On a recent rainy Saturday, a group of Miami Law students, alumni and local attorneys gathered on campus to launch an education program with the aim of helping those scarcely able to help themselves: children and animals. The event was hosted by the Miami Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Titled the Humane Education Project, the program is a joint public service of the Animal Law Committee of the American Bar Association's Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, and Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers, a non-profit public charity. The goal of the project is to train volunteer attorneys and law students to teach fourth- and fifth-grade students in local schools through a humane education curriculum. The program's lesson plans are focused on cultivating compassion and empathy for animals. Topics of emphasis include factory farming, animal cruelty, dog fighting, puppy mills, overpopulation, and habitat destruction.
"I came to this event because I believe that we as a society can increase the amount of empathy that we show toward animals, and the best way to bring about change is through education," said Dena Dubofsky, a 1L student at Miami Law. "I am looking forward to going into elementary schools to present the lesson plans. I already made arrangements to teach in my mom's third grade classroom over fall break."
Miami Law alum Jane Graham, JD '09, attended the event and was a key figure in its organization. "As lawyers, it is too easy to get caught up in legal jargon, dense statutes and case law, and only dealing with clients and other lawyers," she said. "This program is a great way to reach out to youth to teach compassion for other beings on earth and is refreshing for both the mind and spirit."
Meena Alagappan, Executive Director of Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers, said the national program was launched in 2009, and has been implemented in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Chicago. "We wanted to expand the geographic reach of our project and offer it in a venue with a receptive audience," said Alagappan, a former chair of the American Bar Association's Animal Law Committee. "We thought that Miami would be an appropriate place, and we were more than pleased with the outcome."
Casey Sullivan, an instructor at the event and a 3L student at George Washington University Law School, echoed Alagappan's sentiments. "We were very impressed by the enthusiasm of the participants, who not only gave up a Saturday to attend the humane education training, but braved downpours and flooded streets to make it," Sullivan said. "The students from Miami Law were particularly impressive. It's great to see law students demonstrating a commitment to humane education and public service."
The event was the first of many animal-related events that will be hosted this school year by the Miami Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. "We are so happy that this event reached such a large audience in the Miami Law community, from 1L students to alumni," said Morgan Nati, the group's president. "We look forward to highlighting many other animal-related programs, causes, and legal issues throughout the year."
For more information about Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers, please visit www.teachhumane.org.
For information about the Miami Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, go to their website.