The ‘Best Legal Department of 2017’ Is … the PETA Foundation

Animal Law Leader Is the First Animal-Protection Organization to Receive Corporate Counsel Magazine's Prestigious Award

For Immediate Release:
May 25, 2017

David Perle 202-483-7382

Washington – The last 12 months have been a banner year for the PETA Foundation’s legal team: California stopped SeaWorld’s plans to breed more orcas, Ringling Bros. circus shut down, and numerous animals were rescued from squalid roadside zoos, among other accomplishments that have now landed the group the title of Best Legal Department of 2017 from Corporate Counsel magazine.

“This abundance of heart that led to the historic decisions about orcas and the circus, as well as to more than a dozen other significant developments in animal law and cutting-edge animal-free science, made the PETA Foundation legal department a clear choice,” the magazine’s cover story proclaims, noting that the team is “only the second nonprofit and first animal protection organization to receive the award since Corporate Counsel bestowed its inaugural one in 2006.”

PETA Foundation attorneys persuaded the California Coastal Commission not to approve SeaWorld’s planned orca tank expansion outright and supported making the expansion contingent on ending orca breeding—a decision that preceded the state of California’s decision to prohibit captive-orca breeding altogether. PETA complaints over Ringling’s abuse of elephants prompted the largest fine in circus history, and PETA’s efforts to pass bans on bullhooks (weapons that resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end) were followed by the circus’s decision to take elephants off the road and, in May, to close altogether.

PETA’s other recent victories include securing the release of 17 bears and three chimpanzees from backyard collections and roadside zoos in one year, including Joe, a chimpanzee who once plucked out his hair in solitary confinement—but who is now thriving among chimpanzee companions in a lush sanctuary. PETA Foundation attorneys also negotiated transactions for the development of the first animal-free replacement for the diphtheria antitoxin made from horses’ blood.

Since its founding, the PETA Foundation—whose motto reads, “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”—has set more legal precedents for animals than any other organization, including the first defeat of an “ag-gag” law, the first convictions for “crush” videos, the first convictions of meat industry workers for abuse, and the largest seizure of animals in U.S. history from a reptile and exotic-animal dealer.

Interviews with the PETA Foundation’s legal team are available upon request. For more information, please visit

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind