. In fact, as a baby, the only way my mom could calm me down was to drive me to a local farm and show me the cows, goats, pigs and horses. When I was nine years old, I read a book about the animal agriculture industry in the United States. I was so appalled that I vowed never to eat meat again. Since that day, I have not backed down from my proclamation.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, I had to slow down and refocus my priorities. As the world spiraled out of control, it became abundantly clear to me that academic success will never be as important as feeling fulfilled in both my personal and professional life. For the first time in my life, I realized that I should explore my passions.

With that realization and the gravitational pull I have always felt for protecting animals, I landed on my law school’s career services website seeking an internship in animal law. Unfortunately, by the time I applied for the fall 2020 internship, Animal Outlook had already filled the position. I applied again for the spring 2021 internship and was graciously accepted into the program.

Words cannot adequately explain the profound impact Animal Outlook had on me. In three short months, I worked on factual and legal research in areas spanning from city ordinances to federal administrative regulations. It is gratifying to know that, even as an intern, I impacted animal rights. From my time at Animal Outlook, I found a way to incorporate passion into my legal career. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to learn from some of the most impressive animal advocates in the country.

lawAshely Monti, Vermont Law School, second year

Between surviving COVID-19, law school courses and all the other plot twists of 2020, I lost sight of my purpose. Externing for Animal Outlook reminded me why I entered law school—to protect farmed animals and transform our food system.

In eighth grade, I had to write a research paper for English class. Each student had to peer review another classmate’s paper before the final draft was due. While my research paper was about the effects of second-hand smoke, my classmate’s paper was about factory farming. To this day, I recall the feeling that washed over me as I read about the lives of farmed animals. I felt traumatized. I never questioned where my food came from or how it got to my plate prior to that moment.

That same day, my family gathered at Red Lobster to celebrate my mom’s birthday. I remember walking in and feeling a whirlwind of emotions as I gazed at the tanks of lobsters doomed to become someone’s next meal. I knew, however, that it would not be my meal—this moment is when I became a vegetarian.

Throughout high school I led a vegetarian lifestyle (later in life I turned vegan). I felt accomplished as a vegetarian knowing I was not driving the demand for meat. Yet, over time this did not feel like enough, and I knew I could do more to help animals.

In college, I volunteered for Compassionate Action for Animals, passing out leaflets on factory farms to people around campus. Occasionally, I would have an incredible conversation with someone who, like me, did not realize the gravity of the issue. After having this same conversation a dozen times, I began to ask why. Why are animals housed in crammed conditions? Why are chickens debeaked? Why are farmed animals given so many drugs?

Because the answers to these questions lie in U.S. laws and regulations, I decided to attend law school. I am currently pursuing my J.D. with a concentration in Animal Law and a Master of Food Agriculture Law and Policy at Vermont Law School (VLS). At VLS, I am part of the Animal Law Society (ALS). A professor emailed the ALS listserv in the fall about a part-time externship opportunity with Animal Outlook. After researching Animal Outlook, I knew I had to apply!

Animal Outlook is already transforming the future for farmed animals. I admire the individuals I worked with for their dedication and passion for helping farmed animals. I was impressed with how invested and purposeful everyone was with their work, which fostered a powerful working environment. Overall, I am thankful for everything I learned about animal law and believe I am a better animal advocate because of this experience. I cannot thank Animal Outlook enough for reminding me why I chose to be an animal attorney.

Your support will help grow the field of animal law by empowering and equipping students to contribute vital work to groundbreaking litigation and to become advocates for animals. For a kinder tomorrow for animals, please consider making a gift to Animal Outlook today.

Comments 2

  1. I am so glad to see this website. Unfortunately I can’t donate today, but I will in the next week. Keep me on your email list.🙌,

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