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Why animals earned rightful place at humanities congress | Victoria Shroff

Friday, July 12, 2019 @ 10:26 AM | By Victoria Shroff

Victoria Shroff %>
Victoria Shroff
In part one of this series Animals: Family at home, property at court, I was explaining how interesting it was to be part of the global Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences taking place at UBC in early June and to have had the privilege to be invited to present on animal law. Great to see animal law taking its rightful place at the table as bona fide study and practice area.

I had a wonderful experience meeting scholars from all over the world. Laura Moss, the academic convener for Congress 2019 explained to the Vancouver Sun a few days before the event launched that the focus of Congress 2019 was going to be on the humanities and sociocultural aspects of scholarship. No small feat in a STEM-obsessed world.

Humanities still matter in our science driven world and some may say even more than ever.  

Congress speakers were tasked with addressing issues of free speech and access concerning three overarching questions: Who is speaking for whom? Who is listening? And lastly, who benefits? I kept these three broad questions top of mind as I prepared for my presentation and came to the conclusion that more than ever, animals need a voice in order to gain some benefits.

Benefits could also be called rights. If an animal has no standing, how can they have a voice in court? The question, still unanswered, is who is listening to animals? Are they being heard when they do speak? These are core questions for animal law theorists and practitioners. I was grateful to hear new and original theories of animal law and to learn about novel research conclusions from some of the leading animal law scholars in North America and how they approach these problems.

Listening to leading researchers confirmed my opinion that we certainly have a very long way to go in terms of legal and moral repair for interspecies justice to be realized. It’s not an easy fix.

I have no doubt that many of the scholars who presented at Congress 2019 will be publishing their papers in leading academic journals and it will be interesting to see further details of their theories.

I have been teaching animal law at the Peter Allard School of Law at UBC for the past few years and will be co-teaching it again this September with Amber Prince. So for me, being both a practising animal law lawyer and a teacher of animal law to university students it is important that I not only grasp the meta concepts of animal law that we explored at Congress, but also key, when possible, to put theory into practice to best represent animal law clients. I have no doubt that I will bring concepts I learned at Congress into the classroom in September.

In May 2019, two colleagues and I acted for appellant Susan Santics and canine Punky, in a high profile “dangerous dog” case in the B.C. Court of Appeal. (Please see Getting Punky off death row) and while theory informed how we shaped the appeal to some extent, it was case law, statutes and facts that fuelled the argument in B.C.’s highest court.

It’s a privilege as a practitioner to have a foothold in the academic world because being an adjunct professor of animal law allows us to help guide the next batch of Canadian animal law practitioners and sometimes, to even have the good fortune to work alongside them as colleagues once they’ve been called to the bar.

We were delighted to have our former animal law students working on the Santics appeal case as interveners, seeing them flourish as barristers and joining the circle of conversation on animal law.

This is part two of a two-part series. Part one: Animals: Family at home, property at court.

V. Victoria Shroff is one of the first and longest serving animal law practitioners in Canada. She has been practising animal law civil litigation for nearly 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and Associates (604-891-0209). She is also adjunct professor of law at UBC’s Allard Hall and has lectured internationally from India to Galiano Island and is frequently interviewed by media. Follow her at @shroffanimallaw or on

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