May 17, 2024

Meet Our 2024 Animal Law Leadership Award Winners

This year’s award is presented to three Lewis & Clark law students who have demonstrated leadership in the field of animal law.

The Animal Leadership Award is an award given annually, when merited, by the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) to one or more graduating Lewis & Clark law students who have demonstrated leadership in the animal law field and who have earned the respect of peers, faculty, and staff for advancing animal law and education. CALS is thrilled to announce that the recipients of this year’s Award are: Melissa Baines, Kaiti Bestor, and Eric Sugarman. Learn about each of them and their animal protection work and future plans below.

Melissa Baines

Melissa served as the Editor in Chief of the Animal Law Review during her 3L year. Under Melissa’s guidance, the journal published volumes 30.1 and 30.2 of Animal Law, including a special spring edition in collaboration with Dr. Paul Locke and Rebecca Critser focusing on issues with animal research and testing.

During her time at Lewis & Clark, Melissa worked as a research assistant for Professor Kathy Hessler and as a law clerk for Professor Joyce Tischler. Her work focused on the topics of aquatic animal law and vertical integration and consolidation within the meat industry. She also interned for the Animal Welfare Institute’s Government Affairs Program in Washington, D.C., externed for the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Legislative Affairs Program, and interned for United States Senator Jeff Merkley.

Of her future career in animal law, Melissa plans to find a position where she can work in policy, help pass federal laws to protect animals, and eventually establish an agency that will oversee those laws and make sure they are enforced.

Kaiti Bestor

Kaiti’s dedication to animal rights began in high school and has become an integral part of her personal and professional life. Prior to starting her legal career, Kaiti earned her BA from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where she majored in writing and rhetorical studies with a double minor in legal studies and public administration. During college, Kaiti was awarded a research grant to travel to Australia, where she worked with and learned from various animal advocacy groups.

As a law student, Kaiti was a member of the Animal Law Review, held multiple positions on the LC Animal Legal Defense Fund Board, including as the 2023-2024 Co-Director, and worked as a law clerk for Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program. Additionally, Kaiti was selected to present her research paper regarding banning male chick culling in the egg production industry at the 2023 Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Convention.

Kaiti is immensely grateful for the support, opportunities, and friendships that the Animal Law Community at Lewis & Clark offered. She is excited to continue her animal advocacy and is eager to pursue a career where she can use innovative and creative approaches to challenge the treatment of animals. Kaiti currently resides in Portland, Oregon, with her partner and their cat, Elfie. In her free time, she enjoys trying new vegan restaurants, thrifting, and exploring all the nature the Pacific Northwest has to offer. 

Eric Sugarman

Eric focuses on the nexus of animal law, environmental law, and transformative justice. Born and raised in North Carolina, he graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in Sustainability and Geography.

Upon college graduation, Eric spent several years apprenticing with regenerative farmers across the United States in pursuit of a more intimate relationship with the art and practice of land stewardship. These experiences crystallized his conviction that we must transform our food system if we are to achieve a transition to a sustainable, equitable, and just future for animals, people, and the planet. Eric hopes to leverage legal tools to further the dismantlement of the industrial animal agriculture paradigm and champion the dignity and value of all beings, human and non-human alike.

For Eric, Lewis & Clark Law School, and the Animal Law Program in particular, have been a well-spring of insight, community, and mentorship over the past three years. He is grateful for the exceptional education he received at Lewis & Clark, and he is eager to commence his professional work as a legal advocate where he can apply his learnings in service to the public interest.

The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) was founded in 2008 with a mission to educate the next generation of animal law advocates and advance animal protection through the law. With vision and bold risk-taking, CALS has since developed into a world-renowned animal law epicenter. CALS’ Alumni-in-Action from over 25 countries are making a difference for animals around the world. CALS is a nonprofit organization funded through donations and grants.