April 19, 2024

Animal Agriculture’s Role in Climate Change at the Environmental Law Symposium

Lewis & Clark Law School’s 9th annual Environmental Law Spring Symposium, “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change — The Really Big Cow In The Room,” convened experts to discuss the urgent need to address the adverse impacts of industrial animal agriculture on climate change. Nicholas Kristof, of NY Times, gave the keynote address.

On April 5, 2024, experts in environmental and animal law came together to discuss the detrimental impacts of industrial animal husbandry on climate change and explored practical solutions to reduce carbon emissions for the Environmental Law Spring Symposium, titled “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change — The Really Big Cow In The Room.”

Acclaimed New York Times opinion columnist, Nicholas Kristof, opened the symposium with a reflection on his rural Oregon upbringing, highlighting the critical role of law in combating climate change, emphasizing that “law is going to be one of the most important tools to bring about change.”

The 9th annual Environmental Law Spring Symposium was a joint effort from both the environmental law and animal law programs at Lewis & Clark Law School, co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Program, Environmental Law Review, and the Center for Animal Law Studies, drew a large audience of experts and enthusiasts.

Throughout the day, Lewis & Clark Law professors, Tom Buchele, Lisa Benjamin, Melissa Powers, Michele Okoh, and Joyce Tischler led discussions exploring the implications of large scale U.S. animal agriculture on climate change. From scientific analyses to pragmatic strategies, attendees engaged in conversations addressing the need for regulatory reform to pave the way for a more sustainable future.

In closing, the symposium emphasized the pressing need for regulatory reform and collaborative efforts to address the detrimental impacts of animal agriculture on climate change, providing scholars, practitioners, and students with a valuable platform to deepen their understanding of this complex relationship.

Recordings of the panels and keynote address are available for viewing. To access the recordings or learn more about the symposium, please visit the following link: Symposium Recordings


Speakers and Panels:

Introduction and Welcome

Janice Weis - Associate Dean and Director, Environmental, Natural Resources and Energy Law Program

Pamela Byce - Assistant Dean and Executive Director, Center for Animal Law Studies



Nicholas Kristof, award-winning New York Times opinion columnist


Panel 1 – Why Animal Agriculture is a Climate Problem

Moderator: Professor Tom Buchele, Earthrise Law Center, Lewis & Clark Law School



Panel 2 – Can we meet Climate Goals without Addressing Animal Agriculture?

Moderator: Professor Lisa Benjamin, Lewis & Clark Law School


      • Melissa Powers, Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School: The Climate Curse of Agribigness
      • Amelia Linn, Director of Global Policy, Mercy for Animals: Animal Agriculture’s Impact on International Climate Goals


Panel 3 – Challenges and Barriers of Current Laws and Policies

Moderator: Jaycie Thaemert, Editor in Chief, Environmental Law Review


      • Tarah Heinzen, Legal Director, Food and Water Watch: Limitations of current laws
      • Randall Abate, Assistant Dean, Environmental Law Studies, The George Washington University Law School: Putting Lipstick on a Pig: Biogas, Methane Digesters, and the Greenwashing Playbook. DRAFT - not for circulation paper viewable here.
      • Michele Okoh, Assistant Professor, Lewis & Clark Law School: Forgotten Waters. DRAFT - not for circulation paper viewable here.


Panel 4 – Thinking Outside the Box: Large and Small Scale Solutions

Moderator: Joyce Tischler, Professor of Practice, Lewis Clark Law School


      • Daina Bray, Senior Litigation Fellow and Project Manager, Law, Ethics, and Animals Program, Yale Law School: Policy Approaches to the Climate Problem of Animal Agriculture
      • Jeff Sebo, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, NYU Law School: Towards a Global Ban on Factory Farming by 2050
      • Raj Reddy, Assistant Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School: A New Lord of the Flies: Big Ag’s Recent Embrace of Insect Farming
      • Katie Cantrell, Co-Founder and CEO, Greener by Default: Nudging a New Food Future: Behavioral Science and Institutional Procurement