IALA: Amy, could you please tell us about your organization? As ALRSA works through three main pillars of Animal Well-being, Law, and Social Justice, can you tell us why you choose these three as the basis of your organization’s work?
Amy: We chose these pillars specifically because all of our Founders by profession, are lawyers, but as individuals, are deeply passionate about animal protection as well as human rights. We see the exploitation and oppression of nonhuman animals as an issue of social justice. We recognise the continuing legacy of apartheid, and its impact on both human and nonhuman animals in South Africa and we seek to actualise a just society by challenging the status quo and reforming the legal system. There are many challenges to the actualisation of legal rights for nonhuman animals in South Africa. In our view, animal rights, protection, and law require an intersectional approach to justice. One cannot simply focus on the protection of nonhuman animals while disregarding human issues. Since our board has significant experience in the areas of human rights and animal law as well as various legal realms (including constitutional, administrative, and environmental law), it was critical to us that this formed (and continues to form) the basis of all of our work.
IALA: What animal law issues does your organization address in South Africa and in general? What are the most challenging difficulties you have ever faced during your animal protection work?
Amy: At an organisational level, we utilise three core focus areas (i) Legislative & Policy Reform; (ii) Litigation and Legal Services; and (iii) Education & Research to advance our goal. We do not focus on particular species of animals and so our work is for all animals in the country. It, therefore, encompasses everyone from wild animals, to aquatic species, and to farmed animals. Similarly, we work across animal uses and abuses whether it is for animals used in scientific research, or animals used for entertainment. Therefore, as a small organisation, one of the greatest challenges that we face is determining exactly where to direct our energy and efforts at a given time when there are so many pressing animal law issues in South Africa.
Aside from this, we face a number of other challenges - some of these are the same or similar to the challenges faced by other non-profit organisations ranging from capacity, resources, and funding constraints to lack of awareness of issues. Due to the type of work we do, we are opposing powerful industries, a consumptive colonial legacy, a range of entrenched societal beliefs, and even livelihoods. So, our work is naturally met with a lot of hesitancy and even heavy opposition and requires sensitivity, research, and rumination.
It is extremely difficult to obtain legal changes for animals, due to not only the realities within the legal system itself but also in the context of great inequality and human rights considerations. Many people are also unaware that the rights of humans, animals, and the environment are fundamental and undeniably linked, which is a major challenge for us to consistently overcome.
IALA: What is ALRSA’s attitude towards “Big Game Hunting?” What are your goals and how to achieve them？
Amy: We oppose trophy hunting and are working towards a ban. This practice is inconsistent with African belief systems and is a colonial legacy that has no place in our country, nor in a society that respects the intrinsic value of individual animals. In addition, it has massive impacts on the environment (including ecosystems and biodiversity), and negatively affects the reputation of our country, which in turn impinges on our society. We have recently made a submission to the Government on this issue and have over the last few years made various submissions and proposals to the Government and worked with multiple organisations to have trophy hunting banned.
IALA: Since the hit of the pandemic in December 2019, everybody has had to shift to a “new normal” life, remote work, and online education. What challenges has your organization faced since then?
Amy: In terms of the pandemic, we are much luckier than many other organisations that work in this space. As a predominantly legal NGO, much of our work can be done remotely. While we have had some challenges due to the pandemic, we have largely been able to continue with our work online and have even hosted a few online international events and sessions which have in some instances, actually allowed us to reach a wider audience.
IALA: Do you have anything to share about the ALRSA’s plans that it intends to accomplish during 2021-2022?
Amy: We are delighted that we have just hired our first-ever Executive Director, Lara Wallis. Lara has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the human rights, social justice, and environmental sectors, and we have no doubt she will bring tremendous value to our organisation. We are excited to be developing our new strategic plans during this transition. For the next year, we plan to continue with a number of Projects that have been ongoing but one exciting piece of news is that in 2022, together with my co-founder and director, Professor David Bilchitz, we will be teaching the first-ever Animal Law Course in a South African University.