Souls On Board

Stephen O’ Donohue

 

grace_hudson_flyingDenying rights to animals has long been rationalized by the presupposition that animals lack consciousness, awareness, feelings, and last but not least, a soul.  While scientific studies provide a plethora of data supporting the argument that animals are aware and do feel, science admittedly falls short of being able to prove or disprove the existence of any living being’s “soul,” regardless of religious groups’ varying definition of the term.  Furthermore, one of the fundamental limitations of the United States government is the separation of church and state.  For decades, however, the U.S. government has, through the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), promulgated a definition of the word “soul” that does not include animals.  When declaring an emergency, the pilot in command is asked by the controller for the amount of fuel and number of “souls” on board the aircraft.  The FAA, in an Advisory Circular in 2008, defined “souls on board” as the “total number of passengers and crew” to the exclusion of animals because they are “cargo.” Continue reading

Summer Intern Position w/Compassion Over Killing

David Cassuto

Heads up, law students:

From the email . . .

SUMMER LITIGATION INTERN POSITION

Compassion Over Killing (COK) is seeking Litigation Interns for Summer, 2013 (unpaid). Compassion Over Killing is a national nonprofit (501(c)(3)) animal advocacy organization. Working to end animal abuse since 1995, COK focuses on ending and preventing cruelty to animals in agriculture. The 2013 Summer Litigation Interns will work with COK’s Legal Advocacy Program in our West Coast office in Torrance, California.

The Summer Litigation Interns will work on litigation projects aimed at protecting farmed animals; most of these projects are plaintiffs’ litigation. These projects will likely employ a variety of legal theories, relating to areas such as state criminal cruelty laws, false advertising and unfair competition laws, tort liability, environmental protection laws, administrative law, tax, and corporate law. The interns will have opportunities to research new projects as well as assist heavily with ongoing projects. They will work closely with Compassion Over Killing’s general counsel.   Continue reading

Warning! Animals Were Harmed During The Making of This Movie

Ally Bernstein

Now wouldn’t that be nice. The truth, for once. But no, the disclaimer, “No animals were harmed during the filming of this movie” will roll right across the 60 foot movie theater screen as the new film, “The Hobbit”, reels right along this December. In an article published last week, the American Humane Association claimed that “no animals were harmed during the actual filming.” While it might be true that no animals were harmed during the filming, it is not true that no animals were filmed during the making of “The Hobbit”.  In fact, 27 animals died unnecessary deaths due to the horrendous housing conditions they were kept in for use in the film. Continue reading

Empathy override begins early with gigging and plinking

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Hunting season starts with a bang…and ends with a long, relieved sigh such as we breathed one-half hour after sunset on Sunday. Animal advocates–probably pretty much everywhere, but definitely here in Montana–hunker down, grit our teeth, avoid favorite hikes in the wilds, avoid the newspaper, and count down the days until the elk and deer–and this year, wolf–slaughter ends.

October 18th & 19th, the two days prior to the deer and elk season opener, were designated Youth Hunting Days (deer hunting only for kids 12 to 15, though some aged 11 can participate depending on birth date) and coincide with the state’s no-school teachers’ professional development days. Kids 12 to 17 purchasing their first hunting license don’t actually have to raid their piggy banks–the license is given to them, a gift from the state, perhaps in a bid to cultivate youth ambassadors  for hunting’s declining numbers. (See a previous discussion of youth hunting elsewhere at Animal Blawg.)

Conventional wisdom maintains that small kids feel a natural bond with animals, but some research indicates that empathy for animals increases starting in 2nd grade and ethical concerns starting in 8th grade. Continue reading

Turkey Pardons (again)

David Cassuto

In what has become a (quasi) Thanksgiving tradition, I offer these thoughts that I first penned back in 2008, when the blog was new.   

Much has been said about the ritual of Thanksgiving and its accompanying slaughter of hundreds of millions of defenseless birds, most of who lived short lives of unrelenting and abject misery.  I have little to add to what’s already out there except my own indignation and sorrow.

But I do have something to say about the Thanksgiving ritual, particularly the embedded legal contradiction in the practice (discussed by Luis below) of pardoning turkeys.  To pardon means “to release (a person) from further punishment for a crime.”  At Thanksgiving, however, the concept of the pardon gets up-ended.  The turkeys supposedly petitioning for clemency have committed no wrong.  Their lives consist of brutal mistreatment with slaughter soon to follow (the latter, I might add, will occur devoid of any of the protections of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act since under Department of Agriculture regulations, birds are not “animals” and thus not legally entitled to a merciful death).  If anything, egregious crimes have been wrought upon these birds.  Yet, every year, one or two are selected at random and “pardoned.”  This ritual amounts to transferring the guilt of the perpetrators on to the victims and then forgiving a token few of them in a bizarre act of self-absolution by proxy. Continue reading

Talking Ethics and Factory Farming

David Cassuto

Great symposium at South Texas College of Law last week on animal law and ethics.  Many thanks to Professor Fran Ortiz for putting it together.  Here’s the full lineup and, if you want to stream my lecture, you can click below (although I don’t know how long the link will be live).

Cassuto: Environment, Ethics & the Factory Farm

Hurricane Sandy Affected Animals Too

Eliza Boggia

Superstorm, Frankenstorm, Halloween Ruiner. Regardless of its nickname, Hurricane Sandy ravaged much of the east coast, causing severe, and in some places, irreversible damage.  However, people were not the only ones put in grave danger by this storm.  While many of New York City’s weak swimmer rats drowned, many domestic pets were also displaced from their homes.

There is some good news. New York City has rallied around protecting the lives its domesticated animals. According to USA Today, all of the shelters in New York City accepted refugee pets, which legally they are not required to do. The efforts being made are a grim reminder of the results after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which left approximately 250,000 pets homeless. It is unknown just how many animals were killed or subsequently died of dehydration/starvation in wake of Katrina.  To avoid a repeat of this type of tragedy, city hotels that are usually not animal-friendly have waived restrictions and allowed pets to stay during the disaster. It remains unknown whether they were entitled to room service.

There were a few voices supporting animal rights and the importance of a safe haven during and after the storm. Tim Rickey of the ASPCA says, “”If your home isn’t safe for you, it’s not safe for your pet. Once you evacuate you never know when you will be back.”  Furthermore, ASPCA at large is helping out in three major ways—by distributing pet supplies at several key points, providing veterinary care, and rescuing animals who were left behind. To donate to ASPCA’s Sandy relief efforts, visit here. Continue reading

North Dakota Votes Against Animals

Seth Victor

In what must be a move of Dakotan solidarity, the people of North Dakota voted last week against Proposition 5, which would have  made it a class C felony, punishable by incarceration, “to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse.” There would have been the typical exceptions for veterinarians, hunters, scientists, and, of course, agriculture workers. This is a measure aimed at domestic pets, which would have enforced against instances akin to Michael Vick’s dog torture. Nevertheless, 65.4% of voters opted to have North Dakota remain with South Dakota as the only two states in the nation without animal cruelty felonies.

Interestingly, this comes in the same election when three states approved same-sex marriage, a measure in nearby Minnesota to outlaw same-sex marriage was voted down, and recreational marijuana was legalized in two states. Additionally, within North Dakota, voters opted to ban indoor smoking in the workplace by a 2-1 majority, but also voted 2-1 for a measure that bans any law that would abridge farmers and ranchers from employing their own industry practices. It seems that while we as a nation are in a piecemeal fashion expanding the liberties of our own species, animals are clearly still an “other” that do not receive the same considerations. The vote on the smoking measure in a state that is traditionally wary of government intervention shows that individuals do not have an absolute right to do what they want to the detriment of others, but efforts to extend that same logic to establish animals as something more than property remain trapped in our legal schizophrenia. I can grasp the reasoning behind the farmed animal vote; established industry, I expect, advertised, lobbied, and campaigned more effectively to keep the status quo. Why anyone in 2012 would want to keep torture to companion animals punishable only by a slap on the wrist, however, is beyond me.

“Well-mannered predators” and other speciesist notions about animal captivity

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

No sooner do we turn the page on the sad story of two wild Montana grizzlies gone psychotic in a Midwestern zoo when along comes more tragedy involving captive wild animals. Yes, wild animals taken from their habitats or born into captivity to live unnatural, diminished lives are tragic cases in their own right. Witness a bear turning endless tight circles in her cement cell (instead of ranging across 100 square wilderness miles) and tell me this isn’t tragic.

But the latest calamities are compounded in that they are also human tragedies–and needless ones but for our speciesist insistence on keeping wild beings captive for our own pleasure and profit. Continue reading

Bill and Lou: Two Oxen at a College

Spencer Lo

There is an extraordinary story developing about a global effort to save two 11 year-old oxen from slaughter, whose bodies will serve the appetites of students at Green Mountain College (GMC), a small institution in Poultney, Vermont. Bill and Lou, affectionately named, have labored at GMC as part of the college’s Food & Farm Project for over a decade—their tasks included plowing fields and even generating electricity. According to the official college statement, Bill and Lou are “draft animals,” rescued from neglect and malnutrition to “do important work which would otherwise be performed by equipment that consumes diesel fuel.” Now their ability to do that “important work” has ended: this past July, after stepping into a woodchuck hole, Lou reinjured his left rear leg which rendered him incapable of working, and his friend Bill, while uninjured, will not likely accept a new teammate. So what to do with a pair of unworkable, elderly oxen, GMC residents who have become de facto mascots? Eat them, of course—which was the decision reached in “an open community forum” participated by both students and faculty. Continue reading

Good grief, Charlie Brown! Dairy milk is misery milk

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Icons come, and icons go, but “Peanuts” abides. Beginning in 1950, ending in 2000, and living on in syndicated reprints, the round-headed kid and the bodacious beagle are cultural fixtures for generations of American and world citizens. Baby Boomers have spent our entire lives–60+ years!–under the influence of “Peanuts.” And 17,897 published strips later, it shows no sign of waning:

Peanuts, arguably the most popular and influential comic strip of all time, continues to flourish — especially during the holidays. From Halloween through Christmas, Peanuts TV specials pepper the airwaves and are watched endlessly on DVD. The music of Vince Guaraldi is a constant on the radio. Peanuts-related merchandise like calendars, t-shirts, mugs and toys fill the stores. And of course classic editions of the strip continue to appear in newspapers worldwide. ~HuffPost blog

It’s hard to overestimate the “Peanuts” phenomenon: it’s both a warm, familiar, daily presence and a seasonal treat–a beloved friend arriving for the holidays. And that’s why it feels so darn wrong to see the gang pushing milk–(chocolate milk, in this case, “The Official Drink of Halloween“)–a product whose origin lies in animal suffering. Continue reading

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