Gluttony

Seth Victor

            Gluttony is the big sin, the flagship of cruelty against animals, and because of that it is the hardest for me to put into original words. So many advocates before me have written so well about the consequences of over consuming animals. The message is simple, and is articulated best by Michael Pollan: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. That is a message aimed at fixing American health problems, which stem from our poor diets. In becoming better eaters, we will also become better stewards to animals. The poor treatment of factory farmed animals is a disaster, and it leads to the downfall of our health, our environment, and our economy, to say nothing of the animals who live in hell because of our dietary indulgences. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are an apt topic for any of the sins, but I’m sticking with the obvious one.  That the omnivore’s dilemma is the biggest and most oppressive issue in the animal rights world should come as no surprise to any of this blawg’s regular readers. For those of you just visiting, take some time read this post. Or this one. This one, too. It’s kind of a big deal.                Continue reading

NY County Lawyers´ Association Animal Law Committee

  David Cassuto

 From the email

 For Immediate Release

Contact: Anita Aboulafia aaboulafia@nycla.org        212-267-6646, ext. 225

 Animal Law Committee Launches at NYCLA

 April 28, 2010 – New York, NY – The New York County Lawyers’ Association’s (NYCLA) Board of Directors approved the creation of a new committee, the Animal Law Committee, at its April 12 meeting. The new committee will provide a forum for discussion, debate and, where it deems appropriate, recommendations to the Association concerning legal issues relating to animals.

NYCLA’s Animal Law Committee expects to engage both new and senior attorneys in the legal issues affecting animals and persons with an interest in animals, including the intersection of animal law and other practice areas, such as criminal, housing, tort, trusts and estates, matrimonial and international law. Animal welfare issues include orders of protection, disaster planning (what to do with a pet during and after a disaster) and animal-cruelty and trafficking laws. The committee plans to sponsor continuing legal education programs, seminars and public forums; prepare comments on cases, advisory reports on proposed legislation and amicus briefs pertaining to pending litigation or appeals; and provide legal resources for attorneys in diverse practice areas. The committee will seek to foster a spirit of collegiality among NYCLA members by assisting and serving as a source of current information for attorneys who are not familiar with animal-related causes and the law.

Continue reading

Greed

Seth Victor

            Thank goodness we live in a world of endless and unlimited resources. If it weren’t for that, I might be worried about the way we are treating the earth.  Man, if I were to suddenly find out that the populations humans recklessly destroy were unable to immediately regenerate, I think that would be a very inconvenient truth.

            Assuming for a horrid second that this hypothetical world is grossly similar our own, hunting and fishing in this world represent the sin of greed. Let me begin by clarifying that I am aware of the arguments for sustainable hunting, both for the survival of the hunter, and the population stability of the prey. I am ignoring these arguments for now. My brief response is that starvation is not a reality faced by most hunters I know, as they still supplement their diets with CAFO-produced meat, and the overpopulation of deer and black bears, at least here in New Jersey, could be easily solved by the reintroduction of natural predators (wolves) and stronger regulations against sprawling subdivisions (like the one I guiltily live in), respectively.    Continue reading

A Noteworthy Blog

David Cassuto

For those interested in the U.K. elections and all things animal (or even if you´re not interested in the election), check out Kim Stallwood´s blog.  Kim is a longtime friend of the animals and an important voice in the movement.  His blog is well worth the read.

Stevens Update — The Content-Based Restriction Debate Continues to Swirl

David Cassuto


Congress has introduced a new bill aimed at suppressing crush videos.  In the meantime, the Court will review another content-based law  – this one aimed at restricting violent video game sales to children.  One wonders how the Stevens precedent will figure into deciding whether this California law is constitutional.  More soon.

Lust

Seth Victor

In college I learned a song. The lyrics of that song are largely unpublishable, but I will share the refrain, which goes, “Bestiality’s best boys, Bestiality’s best (something unmentionable about a wallaby)!” It was sung in jest, by both guys and gals, and the point was (I hope) to horrify and not to instruct. I admit I laughed and sang along. A sense of humor goes a long way in keeping ones sanity, and I know the song was only part of a long and raunchy college tradition. Now that I recall those days of endless road trips, listening to my colleagues tone deaf voices proclaim what wonderful sexual acts would befall a myriad of animals, I wonder what sketchy part of my university’s tradition required immortalization in such verse.

Sex is still taboo in our society, and more risqué sexual proclivities are still in the closet, so to speak, though they are not as much of a sub-culture as some people think. Animal sex, with other animals, is not taboo. From dogs in the park to the Discovery Channel, you can watch animal porn to your heart’s content. But is it porn? That depends on the viewer. Porn is sexually stimulating, erotic, and is viewed for some sexual goal. If you tune in to the mating habits of the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock (I couldn’t make that up) to further your understanding of genetic diversity, you’re a scientist. If your heart starts racing, be careful. I’m being a bit ridiculous, but when you consider that U.S. v. Stevens refuses to apply the same exemptions to the First Amendment that were extended to depictions of child pornography in U.S. v. Williams, while in the same stroke giving the go-ahead for crush videos, it isn’t absurd to wonder where we drawn the line when it comes to human with animal sex acts.                 Continue reading

The CAFO Hothouse

David Cassuto

The Shameless Self-Promotion Desk kicks into high gear with this from the email:

Today, on Earth Day 2010, the Animals and Society Institute is pleased to announce the release of our sixth policy paper, titled “The CAFO Hothouse: Climate Change, Industrial Agriculture and the Law.” Written by David N. Cassuto, a professor at the Pace School of Law, the paper is a very timely overview of how government policies and agribusiness interests have combined to create inhumane and unhealthy conditions within our nation’s food supply, and what that means for our planet’s future.

“The CAFO Hothouse” describes, in thorough but easily digestible detail, how CAFOs (“concentrated animal feeding operations,” commonly known as factory farms) have replaced smaller family farms in the last few decades, the direct and indirect impact they have on greenhouse gas emissions, and how better policies and practices would help mitigate the resulting environmental damage and improve conditions for billions of farmed animals.

This paper is the first in our series to address agricultural issues, and is part of our overall mission to use science-based arguments to promote more responsible public policy.

Here’s an Excerpt:    Continue reading

Wrath

Seth Victor

            I did not intend to include wrath as the second sin, though according to Dante I am already out of order by putting pride first. In light of Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Stevens, I feel that this post is timely.

            Wrath is a terrible vice in the context of animal-human relationships. Wrath isn’t simply rage or force, a knee-jerk reaction at a perceived slight. This isn’t the classic “heat of the moment” response to seeing your spouse in bed with another lover. Wrath has a cool down period, a time to contemplate feelings, but instead of cooling down, those feelings grow into hatred, revenge, and a desire to punish. Wrath is a very conscious and intended vice, and for that reason it is a very human one.

            I am not claiming that other species are exempt from wrath, especially those species that share the same capacity for higher thinking as humans do. Why wrath is so dangerous in the animal-human context is that while other species may possibly carry out premeditated violence, only humans find it necessary to subjugate a number of other species and vent their wrath on countless animals who have no inclination to return the punishment. The ASPCA and HSUS have documented hundreds of cases against a variety of animal victims of varied species. Dogs may be the most commonly abused of them all.

            There is something about dog abuse that strikes a chord with the general population. Average citizens who are normally indifferent about animal issues will rally around the plight of abused dogs. Casual animal rights advocates will lament the condition of a kennel in disrepair, while in the same breath order a double-patty cheeseburger with bacon. Why is this? I think it is because dogs are able to abide by the maxims we are taught as children better than any of us are able to do. They treat you as they would want to be treated. Mark Twain, an animal rights advocate, says it best, writing, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Can anyone reading this honestly say they have met an Irish Setter who didn’t have a smile on his face? Ignore a dog for hours, and he is still ecstatic to nuzzle you if you have a bad day. It is not surprising that people are so appalled by abuse against an animal that embodies so many of the sympathetic qualities we admire.      Continue reading

U.S. v. Stevens, The Post-Mortem

David Cassuto

There’s little good here.  In Stevens, the Supreme Court struck down a law that aimed at and succeeded in curbing the market for crush videos and other animal mutilation.  To be fair, the law was seriously flawed.  But the Court’s analysis is worse.  However, the holding could have been worse still, so I am at least a little relieved as well as disappointed.

18 U.S.C. s. 48 banned depictions of cruelty “in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed” if that conduct violates federal or state law “where the creation, sale, or possession takes place.”  It exempted depictions possessing “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value.” 

Mr. Stevens operated a website called “Dogs of Velvet and Steel.”   He marketed videos of dog fighting, of dogs attacking pigs, and other similar works.  One would be hard pressed to find any redeeming social value to his wares and the Court makes no attempt to do so.  In fact it spends very little time analyzing the law as it relates to Mr. Stevens.   It instead focuses on the law’s potential applications to other cases not currently before it.  As a result, the opinion runs far into the weeds.   Continue reading

The Sin of Pride

Seth Victor

I have kindly been invited by Prof. Cassuto to guest blawg for a week while he attends all-night parties in Ipanema furthers the efforts of international law in Brazil with ambition that never fails to make me feel lazy in comparison. For now I hope to interest you with a thematic series of posts. I am going to explore how animal law issues are based around the Seven Deadly Sins. The seven sins, or vices, are eerily applicable to the branches of animal law most often discussed. As always, the law can only change to the extent that it reflects the will of the people it governs. Change starts with individuals, and knowledge is the first step. With that in mind, permit me to dive into the first vice.

Pride

 Pride is the classic vice. It is the cause of many a Greek tragedy, and in the Judeo-Christian tradition it not only causes the division of heaven and hell, but is the consequence of eating from the tree of knowledge. Why is pride such a bad trait? Aren’t we encouraged to take pride in our work?

Pride becomes a problem in excess. Pride is a sin when love for oneself exceeds empathy for others. “Others” include animals. There is inherent pride in nearly every law, a pride in being human. The American legal system enforces the notion that you, simply by being human, should be and are more respected and valuable than any non-human. That is a whole discussion in itself. A more specific application of pride is vanity. How we look shouldn’t matter, or at least Saturday afternoon specials tell me as much. Yet the cosmetic industry is booming, and for every Lifetime movie, there are twelve teen magazines letting you know daily how much better looking you could be if you would just try a little harder, and oh yeah, buy this, it will help.

Animals bear the brunt of our vanity. You wouldn’t want to drop perfume in your eye to see if it is going to irritate you. Of course not. Luckily for you, rabbits are lining up by the thousands, ready to take the hit. By “lining up,” I mean being born into captivity and having no voice whatsoever in what happens to them.

The cosmetic industry, at least among the people I know, eludes the public eye in ways the other animal exploitation cannot. Unlike clothing or food, there is no obvious immediate connection between the product and the animal upon whom it was tested, and the consumer can easily be ignorant of the relationship. Because of this blindness it is essential that the laws governing animal testing be solid. Continue reading

U.S. v. Stevens — The Decision is In

David Cassuto

And the result is as expected.  The law goes the way off all things.  I shall have more to say on this shortly.

World Week for Animals — Making the Case Against Vivisection

David Cassuto

We´re in the middle of World Week for Animals, during which people the world over speak out against vivisection.

People often point to the need for animal experimentation to alleviate human suffering.  Putting aside the basic objection to torturing one sentient creature for the benefit of another, the premise lacks foundation.  Animal models have always been the path of least resistance.  To justifiably claim such experiments are necessary requires evidence that those seeking to carry out the experiments have unsuccessfully attempted to learn what they seek through other means.  Assuming the absence of other means, necessity would also require, at minimum, a good faith attempt to create one.  To date, precious little resources have been expended to create alternatives to animal experiments and, when such options exist, they are often ignored.    Continue reading

The Return of the Bully Pulpit — Obama´s Conservation Initiative

David Cassuto

Children in the United States spend about half as much time outside as their parents did.  Between 1995 – 2020, more land will be converted to housing in the Chesapeake Bay area than in the previous three and a half centuries.  Theodore Roosevelt is one of Barack Obama´s favorite presidents.  And President Obama will likely never shoot a bear.

This is some of the takeway from the launch of the president´s new conservation initiative — an admirable effort to cobble together a coalition of the willing to do something other than bomb other nations.  The idea is to bring federal and  state governments and the private sector together to encourage outdoor recreation, connect wildlife migration corridors and facilitate the sustainable use of private land.  In a time of little available $$ and dwindling public will, this seems like a useful way to refocus the national gaze on the natural world.  Particularly strategic (and true) is the argument that conservation initiatives create rather than cost jobs.     Continue reading

Cool Job Opening

David Cassuto

In case you’re looking…

Staff Attorney

Location: Washington, D.C.
Supervisor: Vice-President, Conservation Law

Position Description

This position is based in Defenders’ Washington, D.C. National Headquarters office and requires working knowledge of federal environmental and natural resources law and significant litigation experience. Primary emphasis is on litigating cases under federal wildlife and natural resources laws to conserve biological diversity, and helping to develop and advance Defenders’ conservation policies.

Continue reading

Justice for Sheep

David Cassuto

You know those signs in every restaurant bathroom you’ve ever been in that declare it against the law for employees not to wash their hands after using the facilities?  I want to live in a world where such signs are not necessary.  I want to live in a world where employees wash their hands irrespective of any statutory mandate.  A world where people know that good hygiene is its own reward.  Either that, or I want the statute to apply to patrons too.  Because doggone it, call me a socialist but I think everyone should wash their hands.

I also want to live in a world where there is no need to outlaw the killing of sheep by decompression.  Until I do though, my hat’s off to Wisconsin.  It’s illegal to kill sheep by decompression there.  Of course, that didn’t stop some faculty members at the University of Wisconsin (with support from the Navy) from doing it anyway.     Continue reading

The Puppy, The Huckabee and The Gay Parent

David Cassuto

Mike Huckabee says

“I think this is not about trying to create statements for people who want to change the basic fundamental definitions of family. And always we should act in the best interest of the children, not in the seeming interest of the adults. Children are not puppies. This is not a time to see if we can experiment and find out, how does this work?”
Let´s think about this for a moment.  Apparently, gay parenting is some sort of zany experiment — kind of like seeing what happens when you eat Mentos and drink Diet Coke  at the same time.  The other takeaway is that the best interest of the puppy should not factor into any decision about the determination of its future home.  In other words, the interests of the dog do not matter.    Continue reading

Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights, Salvador Brazil, August 2010

David Cassuto

Animal Law is emerging in Brazil thanks to in large part to the efforts of some dedicated folks at the Federal University in Bahia.  Below follows a call for papers for the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights which will be held in Salvador this August.  It is sponsored by the 
Instituto Abolicionista Animal.    

I’ll be speaking there and I hope to bring some Pace students with me.  Please spread the word and consider attending as well.

UNIVERSIDADE FEDERAL DA BAHIA

FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF BAHIA/BRAZIL

Faculdade de Direito/Law School

Programa de Pós-Graduação

 

II CONGRESSO MUNDIAL DE BIOÉTICA E DIREITO ANIMAL

II World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights:

perspectives for life on a changing planet

 
   

 

Salvador, Bahia/Brazil

Abril, 2010
Welcome message!

The Program of a Postgraduate degree in Law from Federal University of Bahia/Brazil and Abolitionist Animal Institute cordially invite you to participate in the II World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights, which will take place at Federal University of Bahia/Brazil, from 25 to 28 August 2010.

Brazil has been one of the most developed countries in modern Age. Salvador/Bahia was its first capital. It is a great honour for Salvador to host the Congress. The conference´s goal is to transform this city as a regional centre and facilitator for bioethics and animal rights.

After the experience of the First World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights, organizers would like to provide a greater atmosphere for debate and discussion on the future on Earth.

Continue reading

Some Good News in Maryland

David Cassuto

The legislature has swum out of the deep end.

Law, Politics, and Maryland

David Cassuto

A word on the dust-up at the University of Maryland.  The environmental law clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law has filed suit against some poultry producers alleging that their operations are fouling local rivers and that the runoff is polluting the Chesapeake Bay.  Defendants include local producers who raise chickens for Perdue as well as Perdue itself.   Continue reading

Ocean Acidification and the Clean Water Act

David Cassuto

Great post over at Daily Kos about some tentative steps by EPA to regulate greenhouse gases using the Clean Water Act.  Oceans absorb roughly 1/4 of anthropogenic CO2.  The dissolved CO2 then forms carbonic acid, which lowers the pH of the seawater, which then causes (among other things) mass die-off of coral. 

Coral reefs are home to about 25% of marine species.  When they go, everything goes.  We don’t hear as much about ocean acidification as we should.  Maybe now we will.  In any event, if the agency goes forward with this initiative, we’ll certainly be hearing plenty of caterwauling from the deniers.

Stay tuned.

EPA Takes on a CAFO and Wins

David Cassuto

From the email — some good news from the good people at EPA Region 2.  What I like about this is that EPA is inspecting CAFOS and that it is (at least sometimes) able to use the Clean Water Act as an enforcement mechanism.

Administrative Settlement Reached with Large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

On March 10, 2010, Region 2 issued a final order finalizing a settlement
with Berkshire Valley Dairy, LLC, for its violations of the Clean Water
Act and the regulations governing the operation of large concentrated
animal feeding operations.  The Respondent is a dairy farm that confines
approximately 1000 mature dairy cows and 300 heifers and heifer calves.
On April 21, 2009, and again on May 7, 2009, EPA conducted Compliance
Evaluation Inspections of the facility and observed numerous violations
of the CWA and its implementing regulations, including the discharge of
manure to a tributary of Roeliff Jansen Kill and numerous failures to
adequately document and implement a comprehensive nutrient management plan, best management practices, inspections, and proper operations and maintenance of the facility.  On June 29, 2009, EPA issued an Administrative Order directing the Respondent to correct its violations, and on January 12, 2010, EPA issued an administrative Complaint, proposing to assess a penalty of $12,000. 

Under the March 10, 2010 settlement, the Respondent will pay a penalty of $8,100.

Vegetable Protein — The Untold Story

David Cassuto

Why is it so scary that plants have protein?  Even as more and more veggie recipes appear in food sections of newspapers, discussions of plants´protein-rich nature remain conspicuously absent.  This is true even when a nutrition-breakdown accompanies the recipe.   Continue reading

Indian Point Violates the Clean Water Act

David Cassuto

From the Finally Smelling the Decaf Desk: NY State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has ruled that the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant (located just north of NYC) violates the Clean Water Act.  The plant’s cooling technology, which has been obsolete for decades, kills so many fish and contaminates so much water that it cannot be relicensed without a substantial retrofit.  Switching the plant over to modern cooling methods will cost over $1 billion and will require a significant shutdown. 

The plant currently uses “once-through technology.”  This means that it takes in 2.5 billion gallons of water per day– more than twice the average daily consumption of New York City – and turns it into steam, which then cools the reactors.  The hot water is then pumped back into the river.   Continue reading

Looking Within and Without in the Amazon

David Cassuto

I’ve returned from the Amazon where a wonderful time was had by all.  This trip — part of the Pace Law School Comparative Environmental Law class – was a complete success.  We saw toucans, caimans, sloths, monkeys, and all kinds of other wonders, including the Meeting of the Waters.  We lived on a boat that took us up the Rio Negro, one of the major feeder rivers of the Amazon, swam in the coffee colored water, and reconnected with the reasons so many of us went into environmental law.

Of course, the less wonderful was never far from sight.  Our hotel in Manaus had a little “zoo” where animals (including jaguar, giant turtles and others) are imprisoned in small cages so guests can come by and gawk (few do).  The fish served on the boat and everywhere else came from industrial farms, which have arisen to meet growing demand for fish that once proliferated throughout the region.    Continue reading

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