Maneesha Deckha and the global surge in animal law programs

Maneesha DeckhaThe field of Animal Law has experienced near-exponential growth over the past two decades. Primarily the result of student demand, a dozen law schools in Canada now offer Animal Law-related courses. Here at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law Professor and Lansdowne Chair in Law, Maneesha Deckha has taught courses in animal law through a socio-legal lens over the course of almost fifteen years.

Professor Deckha observes, “An increasing number of those involved in legal education are rethinking the law’s species-based hierarchy that places humans at the apex. This flourishing interest in animal law is paralleled by growth in the field of Critical Animal Studies (CAS).”[1]

Research in animal law has also grown with more and more scholars and students interested in tackling the challenges that human exceptionalist laws, behaviours, and worldviews present. Most recently, Deckha was awarded a SSHRC Insight Grant for a five-year research program on “The Rule of Law, Animal Vulnerability, and Animal Agriculture.” This project examines the over 700 million farmed animals raised for human consumption in Canadian land-based animal agriculture every year, in conditions of extreme confinement and natural behaviour deprivation.[2]

The importance of Deckha’s research in animal law garnered her recognition from The Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law and Policy,[3] an US-based independent think tank. Based on the calibre of Professor Deckha’s work, the Brooks Institute has selected the University of Victoria as one of only two inaugural Canadian member institutions in The Brooks Animal Studies Academic Network (BASAN). The BASAN network brings together top animal law scholars from across North America, including US-based law schools such as Yale and Harvard, to support advances in animal law, animal policy-making, and related animal studies.

Such support comes at a critical time, with animal law and policy addressing the global issues that dominate news headlines, such as climate change, threats to species populations and extinction, rollbacks to wildlife protections, the global trade in wildlife, animal personhood cases, and commercial exploitation of animals deemed livestock. The Brooks Institute engages additional projects such as the sentience and cognition of non-human animals, and stages annual summits in animal law, animal policy, and animal studies across multiple disciplines.

Here at the University of Victoria, Deckha’s Brooks Initiative research grant is funding several projects, including the Animals & Society Research Initiative (ASRI),[4] an interdisciplinary research hub promoting critical thinking on interspecies relations. ASRI brings together faculty and graduate scholars across multiple disciplines, including Law, Sociology, Geography, Philosophy, Psychology, Anthropology, and Art History & Visual Studies. ASRI’s events across the academic year including a Distinguished Lecture Series, with guest scholars in animal law and policy from New York University, University of Sydney, Harvard Law School, the University of Washington and more. ASRI’s annual Emerging Scholars Workshop for law students, graduate students and early career scholars, takes place this year in May in Kelowna, BC, attracting applicants from around the world.

ASRI brings together students, faculty, independent scholars, and community members to consider and debate how anthropocentrism and speciesism, along with their entanglements in other power-laden social forces, shape our societies and communities in terms of how humans and humanity imagine, represent, interact with, and are constituted by animals and animality. The Initiative seeks to foster understanding of the intricacies, complexity, and depth of human-animal relations and identities as well as how we can move at local and global levels to a less violent, more harmonious interspecies society.   

The highlight event for 2020 is the Inaugural Lecture in Animal Rights, Law and Policy
Presented by Kristen A. Stilt, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Faculty Director of the Animal Law & Policy Program (Harvard) on Tuesday, March 10th, 12:30 – 1:20 p.m. in the UVic Law Fraser Building, Room 157.

The program has built from the first animal law course offered in 2000, when Harvard Law School became the ninth law school to teach a course in Animal Law. Now 20 years later, over 150 U.S. law schools in the US and a dozen law schools in Canada offer Animal Law-related courses or programming, as do further law schools in Australia, New Zealand, India, and the United Kingdom. Similarly, over 200 Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapters have now been formed at law schools worldwide. 

Event Details:

  • Inaugural Lecture on Animal Rights, Law & Policy
  • March 10th, 2020, 12:30 – 1:20 p.m. FRA #157
  • Guest speaker: Kristen A. Stilt, PhD
  • Faculty Director of the Animal Law & Policy Program (Harvard Law School)
  • For more information:
  • ASRI Project Coordinator: Holly Cecil,
  • ASRI Academic Director, Maneesha Deckha,

More about Maneesha Deckha:

Professor Deckha's research interests include health law and bioethics, critical animal studies and animal law, feminist analysis of law, law and culture and law society. Her work has been published in Canada and internationally in legal and interdisciplinary venues including the McGill Law Journal, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Medical Law Review, Harvard Journal of Gender and Law, Hastings Women's Law Journal, UCLA Women's Law Journal, Animal Law Review, Journal of Animal Law and Ethics, Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy, and Unbound: The Harvard Journal of the Legal Left. Outside of law reviews, she has been published in Hypatia, Sexualities, and Ethics & the Environment, among other publications. She has also contributed to several anthologies relating to feminism, cultural pluralism, and health law and policy.


[1] Maneesha Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law Review, Lewis & Clark Law School, 2012. Primary Citation:  18 Animal L. 207 (2012)

[2] “Professors Deckha and Parmar awarded SSHRC Insight grants,” Faculty of Law web site,