Laura Ireland Moore has been fighting for animals ever since she founded an animal rights group while attending junior high in La Grange, Ill.
A vegan by age 16, Moore got her degree in environmental studies from the University of Colorado. In 1998 she enrolled at Lewis&Clark Law School, where animal law was growing in popularity among students. After graduating in 2001, she founded the National Center for Animal Law at Lewis&Clark, a division of the law school.
Still only 31, Moore directs the center and teaches 15 to 20 students a year. The center rarely embroils itself in public disputes, but Moore recently became involved in one when she wrote Dean Mark Richardson of Oregon Health&Science University last month to urge him to "discontinue the use of live pigs" in a first-year elective course. Moore is leaving her job in August because her husband is taking a job elsewhere. But we asked her in the meantime to explain more about the developing field of animal law.
WW: What differentiates your center from other animal rights groups?
Laura Ireland Moore: I wouldn't say we're an animal rights group. We do animal protection law. We only take cases and work on issues when it's furthering the interests of animals. There are other animal-law attorneys who do not necessarily work for animals. Environmental law is a good parallel. There are environmental lawyers protecting the trees and there are environmental lawyers protecting the companies who cut down the trees. Animal law is the same sort of thing.
Should animals have rights like humans, or is it that humans should have more responsibilities toward animals?
It's certainly not that animals should have the right to vote or to have a car. It's about respecting what each individual species needs. Under the current laws, some animals do have protection from cruelty—those are companion animals. But the law is set up to exempt things that are cruel to animals, basically if we make money off them. If you look at the Oregon anti-cruelty statute, it exempts rodeos, common husbandry practices, any sort of research.
While hunting may seem cruel in America, because it's not necessary for most people's survival, what happens in a culture where people must hunt to survive? Do animals still have the same rights?
Animals are not on this planet for us to use. There needs to be respect for the fact that they are individual living beings. If people can live without using animals, they should do that.
What about the Inuit in Canada, who help support themselves by hunting?
I'm not an expert on the Inuit. But if they can mine and sell gas, diamonds, gold and heavy metals, they can certainly ship in some tofu. If everyone had as much respect for animals and the sacrifice they make for humans as [they do] for native cultures, this world would be a much better place.
You also oppose using animals for research?
Yes. I'm not a doctor, I'm not a researcher. But there's a lot of research from the medical community that shows animal testing doesn't work. We don't have a cure for cancer, we don't have a cure for AIDS. Knowing how something works in a rat doesn't tell you how it works in a person, because our bodies are different.
What if there were cases where it actually did benefit humans?
Well, but it's a hypothetical that's not true, so…
I'm not going to answer that question.
OHSU spokesman Jim Newman has a list of some medical advances made possible by animal testing. They include the smallpox vaccine (cows), the polio vaccine (monkeys) and insulin.
Jim and others in the animal research industry have personal and financial interests in perpetuating the myth that animal research works.
Have you ever had a pet?
We have two dogs and two cats. They have really good lives. They own us; we don't own them.
It seems strange you would think having pets is OK.
There's debate about that. But most people in the animal advocacy movement do not have a problem with people having pets, or, as we call them, companion animals. Legally, animals are property. But they're living beings as well. What we do have a problem with is puppy mills and pet stores and the fact that people buy and sell animals.
Where'd you get your pets?
The two cats were from friends who lived next door to a man whose cat lived outdoors and wasn't spayed. They watched her get pregnant a number of times and her kittens would become feral. The neighbor finally allowed my friends to get her spayed—they took the pregnant cat in, took care of her kittens, got everyone spayed and neutered and I have two of those cats. One of our dogs was adopted from the humane society. Our other dog was rescued from a reservation in Washington.
Why oppose the use of live pigs in a class at OHSU?
That's not something we normally do. We were contacted by concerned OHSU students. I didn't know it was gonna go to the press. I was just writing a letter to say, "Hey, this isn't OK." We don't really take positions on a lot of things. The Animal Welfare Act requires you to use non-animal alternatives when they are available. So our position was: The Animal Welfare Act requires you to stop this. Since 126 other schools educate their medical students without using live animals, it seems like there's a reasonable alternative.
OHSU's Newman says many of those schools actually do use live pigs for this class, but because they are private schools, they are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as schools like OHSU.
Whether it's 60 or 120 schools, there's a way to have medical students become good doctors without using live animals in the classroom.
Do you go to the zoo?
I loved the zoo when I was little. But I haven't been in decades.
What do you make of the tiger attack in San Francisco several weeks ago?
In one sense, you get exposed to animals by seeing them. But, as we've seen, having wild animals in captivity is not good. It's dangerous for people and there's just not a way to do it humanely. Animals should be in the wild.
Over 120 illegal acts were committed by animal rights groups in America in 2006—the most ever in a year, according to
magazine. About two-thirds—66 percent—of the targets were biomedical in nature.