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NBSV 150


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 150

Dr. Laura Fox on a recent Supreme Court decision about animal welfare in California

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 150. Joining me today is Professor Laura Fox discussing a California law, and a recent US Supreme Court decision relating to it that will have massive impacts on animal welfare, food safety, and public health.

Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to no BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Thanks for tuning in today. I'd like to remind you of an awesome and free ebook you can download if you haven't already at It celebrates the five-year anniversary of this podcast and focuses on all things strength training and vegan nutrition to support it. The ebook includes advice from yours truly on fueling strength training with plants, as well as insight from four experts featured on the podcast over the years, including Robert Cheeke, one of the founders of Vegan Bodybuilding. Get your copy at

My guest today is Professor Laura Fox. She's the Douglas M. Costle Chair in Environmental Law and Director of the Farmed Animal Advocacy Clinic, or FAAC, at Vermont Law and Graduate School. FAAC is the only clinic of its kind dedicated to training students to protect farmed animals from the industrialized practices of factory farms, including by reducing extreme confinement practices and challenging their environmental, social, and public health impacts.

Prior to joining Vermont Law and Graduate School, Professor Fox was a senior staff attorney focused on farmed animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States. In addition to her practice, Professor Fox served as a visiting fellow with the Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Law and Policy Program at Harvard Law School, was an adjunct professor of animal law at George Mason University's School of Law, has taught courses in philosophy and ethics at Northern Virginia Community College, and teaches climate change, extinction and adaptation in the Vermont Law School Online Learning Program.

Professor Fox graduated from Vermont Law School with a JD and master of environmental law and policy and holds a master's in philosophy from George Mason University where she also earned her BA in philosophy. Her favourite vegan meal is her husband's homemade drunken noodles. Here's our discussion.

Hi, Laura. Welcome to the show. Thanks for speaking with me today.

Laura Fox: Oh thanks, Karina. It's great to be here.

Karina Inkster: I'm looking forward to learning about what you do, your work, and talking about Proposition 12, which is a big topic right now in animal rights. But let's start off with a little bit of background. So we have your general bio, but how do you explain to folks what you do with your time, with your work as part of the Farmed Animal Advocacy Clinic, which sounds very interesting and we'll talk about that as well. But what's the cliff notes background on what Laura does?

Laura Fox: Oh, great. Yeah, so I guess the elevator pitch of my career has been strategic impact litigation to advance the interests and status of animals in the law. Currently, I do that through training students to be the best advocates they can be in the Farmed Animal Advocacy Clinic, which I'm sure we would talk about more.

And then previously I was with the Humane Society of the United States. And so we worked closely with a variety of our strategic priorities and had various campaigns on different issues, including farmed animal protection. And we try to just use all the tools available in the law to advance animals' interests.

But I know for those that aren't practicing lawyers, you can lose sight of the status of animals in the law. And currently, in the United States, we treat animals just as property. And so there are very little protections for animals and we have to use a lot of creative ways to try and carve out protections and advance their interests. So in a nutshell, that's what I'm trying to do.

Karina Inkster: That's amazing. Well, within that then, I mean I love that as an elevator pitch. That's brilliant. Within that, your work specifically with the Vermont Law and Graduate School's program, maybe you can tell me a little bit about that.

Laura Fox: So animal law has for the past decade or so, been one of the fastest growing fields in public interest law, and we're currently seeing just exponential growth in the field. And when I say animal law, it's really all law that intersects with animals and animal uses and animal exploitation. And so it's very broad and it can go a number of different ways and you can pursue animal law in a number of different ways. And so the growth of the field is very exciting as we're seeing younger generations wanting to see protections for animals and changes in the use of animals.

And so we have through the leadership of Professor Delcianna Winders, who I'm sure a number of your listeners have heard about, have created the Animal Law and Policy Institute at the Vermont Law and Graduate School. And the institute houses the Farmed Animal Advocacy Clinic and also has launched a new master's program. So this is a master of animal protection policy, and it'll be welcoming the first class this summer.

So in the clinic, current students can engage in the experiential learning opportunities where students engage in real-world matters on behalf of real-world clients, but this is just one of the avenues for students to engage in animal law. Current students who are pursuing a law degree can get a concentration in animal law, and they can do this through our residential programs and also online as we're seeing a boom in online learning, and VLGS is at the forefront in pioneering new online opportunities for students.

And so with that concentration or through pursuing a master's really focused on animal law and policy, we're providing students with the skills and training needed to practice animal protection law, lead animal advocacy organizations, and otherwise advance legal protections for animals.

Karina Inkster: That's incredible. So in the intro, in your bio I mentioned that the Farmed Animal Advocacy Clinic housed within this larger arena is the only clinic of its kind dedicated to training these students to protect farmed animals. But how does that look logistically? How are these protections or new laws or other works being carried out? Is it really broad-based on each individual student? Is there an overall agenda for the clinic? Or how does that work in practice?

Laura Fox: I was brought on to develop what we call a docket. So those are the matters that you're pursuing in this clinic space. And for the listeners not familiar with the law school structure and format, a clinic is like an operating law firm within the school. So students are student attorneys. They're engaged in the practice of law under close supervision of the instructor of course, but they're advancing matters on behalf of real clients.

As I mentioned, animal law is really broad and then there's a number of legal tools available to us including litigation, but not just litigation. We have policy work, we have grassroots campaigning, organizing work, policy analyzing work, and generating advocacy around an issue.

And so I wanted to build a docket that had all of those opportunities available for students because students come in maybe knowing which area they want to develop the most. Maybe they want to try out an area to see if that's something that they're interested in. And so we wanted to try and develop something for everyone.

So one of the first things that clinic students engaged in was helping some of our clients, including the ASPCA and Mercy For Animals draft some language that would later go into some federal legislation introduced by Senator Cory Booker. And so they did the legal research and plugging in special language related to animal transportation and slaughterhouse line speeds.

Another aspect of the work that we do overlaps a lot with environmental law, especially on the litigation side. Those are where the hooks are available for protecting animals. As animals are property, unfortunately, there's not a lot of causes of action that provide us an avenue to use the courts to protect the animals' interests, but there might be something like the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA that protects or provides a process for analyzing the environmental impacts of certain federal actions.

And those impacts that could have extreme environmental effects could be caused by the way that we're treating animals. And so it's a secondary way of addressing maybe some inhumane conduct that then is creating environmental degradation or impacts, and the law will protect that. So we have a number of those types of actions.

We have some actions under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act. As I'm sure the listener knows, farmed animal agriculture, especially industrialized large-scale farmed animal agriculture, has enormous environmental impacts. So that's just an array of the type of work that we do.

The blessing and the curse is there's no shortage of work in this space. There's billions of animals being raised and slaughtered each year, and that's creating enormous harm and impacts not only on the animals, but the communities that are faced with the impacts that generate. There's just so much work that needs to be done in this space.

Karina Inkster: Right. Yeah. I can see how wide-ranging that can be. But that's probably a positive for potential students who are interested in this field because there'd be a lot of opportunities there in different branches or in different areas, I would assume.

Laura Fox: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you end up having an interest, practicing animal law is like being the jack of all trades, master of none. But you can, if you want to, specialize in consumer protection law. There are probably no ends to the humane-washing and green-washing causes of action that you might be able to bring against animal use enterprises. If you want to build a career in securities law, again, you protect consumers against humane washing. You can also protect investors against humane washing. If you're really interested in the cutting edge of climate impact litigation, we're now trying to grow that along with the acknowledging impacts of how factory farms contribute to climate change. So whatever your area, maybe secondary to animal welfare and animal protection and animal rights that you might want to focus in, there's going to be an intersection to that area.

Karina Inkster: Totally. That's amazing. Isn't the best way though of protecting animals from the harms of factory farming to not have factory farms at all? Is there any movement toward abolitionism?

Laura Fox: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And I mean there's a schism too among those that are practicing in this field, where do you put your resources and energy? Is it the total abolitionist approach, and in this way you might pursue legislative or regulatory relief to try and garner that? Or do you try and take a more incremental, some might say more pragmatic approach to at least improving the lives that are ultimately in this system until we reach abolition?

And so I grapple with that a lot. Ultimately, I've come down on the need to just make improvements for the lives of animals who are currently suffering. And if that means playing into this system, but advancing a policy that will give animals in the system more space during their short time on this world, then I see that as a positive thing.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, I would agree. I mean, I'm an ethical vegan of 20 years, and of course, I want everyone to be vegan and not eat animal products, but the reality is there's a demand for those items and they are currently being produced whether we like it or not. And so I think that kind of approach can fit well with other avenues perhaps that look at moving folks towards a more plant-based diet and tying that into climate change and all those pieces.

Laura Fox: Yeah, actually, I mean, you mentioned you were an ethical vegan of 20 years, and I might have you beat by a couple of years. But I mean there's so many reasons to go vegan, but yes, I originally went vegan for just seeing the impact that my diet would have on animals.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. That's how it started for me too. And I think now it's more broad than it was originally with the climate and with the athletic piece and with the health piece, and there's a whole lot, even other humans that are in the mix, but originally it's an ethical thing. And I think honestly, that's what keeps folks vegan long term, if there is some kind of ethical piece in there, even if it's also about health and also about the climate. I think the ethical piece is what keeps people going long-term. That's my working theory anyway.

Laura Fox: Yeah, I think I've noticed that too. I've seen a lot of people choose veganism for health and then end up maybe having some negative health impacts and not necessarily attributed to their vegan diet, but then they do attribute it to that and switch over, or they just don't choose a balanced vegan diet. There's a very unhealthy way to be vegan too. I'm sure you've talked about that.

Karina Inkster: Oh yeah.

Laura Fox: Right. And so just like any diet, you have to be conscious of your choices and try and be aware of all of the nutrients that you need.

Karina Inkster: That's a good point. Well, let's talk about Proposition 12. Are we ready to transition into that convo?

Laura Fox: Yeah, absolutely. That sounds great.

Karina Inkster: Okay. Now clearly you're the expert here, so I'm going to get you to describe it as well. But my very basic understanding is that in 2018, which is not that long ago, California's health and safety code was amended to prohibit the sale of certain items, I think it was pork, eggs and veal from animals that were raised in particularly extreme confinement and particularly unsanitary conditions. And my understanding is that it applies to these products regardless of where they were raised or where they were grown. So it could have been in California or elsewhere, but the sale of those items was not allowed.

And recently that was challenged, but the Supreme Court rejected that challenge, and so Proposition 12 still stands. That's basically my understanding, but maybe you can give a little more detail about what it is, why it's a positive, at least I assume it is in terms of animal welfare, and what happened recently with the Supreme Court.

Laura Fox: So I mean your description is exactly right. Proposition 12 was a ballot initiative, which is, I don't know if it's unique. About half of the states have an opportunity for the citizenry to impact laws directly. So rather than going through your state assembly or whatever the body of legislature you have in your state, you can introduce an initiative on the ballot to vote directly.

And so that's what Proposition 12 was, and it was presented to the California citizens and they voted in favour of it by over 62%. And the proposition did exactly what you said. So it bans the confinement of pregnant pigs, of calves raised for veal, and of egg-laying hens in a manner that doesn't allow them to turn around freely, lay down, stand up, or freely extend their limbs.

And so this would be banning battery cages in egg-laying hen facilities. It would be banning veal crates. And it bans what's called gestation crates. And those are where mother pigs are placed in cages so small that it basically is just around the body of the sow so that the pig cannot stand up, stretch their limbs, turn around or engage in any type of natural behaviours.

And so that ban was originally passed in 2008 with Proposition 2 and Prop 12 then took it a little step further and said, "Okay. Well, in California, you can't raise animals in these means of confinement. And we also don't want Californians to buy products that were produced from animals in these forms of what we deem as cruel confinement. And so if you are going to sell your veal pork, egg products in the state, you can't have used those forms of extreme confinement in their production."

That's when the pork industry got very in disarray about not being able to use their preferred method of production, which is to confine pigs in such tight confinement that they cannot stand up, lie down, turn around. And they challenged Proposition 12 as in violation of the Constitution.

Karina Inkster: Well, how does that work? What's the argument there?

Laura Fox: So the US Constitution has a provision called the Commerce Clause. So this is Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 for anyone who wants to look it up, but it basically says Congress, US Congress shall have the power to regulate commerce among the several states. So explicitly that's saying that Congress has the sole authority to regulate commerce between and among all of the states to facilitate a united nation.

Implicit of the Commerce Clause is that no states then have a right to really interfere with the flow of commerce. And so this then presents this notion called the Dormant Commerce Clause. And this is what lies dormant under that express clause is that the states cannot do something that's going to interfere with the flow of commerce.

And so the National Pork Producers Council or NPPC said that Prop 12, by banning the sale of products produced in ways that the pork industry prefers, they are interfering with other states' commerce. Because if Iowa producers want to produce pork through using gestation crates and they can no longer sell into California, that's blocking the flow of commerce in their mind. And the court ultimately disagreed with that, and that was the recent decision that we saw.

Karina Inkster: Right. So the recent decision was essentially upholding Proposition 12, rejecting the challenge to it and just keeping it where it was, right?

Laura Fox: That's correct. So there's a couple arguments that the Pork Producers Council was making. So the first was - so out of the jurisprudence of the Dormant Commerce Clause came this idea that no state can direct other states' actions through their regulations. This is called having an extraterritoriality effect. So the Pork Producers Council's arguing that California's now dictating what Iowa producers are doing and they can't do this.

And so unanimously that's nine to zero, the court rejected this primary claim that somehow the ban of the sale of gestation crate pork is unconstitutional merely because it has some upstream and downstream impacts on out-of-state pork producers. The court said there's just no per se rule that the Constitution dictates the sort of means of production for pork. And just because the producers have this preferred method, it doesn't mean that the Constitution protects that method.

And it's surprising too because we're worried that this court in particular might have been more favourable to industry's interests. And if you looked at the pleadings and how the industry alleged that this was going to impact them financially and make them alter their practices, and that comes with incredible cost according to them, that we could have seen that analyzed a different way, especially when it comes to larger industries.

But you can see how that would be difficult to gauge because then at what point does an impact on the profits of an industry make it a constitutional question? And so, fortunately, we're lucky the court decided not to engage in that and really dismissed that argument really quickly.

Karina Inkster: That's amazing.

Laura Fox: Yeah. I mean, it was surprising to see. It made a lot of sense. That's how all the previous courts had concluded, and it was obvious to California and it was obvious to those who intervened to defend Prop 12, but it wasn't necessary that that was going to be the outcome, especially given the composition of the court.

So then the next argument also comes out of this elaborate jurisprudence on the Dormant Commerce Clause, which some of your readers or listeners might have heard as Pike balancing. And this comes out of a case which name is Pike, and this was where there was a split in the court. So there was a five-four decision. So this was only a plurality that then upheld Prop 12.

If it had gone the other way, all that would've happened, and I think California and the interveners would've been happy to engage in this debate, would've been going back to the federal district court. That's like the trial court stage, the first step in federal litigation, and balancing the harms that the pork producers were claiming would have on commerce verse the benefits that California and the interveners are talking about Prop 12 having.

So four of the justices would have allowed that balancing to occur, but the plurality, five of them said, that's not for a court really to decide. The California citizenry had this robust debate when they were voting on this proposition in 2018. The voters weighed the pros and the cons and knew that by voting on this, it could increase the price of pork.

But they weighed their interest in having it "humanely" produced and more safely produced, because part of the justification that's provided for the state's interest in regulating the production of pork, not only is the state's moral interest in not being complicit in cruel production of animals, but also to protect its citizens from food-borne illnesses, zoonotic disease, and other harms that come from that type of production practice.

The citizens weighed those, voted for it by a huge majority, and it's not for the court to go ahead and redo that balancing because there's no real black-and-white legal test that you can place on those. You can imagine just the individual biases of each judge impacting how the court would weigh the pros and the cons and the benefits and the burdens and how it would create this unworkable test to determine whether or not something's too burdensome or these benefits outweigh that burden, and it would just be really unclear. So the court really handed a victory to states' rights and the ability of the people to decide.

Karina Inkster: Right, that makes sense. So I do want to touch on the food safety and the public health portion of why Proposition 12 was passed in the first place. But going back a step into why this was proposed in the first place and also why it was challenged. What I find sad and amusing is a website called, which is basically, from what I understand, a conglomerate of a whole bunch of farmers and folks in the agricultural industry who are arguing that Proposition 12 is basically an affront on the American family and it's going to make food costs increase to an undesirable degree, and oh, actually this isn't about animal welfare in the first place.

I mean, these are all arguments that have already been completely crushed. But it's interesting to me that there's so much pushback, which I guess makes sense if you look at it from a financial perspective. They're going into what the impact will be on the pork industry, for example. They're saying, "Well, really it's not about animal welfare because ..." Let me just find a list or a sentence here. It was something about gestation crates in particular.

Oh yeah, "These practices, i.e., gestation crates and hutches, were created to improve animal welfare and allow the farmers to tailor the care of the specific needs to each animal," which we know is bullshit, at least I assume it is.

But anyways, the whole point is they're arguing that this is not actually about animal welfare and oh, it's going to really affect the American family and it's going to make food more expensive. Why is that though? I mean, it probably does make food more expensive, but how much bullshit is there in that argument? There's the bullshit in the animal welfare argument, but what about the price of food?

Laura Fox: Luckily, all of the filings in the Supreme Court case are available online. And there were several, and a few of them are from economists that ran through that analysis. Unfortunately, you have experts on either side, so you do have economists on the Pork Producers Council's side claiming some 13 or so percent increase in the cost to consumers that would likely be passed on because of the costs it will take to conform to Prop 12.

So to be clear, Prop 12 bans the use of those gestation crates, but it also then outlines, well, what is "uncruel" raising practices? And that is to give each individual pig 24 square feet of usable space. And so I think it was somewhat of 60 to 70% of all sows now raised in the US are raised in those types of contraptions, gestation crates. And so, as the Pork Producer Council, they alleged, there's no way for them to segregate production. There's no way for them to trace where a pork chop came from the original sow. And so because there's no way for them to trace that, there's no way for them to delineate between what is Prop 12 compliant versus what is not. And so according to them, all sow production would have to be modified.

So you can imagine there's significant costs to that, but that's up to then the industry of how they're going to distribute those costs. So you can look at the soaring profits of various huge conglomerates that are vertically integrated and they could, I suppose, dictate that their growers take out a loan and take on the cost of retrofitting and refurbishing their production to be Prop 12 compliant.

And so in that sense, it would then pass that burden onto individual farmers, but that's a choice the industry is making because they could also provide the support that those farmers need to retrofit and become compliant because either way, it's most likely that the industries, the huge corporations will pass that cost onto the consumer. And the California consumer was more than willing to pay that extra price for the animals to get that extra space.

And I want to just touch real quick on the argument of these gestation crates and then by extension farrowing crates. So farrowing crates are the exact same as gestation crates. It just provides another area for the piglets to lay. And so the argument is these crates can assist in not having the mother sow roll over and crush the infants, and so it's more beneficial to animal welfare.

So again, different experts disagree, and there's other opinions that say, "Well, the fatality rate of infants is no different, whether or not it's in a natural penning type scenario or in these farrowing crates." So there's no statistically significant difference in penning them or crating them, but there is a huge difference in the welfare of both the infant pig and the sow in their interactions and ability to engage in natural behaviours and stuff.

And let's be clear, this Prop 12, it's a step forward and it gets animals out of extreme confinement, but their lives are still pretty miserable. There's still going to be a lot of suffering down the line, and it's still going to be true that 1% of pigs that are transported from their grow house to the slaughterhouse die or arrive unable to walk due to injury, fatigue, or illness.

And it's still going to be true whether or not they're in gestation crates or in group housing or other larger pens that a percentage of up to 10% of pigs will die in confinement due to overcrowded conditions and lack of individualized veterinary care.

And those mortality rates though are somehow acceptable to the industry. And yet when you talk about getting pigs more space and out of crates, they'll point to an indiscriminate amount of deaths occurring as somehow being significant, and they somehow now care about the wellbeing of the animals. And so to me, it's very disingenuous.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely, it's very hypocritical if they care about piglet deaths and the supposed differences in numbers and then don't even touch on pig deaths in general. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And I guess one of the arguments on this webpage anyways was supposedly farmers could be more aware of each animal's health status. I don't know why, because there's less space to cover or something. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But the argument seemed pretty weak, honestly, and also pretty easily debunked with actual stats, I would think.

Laura Fox: Yeah, and I mean right now they don't necessarily provide individual veterinary care, and this is also creating a huge problem when it comes to the overuse of antibiotics. It's not that they're looking at each individual hog and saying, "Okay, this one needs this antibiotic and this one needs that." It's just distributed in the feed for all because that's how they're going to be somehow surviving in this overcrowded environment. So that also, I feel is a disingenuous framing of their position.

Karina Inkster: Good point. It's moot if they're not even doing that in the first place. It's very hypothetical and disingenuous, as you mentioned. Interesting. Okay. So how about some of the food safety aspects though? So you mentioned before that it's not just about animal welfare, Proposition 12, it's also around public health efforts and food safety.

You mentioned food-borne illnesses. What's the situation there? So are there actual stats on this? Is it healthier for the consumer who does happen to eat animal products if that animal has been raised in a certain way versus a gestation crate?

Laura Fox: Yeah. So I mean there's so much more developing science on this, and I would point to ... So the various organizations filed what's called an amicus brief, and that's Latin for friend of the court. And so if you have an interest in a particular case and you have an interest in the outcome of a particular case, you can file a brief before the court and explain your side of the story.

And there were several of them filed in this Prop 12 litigation, but one of them focused a lot on this public health, and it's the American Public Health Association, Infectious Disease Society of America and Center for Food Safety and a number of other organizations signed on. And they made the point that intensively confined animals are really the source of a lot of the problems associated with food safety, infectious disease, zoonotic disease, pathogens, and environmental degradation that occurs that could also create additional health concerns for those living nearby these facilities.

So the argument for why this is the hub fixing the problem is in confining sows so tightly, they experience a lot of physiological stressors and this weakens their immune function, not only of the sows, but also that of their piglets because it passes on. It increases the growth and virulence of pathogens. It increases the excretion of pathogens in their waste. And it creates more of it because if you imagine 6,000 pigs being consolidated in a very small, tight space, all of their waste is also confined in a tight space.

And with that tight confinement comes also the enhanced ability for zoonosis to mutate and become more virulent, because if you would just imagine each cell being an individual host, and if they're created right next to each other, that virus could spread from host to host to host, and with each new host, it can mutate and become more virulent and can be transmitted to and sicken and even kill humans.

All of this was outlined before the court. And then they pointed to USDA, the US Department of Agriculture in their rulemakings around organic livestock and poultry standards, stating that giving more space to animals may result in healthier livestock products for human consumption. And also claiming that supporting the natural behaviours of livestock may result in healthier livestock products for human consumption. And so that was also on the minds of the voters of California wanting to produce just safer food products for people who choose to consume them.

Karina Inkster: Well, that's an interesting point. So it is also about public health and food safety. It's also about what you mentioned around the environment surrounding these operations. So things being leached into the groundwater, I assume, and stuff like environmental impacts that then also have health impacts on the population. That's an interesting idea. It's not just about consuming the products themselves. There's a lot of other aspects like the environment and living close to one of these operations, for example.

So clearly there's a lot of different angles to it, but what does this mean, this recent decision especially, to essentially maintain Proposition 12 and not strike it down? What does that mean for the future of animal welfare? Is this going to affect other states? I mean, wasn't it 13 states who got together and basically argued against it? Do you think that this is going to affect other states in a positive way? Are more states going to adopt this? What's the future of animal welfare based on this decision that just happened?

Laura Fox: Yeah, I mean, I think it empowers states to act and make similar or even more emboldened laws that will hopefully provide better conditions for animals raised. So currently I think it's Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Rhode Island, a couple more that have similar laws. Massachusetts has one most similar to Proposition 12, and I believe that they were holding implementation, waiting to see the results of this. Then now in Massachusetts, you're also going to see not being able to sell into that market if you don't comply with these conditions.

And then now other states know that it's constitutional to enact these types of things. And 26 have direct ballot initiative-type processes, so the citizens don't have to wait for their state lawmakers to act. They can get out and draft a ballot initiative, hopefully, partner with some organizations that are doing that for some guidance on how best to approach that and pass similar or even, like I said, hopefully, more robust protections for farmed animals.

Karina Inkster: Right. So what about us non-lawyers and non-law students? I mean, most of my listeners are somewhere in the vegan world. It is a vegan podcast, so most of them are probably vegan, but there's a lot of folks who are looking into going vegan, so I'd call them veg-curious at this point, but everyone's kind of on the plant-based spectrum somewhere. So other than not eating animal products and supporting these things in the first place, are there things that we can do from our end to further some of these processes or laws or animal welfare projects?

Laura Fox: It doesn't even have to be at the state or national level. If you want to get involved in your city or municipality or locality, whatever sort of local government level and encourage, some cities have made significant impacts in their purchasing decisions. So San Francisco banned the sale of fur. New York, I think also has some procurement laws.

So you can try and convince change at a more localized level, and I think that can have a significant impact, but you can also get involved. If you do see that an organization is trying to organize around a ballot initiative, most of those require a lot of signatures. So you have to go out and canvas and get the voters to sign the petition basically so it can get certified and get on the next ballot. So that's something that you can engage in no matter what your situation is and requires no law training whatsoever.

Karina Inkster: Well, that's positive intel. I have to say, as someone who just doesn't financially support animal agriculture and hasn't for a long time, this kind of thing has been less on the radar looking at existing food operations. It's just like, "Well, I don't support them anyways, so I can do my work focusing on getting people to eat more plant-based food and less animal products."

But it does make me think more about what's actually happening now. We're not all going to go vegan overnight as a North American population, much as we would want that. So it does make me think more about, okay, what is currently happening? I'm in Canada, I'm in BC, so I don't even know a lot about our laws and what happens in these factory farms and what is allowed and what isn't.

And so it's definitely getting me to think more about this kind of work. I mean, I'm not a lawyer obviously, but what you just mentioned, getting involved, seeing what you can do on a local level, looking at larger scale initiatives that you could be part of. I think that's pretty inspiring actually. So is there anything to wrap up that you want to leave our listeners with?

Laura Fox: Just thank you so much for listening and if you want more information about the programs, Vermont Law and Graduate School or you want to talk more about how you can specifically get involved, I'm happy to engage in conversation. So feel free to reach out to me and hopefully, if I can't answer your questions or provide you the support that you need, I might be able to direct you to somebody who can. So just thank you so much for having me. It was a really great conversation.

Karina Inkster: Amazing. Well, thank you, Laura. We will have show notes, of course, where folks can contact you directly. And it was fantastic speaking with you. I learned a lot. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Laura Fox: Thank you.

Karina Inkster: Laura, thank you again for joining me on the show. Access our show notes at to connect with Laura. And thank you for tuning in.

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