When Can an Animal be Seized as Evidence?

horses in pasture

Seth Victor

A provocative case came out of the Oregon Supreme Court two weeks ago addressing a warrantless seizure of a horse that was used to convict the defendants of animal abuse. As Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) reports, in the consolidated cases of State v. Fessenden and State v. Dicke, the court held that an officer was acting in accordance with the exceptions to the warrant requirements when he observed a starving horse on defendants’ property and took the horse to a veterinarian for emergency medical attention. The defendants were later charged with animal abuse, but they contended that the seizure of the horse was in violation of their right to privacy, and as it was a warrantless seizure, the evidence (the horse) had to be suppressed.

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Fur farms: Whom would Jesus skin?

fraser-lynx-money-shot41Kathleen Stachowski     Other Nations

“It’s farming. It is just a different type of farming.” So said Larry Schultz in a bid to move his bobcat fur farm from North Dakota–away from the hustle and bustle of booming Bakken shale oil production–to Fergus County, Montana.

The term “fur farm” makes stomachs churn with apprehension—if not horror–depending on how much one already knows. These shadowy enterprises don’t throw their doors open to public scrutiny, so what we know of them comes from undercover investigative reports and video. But calling it “farming” can’t legitimize an ethically-bereft industry that turns sentient, nonhuman animals into jacket trim.   Continue reading

On Eating Your Pets

Seth Victor

dog sandwich

An article caught my eye this morning about a man in New Mexico who was charged with a felony for extreme cruelty against a dog. The man allegedly stabbed his girlfriend’s dog in the heart, and then marinated the remains of the animal in preparation to cook it. While animal cruelty is a crime in New Mexico, eating dogs or cats is not, and if the defendant is successful in showing he did not act cruelly, there is no consequence for killing a companion animal for food.

These types of cases crop up every once in a while, often accompanied by outrage from some segments of the population over the wanton nature of the act. As always, since the law codifies our social voice, some states have put laws in place to discourage this kind of behavior. In New York, for example, one may not ” slaughter or butcher domesticated dog or domesticated cat  to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption.”

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Sheep dressing, pig wrestling, chicken scrambling: Bullies are made, not born

piggestraffleKathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

For weeks now, our local newspaper has been running a full-page ad for the PIGGEST. RAFFLE. EVER. It exhorts me to kick-off my summer “the right way, by winning the ultimate BBQ package.” A pink pig, arms akimbo, grins sardonically. If he’d just glance down the page some nine inches, he’d see a chart of his body sliced up into meat cuts. A little less to grin about, no? The grand prize is a Weber grill and one-half of a pig. Second place gets the other half.

Every time I see this ad I’m reminded of the human tendency to distance ourselves from the other animals with whom we share sentience. We make cartoons of them and require that they serve as willing purveyors of their own dead bodies Continue reading

5th Circuit Upholds Ban on Crush Videos

Seth Victor

Four years ago the US Supreme Court overruled Congress’s attempt to regulate “crush videos,” stating that the law was an impermissible, over-broad regulation of free speech. For more analysis of the decision, see here. Though the decision was distressing, it did not herald an end of attempts to regulate that particular form of animal cruelty; Congress quickly passed an amended version of the law, one that has yet to be tested before the Supreme Court.

Last week the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated criminal charges in the case of US v. Richards for video of animals being tortured to death by a suggestively dressed woman, holding that images of animals killed for sexual gratification are not protected forms of speech, and are in fact “obscene.” Obscenity is the key to the law; obscene speech does not have the same protections as common speech, and can be regulated. Additionally, the 5th Circuit rejected an argument that the law is unconstitutional because it unfairly targets a narrow type of obscenity (here, animal cruelty), holding that particular categories of obscenity may be targeted based on their socially harmful secondary effects.

This is the first legal test of the amended law, and animal advocates have to be happy with the direction the case took at the appellate level. The court held that the law does serve a “significant interest” of preventing violence against animals, and is “reasonably tailored” to meet that interest. The 2010 version does not apply to the slaughter of animals for food, hunting, or agricultural husbandry practices, which helped it survive the “over-broad” challenge. If the Supreme Court ends up granting certiorari (it’s unclear at this point if the defendants will push it that far), it will be very interesting to see how the 5th Circuit decision holds up against US v. Stevens.

 

 

 

 

“Wildleaks”– A New Way to Combat Poaching and Other Environmental Crimes

Rafael Wolff

victim-of-elephant-poachingThe risks of environmental crime to nature are well known. Greed for profits that can exceed $10-20bn a year according to Interpol” are a menace to species as elephants, rhinos and tigers, for example. The seriousness of these crimes against wildlife, as well as the connections of environmental crimes with terrorism and, as exposed by the Department of States this week, human trafficking, justify all the concerns about them.

One of the best ways to combat environmental crimes is to help the authorities. However, few people know that it is possible to do so Continue reading

Launching Legal Action to Help Angel and Other Dolphins

Sarah Lucas

I was in Taiji, Japan – the dolphin hunting capital of the world – when I read Kathleen Stachowski’s wonderful Animal Blawg on the ubiquity of speciesism. Kathleen observes: “speciesism is everywhere and so thoroughly normalized that it’s invisible in plain sight”. I nodded my head when I read this, as I’ve thought it many times as I stood on the shore of Taiji’s cove helplessly watching dolphins being herded to their deaths – the cruelty is so extreme and horrifying, yet it seems to be hidden in plain sight to those inflicting it.

ANGEL 16In Taiji, such hunts take place nearly every day for half the year, annually capturing around 2,000 small whales (dolphins, porpoises and pilot whales). As the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling does not apply to small whales – or at least, is argued not to by pro-whaling countries – small whales are sadly afforded no international legal protection. Thus, despite the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, which is enforced to a degree in relation to large whales, tens of thousands of small whales continue to be killed every year in commercial hunts in Japan, Peru and other countries.

These hunts are not only conservationally damaging, but unspeakably Continue reading

The ‘Blackfish Effect’ at Work: Freedom for Orcas from SeaWorld San Diego?

Spencer Lo

Blackfish, an eye-opening documentary about the devastating consequences of keeping orcas in captivity, premiered a little more than a year ago, and since then, the remarkable outrage and debate it inspired has created waves of black lash against SeaWorld, from visible protests of the institution to successful pressures that resulted in embarrassing cancellations of scheduled musical performances. The ‘Blackfish Effect,’ with its growing momentum, will only continue. But how far will it go, and is real, tangible change for captive orcas achievable in the near future? Maybe yes—there is certainly good reason to hope. Continue reading

Can California regulate egg production under the Commerce Clause?

New standard for chickens

New standard for chickens

Seth Victor

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District Court of California, asking the federal court to overturn a 2010 California law requiring the same standards for in-state chickens be applied to out-of-state chickens. In 2008, California passed Proposition 2, a ballot measure that increased the standards for egg-layers, providing that such chickens must have enough space to spread their wings without touching another chicken, and be able to stand up and lay down. Animal producers in California, however, complained that because they couldn’t stuff as many birds into the same space, they are at an economic disadvantage when competing with out-of-state producers selling in California. In response the state legislature passed a law requiring that all eggs sold in California be held to the same standards required under Proposition 2. The law will take effect in 2015. While California maintains that the additional law was enacted for health safety given the atrocious conditions of battery cages, Missouri counters that the law is an unlawful attempt to regulate conduct outside of California’s boarders, and an impermissible protection against out-of-state competition, both of which are in violation of the Commerce Clause. Continue reading

Legislation Proposed in NYS to Ban Exotic Animals in Circuses

David Cassuto

Over the last several years, a number of different constituencies have worked hard to advance legislation to ban exotic animals (elephants, tigers, lions, etc.) from circuses.  There is now a bill pending in committee in the New York state legislature.   Below follows a press release from one of the groups working on this issue:elephant foot

Proposed NYS Legislation To Ban “Wild & Exotic Animals” in Entertainment.

 

This is to inform all residents of New York State that 2 bills (Assembly A5407 and Senate S5971) have been introduced which would ban the use of wild and exotic animals (elephants, lions, tigers, etc) in entertainment, including circuses.

THERE WILL BE NO ACTION TAKEN on these bills unless there is public support for them. It is crucial that voters call or email their New York State representatives to urge support of these bills (do a search online if you do not know who your representatives are). Supporters should also use social media to further publicize this very important legislation. Continue reading

My own private Idaho: Pursuing ag-gag secrecy

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Bumps and bruises: The “inadvertent cruelty” of factory farming. Mercy for Animals Idaho dairy photo; click image

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

“My Own Private Idaho.” You might know it as a ’90s era movie, but its new identity is being forged in the Idaho legislature right now. “My Own Private Idaho” could soon be how factory farm owners refer to their holdings–places where anything goes and no one knows–if ag-gag legislation is signed into law. But according to some, it goes far beyond undercover filming in animal agriculture settings. Continue reading

King-size coyote fur comforter: Price vs. cost

Wile E Coyote

Looney Tunes/Warner Bros.-click image

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

From Killing Coyotes 101: “Don’t be squeamish about killing juvenile coyotes,” advises the text beneath a photo of a grown man grinning over a dead pup. “They will be practicing their hunting skills on your turkey poults, deer fawns, pigglets [sic] and livestock if you let them. so [sic] kill them when you can.”

If that seems harsh, keep in mind that it’s all in God’s design:

The Creator in His infinite wisdom made the coyote a ruthless, heartless, killing machine that is extremely suspicious and careful. … There are few more despicable creatures than the coyote, so you should never be afraid to hunt them in what we would normally think of as an “unsporting manner.”
~Killing Coyotes 101

But even despicable creatures have their price. A king-size coyote fur comforter (comforter–oh the bitter irony of that word!) is offered for sale at the special price of $5495.00, reduced from $6495.00.   Continue reading

Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”

 

Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.

 

 

 

How Puppies Can Help the Incarcerated

Seth Victor

When we talk about animals and the law, we often focus on how those laws affect and (fail to) protect animals, how penalties for harming animals are developing, and also how animals are used to enforce the law. What about animals who are used to help rehabilitate people on the other side of the law? Dogs, our faithful best friends from PuppiesBehindBarsAtWarwickApril2010the animal world, are the poster animals for rehab. Some of the most recognized examples are seeing-eye dogs, and with hundreds of soldiers returning with a plethora of physical and mental damage, service dogs for veterans continue to be in demand. But while America gladly clads itself in the garb of war heroes and the auspices of social care (insert partisan comment here), it is also houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated humans. What about those forgotten 2,266,800?

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Vegan thank you notes: “Just thought you’d want to know”

Vegan Peace e-cards: click image

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

One last hurrah is on the holiday season horizon–the New Year’s celebration. The holidays (regardless of which ones you celebrate) are a time fraught with pitfalls for ethical vegans in a speciesist world. Gifts…food…gifts of food…argh.

Food. You can always detect the vegan at the omnivore holiday party, surreptitiously rifling through the pasta salad with a serving spoon, attempting to determine if it’s “safe.” Likewise, the vegan (or veg*n) is the one whose face brightens at the sight of a huge salad bowl then darkens upon realizing that the lovely greens are covered with crumbled bacon. And bacon vinaigrette. Tsk.

Then there’s the gift-giving, and by that I really mean the gift-receiving. Because you can bet your Moo Shoes that ethical vegans give vegan gifts but don’t always receive them.   Continue reading

Law, Animals, and Professors

TAGORE - WIN_20131209_213438

Tagore Trajano

In early September, I arrived in the U.S again with a new goal, “… pass through the bridge between being a student and being an international Professor”.

At a good teaching university, a professor is expected to be formal, and faraway from his students. However, I had learned that being a good University Professor is to be ready to share the opportunities, and show for his students that all of them have a great path in their lives.

This is one of the lessons that you can pick from David Cassuto’s Law Classes Continue reading

Connecticut’s ‘Puppy Mill Task Force’

Olivia Marotta

puppymill copyConnecticut is one step closer to banning puppy mills. Legislation was recently introduced to prohibit the operation of animal mills in Connecticut and to ban the sale of dogs and cats that were obtained from animal mills. The bill, H.B. 5027, entitled, “An Act ­Prohibiting the Sale of Dogs and Cats Obtained from Substandard Domestic Animal Mills and Requiring a Standard of Care Applicable to Animal Importers,” is notable for publicly acknowledging the horrid, cruel conditions from where many pets come and is the first major step in bringing reform for the animals who are forced to suffer lifelong abuse and neglect.  Continue reading

Moving Animal Cruelty Crimes to the Penal Law?

Nicole Geraci

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi has proposed a bill to move animal abuse crimes from the Agriculture Markets Law into BLOG 1 picture[1] copythe Penal Law, a change which he and CNY SPCA note is long overdue.  According to Brindisi, “Many animal abuse laws were written 50 years ago. And most judges and lawyers are just not familiar with agriculture market laws as they are with the penal law . . . When you have a case of animal cruelty, the courts and lawyers may not consider them “real crimes” with animal abuse, even when they are in fact severe crimes.”  Unfortunately, I think this mindset probably exists amongst the general public as well, and this bill proposal is a means of addressing the problem.  Recent cases of animal abuse across Central New York, as disturbing as they are, may be just the momentum needed to enforcing harsher punishments for violators of animal cruelty.  Continue reading

Equine freedom, but at what cost?

Seth Victor

The blawg has previously discussed the controversy surrounding horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Now there is the potential that those idealized tours around Central Park might be coming to an end. According to the New York Daily News, both major mayoral candidates poised to run the Big Apple support a city council bill to ban horse-drawn rides. There is a concern, however, that if the practice is ended, the 200 or so horses that are impressed to pull these carriages will be sent to their deaths, not to some bucolic retirement field further upstate. The article summarizes the issue.

My question to you, dear reader, is what is the best result for the animals? Place the economic concerns regarding the proposed electric replacement carriages aside. Assuming that no home can be found for these horses, if you believe that the horses who march around the streets of New York City are suffering and are not being properly cared for, is it better to end their suffering through ending their lives, or is life so precious that between a life of hard work and death, life should prevail?

We’ve touched on this question before, and it is a divisive one between different camps of animal rights. Please vote below with your opinion. I recognize that there are many answers to this question, but given the choice between the two (and if being forced to pick the lesser of two evils isn’t American, what is?), where do you stand?

Animal rights Halloween hazards: Candy corn, chocolate milk, and squid ink pasta with baby octopus

Ghostly octopus: 10 incredibly strange cephalopods – click image

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Ever notice how those “scariest animal” lists that appear around Halloween (bats! spiders! snakes! sharks!) always omit the most truly frightening candidate–Homo sapiens? I mean, what could be scarier than realizing you’re of the same species as the callous, wolf-killing Idahoan who twirls his gun and revels in his self-congratulatory “John Wayne sh*t” while he films the animal suffering in death throes?!? Yikes.   Continue reading

New Jersey Animals Get More Protection, But Are Still Property

Seth Victor

Last month New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed laws creating two new felonies for animal abuse. The first, “Patrick’s Law,” increases neglect of a dog from a disorderly persons offense, a misdemeanor, to a fourth degree felony, or in some cases, a third degree felony. The fines associated with these crimes were also increased. Additionally, overworking an animal is now a misdemeanor offense. The law was inspired by Patrick, a malnourished pit bull who was thrown down a garbage patrickchute in a trash bag by his owner. Patrick survived and was rescued, but owner Kisha Curtis is not expected to face harsh penalties for her actions. Under the new law, even failing to provide a dog like Patrick with adequate food and water could land a similar offender in custody. The bill was passed by the NJ Assembly last spring.

Christie also signed “Dano’s Law,” aka “Dano’s and Vader’s Law.” Under this addition, it is now a fourth degree felony to threaten the life of a law enforcement animal. This measure primarily includes K-9 units, but also horses for mounted police. NJ Sen. Christopher Bateman commented, “Cowardly criminals who threaten the life of a law enforcement animal will now receive the punishment they deserve.”

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Why the King Amendment is Hypocritical

Seth Victor

Recently Angelique Rivard explained some of the dangers inherent in Rep. Steve King’s amendment to H.R. 6083, the Farm Bill. What makes this amendment maddening is that Mr. King has cited law to support this measure that he would decry as the product of an overreaching government in almost any other circumstance. There is no doubt that Mr. King’s proposal is intended to end state protection for farmed animals; his website proudly declares that he hopes to terminate the efforts of animal rights groups, ensuring “that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.”

King has hardly been the darling of animal rights before this foray, as Stephen Colbert nicely summarizes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund both gave him a 0% rating in 2012. This came after a 2010 statement at a National 4-H Conference that “the HSUS is run by vegetarians with an agenda whose goal is to take meat off everyone’s table in America.” King has also previously voted against broadening the definitions of the Endangered Species Act in 2005 which would have enabled better listing criteria.

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Pig wrestling: Small injustices enable larger ones

Pigs like mud for their OWN reasons – click image

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

“So delighted to find you folks upon googling,” the message begins. It arrived at my webmail box at the beginning of July, written by a woman from rural Anytown, Everystate, USA. The impetus for her message was an upcoming pig wrestling event at a local fair–complete with human spectators who would be, in her words, “guffawing and smiling all the while–unbearable!” Her concern was a lovely and oft-needed reminder that compassion–like speciesism–lives everywhere. Continue reading

Newsday’s Filler Lacks Substance

Ed Pekarek

A member of Long Island’s Newsday editorial board, Lane Filler, authored an attempt at a troll droll column recently, which effectively endorsed the slaughter of American horses as food. The aptly-named columnist posits in absolutist and seemingly libertarian terms his Fillerosophy, chock full of crass cracks about the slaughter of sentient horses.  According to Filler, only those who oppose all consumption of animals as food may ever morally oppose the destruction of any animal. Anything short of that, at least according to Filler, is mere hypocrisy.

2horsesThe Fillerosophy is stated as follows: “when the subject of eating the animals we deem too charming to chew comes up – around the grill, among people who happily consume some animals but not others – the hypocrisy can be harder to stomach than a poodle-and-potato pie when the poodle hasn’t been marinated right.” Filler’s sophomoric hyperbole is telling; many horses are raised closely with humans, often perceived as part of a family and loved. He glibly notes he does not “want to eat dog. I’m pretty sure if I did, Rosie, my Boston terrier, would find out about it, and give me the look. I don’t want to eat cat, although they give me the look regardless, nor monkeys nor dolphins nor any fish species that’s ever had a featured role in an animated film.” However, he detours before taking a position whether it is inappropriate in this nation (or any other) to serve dogs and cats as entrees.

Sure, some horses in the U.S. are raised to perform work, whether to plow, or herd, race or jump, or even dance in dressage. However, the idea that highly-intelligent species so closely connected to humans may be slaughtered (and abundant evidence exists, including through the USDA, that the killing of horses is done in a manner often causing substantial suffering, with some reportedly remaining conscious in the abbatoir as they are strung up by one leg and their throat is slit) poses a grisly threat to the opposition of killing any sentient creature for human purposes. Continue reading

Keeping Pets out of the Market

Seth Victor

Though there is a growing dialogue about how to classify domestic animals, the norm in America is, and will likely remain for a great while longer, that animals are property that can be bought and sold, like a chair or the computer on which you are reading this blawg.

puppies in window

Of course animals are not just property, and millions of people believe that their furry friends are essential members of their families, member who should be afforded certain protections against cruelty. Most of you are aware that we do consider some types of domestic animal abuse as felonies (unless you are from the Dakotas). Clearly we care about domestic animals (I emphasize domestic; I’ll refrain from discussing the hypocrisy of our nation’s CAFO situation), but we remain entrenched in a legal framework that considers them to be chattel. No matter how egalitarian the owner, there is inherent inequality and lack of agency in such a system.To draw a common and controversial comparison, no matter how magnanimous the slave owner, it’s still slavery.

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Bacon recipe contest entry: “Feel the squeal! Bacon from scratch”

Rock & roll bacon: Click image for ad

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Recently, it’s been difficult to get a good Led Zeppelin fix without a side serving of bacon. Or Jethro Tull…and bacon. Blue Oyster Cult…bacon. The Doors…well, you get the picture.

That’s because the local classic rock station is running a bacon recipe contest. Honestly, the National Pork Board must be rubbing its collective hands together in unmitigated glee over how they’ve manipulated consumers into behaving like slavering bacon junkies. Think I’m kidding? Google “bacon song” and see what you get (here’s one moronic example). Or just visit the Bacon Today website where you can peruse an entire library of paeans to pork, prompting one to ask, does the enthusiastic consumption of bacon cause stupidity? …In addition to cancer, of course.   Continue reading

It’s June! Time to luv-a-turkey, hug-a-kitty, eat-yer-veggies…and panic!

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

June is upon us, and with it comes special day designations that prompt both cheering and jeering from the animal advocacy crowd. Ready? Let’s get start with the big, month-long picture.

June is Turkey Lovers Month! But sadly–and predictably–that “love” is gastronomic in nature, so we suggest lovin’ ‘em in a kinder, gentler manner. You’ve heard the myth that they’re so dumb they’ll drown looking up at the sky in a rainstorm? Huh-uh. “Smart animals with personality and character” is how one scientist describes turkeys. Downer alert: Watch Mercy for Animals’ undercover video filmed at a Butterball facility…no turkey lovers here.

If captive animals make you blue, you won’t be celebrating National Zoo and Aquarium Month.   Continue reading

Hey Chicago–animal suffering lies behind that scenic splendor

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Dear Chicago:

We need to talk. You can trust me–I’m practically a native daughter. Heck, from my hometown in Indiana, we can look across Lake Michigan and see your skyline (well, on a clear day). I’m a Cubs fan… ’nuff said! But I’ve lived in Montana for going on 14 years now, and if all this doesn’t qualify me to have a frank discussion with you about those tourism ads papering the city…I’m just sayin’.

Well I remember Chicago Tribune columnist Barbara Brotman’s mock hissy fit back in 2010 when Montana’s Office of Tourism started targeting the Windy City. She wrote:

The pictures plastered all over the CTA are bad enough. Majestic mountains, green valleys frosted with white snow, a turquoise glacial lake ringed by pine trees — it’s cruel, dangling that sort of thing in front of Chicago commuters packed glumly into “L” cars.

She went so far as to challenge Chicagoans to fight back with a “Take THAT, Montana” photo campaign (view photos here) wherein Tribune readers were to match Montana’s scenic glory, photo for photo, with their own Land of Lincoln natural splendor.    Continue reading

The Ag-Gag World — Where Victimizers are the Victims

David Cassuto

We’ve spent considerable blawgwidth here on Ag-Gag laws, with more doubtlessly to come.  Recently, I’ve been asked to speak and blog about the issue a fair bit and from that emerged the following post.  It is or will be posted in some places where people are less familiar with the issue.  (I’ll update with links)

ag-gag-factory-farming-1Agricultural animals are not covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act.  Many states also exclude them from their anti-cruelty laws.  As a result, they have virtually no legal protections and spend their short lives in horrific misery before being turned into salable flesh (or, in the case of laying hens, into compost).  However, there are a few federal regulations that still apply and some states do not exempt them from cruelty protections. The most powerful force for animal protection, though, is public outrage.  Most people do not know how animals are treated in agriculture and are outraged when they learn.  Consequently, activists sometimes chronicle some of the more egregious abuses in undercover videos.  The videos themselves document everything from standard procedures in factory farms to deliberate, conscience-shocking acts of sadism.

Faced with these abuses, how have state legislatures reacted?  By turning the videographers into criminals.  People who expose the animal abuses now face draconian penalties and felony status.  So-called “Ag-Gag” bills have become law in a dozen states with several more poised to make the leap.  Under one proposed law, named the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act  (you can’t make this stuff up), those convicted of documenting animal abuse at agricultural facilities would potentially face felony charges and have their name added to a “terrorist registry.”  Continue reading

New Jersey Takes Steps Towards Stronger Animal Laws

Seth Victor

In a move to join Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill 60-5 last Thursday to ban gestation crates for pigs. A similar bill already having passed in the state senate 35-1, the measure now awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature. Though a progressive step forward for animal protection, the bill, while giving a thorough definition of the kinds of confinement banned, still allows for the common exceptions. Gestating pigs can still be confined for “(1) medical research, (2) veterinary examination, testing, individual treatment, or an operation, (3) transportation of the animal, (4) an exhibition or educational program, (5) animal husbandry purposes, provided the confinement is temporary and for no more than six hours in any 24-hour period, (6) humanely slaughtering of the animal in accordance with the laws, and rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto, concerning the slaughter of animals, and (7) proper care during the seven-day period prior to the expected date of the gestating sow giving birth.” While there is a rational basis for all of these exceptions, broad ones such as “veterinary examination” seem ripe for abuse (or at least a defense), and animal testing gets its typical pass with the “medical research” caveat. Still, there is a disorderly persons misdemeanor where once there was none, and groundwork to phase out a particularly thorny issue in CAFOs. Continue reading

9th Circuit Continues to Rubber Stamp Illegal Whaling

Stephen O’Donohue

harpoon2 On February 25th, the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed a district court’s order denying the Japanese whaling fleet’s preliminary injunction and dismissing its piracy claims.  The Institute of Cetacean Research kills thousands of whales every year in the Southern Ocean under the pre-textual guise of “research,” despite the uncontested fact that the whale meat is sold for human consumption.  Despite a moratorium on whaling, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling allows its member nations to issue whaling permits for research purposes.  The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, lead by ex-Greenpeace member Paul Watson, operates a number of vessels whose purpose is to disrupt the whaling efforts of the Japanese fleet.  Sea Shepherd employs tactics such as disabling boat propellers, firing smoke canisters at whaler decks, and ramming whaling vessels.  Sea Shepherd justifies its actions by arguing that no government will enforce the whaling moratorium, therefore they are doing so on behalf of the whales.  This struggle is the subject of the Discovery channel television show, Whale Wars.

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Creating Killers: Human Tolls of Slaughter

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Spencer Lo

Behind the sanitized world of fast-food, everyday grocery shopping and culinary delights—all meant to satiate to our basic pleasures and needs—is an extraordinarily vast realm of brutality as normal and routine as our mealtime habits. I am referring, of course, to the often ignored truth of slaughterhouses: that billions of animals raised and slaughtered every year for food are forced to endure unimaginable suffering. What society does to produce food is obviously bad for other animals. What is less obvious, however, is the lesser-known fact that slaughterhouses are also bad for the hundreds of thousands of employees who work in them—for very low wages, with little job security (most are “at-will” employees) and in highly dangerous conditions. Read More

In Praise (and Defense) of Meatless Mondays

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Spencer Lo

Today, the start of the new weekday, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will serve students in its K-12 cafeteria meatless meals, thereby participating in the growing international campaign known as “Meatless Mondays” (MM). The mandatory vegetarian program began last month, and follows a unanimous city council’s resolution passed last November endorsing the campaign, which asked residents to make a personal pledge to go meat-free for one day a week. As reported on HLN, the new initiative amounts to 650,000 vegetarian meals every Monday—that’s (by my calculation) more than 31 million vegetarian meals per year served in United States’ second largest school district. This is very welcome news. Read More

Can Farming Rhinos Save the Species?

Seth Victor

Rhino-horn-tradeKevin Charles Redmon poses an interesting thought: can farming the horns of African rhinoceroses save the species? The horns of the rhinos are used throughout the world, from dagger handles to medicine. Though the animals are endangered, and protected under CITES, there is a lucrative black market business in poaching, especially when the horns fetch $65,000 a kilo; “demand for horn is inelastic and growing, so a trade ban (which restricts supply) only drives up prices, making the illicit good more valuable—and giving poachers greater incentive to slaughter the animal.” Poachers aren’t overly concerned with the long-term extinction risks of their prey. The focus is on the immediate value. Because the activity is illegal, timing is of the essence, and it’s apparently easier to kill and harvest the rhinos versus tranquilizing and waiting for them to go down. What if, Redmon wonders, we were to harvest the horns (they re-grow over time) by placing rhinos in captivity, guarding them well, and introducing a sustainable horn supply that doesn’t kill the rhinos? Continue reading

Animals Are Biggest Losers in Sequestration

Seth Victor

As reported by Mother Jones, there is a lovely outcome to the government’s sequestering: “The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s budget would be slashed by $51 million. This would result in a furlough of as much as 15 days for all employees, including 8,400 meat inspectors, as well as a loss of 2 billion pounds of meat, between 2.8 and 3.3 billion pounds of poultry, and over 200 million pounds of egg products. Meat shortages may also lead to price increases, leading to a domino effect on restaurants, grocers, and small businesses. There are also concerns that food safety ‘could be compromised by the illegal selling and distribution of uninspected meat, poultry, and egg products.'”

Or, as author Lemony Snicket might phrase it, “The news reported that there was going to be a loss, a word that here means ’13 million cows and over a billion chickens were killed for no use at all, because a bunch of people were busy fighting over other things, like how much money they could spend on themselves.'”

Spectating at dogfights: Still legal thanks to…rodeo?

Kathleen Stachowski      Other Nations

Can you think of one animal species with whom you’d willingly trade places? Me neither. It’s a bum rap to be a nonhuman animal in a speciesist world, and here in Montana, brutality toward animals is a way of life. Just ask the bobcat thrashing in a trap, the calf viciously clotheslined by the neck in a rodeo roping event, or any coyote who’s the object of a killing contest. “We’re at your mercy,” they might tell us, “and mercy went missing a long time ago.”

On Valentine’s Day, the 200th wolf was killed in the state-sanctioned slaughter (track here), designed to reduce–by projectile and by trap–a population of 600-some animals–even along national park boundaries.   Continue reading

Valentine’s Day: Nothing says “I want you (and the pig) dead” like bacon roses

Say “I love you” with bacon – click image

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the question on many a mind–or maybe just mine–is, Where’s the dissonance in “cognitive dissonance”?  According to About.com Psychology,

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.

An apt example of cognitive dissonance is the human propensity to love animals and to loathe seeing them suffer–nonetheless, to consider them tasty and edible even while suspecting (if not downright knowing) that the journey from lovable to edible requires suffering. If you’re one of those people, hang in there–we’ll talk you through it. Just relax and allow yourself to cognitively embrace the dissonance…   Continue reading

An animal rights Super Bowl fantasy

Just say no to pigskin (unless it’s on a pig) – click image

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

It’s Superbowl Sunday, and even as I type, the six-hour pre-game show has commenced. We’ll tune in later, for the actual game. Yes, we’re football fans, a somewhat shocking revelation to friends who know us only for our more conscience-driven pursuits. We’ll be cheering for, well, who cares. I default to the NFC when I don’t have a dog in that fight, to use a football-related (OK, Michael Vick-related, close enough) term. Go 49ers, ho-hum. Then again, ravens are birds–and birds are good, and the Edgar Allen Poe/Baltimore connection is most compelling to a former English teacher…so…Go team! Continue reading

Golden eagles die from “snares upon theirs”

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Yesterday we awoke to the news that three golden eagles had been caught in trappers’ snares set in Montana east of the Divide. Two are dead; one requires surgery to remove the cable now embedded in her wing and shoulder. Whoever came upon the bird was carrying cable-cutters (likely the trapper, but this is unknown); that individual cut the cable but provided no assistance to the severely-injured bird. Thankfully, she’s now in the care of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Bozeman (visit their Facebook page, which is the source of the accompanying photo).

There is no defense for the use of snares. They are designed for one thing only: to provide animals with a cruel, terrifying, and gruesome death, the wire cable cutting deeper into their bodies as the noose tightens the more they struggle. Continue reading

Bear pits are the bare pits

 

Biting bars in desperation; PETA photo–click image

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Financial greed is a huge motivator for our species–ain’t no new news here–so I don’t wonder about the callous low-lifes who imprison bears in concrete pits and sell tickets to gawk at ‘em. I DO wonder about the ones who buy the tickets, though. What motivates them? Are they callous? Are they clueless? We’ll hear from them later.

You’ve probably read about the latest undercover sting at the Chief Saunooke Bear Park. It’s a PETA investigation, so there’s been plenty of press. Cherokee, NC in the sylvan Smoky Mountains is the setting for this, our latest installment of It’s a Speciesist Life. Continue reading

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