Interview with Centro de Estudios de Derecho Animal (CEDA Chile)
Please welcome Diego Plaza Casanova, the founder and Executive Director of Centro de Estudios de Derecho Animal (CEDA Chile). Diego Plaza Casanova, an attorney from Chile, earned his law degree from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaiso in 2015, a degree in environment and sustainable development at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile’s law school in 2017, and LL.M. in Animal Law from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2020, being the recipient of the International Society for Animal Rights / Alice Herrington Memorial Scholarship.
CEDA Chile stands for “Centro de Estudios de Derecho Animal” in Spanish or “Center for Chilean Animal Law Studies.” CEDA Chile was the first organization to join the Alliance for Animal Law of Asia, an international campaign initiated by the Institute of Animal Law of Asia. Through this interview, we would like to introduce our member to the public and our audience. We are excited to learn more about CEDA Chile!
Part I: Introduction
IALA: Diego, could you please tell us about your non-profit organization?
Diego: CEDA Chile is the first center of specialized studies in Chilean Animal Law. We carry out legal research in Animal Law, coordinate educational actions, and provide technical support to legislative processes and animal organizations. Through these and other activities, we intend to contribute to the generation of cultural conceptions that allow us to create an interspecies relationship detached from all those elements of exploitation and subjugation that currently characterize them.
IALA: What animal law issues does CEDA address in Chile? Have you faced any difficulties and how did you get over them?
Diego: CEDA Chile is currently working on various animal issues in each of its areas. In the legal research area, we are working on various animal problems, such as animal testing, industrial production, the regime imposed by the current fishing law and hunting law, and even veganism as part of freedom of conscience. On the other hand, the intersectional literature area addresses intersectional justice issues, particularly animal liberation and feminism, gender equality (LGBTQ+), and indigenous people. Simultaneously, the educational side of our work is organizing various academic instances to be developed in schools, universities, and through our social media pages. In the latter, we will address general conceptions about animal law, veganism, animal ethics and philosophy, and non-human emotion and cognition.
Perhaps, the main difficulty has been to assemble working teams that can successfully face all the challenges that await us this year. Besides, we are still in a learning phase regarding how we are organizing ourselves. Fortunately, many people have approached us, intending to collaborate in all these areas, which has allowed us to be part of a multidisciplinary team where we all have the opportunity to create and grow.
IALA: Since the hit of the pandemic in December 2019, everybody has had to shift to a “new normal” life, remote work, online education. What challenges did your organization face since then?
Diego: When I founded CEDA Chile, I was studying in the United States, which meant that our activities used telematic media from the beginning. This was intensified with the onset of the pandemic and the resulting change in conditions that this entailed. Because of the above, our work system revolves predominantly around the use of telematic means. We have tried to use all possible means that can bring us benefits for our internal operation and bring our work and activities closer to a larger audience.
Besides, I have tried to find opportunities for our team - or some of it - to interact face-to-face, which strengthens ties and improves interpersonal relationships. However, this has been particularly difficult in these times due to COVID-19 restrictions.
IALA: Do you have anything to share about what CEDA Chile is planning to accomplish during 2021-2022?
Diego: We are very excited about two ongoing projects at CEDA Chile during the 2021-2022 period.
The first one is the development of a project of non-legal literature that addresses the issues of intersectional justice through various formats, such as short stories, poems, comics, novels, or philosophical writings. This project will be headed by a director with a background in literature and will develop various activities to reach the broadest possible audience.
The second project is the legal constitution of the foundation "Justicia Interespecie" (Interspecies Justice), an NGO in which we are working together with two CEDA members. Once constituted, this foundation will pursue the development of academic actions, animal activism, have an area of legal innovation, and develop a strategic litigation program, which we hope will be inaugurated with the first habeas corpus filed in Chile on behalf of a great ape confined in a zoo, during the first quarter of 2022.
Part II: Chile and Asia
IALA: What do you think are the common animal law issues that Chile and Asian countries might have?
Diego: I think that the fundamental problem that Asia and Chile have in common - and that is common to practically all countries and regions of the world - is that of the reification and instrumentalization of non-human animals for the satisfaction of human needs, which is deeply normalized in our predominant discourses and crystallized in our legal systems. In this sense, our animal movements and our legislative efforts usually tend to regulate animal exploitation and not to suppress it, and, thus, to normalize rather than deconstruct it. Therefore, as a result of the above, the laws regulating the way we exploit animals at various levels, such as terrestrial industrial production, fishing, aquaculture, and wild animals, become morally acceptable, and in the very best of cases, we create euphemistic rules claiming to protect animals considered "companion animals", while regulating their possession and ownership in favor of humans.
IALA: In which ways do you think CEDA Chile could help the animal advocacy field within the Alliance for Animal Law of Asia?
Diego: I believe that CEDA Chile could collaborate in several ways. On one hand, it can serve as a channel of communication and diffusion of animal problems existing in Asia, which will allow us to shape the involved audience with the awareness of a global vision of the interspecies relationship. Secondly, we could coordinate academic and educational instances tending to address common issues and to advance the moral consideration of non-human animals in our societies. In addition, the Alliance could serve as an ideal vehicle for sharing technical expertise in animal activism and strategic litigation, serving as an intercontinental think tank.
IALA: Wildlife animal law is one of the pressing issues in the animal law field. How is wildlife protection enforced in Chile? How is illegal wildlife trade monitored and prosecuted in the country? Is there any legal or illegal wildlife trade relationship between Chile and Asian countries?
Diego: In Chile, there are different agencies and regulations that address the interaction between humans and wild animals. Hunting Law establishes which species may be hunted, which may not, quotas, and certain regulations and restrictions. This law also regulates animal confinement centers, constituting a non-specific regulation for zoos, which lacks a special regulation. Chile also has protected areas, which provide indirect protection for some terrestrial and aquatic species. The Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) is the agency responsible for overseeing infractions and offenses in the Hunting Law. The agencies and courts with environmental jurisdiction may be relevant, particularly in the development of projects that may affect wild animals.
In Chile, wildlife hunting and trafficking are not a problem of the enormous magnitude that they are for some Asian countries and some South American countries such as Brazil and Colombia. In turn, illegal wildlife trafficking between Asia and Chile appears to be marginal, as is the case for wildlife trafficking that takes place in a legal context, such as under the CITES, mainly to supply zoos.
IALA: Climate change currently is one of the main factors threatening the animal world. How do you think Chilean animal law can protect animals from this type of threat?
Diego: I think that Chile and all countries in the world could protect human and non-human animals from the threats posed by climate change. However, I doubt that this could take place under the umbrella of Animal Law as we know it today: an animal law of a welfarist nature that aspires to recognize, someday, the legal personhood and some subjective rights in favor of some non-human animals.
In this sense, we must begin to establish the foundations for a "Libertarian Animal Law", that is, for an animal law which deconstructs and suppresses the relations of domination exercised by humans over non-humans, and which tends towards the deepest emancipation of the latter against all forms of discursive domination of an anthropic nature, including within these the legal discourse itself. In other words, we must reimagine traditional animal law and direct our work towards designing new legal technologies to replace welfare norms and "rights" and establish legal relationships that limit human freedom to safeguard animal liberty.
In short, we must stop the exploitation of non-human animals to address climate change, but it is impossible to stop such exploitation under the current animal legal framework. We must design new legal mechanisms of liberty.
Part III: International Cooperation
IALA: What would you like to achieve through the Alliance for Animal Law of Asia?
Diego: I would be delighted if we could maintain a fluid technical collaboration, for the development of legal research and strategic litigation campaigns. In addition, it would be wonderful if we could develop joint academic and educational activities, and thus expose the problems and points of view that characterize our regions. In addition, we hope to expand our networks, which will allow us to exercise our work under a global, inclusive, horizontal, and respectful approach to the cultural characteristics of each of the countries of the world.
IALA: Are you seeking any global participation in developing animal law through CEDA Chile? What countries or regions do you think you can involve improving the protection of animals in Chile?
Diego: At CEDA Chile, we are happy to collaborate with people from different parts of the world. We currently have volunteers not only from Chile but also from Argentina, Colombia, and Spain. Besides, we maintain collaborative ties with organizations in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. I think that every point of view, experience, and perspective is beneficial to our work. I would love to be able to collaborate with representatives from all countries and regions of the world. It is crucial to deconstruct some animal discourses that may tend to be Eurocentric and encourage an intersectional discursive development between non-human liberation and the cultures present in those physical spaces occupied by our countries.
IALA: Do you have any experience or tips to share with our members on how to advocate for animals effectively?
Diego: I don’t think it is easy to advise those I consider my peers, mainly because I believe we are all continually learning and getting more involved in an area whose development is still at an early stage. In this sense, we are all pioneers, and we all have a lot to learn. However, I think we often tend to give everything to ourselves, our time, and our minds, which may affect our health. Therefore, I believe it is essential to learn how to work as a team, look for partners, delegate and share responsibilities and leave time for ourselves. As I mentioned before, an unhealthy state of mind will not allow us to develop this beautiful work that we are so passionate about!
IALA: What else would you like to tell the audience of the Institute of Animal Law of Asia (IALA)?
Diego: I encourage everyone to continue working on behalf of non-human animals, to keep on learning, collaborating, and raising awareness about the arising issues and concerns. Furthermore, I encourage everyone to work from intersectional points of view, which will also allow us to lean towards the absolute liberation of all those groups subjected to analogous discursive power structures, such as sexual, religious, political minorities, and non-human animals.
IALA: Thank you again for taking the time for this interview. We enjoyed talking with you and discussing animal law issues that we can solve together as the Institute of Animal Law of Asia (IALA) and CEDA Chile.