Law student sets sights on defending animals’ rights

By Rosemary Westwood

Hunt with Ruthie, adopted from Cat’s Cradle Animal Rescue

The environmental law program brought Cara Hunt to UVic. But she has ended up dedicating her time on campus to protecting and advancing the rights of animals.

“Animal law is the pre-eminent social justice issue of our time,” says Hunt. “More people are going vegan and vegetarian every day.”

Animal law is any legal issue, legislation or case law that relates to animals and their interests.

Hunt, 35, graduates with numerous awards and scholarships. She sits on the executive of the animal law section with the BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association, and she is a past executive director of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.

In 2008 Hunt won the Advancement of Animal Law Award from the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Her research has been published in The Advocate—the journal of the Vancouver Bar Association.

Originally from Kentucky, Hunt came to UVic with a bachelor’s degree and graduate work in psychology already under her belt.

“I didn’t know there was anything called animal law,” she says.

Then she took a course with associate professor Maneesha Deckha that changed everything.

“She’s been a mentor and a good example of someone who thinks about these issues and writes about them and tries to advance animal rights,” says Hunt.

The main purpose of animal law as Hunt sees it is to bring the law up to speed with society’s changing attitudes towards animals.

Hunt herself believes in the interconnectedness of all life. Her thesis paper on veganism draws from personal experience as a vegan in a meat-eating world and was one of a handful of student works presented at the 2009 International Animal Law Conference in Montréal.

Her most recent work experience focused on creating the first exhaustive review of American laws that deal in any way with animals used in testing. The goal is to use that compilation to update American laws and eventually restrict the use of animals in toxicity testing.

Animal law isn’t the only area where Hunt excels. She won this year’s MacIsaac & Company Prize in Community Law, given to a student who has demonstrated excellence in working at UVic’s Law Centre legal aid clinic.

When it comes to defending animal rights, Hunt walks the walk.

She volunteers with the BC SPCA and helps care for feral and abandoned cats. She’s also fostered chickens that were past their egg-laying years and is working on a vegan organic garden with her husband in their backyard.

Hunt sea kayaks and cycles in her spare time.

“I like to read, even though I’ve read enough in law school to last me a lifetime.”

She recently was hired to do criminal law work for Green & Helme in Victoria.

But there is no doubt about the kind of law she’ll end up practising.

“UVic is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Hunt says. “I’ve had my eyes opened to many different issues.”

If it weren’t for UVic, she says she wouldn’t have discovered this passion. Or fallen in love with UVic’s hundreds of resident bunnies, which she will miss when she graduates.

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