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Headshot of Isabella Nilsson

Isabella Nilsson

  • Hosted by Legal Impact for Chickens
  • Sponsored by California ChangeLawyers, Anonymous
  • Service location California
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Animal Law, Workers' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Isabella’s project will focus on work with Legal Impact for Chickens (LIC) to carry out novel litigation that reforms the poultry industry, improving conditions for poultry workers, contract growers, and animals.

Isabella’s inspiration is her grandmother, a guiding force in her life who has always encouraged her to embrace her Puerto Rican heritage, her desire to do justice, and her belief that she can effect positive change in the world.

Needs Addressed by Project

Ninety-seven percent of the 160 million chickens consumed weekly nationwide are produced through “contract” farming, a financially exploitative process in which an individual farmer takes out large loans in order to raise chickens for a large poultry corporation. Poultry slaughterhouse workers have some of the highest rates of depression, PTSD, and traumatic workplace injuries nationwide; amputations are routine and chronic illness common. Workers are constantly exposed to hazardous biological agents, and basic labor rights like bathroom breaks and overtime pay are often not respected. Most industry workers are people of color, many are women, and nearly one third are immigrants. Animals also suffer: most US chickens live in dark, crowded sheds that serve as breeding grounds for disease, and increased line speeds mean that birds are often accidentally scalded to death while still fully conscious.

Fellowship Plans

Large poultry companies make all the decisions about growers’ work, but reject legal liability, leaving growers indebted and stripped of basic labor rights. Isabella will explore USDA’s role in the economic condition of growers. Isabella will also investigate USDA decisions that impact worker safety; for instance, increased dispensation of line speed waivers and a recurrent lack of inspection in poultry slaughterhouses has increased worker injuries. Isabella will share her findings with allied coalition partners and use it to inform the specific legal strategy for a LIC impact litigation lawsuit.

“As an LGBTQ+ Latinx woman, I’m proud to be contributing to the diversity of the law and assisting those who lack access to traditional legal resources.”

Isabella Nilsson /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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