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 →
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:
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 →
When married couples divorce, who gets to keep the dog? Under the law, dogs are considered to be personal property, and no matter how loved dogs are, they are not treated like children under the law. Many judges do not want to get involved in pet disputes. The family pet sometimes becomes a powerless victim of the breakup. Recently, courts have been ruling dog custody at other forms than property. In the New York Post on December 4, 2013 there was an article about a pair of divorcing women about to fight it out in court over a miniature dachshund named Joey. It will be New York’s first matrimonial pet-custody case. The attorney for one of the women, Sherri Donovan said, “It recognizes the special place of pets in our families.”
Manhattan Justice Matthew Cooper opines in his ruling granting the women oral arguments. According to the article, the only bone of contention in their divorce is who will get sole custody of their 2-year-old pet, Joey. One of the women gave Joey as a gift to the other women, which she claims always sleeps on her side of the bed. Judge Cooper notes that New York law lags behind other states’ legal standing of their pets, and that “most pet owners would not trade their pets for even $1 million in cash.” The judge will schedule a hearing to determine Joey’s fate, instead of regarding him like a piece of property. Judge Cooper wants to hear the truth about who bore the major responsibility for meeting Joey’s needs. He will be asking questions such as: “Who spent more time with Joey on a regular basis?” The judge says, “…there is certainly room to give real consideration to a case involving a treasured pet.” The parties are still working out a date for the hearing. Continue reading →
An issue that plagues animal rights advocates is something we, as people, take for granted: standing to sue. In order to find standing, generally three factors must be found: 1) injury-in-fact, 2) causation, and 3) redressability. Unfortunately for animals, courts do not recognize the injury of an animal alone to give that animal standing, even though their rights have been violated.
Standing to sue is an issue recognized around the world. The Filipino case Minors Oposawas considered a ground-breaking case, and its affect felt around the world. In Minors Oposa the high court of the Philippines expressed their willingness to recognize the standing of not just minors, but future generations not yet born. This was done in an attempt to protect future generations’ right to a balanced and healthful ecology. Though this may seem like a wild idea, suing on behalf of future generations, it makes sense. When harm is being done, the affected parties should have their interests protected, even if someone else has to bring the action. Continue reading →
“What a country chooses to save is what a country says about itself,” Mollie Beattie, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director 1993-1996.
Forty years ago this month, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). When signing the ESA into law on December 28, 1973, President Nixon stated, “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alive, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.” Continue reading →
On Wednesday, November 27th, President Obama signed into law a bipartisan bill to support the retirement of research chimpanzees.
Earlier this year, the National Institute of Health (NIH) announced plans to retire about 90 percent of U.S. government-owned chimpanzees currently used in medical research to Chimp Haven, a national chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. However, the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, signed into law in 2000, placed a $30 million cap on spending for federally owned chimpanzees in sanctuaries. NIH was expected to reach that cap in mid-November, affecting both the retirement and care of chimpanzees in laboratories and at Chimp Haven. Continue reading →
In January of 2010, a Frederick County deputy, Timothy Brooks, drove to the home of Roger and Sandra Jenkins to serve a civil warrant on their son. The Jenkins’ chocolate Labrador retriever, Brandi, rushed out of the home towards the officers but stopped before getting very close. As Roger called for Brandi to return into the home, Deputy Brooks shot the dog and injured her leg. Brandi
recovered, but may have to have her leg amputated. In April of 2012, a jury awarded the Jenkins’ $620,000 in damages, $200,000 of which was for emotional distress. That award was later lowered to $607,500 because Maryland has a statutory limit of $7,500 for veterinary bills. Continue reading →
According to CBS News, the City of New York is expanding the use of forensic animal evidence, such as DNA samples, to solve more crimes against both animals and people. With the help of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and their mobile evidence lab, investigators are using cutting-edge technology to solve crimes against animals, but prosecutors have commented that such tests can link a suspect to crimes against people as well.
Forensic animal evidence has been used in criminal prosecution in the United States for some time. The controversial conviction in the murder of an Illinois woman, Karyn Hearn Slover, relied on only circumstantial evidence. Karyn Slover went missing in September 1996. In 2002, Karyn’s ex-husband, Michael Slover, Jr., and his parents Michael and Jeannette Slover were convicted of her murder. The prosecution advanced the theory that Michael Sr. and Jeannette feared Karyn would take her son, their grandchild, out of state following the divorce between Karyn and Michael Jr. and murdered her in order to gain custody of the child. With no murder weapon recovered and no available witnesses, prosecutors developed a circumstantial case. They used negative statements made by Slover family members about Karyn, psychiatric analysis of Karyn’s son (who they believe may have witnessed the murder), and matching environmental evidence, including dog hair discovered on duct tape used to seal garbage bags containing parts of Karyn’s body. The dog hair matched that of Michael Sr. and Jeanette’s dog. The Slovers’ case is currently being reviewed by the University of Illinois, Springfield Innocence Project. Continue reading →
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) does not require cosmetic testing on animals, it does allow a company to take whatever steps necessary to prove product safety. This includes animal testing. Even though the FDA does advocate for alternative methods of testing, it seems to be an all too common perception that animal testing is necessary for the development of safe products. This is evidenced by the hundreds of companies that still test on animals. I have never understood why it is seen as the best way to test cosmetics. Does testing mascara on a rabbit really prove that it is safe for human use? There are plenty of alternatives to testing on animals, so it is any wonder why companies continue this horrific practice.
The United States is significantly behind in banning animal testing of cosmetics. In 2004, the European Union(EU) banned domestic cosmetic testing on animals. In 2009, the EU went even further by banning animal testing of the ingredients used in cosmetics. Additionally, they banned the sale of products that have been tested on animals. Finally, in early 2013, the EU’s final deadline of prohibiting marketing of products that are tested on animals was complete. On January 1, 2013, Israel’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics went into effect prohibiting the importation and marketing of products that test on animals. Similar to the EU, this was the second step in a process that started in 2007 with the banning of domestic animal testing. Finally, in July of this year, India joined the EU and Israel, by prohibiting animal testing on cosmetics and ingredients. Continue reading →
While controversy has long surrounded human-orca interaction, the recent release of the documentary “Blackfish” has sparked considerable outrage amongst its viewers. The film captures the history of killer whales in captivity with its spotlight on Tilikum, an orca who was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983 and transported to SeaWorld. “Blackfish” also portrays the tragic 2010 incident of veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau who ultimately lost her life after being dragged underwater by Tilikum, the events of which were witnessed by a live audience.
In response to the trainer’s untimely death, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration imposed a $12,000 penalty (reduced from an original $75,000 fine) on SeaWorld. The pending litigation involves the general duty clause of the OSHA which requires employers to provide “a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” The issue is whether SeaWorld has in fact violated this duty. SeaWorld filed an appeal contending that it should not be required to eliminate all risk associated with an activity that is essential to the company’s work. Labor officials have responded with safety requirements in which SeaWorld trainers would be ordered to work behind barriers or maintain safe distances between themselves and the whales, which according to SeaWorld, would undermine their shows. Continue reading →
According to UNEP, environmental crime is associated with international criminal syndicates. UNEP and Interpol are working together to provide a global system of communication for information sharing to prevent environmental crimes.
“People from around the world are outraged that organized criminal networks are robbing the world of our elephants, rhinos, tigers and other wildlife, purely for the profit of a very few outlaws,” said Azzedine Downes, president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), who presented at the conference. He called for countries to commit to developing security task forces to battle environmental crime and highlighted the importance of cross-boundary cooperation. Continue reading →
Animal Welfare Trust is currently seeking applicants for our 2014 Student Grant Program. The grant provides up to $5000 per recipient for graduate students to work on an independent research project under faculty supervision or for an unpaid position within an established organization. Internships can be for a summer, semester, or year-long duration. Applications are due on March 1, 2014. Animal Welfare Trust believes that we can make a meaningful contribution to animal welfare by encouraging students to work on projects that facilitate positive reform for animals. Details about the grant program, the application process, and information on past recipients can be found on our website. Continue reading →
On October 11, California became the first state to ban lead in hunting ammunition. “Lead poses a danger to wildlife,” said California Governor Jerry Brown in a signing message. “This danger has been known for a long time.” The ban will help to protect a number of mammal and bird species, including the endangered California Condor.
The California Condor nearly went extinct in the 1980s – by 1982, their population had dwindled to twenty-two. Thanks to a successful captive breeding program, that number has increased to 424, but lead from ammunition remains a major threat to their recovery. Continue reading →
Connecticut 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 →
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi has proposed a bill to move animal abuse crimes from the Agriculture Markets Law into the 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 →
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?
Breed Specific Legislation, or BSL as it is more commonly known, is a way for cities and towns to place either restrictions or full bans on a certain breed of dog. Most commonly these bans are of so called dangerous breeds or even “bully breeds.” Typically the restrictions include the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds just to name a few. Additionally, there are many mixed breeds that end up being encompassed within these bans, even if the genetic make up of the dog is unknown. The dog just needs to looks like a restricted breed. In enacting these restrictions, the temperament of individual dogs is not considered, only what breed the dog appears to be.
BSL has been around for many years, but there has been more publicity surrounding it in recent years. Many times in enacting BSL, the thought behind the laws was to reduce the number of dog attacks. However, there are many studies that show that placing bans on these breeds does not reduce the number of dog attacks. Any breed of dog can attack, not just the so called dangerous breeds. Additionally, the American Veterinary Medical Association has shown that no breed of dog is anymore dangerous than any other breed. Even recently, President Obama came out against BSL, stating “Breed Specific Legislation is a bad idea.” Continue reading →
DePaul University College of Law is an accredited Illinois MCLE provider. This event has been approved for up to 7 hours of CLE credit.
Over the past several years, the legal, moral and ethical issues surrounding animals in contemporary food production and distribution have received significant attention because of books such as “Fast Food Nation” and “Eating Animals,” documentaries such as “Food, Inc.” and “Forks Over Knives,” and the release of undercover footage depicting modern slaughterhouse conditions. At the same time, consumer interest about where food comes from and the value of organic eating and non-meat diets is at an all-time high.
Please join us for a day of education, analysis and discussion about the legal protection of animals as food. Gary Francione, one of the most well-known figures in the modern animal rights movement, will appear as our Luncheon Speaker. Panels include The Raising and Slaughtering of Farm Animals, Ag-Gag Laws, Undercover Investigations and Exposing Animal Cruelty, Food Labeling: What Labels Actually Mean for Consumers and Animals, and Prohibition vs. Regulation: Are Incremental Steps Enough? A free vegan lunch will be served during Professor Francione’s speech and a reception will follow the event.
The Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) has an exciting animal law curriculum, which includes a masters degree in Animal Law & Society, the only one of its kind in the world. On October 17th, the university will host a roundtable where the first alumni of the masters program will reunite to discuss their experiences and the world of animal law in Spain, Argentina, and Romania. Should be a fascinating discussion.
See more about tomorrow’s program here. Read more about the UAB Master’s Program here. And if you’re lucky enough to be in Barcelona, go check it out.
In New York State, both the Criminal Procedure Law and Family law include provisions for including “companion animals” in an order of protection (See NY CPL Law 530.13 and NY FCT Law 842). The laws allow a judge to include language in the order that the defendant (or respondent) must “refrain from intentionally injuring or killing, without justification, any companion animal the respondent knows to be owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by the petitioner or a minor child residing in the household.” I don’t know if this provision is regularly utilized or only included when it is likely that the protected party’s pet will become a target of the person against whom the order is issued (there is no such restriction in the statutes). However, about two years ago, I saw a judge include such a provision in a criminal order of protection.
The situation involved a veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse issues relating to an injury sustained while Continue reading →
On May 14, 3013, the New Jersey Assembly passed NJ A.3250 / S.1921, a Bill to Ban Cruel Confinement of Breeding Pigs by a vote of 60 to 5 in the Assembly and 29 to 4 in the Senate. The legislation prohibits the extreme confinement of breeding pigs in crates that do not allow the animals to turn around. If the legislation had been signed by Governor Chris Christie, it would have made New Jersey the tenth state to outlaw these types of gestation crates. A.3250 / S.1921 would require that breeding pigs be able to at least stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs. Continue reading →
Once again, the Shameless Self-Promotion Desk whirs into action. This new piece, forthcoming in the South Texas Law Review, is a transcription of a lecture I gave there last spring. Here is the abstract:
What are the ethics behind factory farming? What are the ethical implications? This essay (transcribed from a lecture given at the South Texas College of Law) focuses on the environmental implications while defining those environmental implications through the lens of animal law and ethics.
Farms have become factories, and the animals raised in those factories are simply commodities. That is why we cannot have a discussion about Continue reading →
That was my only thought when I realized that this little guy was found in the scorching sun, with a chain around his neck, during a police raid last month, due to an investigation about dog fighting, according to CNN. But when organized crime and money are involved, there is little room for compassion, so, I shouldn’t be surprised. What should have surprised me is the fact that dogfighting can bring as much as $200,000 to criminals. I also should have been surprised by the fact that there are a lot of costumers for that “product”, similarly to drugs and other illegal goods. Continue reading →
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 chute 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.”
The Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Uncasville, CT is required by directive to provide ”all nutritional requirements as determined by a Department of Correction licensed dietitian, without the presence of food items forbidden by religious dogma” to all its inmates. Howard Cosby is a practicing non-violent Buddhist, and while not all branches of Buddhisim require a vegetarian lifestyle, Mr. Crosby identifies as a person who wishes to not cause harm to other living animals. Mr. Crosby, however, has regularly been served fish while incarcerated, because the department of corrections does not consider fish to be meat. Now to be fair, this position isn’t wholly out of line with the arbitrary classifications animals receive by the government. It is not, however, an encouraging example of semantics. If the Connecticut Department of Corrections has the authority to declare what is and is not meat, what is stopping it from saying cow or chicken is not meat? If the only criteria is its own opinion, the answer is, not much. One may think that common sense would intervene, but common sense hasn’t prevented the staff at Corrigan-Radgowski from confusing convenient Catholic loopholes with an entirely different doctrine. Now I know that once you are in prison you cease to be a person that the country cares about, your rights don’t apply, and as long as you stay out of sight it doesn’t matter how long your sentence is. But let’s at least learn what a vegetable is.
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.
Below follows a fellowship opportunity from an outstanding organization that is looking to fund young animal lawyers. If you fit the profile, I urge you to apply without delay.
From the email:
The Equal Justice Works Fellowships Program provides financial and other forms of support to lawyers working on innovative legal projects throughout the U.S. The two-year Fellowships offer salary (up to $41,000 annually) and generous loan repayment assistance; a national training and leadership development program; and other forms of support during the term of the Fellowship.
Equal Justice Works recruits “sponsors,” including law firms, corporations, bar associations, foundations and individuals, to fund our fellowships. This year, we have sponsor interest in funding a fellow working in the area of animal law. You have been identified to us as an expert in this area who might help spread the word to potential fellowship candidates. The sponsor is looking for applicants anywhere in the US working on animal law projects.
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.
The 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 →
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.
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.
Near the end of 2012, Popular Science published an article predicting the top 15 science and technology news stories of this year, with many interesting items such as: “Black Hole Chows Down,” “Supercomputer Crunches Climate,” and “New Comet Blazes by Earth.” One prediction in particular, however, may come as a surprise to readers, and will undoubtedly be welcome news and an inspiration to animal advocates everywhere. I am referring to the seventh “news byte” on the list, which reads:
Animals Sue For Rights
Certain animals—such as dolphins, chimpanzees, elephants, and parrots—show capabilities thought uniquely human, including language-like communication, complex problem solving, and seeming self-awareness. By the end of 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project plans to file suits on the behalf of select animals to procure freedoms (like protection from captivity) previously granted only to humans. Read More
Sincere thanks to Jeff and Joe for their biting critique of the idea of a primary human right that guarantees humans access to wilderness and complete biodiversity. This response, which is geared for the audience of the blog generally, will divide their critique into eight points and respond to each (taking their points a bit out of order), before drawing back to the theme of this blog in order to explain why the right not only survives their appraisal, but can simultaneously satisfy environmental, human, and animal interests.
1. Primary in what sense, and based on what evidence?
Jeff raises a challenge to the idea of a primary right by arguing that the term implies universal acceptance. Because, Jeff argues, many people will reject the value of being alone in the wilderness the right cannot be universal and therefore fails. First, it’s not clear to me that the Tembé would not recognize something like a right to wilderness or the nonhuman, given their historic struggle to preserve the rainforest around them. Second, as Joe notes, whether the Tembé actually recognize the right and underlying value or not does not defeat the right, any more than Hutu leaders’ failure to recognize the universal right of all peoples to be free from genocide, and the GOP’s recent refusal to recognize universal rights for the disabled that trump parental authority, prove that those rights are wrong. As discussed below, this is in part because claiming a right is like saying “you ought to do this,” which cannot be proven wrong with the response “we don’t/won’t do that” (this is simply the difference between an “ought” and an “is”). The responding party might not do the thing or want to do the thing, but perhaps they still ought to. The universality of particular rights derives not from universal acceptance, but from logical arguments that deduce the particular rights from things all humans – because of certain social and biological shared characteristics – will value, whether they admit it or not, see e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
In his post on the Primary Right, Carter Dillard equates the right to be let alone with the right to be alone, as in, utterly and completely alone. Up Carter’s sleeve hides an unspoken premise resembling something like this: the influence of other human beings, however minor, spoils my inalienable right to be ruggedly individual.
I characterize his conception of freedom as rugged individualism because the right to be alone feels unmistakably American. Thoreau is lurking there, skipping stones with Herbert Hoover and Paul Ryan. To call the right “primary” suggests it’s universal. But if a Tembu South African or a Tembé Brazilian failed to recognize herself in this concept, the right to be alone is neither universal nor primary.
The right to be alone is distinctly American for another reason: Carter extracts it from a dissenting opinion Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1928. This is the same Louis Brandeis who, while yet an attorney in 1890, sowed within American jurisprudence an entirely novel right when he published, with Samuel Warren, “The Right to Privacy” in the Harvard Law Review.
There’s a story about a Canadian farmer who won a $100 million tax-free, lump sum payment in the Canadian lottery. When asked what he would do with the money, he replied “I guess I’ll just keep farming until the money’s gone.”
Now, let’s talk about animal law.
Asian elephants are endangered. Elephants in circuses are brutally mistreated. In 2000, a lawsuit was brought under the Endangered Species Act, claiming that the elephants’ treatment by Feld Entertainment (parent of Ringling Brothers) violated the “No Take” provision of the ESA and should be enjoined. In late 2009, following a lengthy litigation, a judge threw out the case after deciding that the former circus worker who was the lead plaintiff lacked credibility, was paid for his testimony, and that there was therefore no standing for the plaintiffs to sue. The decision was a travesty on many levels (some of which I’ve blogged about elsewhere). Perhaps most disturbing was the fact that the treatment of the elephants became wholly ancillary to a ridiculous debate about people. Continue reading →
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)
Agricultural 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 →
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 →
When one considers the idea of ‘veganism,’ the notion that it is a religion—one relevantly similar to traditional religions—may strike some not only as obviously false but also absurd. Isn’t veganism (obviously) a diet at the very least or a philosophy at best? What does it offer on the ‘big questions’ usually associated with religion, such as those pertaining to the origin of the universe, the after-life, supernatural beings, and the human soul? Most people I’m sure, including vegans, do not consider veganism to be a religion as such, even though it may be required or encouraged by certain religions.
However, as illustrated in a recent lawsuit in Ohio, it turns out that veganism could qualify as a religion under federal anti-discrimination law. Professor Sherry F. Colb explained the ongoing case in her recent piece. Sakile Chenzira, a former customer service representative at a hospital, refused a mandatory flu shot (produced in chicken eggs) because it conflicted with her convictions as an ethical vegan, which resulted in the termination of her employment. She then sued the hospital alleging that the firing constituted religious discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer…to discharge any individual…because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”). In a ruling denying the hospital’s motion to dismiss, the federal district court judge held that Chenzira’s claim may actually have merit. Read More
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.
One (unfortunate) reality of blogging, especially for a slow writer like myself, is that it’s impossible to write about everything one reads, and yet there is so much important information and valuable perspectives to share. So from time to time (perhaps weekly), in lieu of my regular manner of blogging, I’ll simply offer quick links of articles, podcasts, videos, etc., that I’ve found worth examining—and hope others will too. Enjoy! Read More
Kevin 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 →