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Caitlin Hawks: From Fledgling Activist to Authorized Eagle




An old photo of Caitlin Hawks as a child with brown hair holds a beige cat, JT, in her lap on a plush chair.

Right here I’m sitting with J.T., a feline companion I lived with as a baby. He was a really pleasant man who used to “kiss” me like a canine, albeit with a much more sandpapery tongue.

I used to be born an animal advocate. Although I grew up in a rural group in Idaho—there was a slaughterhouse proper subsequent to the only real stoplight on the town—by the age of 4, I knew I didn’t need to eat animals. We have been having dice steak for dinner once I requested my mother the place it got here from. After she advised me, I sat on the desk for what appeared like hours, refusing to eat. Not lengthy afterward, I advised my mother and father I needed to go vegetarian. They mentioned I needed to wait till I may prepare dinner for myself. I finished consuming meat once I was 11.

Ardour Prevails

In these intervening years, my need to assist animals by no means dimmed. After I was possibly 8 or 9 years outdated, I wrote an offended letter to TV information anchor Ted Koppel after he made feedback on air in favor of wolf “culls.”

I joined PETA in elementary college. My mother and father had given me a e book that contained a listing of animal safety teams, and once I learn the outline about PETA, I requested my dad to ship in a examine for my $16 membership price. My dad used to hunt and fish and even owned a enterprise that made footwear and baggage out of deerskin. I’m fairly certain he had no concept what I’d signed up for.

A Authorized Eagle Takes Flight

In school, I based a campus animal rights group that drew on PETA for all types of sources. I went vegan, and my mother quickly adopted go well with. Right this moment, even my dad—the previous hunter—is generally vegan.

In 2003, I interned for PETA and took part in circus protests. My job was to put on a body-screen TV exhibiting how animals are abused, whereas one other campaigner, painted as a tiger, sat in a cage.

As a lot as I like grassroots activism, I felt pushed to make an affect in one other method: I went to regulation college particularly to change into an animal rights lawyer. I attended the College of California–Los Angeles as a result of it had simply acquired a million-dollar grant from Bob Barker for the research of animal regulation. I continued serving to animals nonetheless I may. I bought a authorized externship within the Animal Safety Unit for the Los Angeles Metropolis Lawyer’s Workplace, and after commencement, I did professional bono work for animals.

However my coronary heart was set on working for PETA, and now I assist lead the simplest, precedent-setting animal rights litigation group on this planet.

An image of Caitlin Hawks in front of a red background.

From Touring With PETA’s ‘Tiger’ to Taking Down a ‘Tiger King’

PETA’s attorneys are redefining and increasing how the regulation considers animals and making use of it in inventive methods to safe and shield their rights. A method we’re reaching that is by submitting lawsuits towards dismal roadside zoos that violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

My group and I helped dethrone Tiger King villain Tim Stark once we received a lawsuit establishing the first-ever federal precedent holding that prematurely separating tigers and lions from their moms, declawing them, or utilizing them in public encounters violates the ESA.

My group can also be taking up “humane washing,” and our landmark lawsuit towards Nellie’s Free Vary Eggs—whose packaging depicted hens having fun with lush, grassy fields—put egg sellers on discover: Even when they disingenuously promote their eggs as “free-range,” they’ll’t deceptively depict hens frolicking open air with impunity.

One other profitable lawsuit resulted within the switch of three massive cats, together with one named Cheyenne (proven under), to an accredited sanctuary in Colorado and secured a ruling prohibiting Tri-State Zoological Park, the roadside zoo the place they languished for a few years, from proudly owning or possessing endangered or threatened species.

A side-by-side image composite of a tiger, behind bars in a roadside zoo and looking healthy in the sanctuary she was transferred to.

Cheyenne, earlier than and after being transferred to a sanctuary from a roadside zoo.

I’ve come a great distance since I used to be that little woman in Idaho, however one factor hasn’t modified: I’ve by no means wavered in my perception that each one animals have rights.

Written by Caitlin Hawks, Basic Counsel – Litigation. Initially revealed in 2022’s second version of PETA World, a quarterly journal despatched to PETA members. Turn out to be a member as we speak!


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