Nonprofit Spotlight: Animal Legal Defense Fund

Wendy Bolm 07/25/2016
Nonprofit Spotlight: Animal Legal Defense Fund

The status quo is no longer cutting it in the United States. Every day we are inundated by news outlets and social media with the problems our society faces. At CommitChange, we accept the current issues in the U.S. and abroad as reality, but we actively work to support and educate our nonprofits, and many others, to help them raise funds in order to actively address and start working through the problems that have been slowly chipping away at our futures. This is the second in a three part series we will publish over the next few weeks that spotlights the good work of some of our most forward-thinking nonprofits. You can find the first spotlight, on Bitter Root Water Forum, here

The Animal Legal Defense Fund

A picture of a woman holding up a cat impaled by an arrow as if it were a trophy. Descriptions of how chickens in factory farms have their beaks and toes cut off to keep them from injuring themselves and others in the inhumane and cramped conditions they suffer through their entire, short lives. Video of the unsanitary and neglectful conditions of a puppy mill that focuses on the shivering, dirty dogs whose sole purpose in life is to make their owners money.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s news stories aren’t for the faint of heart.

The United States is falling short when it comes to environmental stewardship, and one of the most damaging sources of pollution is factory farming. Its toll is hard to ignore; aerial photos of farms show toxic wastelands of multi-colored sludge pits filled with animal waste, from excrement to corpses.

What isn’t as clear is the moral pollution that factory farming causes. We are entirely disconnected from our food sources, and corporations would like to keep it that way. In many states, corporations have succeeded in passing ag-gag laws that keep whistleblowers from showing what really goes on in the factory-farm-to-table pipeline. ALDF is working on fighting these laws.

While ALDF steps up to the bat in animal rights cases, for everything from dog fighting to abuse charges leveraged against individuals, Ian Elwood, ALDF’s online communications manager, says that factory farming receives a lot of attention from the organization because of the immense amount of animals affected by its practices.

This is partially because, while a case where a vet might lose her license for killing a neighbor’s cat with an arrow or where a puppy mill is shut down for animal neglect and cruelty directly affects small populations of people, the production of our food, and the environmental toll it takes to get to our plates, has an immediate effect on us all.

Though the cases differ, Ian says that they all come down to a common denominator. “Without strong animal laws to protect their interests, animals would be treated as ‘things’ by the legal system,” he says. “Any reasonable person would agree that a chimpanzee, horse, or chicken is not a thing, but a living being, so it follows that the law should treat them as living beings and give them the dignity and respect all living beings deserve.”

Since the organization was formed in 1979, they’ve counted more than 100 victories that have directly improved animal welfare from what Ian describes as often “matters of life and death for the nonhuman clients we represent.”

Yet improving animal welfare also improves human welfare. It’s important to remember that all human choices ripple out into multiple facets of our world.

“Many people often forget that humans are animals too,” Ian says. “By advocating for justice for all animals, we can use the legal system to help create a world where the individuals and systems that harm others are replaced with truly humane alternatives.”