Dolphin Slaughter in Denmark

From the email:  Thanks to Laura Westra for this translation of the Italian text:

SHAME!  It is Incredible that it should exist! what todo? other than report it and offer these images as far as possible. DENMARK; A SHAME

…pictures….

Although this appears incredible, every year in Denmark this brutal and bloody massacre happens in the Faroe Islands that belong to Denmark.Denmark, supposedly a civilized country, a country that is a member of the European Union…Too few people in the world are aware of this terrible event. The massacre occurs because young men want to demonstrate they have become adults, that they are of age(!!) Noting has been done to stop this barbaric occurrence, against Calderones Dolphins, super inelligent and sociable, who come to people out of curiosity. Send this message far…let’s hope things will change, who knows!
INCREDIBILE CHE POSSA ESISTERE ! che fare, se non denunciare quello che sta accadendo, diffondendo il più possibile queste immagini.

….DANIMARCA :  UNA VERGOGNA

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BENCHE’ QUESTO SEMBRI INCREDIBILE, OGNI ANNO, QUESTO MASSACRO BRUTALE E SANGUINARIO SI RIPRODUCE NELLE ISOLE FEROE, CHE APPARTENGONO ALLA DANIMARCA.  LA DANIMARCA , UN PAESE SUPPOSTO ‘CIVILIZZATO’, MEMBRO DELL’UNIONE EUROPEA. TROPPE POCHE PERSONE AL MONDO CONOSCONO QUESTO AVVENIMENTO ORRIBILE E DEPROVEVOLE CHE SI RIPETE OGNI ANNO. QUESTO MASSACRO SANGUINARIO E’ IL FRUTTO DI GIOVANI UOMINI CHE VI PARTECIPANO PER DIMOSTRARE DI AVER RAGGIUTNO L’ETA’ ADULTA (!!). E’ ASSOLUTAMENTE  INCREDIBILE CHE NON SIA FATTO NIENTE AFFINCHE ‘ QUESTA BARBARIE CESSI. UNA BARBARIE CONTRO I DELFINI CALDERONES, UN DELFINO SUPER INTELLIGENTE E SOCIEVOLE CHE SI AVVICINA ALLA GENTE PER CURIOSITA’.

INVIA QUESTO MESSAGGIO A TUTTI I TUOI CONTATTI. VERGOGNA ALLA DANIMARCA !!! Fate sapere a tutti che in Danimarca massacrano ogni anno i delfini extra-intelligenti e socievoli per una festa così come fosse un carnevale. Solo le persone inutili pensano che tanto non cambia nulla e per questo rifiutano di inviare questo messaggio a tutti.Speriamo che cambierà, chi lo sa!

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INCREDIBILE CHE POSSA ESISTERE ! che fare, se non denunciare quello che sta accadendo, diffondendo il più possibile queste immagini.

….DANIMARCA :  UNA VERGOGNA
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BENCHE’ QUESTO SEMBRI INCREDIBILE, OGNI ANNO, QUESTO MASSACRO BRUTALE E SANGUINARIO SI RIPRODUCE NELLE ISOLE FEROE, CHE APPARTENGONO ALLA DANIMARCA.  LA DANIMARCA , UN PAESE SUPPOSTO ‘CIVILIZZATO’, MEMBRO DELL’UNIONE EUROPEA. TROPPE POCHE PERSONE AL MONDO CONOSCONO QUESTO AVVENIMENTO ORRIBILE E DEPROVEVOLE CHE SI RIPETE OGNI ANNO. QUESTO MASSACRO SANGUINARIO E’ IL FRUTTO DI GIOVANI UOMINI CHE VI PARTECIPANO PER DIMOSTRARE DI AVER RAGGIUTNO L’ETA’ ADULTA (!!). E’ ASSOLUTAMENTE  INCREDIBILE CHE NON SIA FATTO NIENTE AFFINCHE ‘ QUESTA BARBARIE CESSI. UNA BARBARIE CONTRO I DELFINI CALDERONES, UN DELFINO SUPER INTELLIGENTE E SOCIEVOLE CHE SI AVVICINA ALLA GENTE PER CURIOSITA’.

INVIA QUESTO MESSAGGIO A TUTTI I TUOI CONTATTI. VERGOGNA ALLA DANIMARCA !!! Fate sapere a tutti che in Danimarca massacrano ogni anno i delfini extra-intelligenti e socievoli per una festa così come fosse un carnevale. Solo le persone inutili pensano che tanto non cambia nulla e per questo rifiutano di inviare questo messaggio a tutti.Speriamo che cambierà, chi lo sa!

GRIDA in Rearview — A Most Excellent Event

Only time for a brief word about the GRIDA conference b/c I’m now at a different conference, this time of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.  The GRIDA event was outstanding.  Lecture topics ranged from animal behavior to AETA.  Among the highlights: David Favre advanced his vision of animals as living property; Steve Wise sketched out a continuum for legal recognition for nonhumans that seemed simultaneously revolutionary and inevitable; Kathy Hessler lucidly described the inanities of vivisection (for example, just eliminating the redundancies in animal research would decrease the number of animals killed by over two thirds);  Maneesha Deckha offered a feminist critique of Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach; Luc-Alain Giraldeau’s description of the history and science of animal behaviorism made clear how much most of us don’t know and probably should about the beings for whom we advocate; and Carol Morgan described her doctoral fieldwork (for her degree in ethics) among  her fellow veterinarians.  The disconnect between veterinarians’ duties to their patients and their duties to their clients brings the incompatibility of economics and ethics into stark relief.  There were many more excellent presentations and a welcome interdisciplinary and international collegiality.  Professor Martine Lachance and her colleagues at UQAM deserve a rousing cheer and congratulations.

–David Cassuto

Some Thoughts On a Shelter Closing

Several posts on this blawg have commented on the troubling reality underlying the legal status of animals, which is that so long as animals remain property under the law, any legal advances are only made in terms of animals’ relationships to humans, not for the sake of any inherent right to autonomy. I return to the issue briefly today because of an article I read Tuesday. It seems Room For One More, a no-kill shelter in nearby Hopatcong, NJ, no longer has room for any. Because they have lost their lease, the shelter must close down, and may euthanize some of the animals when it closes. Michelle Stymacks, the shelter’s operator, says, “Unfortunately, euthanizing them is a possibility. If we can’t place them, that’s the only other option.”

In a sadistic way, I would love to see NJ DYFS close, and have Christine Mozes report that while she hopes to find homes for all of the children, most of the adoption agencies are full, so they will have to resort to euthanization, as they have no room for them. On a less cynical note, the legal implications surrounding this article frustrate me. First of all, I personally think that there should be more safeguards in the law for non-profits when it comes to leases. Keeping this to animal concerns, this closure illustrates how baffling property status over animals can be. If you own a dog and decide to kill him via lethal injection administered by a veterinarian, the law will not stop you. If you find someone else’s dog on the street and decide to kill her via lethal injection, you will face legal consequences, but, as always, only to the extent that you have damaged the property rights of the dog’s owner. If you find that same dog on the street, however, and cannot readily ascertain an owner, the killing is once again permitted, no matter how many dogs and cats you kill. This is how we view shelters in this country.

Now I don’t mean to fully villify Room For One More; they have brought in animals from far worse conditions, and have done what they can to rehabilitate them. I also understand that when the money dries up, there is nowhere else to go, and releasing all of the animals into a world where they could not find food or shelter is cruel. I also believe that Stymacks is fully aware of the consequences of this action. What I do mean to villify is the way that even non-profit no-kill shelters must operate under the “animals as property” paradigm, and that therefore rescued animals are no more than found, abandoned property. Again, for all those who claim that this is a result of over-population of companion animals, that it is a necessary hardship, I ask you to think about how you would react if this were the same situation featuring abandoned infants.

–Seth Victor

The Otter Hunt Reborn

yawningEn route to Montreal for the GRIDA Animal Law Conference (see post here), I picked up some Canadian newspapers.  From the NationalPost, I learn that aboriginals on Vancouver Island hope to kill 1% of the region’s sea otters per year for “ceremonial reasons.”

Sea otters, like so many other fur-bearing animals, were hunted to near extinction in Canada during the heyday of the European fur trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  They were reintroduced into British Columbia from Alaska in the early 1970s and have made progress, repopulating approximately 30% of their original range.  In 2007, the Canadian government downlisted otters from “threatened” to “special concern.”  Now, the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe and federal fisheries officials have crafted a sea otter “management plan” that will permit tribe members to shoot them.  Related story here.

This has strong parallels to the wolf scenario in the United States (some irony: the wolf-bloodthirsty governor of Idaho is named Otter…).  I appreciate the need for sensitivity to native people and traditions — an issue that does not pertain to the U.S. wolf situation.  And the discussion over when and how concern for animals should defer to native traditions must be ongoing and vigorous (it will likely surprise no one that I believe human rituals, whatever their provenance, are less important than animal lives).  But here the issue should not yet be ripe.  The otter has not even fully recovered its numbers and remains at risk.  Why the hurry to kill them?

–David Cassuto

Animal Issues Front & Center at Sunstein Confirmation Hearing

Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s choice for administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (a sort of Administrative Law Czar), is a law academic (U of Chicago and now Harvard) and an advocate and scholar of animal law.  He supports (among other things) the creation of a private right of action for animal protection statutes and the acknowledgment that such statutes create a basic foundation of rights (legally enforceable claims) for animals.  That and the fact that he once called for the abolition of hunting made his hearing less than smooth.  More details here; some posts about Sunstein here and here.

–David Cassuto

Some Good News from the Courts

Hot off the email:

Dear friends and colleagues,

I’m happy to share with you that the story of Animal Legal Defense Fund  v. Woodley has been reported on with great care as a big feature story in the June issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. It’s a fantastic tribute to the huge team effort that helped secure our victory in the largest civil animal cruelty case in American history, and it tells in-depth the stories of several of the rescued dogs with their new adoptive families.

The June issue of O is now available on newsstands.

Please share these links with your friends and contacts. We’re also posting an announcement on Facebook, so be sure you are an ALDF fan on Facebook and share the story with your Facebook friends as well. Please help us get the word out about the tragedy of animal hoarding.

Animal Law Symposium: The Impact On & Opportunities For Animals in the Current Political and Economic Climate

Call for Papers

The Animal Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association, in conjunction with the University Of Baltimore School Of Law and the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Law, will host the first-ever regional Mid-Atlantic symposium on animal law.  The Impact On & Opportunities For Animals in the Current Political and Economic Climate will be a one-day symposium that will occur at the University Of Baltimore School Of Law on Friday, April 9, 2010, from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.  The Animal Law Section is pleased to partner with the Journal of Animal Law and Ethics at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Law to publish the articles, commentaries, or papers for the symposium.  To be considered to provide an article or paper, and to hence, present, at the symposium, please complete the PDF form and return it to Lauren Murphy Pringle, Editor-in-Chief at journalofanimallaw@gmail.com, or Gary C. Norman, Esq., Chair of the MSBA Animal Law Section at either (410) 786-0043 or at GLNorman15@hotmail.com.

This symposium will address a wide range of topics related to the legal condition and welfare of animals in the Mid-Atlantic region.  Submissions should discuss the impact of the current economic and political climate on animals and the opportunities that exist to improve the welfare of animals.  The steering committee for the symposium encourages authors and researchers from accredited law schools and universities, judges, lawyers, and non-profits or advocacy organization professionals to submit proposals.

The steering committee additionally invites proposals from second or third year law students.  Student papers will be considered for publication.  As with all other presenters, there is no absolute commitment to publish winning student articles or papers.  The goal, however, is to have at least one article or paper by a law student included in the symposium.

For further questions, please do not hesitate to telephone Gary C. Norman, Esq., Principal Co-chair at (410) 241-6745, or Alan S. Nemeth, Esq. at (703) 371-3053.

Vilsack Going South on Us

My low expectations for Secretary Vilsack (USDA) were briefly raised with Kathleen Merrigan’s appointment to the #2 spot over there (see post here).  Then I read stuff like this, where Vilsack tells Congress that the “vast, vast, vast majority of farmers who are raising livestock are very sensitive” to the need to be careful about the management of their animals.  When asked about regulating the industry so as to give animals some space, thereby helping prevent disease transmission and perhaps easing the torture which they daily endure, Vilsack replies that the USDA is working with the Food and Drug Administration to ensure “that sound animal management practices are the standard.”

If Dick Cheney were Secretary of Agriculture, I bet he’d sound just like that.

–David Cassuto

Great News for Farmed Animals from Both Sides of the Atlantic

On the US side, Maine has become the sixth U.S. state to ban extreme confinement of certain factory-farmed animals! It joins Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and California in what has become a massive and sustained push by people across the country to better the living conditions of animals in factory farms. See the news here: http://www.hsus.org/farm/news/ournews/maine_bans_veal_gestation_crates_051309.html

 

On the European side, the Belgian city of Ghent has become possibly the first city in the world to have an official vegetarian day of the week! A national organization called the Ethical Vegetarian Association (EVA) is largely responsible for the campaign, citing a desire to lessen the number of animals killed for food, improve human health, and reduce Belgians’ carbon footprints (because, they claim, this change is equivalent to removing half a million cars from the road per year).

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/may/13/ghent-belgium-vegetarian-day

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8046970.stm

 

-Suzanne McMillan

Live Skinning Raccoon Dogs and Other Tales from the Fur Farm

raccoon dog 1aSometimes, information presents itself that is so stirring, so disturbing, so utterly inconceivable that even those of us paying attention to these issues are shaken to the core.

Such was the case when I chose to view the undercover video of a Chinese fur farm taken by investigators of Care for the Wild, EAST International, and Swiss Animal Protection.

For those who don’t have the stomach to watch this kind of video, here is a description of the scenes.  The investigation reveals that before the raccoon dogs are skinned alive, they are thrown to the ground with a forceful blow to the head and then bludgeoned with metal rods in attempt to stun the animal.  More often than not, the animal’s bones are broken and they are temporarily stunned rather than dead. Many animals are still alive and struggling desperately when workers flip them onto their backs or hang them up by their legs or tails to skin them. The video shows workers on these farms cutting the skin and fur from an animal’s leg while the free limbs kick and writhe. When the fur is finally peeled off over the animals’ heads, their naked, bloody bodies are thrown onto a pile.  Reports indicate that some of the animals are still alive, hearts beating for as long as 10 minutes after they are skinned. One investigator recorded a skinned raccoon dog on the heap of carcasses who had enough strength to lift his bloodied head and stare into the camera.

Prior to their unimaginably painful death, the animals live in the cruelest of conditions as they pace and shiver in outdoor wire cages, exposed to all of the elements – rain, freezing nights, or scorching sun. Not surprisingly, injury and disease are commonplace. Anxiety-induced psychosis leads to self-mutilation, infanticide and other extreme, desperate behaviors.

The Swiss Animal Protection / East-International 2007 report, Dying for fur – A Report on the Fur Industry in China, informs us that “there are no regulations governing fur farms in China—farmers can house and slaughter animals however they see fit.” Two of the most important laws covering animals in China – the Environment Protection Law and the Wildlife Protection Law – only protect wildlife in the wild.  Wild animals in captivity are treated as mere property, resources, or objects. China is one of the few countries in the world without any legal provisions for animal welfare and furthermore, there are no acts banning cruelty in the Chinese legal system.

Based on a survey of U.S. retail outlets many of the mass-marketed fur-trimmed garments carry the “Made in China” label.  However, with our globalized market, China-originated fur pelts are disbursed through international auctions prior to being sewn in other countries.  Therefore, the final fur product label could read “Made in Italy” or “Made in France,” making it impossible for consumers to know where the fur originates. Furthermore, manufacturing techniques such as dying often deceive shoppers into thinking they are buying fake fur.
Compounding this issue is the fact that Chinese fur farms deal not only in minks, foxes, and raccoon dogs, but domestic cats and dogs as well (some with their companion collars still affixed).  The fur’s original species is indistinguishable to the typical end user.  All the more reason to be relentless with the message to all who will listen that fur – even if it is “fake” – is a frivolous, unnecessary, and irresponsible purchase that supports animal cruelty in its worst form.

As I sit here in the middle of the couch, flanked by a peacefully resting dog to my left and cat to my right, the contrast in how some humans treat animals is a profound mystery to me.  How is it that we are all of the same species (humans) and yet our values and, thus our capabilities, regarding treatment of animals can range from doting to mere tolerance to depraved indifference to barbarism?  And I don’t just mean those who skin the animals.  The people who buy the fur are just a culpable as those who hold the skinning knife.

Michelle Land

What Price Sushi? Tuna on the Brink

3bluefin_tunaThe bluefin tuna can go from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds. Underwater.  One of the top predators in the ocean, the fish can grow to 10 feet in length and weigh 1500 pounds.  It also makes really good sushi — dead bluefin can sell for over $100,000.  Consequently, it has been fished to the brink of extinction; the population of Atlantic bluefin has plunged by 80 – 90% since the 1970s.

Scientists have been telling the International Commission for the Conservation of  Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for years that its allowable quota is way too high and that it must lower the maximum catch to under 15,000 tons per year.  Unfortunately, ICCAT has yet to listen.  The quota for this season is 47 percent above scientists’ recommendations, although ICCAT has declared it a recovery plan. Which makes it all that much more disturbing that Turkey has decided to ignore ICCAT’s already inadequate quotas and fish themselves silly. Turkey has the largest bluefin fishing fleet in the Mediterranean.

While it is not illegal to catch or sell bluefin, this results from inadequate international will rather than any abundance of fish.  The tuna is critically endangered and disappearing fast.  It would be nice if governments rallied around it the way they do for whales and sea turtles.  Nicer still would be if restaurants like Nobu (owned by Robert DeNiro and Nobu Matsuhisa) stopped serving it. As Willie Mackenzie of Greenpeace UK observes, “Eating bluefin tuna is as bad as digging into a tiger steak or gorilla burger.  It is entirely unacceptable that Nobu, or any restaurant, is serving an endangered species, and it must stop immediately if the species is to be saved from extinction.”

Nicest of all, though, would be if people just stopped eating it.

–David Cassuto

Another Cool Animal Scholarship Opportunity

Call for papers: for the new multidisciplinary and international

Journal of Animal Ethics

to be published by the University of Illinois Press in partnership with the Ferrater Mora Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics in 2010.

The Journal will be a journal of inquiry, argument, and exchange dedicated to exploring the moral dimension of our relations with animals.  Its aim is to put animals on the intellectual agenda and to stimulate discussion within academic and professional institutions.

It will be multidisciplinary in nature and international in scope, as well as peer reviewed. It will cover theoretical and applied aspects of animal ethics – of interest to academics from the humanities and the sciences, as well as professionals working in the field of animal protection.
The Journal will comprise: full-length scholarly articles, shorter articles, “Argument” pieces in which authors will advance a particular perspective (usually related to current affairs) or respond to a previous article, review or research report, as well as review articles and reviews.
The Editors will be Professors Andrew Linzey and Priscilla N. Cohn.

We are looking for articles (3-5,000 words), “Argument” pieces (1-2,000 words), reviews and review articles that have relevance to the ethics of our treatment of animals.

Contributions should be sent via email to the co-editor, Professor Andrew Linzey, at director@oxfordanimalethics.com, who would also be pleased to discuss potential contributions. Books for review should be sent to the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, 91 Iffley Road, Oxford OX4 1EG.

Polar Bears, Secretary Salazar and Climate Change

Polar Bear ClimatePolar bears cannot catch a break.  The Bush Administration reluctantly declared the bear a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) a year or so ago.  The threat arose because of shrinking habitat caused by polar ice melting.  That ice melt is, of course, a result of climate change.

Once a species is classified as threatened or endangered, the ESA requires the government  to take steps to mitigate that threat and conserve the species’ habitat.  However, even as the Bush folks acknowledged (because they had to) that the bear was threatened, they propounded a rule excluding carbon emissions from regulation under the Endangered Species Act.  Thus, the very emissions that threatened the bear and whose diminution could lead to conservation of its habitat were not subject to regulation under the ESA.

The Obama Administration had the opportunity to rescind this rule but today, Secretary Salazar announced it would not. In his view, “[t]he Endangered Species Act is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue, and that is the issue of global warming.”  While environmentalists had hoped to use the ESA to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the Obama Administration is attempting to craft legislation and administrative rules that directly address the issue rather than work through a statute that arguably lacks the specificity necessary to accomplish the task.

I am of two minds about all this.  Though certain that the previous administration’s reasons for crafting the rule had little or nothing to do with developing an effective climate change mitigation regime, I do give the Obama folks the benefit of the doubt here, especially since they are in the process of crafting new rules and legislation.  I also agree that the ESA is not the best vehicle for addressing issues of climate change.

On the other hand, lots of statutes get adapted and applied in ways their drafters never imagined.  Furthermore, part of the ESA’s power lies in the fact that it is a blunt instrument.  If a species is threatened, then the law says that steps must be taken.  In that sense, the ESA is an excellent way to address climate change.  It forces the issue and demands swift unequivocal action.

By contrast, declaring a species threatened while simultaneously stripping the ESA of  jurisdiction over that threat renders the law impotent and irrelevant.  That is not good precedent.  Not good precedent at all.

Thoughtful post on the issue here.

–David Cassuto

Animal Law as Masculine Sentimentalism?

pearson

That’s a possibility I hadn’t considered before.  But I think Susan Pearson (History, Northwestern University) is onto something.  On May 15, 2009, Dr. Pearson will present her paper “The Dove Has Claws”: Anticruelty Reform and Masculine Sentimentalism in Gilded Age America at the Newberry Library in Chicago.  The Newberry hosts a “Seminar on Women and Gender,” co-sponsored by Northeastern Illinois University, U. of Illinois at Chicago and the Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture at the University of Chicago.

-Bridget Crawford

Pulled Pork Ad

Words fail me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9K8jQQ8g3A&feature=player_embedded

–dnc

hat tip: Feminist Law Professors

European Parliament Bans Trade in Seal Products

The European Parliament has banned all trade in seal pelts and seal products.  The move was strongly criticized by Canada and particularly by the Canadian Sealers Association, which insists that the Canadian method of clubbing young seals to death on the ice is humane.  The Association also notes that seals eat a lot of cod and that the cod fishery is in danger.  Oddly, neither of these arguments carried the day.

Read more here and here.

–David Cassuto

Swine Flu: Born in North Carolina

So it turns out that the H1N1 or (let’s call it what it is:) SWINE Flu is a Tarheel.  This outstanding post in Daily Kos tells the story about how the genes of this most recent virus are traceable to a 1998 outbreak at a Sampson County, North Carolina industrial hog facility.  The whole piece is worth reading but here’s a little taste:

Crowding thousands of pigs into cramped, filthy quarters creates ideal conditions for the fast spread of potentially dangerous viruses. The Humane Society of the United States points out that the unnatural density of such operations enables the large viral loads considered necessary for the emergence of rare flu mutations that can then spread rapidly among animals. The crowded conditions also stress the animals’ immune systems, while the enormous quantities of decaying fecal waste predisposes them to respiratory infections and the lack of sunlight allows viruses to thrive. In addition, the industry’s heavy reliance on pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines immunologically pressures the virus to mutate. And the flies and other pests attracted to such operations may be able to pick up viruses and carry them for miles.

So let’s stop all this nonsense about how pandemics like these are inevitable and that preparedness is the key.  Preparedness is certainly essential but the best way to avert deadly flu is to stop creating ideal conditions for its incubation.

–David Cassuto

Pete Seeger, Hope, & Animals

pete_seeger_the_power_of_song_400x300Yesterday, I attended Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration (and benefit for the Clearwater) at Madison Square Garden.  The music and spirit of Seeger (and the Weavers) were a huge presence in my house during my childhood and remain so to this day.  To attend this event with multiple generations of my family was a blessing beyond words.

What does this have to do with animals?  Nothing and everything.  Pete Seeger has fought the power for a long time.  Summoned before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1955, he pleaded not the Fifth but the First Amendment.  He declared that he had the right to discuss (and sing about) politics with whomever he pleased.  In 2003, as the nation prepared to invade Iraq, an 84 year-old man stood by himself on a cold, snowy street corner in Beacon, New York holding a hand-painted sign that simply said: “Peace.”   As Bruce Springsteen observed, Seeger’s life and work has been all about driving a “stealth dagger into the heart of our illusions about ourselves and our country.”

As I listened to all the wonderful performers and watched Seeger himself, voice now gone but still out front leading others in song, I thought about the animal advocacy movement.  Whether it be unions, civil rights, peace, or the Hudson River, the causes Seeger has championed often offered little reason for optimism.  But he and countless thousands of others fought on.  Today, progress — great progress — has been made and continues to be made as the struggle(s) continue.

Similarly, the animal cause presents a bleak reality that can and does routinely fill those of us who care with despair.  But progress has been made — even if one only looks to the number of people who now care about these things.  And I believe (because I have to) that great progress is in the offing.  The obstacles we face are no greater than those we and others have faced on other fronts.  That’s the message of last night’s celebration.

We *shall* overcome.  You can take that to the bank.  Our job is to do what Springsteen said of Pete.  We have to “outlast[] the bastards.”

–David Cassuto

U.S. Justice Dept Joins the Fight

The U.S. Justice Department has joined the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in a lawsuit against Hallmark Meat Packing and Westland Meat Company, Inc. for defrauding the federal government.

The Humane Society of the United States had filed a qui tam action in federal district court against the two companies following their abusive treatment last year of dairy cows at a slaughterhouse in Chino, California. The abuse came to light through undercover video footage which was released nationwide, causing massive scandal, the largest beef recall in U.S. history, prosecutions of employees involved, and the closure of the slaughterhouse involved.

The meat companies were contracting with the U.S. government to supply meat for the national school lunch program. Their contract required the animals used be handled humanely. Additionally, federal law required (with some loopholes that are now being closed) that downed animals not be entered into the meat supply for human consumption. HSUS’s suit, filed under the False Claims Act (which specifically allows for qui tam suits) claims the two companies defrauded the government by violating the these requirements.

The Justice Department is quoted here as saying: “Our intervention in this case demonstrates how seriously we will pursue allegations such as these.”

The case is filed as: United States of America ex rel. The Humane Society of the United States v. Hallmark Meat Packing Company; Westland Meat Company, Inc.

-Suzanne McMillan

PETA and . . . Michael Vick

PETA continues to break new ground in the unusual approach to animal advocacy sweepstakes.  Apparently, Micheal Vick is in talks with PETA to become a spokesperson for the organization.  We can interpret Vick’s motives in a number of ways.  Perhaps he has rehabilitated himself and developed a love (or at least respect) for animals while in prison and now wants to help steer others toward the path of righteousness.  One might suspect, however, that since he has lost everything, is still young, and hopes to resume playing pro football, his reasons might smack more of opportunism than altruism.

Ultimately, I don’t know that it matters because [heaven help me] I think it’s a good idea.  First, Vick can reach a constituency that typical animal welfare PSAs don’t normally impact.  Second, he is bound to attempt to rehabilitate his image somehow; why not like this?  And third, I seriously doubt that the NFL will gauge whether to allow him back into the league based on whether he did volunteer work for PETA.  So heck; go for it, I say.

David Cassuto

UPDATE: PETA withdrew from these negotiations some time ago after learning that Vick had enjoyed putting family pets in the ring with fightingdogs.  According to a PETA spokesperson:

PETA believes that this revelation, along with other factors in the report, fit the established profile for anti-social personality disorder (APD), and we called on Vick to have a brain scan to help confirm this. People diagnosed with APD are commonly referred to as “psychopaths.” They are usually male, prone to lying and manipulation, often take pleasure in cruelty, and cannot feel genuine remorse, which frequently leads to recidivism.

See updated story here

Veggie School Lunch Options

Wyntergrace Williams, the 14-year-old daughter of talk show host Montel Williams, is lobbying the U.S. Congress to reform the Child Nutrition Act to more accurately reflect the health benefits of vegetarian and vegan meals in public school lunches by offering more non-meat and non-dairy options. Wyntergrace, who is vegetarian, is circulating a petition for support of this idea, and has asked the Obama daughters to sign. She was in Washington, D.C. yesterday to meet with lawmakers in the House and Senate. She is lobbying in conjunction with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is officially lobbying for these changes through its “Healthy School Lunch Revolution” through which it aims to have millions of students across the country ask Congress for these changes.

This is a worthy goal for purposes of animal welfare, environmental protection and human health. Each of us can take 5 minutes to call our federal senators and representatives (look them up here) to lend our support to this much-needed change.

-Suzanne McMillan

The Politicization of Animal Use

 Conservative political radio talk show political host Rush Limbaugh has joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to support a U.S. crackdown on “organized dog fighting and other animal cruelty crimes” according to the Washington Times.

To this end, Limbaugh has lent his voice to some public service radio announcements. Limbaugh’s large and strong following of politically conservative Americans (his official website claims his talk show to be the most listened-to radio talk show in the country), though, are not happy. According to the Washington Times:

“Twenty-eight groups representing millions of hunters and sportsmen are demanding that the conservative radio commentator end his collaboration with the HSUS and stop “helping them to mainstream their image in the minds of reasonable people.”

“Despite a few programs designed to attract support from the general public, HSUS is in fact an organization that opposes hunting, fishing, and trapping,” the groups, including Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, wrote in a letter last week to Mr. Limbaugh.

“Its leadership has a long and established history of promoting legislation, litigation, and referenda to restrict the rights of American sportsmen and women.”

 

I think that the response of Wayne Pacelle, Executive Director of the HSUS, is right on point:

“I’m embarrassed for them that they would criticize Rush for amplifying our message that dogfighting and other malicious forms of animal cruelty are unacceptable in society… I think the folks that are criticizing it are unbelievably knee-jerk – I guess they want to provide comfort to dogfighters? It just doesn’t make any sense… there are certain things that civil society should agree on.”

Well put!

-Suzanne McMillan

Babies and Pigs in Diapers

cute_baby_pig_in_diaper_button-p145519727683822193t5sj_400Nadya Suleman, the California mother of 14 children, has said in a recent news interview that she is considering adopting a pet pig and/or a small dog.  PETA is urging Ms. Suleman to refrain.  According to PETA, a representative of that organization sent Ms. Suleman an e-mail dated April 27, 2009 (this is a copy, PETA says):

We’re writing to you today after reading an interview in which you said that you would like to buy a pig and a dog for your children. In today’s uncertain economy—and with all the demands that come with raising 14 children—we urge you to reconsider adding two more dependents to your family. Like children, pigs and dogs are intelligent, social beings with complex needs. They require a lot of attention, space, and exercise as well as a huge financial commitment.

You also said that you would keep the pig outside because of “the smell.” Keeping a pig outside and making him or her a playmate for your children—who do not understand a pig’s many needs and will only pay attention to him or her when it suits them—is not an acceptable way to treat an intelligent animal such as this.

I generally find PETA’s ads distasteful.  I don’t like the organization’s use of sexualized images of women in its ad campaigns (about which Ann previously has blogged; see, e.g., here).  I do admit, though, that I agree with the big substance of this particular communication: having pets or children is a big responsibility.  But in reading the PETA’s letter, I had a somewhat negative reaction.  Many thoughts swirl in my head.

Apart from the letter’s breezy “Dear Nadya” (followed by a comma, not a colon — a peeve of mine), its public judgment — of what I think should be a private matter — bothered me the most.  Yes, yes, the personal is political, the political is personal, etc. etc.  But still, isn’t it for each person or family or household to decide whether to welcome a companion animal?  For many animal rights activists, I appreciate that the answer is a resounding, “No,” just as for many opponents of abortion, it shouldn’t be for each woman to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term.

I agree that having 14 children does not seem to be a smooth route to health, happiness or financial security.  Adding a pig or a dog wouldn’t make that route any smoother.  But in the end, I would leave it to Ms. Suleman to decide.

The PETA letter doesn’t mention concerns about animal hoarding (an indication of a real psychological problem).  But there persists a way (blogged here) in which  of Ms. Suleman is viewed as an abnormal “hoarder” — first of children and potentially now of animals, as well.

-Bridget Crawford

(H/T Amanda Ambrose)

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