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Rachel Mathews

Lecturer on Law

Fall 2023

Rachel Mathews
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Rachel Mathews is an animal rights attorney and Acting Director of Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic, where she trains students in legal advocacy for animals.

Prior to joining the Clinic, she served as Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement at the PETA Foundation, where she helped build a team of lawyers, veterinarians, and captive wildlife specialists to fight industries that exploit wild animals for entertainment. In her nine years representing PETA, Mathews developed creative legal and policy strategies to target cruel practices, bolstered animal rights perspectives in the media, exposed government malfeasance, and used organizing strategies to halt animal exploitation. Her victories include prompting animal circuses to shut down or go animal-free, championing California’s statewide ban on using most animals in circuses, and securing the rescue of an elephant named Nosey from an abusive traveling circus in rural Alabama. She has been quoted in international news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR Weekend Edition, Associated Press, Reuters, and National Geographic.

Mathews received her B.A. in history and French from the College of William & Mary and her J.D. from Tulane University Law School, where she earned a certificate in environmental law and was president of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. In her spare time, she volunteers as an adult literacy tutor with the READ Center in Richmond, Virginia.


  • B.A. College of William and Mary, 2007
  • J.D. Tulane University Law School, 2011