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

New York City Bar Association Presents “Animal Sacrifice, Religion and Law – Practice of Using Chickens as Kaporos”

David Cassuto

From the email — looks like an interesting program:

What:             The New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Animal Law is presenting a free seminar called “Animal Sacrifice, Religion and Law – Practice of Using Chickens as Kaporos,” June 12, 2014.   

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos has been working for a number of years to end Kaporos throughout the country.  In NYC, thousands of chickens are sacrificed by some observers of the Orthodox Jewish faith in a ritual called Kaporos. Experts on constitutional law, theology and animal rights will discuss the reasons for the ritual, the Jewish principle of preventing tza’ar ba’alei chayim (unnecessary suffering of animals), Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah and local health laws. 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

The “Necessity” of Cosmetic Animal Testing

Andrea Rodricks

            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. rabbits-cosmetic-test

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

Uncertain Future for SeaWorld

Nicole Geraci

SeaWorld Killer Whale Show One WorldWhile 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

The March for Elephants

Gina LeDonne

Recently, I was in New York City for a concert. I was sitting in Times Square with a friend and a cup of Tasti D’Lite—we were trying to kill time before the show. Suddenly, I heard the trumpeting of elephants and up on the jumbo-tron was a dynamic ad for the “March for Elephants”. http://www.marchforelephants.org

The March for Elephants is a charity walk  to promote keeping elephants from extinction. I was so excited to see an issue relating to animal rights highlighted in such a huge way.

ledonne animalblawg1

I didn’t know very much about the treatment of these majestic animals before the topic of Circus Animals came up in my Animal Law class, nor did I realize just what kind of danger they are in.  In class, we discussed how social elephants are, and how, like people, elephants need their mothers well into their young lives. Very sadly, elephants are being hunted for their valuable ivory tusks; because of this, babies are separated from their mothers, and, all are in danger. 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?

DePaul Animal Law Conference

David Cassuto

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

8:30 am – 5:00 pm

DePaul Center, Room 8005

1 E Jackson Blvd

Chicago, IL 60604

Seating is limited. Please REGISTER now.

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.

To register, please visit law.depaul.edu/cal2013event

For questions or to register by phone, please contact Brett Harrison Davinger at (312) 362-8065 or bdavinge@depaul.edu.

25 East Jackson Boulevard | Chicago | Illinois | 60604 | 312.362.8701

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.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

ALDF Files Suit Challenging Ag-Gag

David Cassuto

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) & PETA have filed suit challenging Utah’s draconian Ag-Gag law.  Read Stephen Well’s excellent blog post about it here.chicken

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.

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

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

Why horse meat tacos are the least of our worries

Seth Victor

Taco Bell moved to pull beef off its UK menus this past Friday because of traces of horse meat found in the product. A spokesperson for the company commented: “We apologize to our customers and take this matter very seriously as food quality is our highest priority.” The problem with this statement is that it calls into question just what Taco Bell considers to be “food quality.” Obviously phenylbutazone isn’t something Taco Bell wants in its products. This is a company that is trying to brand itself as something more than fast food, from the “Think Outside the Box” campaign, to the recent artesian kitchen look with chef Lorena Garcia and her supposed quest for the “highest quality ingredients.” Not convinced? You can go to the Taco Bell website and learn more (or in keeping with the company slogan, Learn Más!). Here, at last, you can rest easy knowing that Taco Bell uses 88% premium ground beef, and 12% signature recipe. What? 12% of its product is. . . a recipe? The assurance I should get by hearing this supposed break down of ingredients is undermined when I haven’t a clue what that means. The ad tells me to go to the website learn what the recipe is, but it’s buried. Hunt it down though, and it comes out to water and a bunch of seasoning. So no worries there, I guess. How about this premium beef? Continue reading

Legal Issues with California’s Foie Gras Ban

Seth Victor

Late last month PETA filed a suit against Hot’s Restaurant Group in Los Angeles County, CA, alleging that the defendant violated the California state law that went into effect earlier this year prohibiting the sale of foie gras. The essence of the hots-kitchencomplaint is that Hot’s Kitchen, the specific restaurant in question, has skirted the law by selling a hamburger for an increased price and including with the hamburger a “complimentary side of foie gras.” Being that foie gras is sold legally at gourmet restaurants around the country for a pretty penny, on its face Hot’s seems to be blatantly rebelling against California’s ban, taking a position common among many restaurant owners. Taking the ethical debate over foie gras (ahem) off the table for a moment, is what Hot’s Kitchen doing illegal? Continue reading

Michigan dog fighting penalty increases

Seth Victor

As reported by the Detroit News, the Michigan legislature recently voted to increase the penalty for dog fighting. By finding dog fighting to be an organized criminal enterprise, the legislature has made it possible for dog fighting violators to be charged with racketeering, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, the property (real and personal) in question could also be confiscated as a nuisance if the House approves the bill. The racketeering classification amendment to the law is expected to be signed by Gov. Snyder soon. As the bill analysis reads:

Under the code, racketeering is defined as committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or aiding or abetting, soliciting, coercing, or intimidating a person to commit an offense for financial gain that includes any of the listed criminal acts. The bill would amend this list to include a violation of Section 49, concerning animal fighting.

 The bill proposal puts it bluntly; “Simply put, animal fighting is animal abuse on steroids.” By moving this crime into the same category as other criminal enterprises, Michigan is recognizing the vast infrastructure behind animal fighting rings. The amendment to the law will also allow prosecutors to go after repeat offenders in a more meaningful manner, rather than having to separately prosecute individual cases that carry less significant penalties. There is a concern that property seizure based simply on an allegation of such abuse might be extreme, and that is an aspect that certainlyshould  be  carefully considered in each case. Overall, this bill marks a considerable step towards greater penalties for animal abuse, and one that isn’t as particularly tailored as last year’s Schultz’s Law.

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

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.

Sea Mammals Weep While They Seem to Smile

Dong Luo

Dozens of protesters crashed through the gates of an Ontario theme park on Oct 7th railing against its treatment of marine life and managed to shut down a dolphin show at Marineland in Niagara Falls. Dylan Powell of the group Marineland Animal DefenSe, which organized the protest, says that the group is dedicated to ending animal captivity and is determined to shut down Marineland for good (Marineland closed for the season that weekend). Continue reading

Shark Week

Allen Shiu

 In August, Discovery Channel ran its 25th Shark Week Special. This week-long television tribute to sharks has generated quite a cult following in recent years. Originally intended to raise awareness for sharks, it has now evolved into a video montage of Jaws’ Greatest Hits. While the hazards of tangling with “Bruce” certainly shouldn’t be trivialized, who is really doing the killing?

It’s estimated that as many as 73 million sharks are killed annually by long line fishermen for a bowl of soup. Long considered a delicacy in Chinese cooking, shark fin soup was once a dish reserved only for royalty. The soup itself tastes of nothing. Almost like plain rice noodles and while the broth is certainly good, the fin itself adds nothing. This symbol of status can now be bought for upwards of $400 in upscale restaurants making it one of the most expensive soups in the world. This strive for status has contributed to the decimation of 95 percent of the species since the 1970s. Unfortunately, the number of sharks being killed for what amounts to 3 percent of its body is not what is most appalling.  In probably one of the most barbaric and wasteful acts committed by human beings, hooked sharks have their fins sliced off, while they’re still alive. The actual meat of the shark however has little or no value to fisherman. What’s left of the shark, still wriggling in agony, is generally dumped back into the water where the shark will eventually drown. Continue reading

Michael Vick, Five Years Later

Stephen O’Donohue

On August 24, 2007 Michael Vick plead guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371.  U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson sentenced Vick to twenty-three months in prison.  Vick admitted to  organizing and running a dog fighting enterprise known as “Bad Newz Kennels,” where he oversaw not only the dog fights themselves (which often led to the death or maiming of at least one dog) but also admitted to directly participating in the killing of many dogs by hanging or drowning.  Vick served his sentence, and upon release performed a token amount of public service work and promptly returned to the NFL as a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he is still so employed.

The initial widespread condemnation of Vick’s conduct was, I believe and hope, a reflection of our society’s heightened value for the well being of animals.  Sponsors dropped Vick immediately, as did his former team, the Atlanta Falcons.  There was no place for him in our accepted culture.  Currently in 2012, however, Vick is still controversial but not   Continue reading

Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse

Seth Victor

This week Brian Douglas was convicted of felony animal cruelty in Hoke County, North Carolina, and was sentenced to 30 days jail, and nearly four years probation. Mercy for Animals has hailed this conviction as “the first felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history.” Other related defendants’ cases are pending. Since the investigation into the abuse commenced last December, Butterball has maintained that as an organization it does not condone animal cruelty. Although my search for “animal rights” or “felony” did not turn up any results on Butterball’s website, the self-described largest turkey supplier in the United States does have a slide show demonstrating the love and affection each and every bird receives. I particularly enjoy the image of a mother and son handling a poult with the text, “Our turkeys need the proper care and attention from the start. This concept of well-being is essential in order for the birds to grow and thrive.” It’s true. I’m sure the turkeys do need that care. Whether they actually get it is the question. Butterball also states that “Regular veterinary exams monitor for diseases and help to ensure the health of flocks.” Again, true, but would these be the same veterinarians that tip-off Butterball prior to a police raid? Some people are skeptical. Continue reading

Animals Can Be Victims, Too

Seth Victor

Rather than regurgitate Scott Heiser’s words, I encourage you to read ALDF’s post about State v. Nix, in which the Oregon appellate court held that individual horses count as separate victims, reversing a trial court holding that multiple abused horses merged into a single count of animal abuse. As the post mentions, this is a very exciting case, and will be very useful persuasive law for cases across the country.

Hog Wild: Where Florida Hogs Can’t Catch a Break

Seth Victor

Population control is a powerful justification. If a species has outgrown its habitat, the population needs to be managed, lest the over-abundance of animals wreak havoc on the natural environment. And if that habitat wasn’t destroyed by the animals, but instead was converted into pools and condominiums, limiting the range of the animal, it seems that the solution remains the same.

I don’t intend to discuss the hypocrisy of population control as a whole just now. I bring it up, however, because the way in which it is done is of great concern. The problems with wolf hunts have been covered extensively in this blawg. Recently, their ranks of the persecuted have been joined by a perhaps unlikely bedfellow – hogs. Continue reading

Taking the Teeth out of Animal Fighting

Seth Victor

Oh, Magoo, you’ve done it again. And by Magoo, I of course mean New York, which as a state is doing a fine job staying on the forefront of advances in animal law. Recently the state assembly passed this nice new bit of legislation, which makes it a class B misdemeanor to possess, with the intent to use, animal fighting paraphernalia. That’s up to 90 days in jail upon conviction. Certain items such as breaking sticks and fighting pits are specified and defined, but there is also a catch-all provision for “any other instrument commonly used in the furtherance of pitting an animal against another animal.”

I like the idea of going after the materials used in animal fighting. It’s one of the more preventative measures I’ve seen. Prosecuting dog fights is all very important, but those animals are often far too damaged at that point. With this kind of approach, the fighting rings can be shut down before they happen. The mens rea will prevent wanton application of the law. Hopefully showing intent will not be too big of a hurdle for the courts. Then again, I’m not sure what else a “cat mill” could be used to do.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Seth Victor

The plight of the assailed pit bull has been mentioned a few times on this blawg. Even internationally, these dogs are targeted as problem animals who will sooner rip out your throat than look at you, which is of course blatantly untrue. There are circumstances in which pit bulls can be dangerous, but this is generally the work of the people raising these dogs than their inherent nature.

Last week in Ohio, someone finally got that memo, and a new measure will “[change] current law that defines a vicious dog as one that has seriously hurt or killed a person, killed another dog or is among those commonly known as pit bulls. The new measure removes the reference to pit bulls from the definition and requires evidence to prove pit bulls are actually vicious.”

Come again? Defining vicious dogs as ones that are actually vicious and not just including ones that are unfairly demonized? That’s as crazy as judging someone not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Running in Place

Seth Victor

The more things change, the more they stay the same, so the saying goes. I’m not one to abide by that logic, especially when thinking about animal law; if everything stayed the same, all of the tireless advocacy would be for naught. The progress might  trickle at times, but it does happen.

Yet today I read two articles that, juxtaposed, forced the maxim to mind. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has announced that her office supports adding animal cruelty and dog fighting under state penal law, as opposed to the current agriculture law that houses these offenses. Long Island has been pushing for stronger law enforcement for animal abuse in recent years. Suffolk County created the nation’s first animal law abuse registry  in 2010. Moving century old laws into criminal enforcement would certainly be another step in demonstrating the seriousness of these offenses. Continue reading

Is PETA v. SeaWorld a Bad Idea?

Spencer Lo

 There is no question that, in the ordinary sense of the word, a great many non-human animals are slaves, forced to exist in extremely deleterious conditions to fulfill the wishes of their human masters. Most are untroubled by this fact—slavery over animals has been widely accepted in society for a very long time. Last October, in an effort to reverse this norm, PETA made a radical (some say outrageous) move. They filed a lawsuit against SeaWorld on behalf of five orcas, creatures who have been forced to live in highly confined, unnatural environments, to their detriment, all for the purpose of performing cheap tricks. Their decades-long captivity, according to PETA, violates the constitutional prohibition against slavery (aka the Thirteenth Amendment).

While it may be common sense that the orcas are slaves, from a legal standpoint, PETA is asserting a very radical claim. Is it too radical? PETA is essentially contending that the oracas are full legal persons entitled to constitutional rights. For the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), an organization dedicated to changing the legal status of non-human animals from “things” to “persons,” the move is too soon; the lawsuit “is dangerously premature” and “will damage future animal rights law cases” if it is decided on the merits. NhRP has been allowed to appear as an amicus curiae in the case, and is seeking to have it decided on non-constitutional grounds, rather than on the merits of the Thirteenth Amendment claim. The question then is why: why is failure on the merits so bad or counterproductive from the viewpoint of animal rights advocacy? Although PETA is unlikely to prevail, how could it hurt to try?   Continue reading

The Troubling Path from Pig to Pork Chop

By ANDREW C. REVKIN (x-post from Dot Earth Blog)

In a Mother Jones post, Tom Philpott has aptly summarized the issues raised by a new Humane Society of the United States investigation and video report on the conditions in which pigs are propagated by two big Oklahoma pork suppliers:

The remarkable thing…is how banal it is. No illegal acts like “downer” animals being forced down the kill line with fork lifts, or getting their brains bashed in with a pickax. What we have here is the everyday reality of pigs’ lives on a factory farm, without regulations flouted or spectacular violence committed. It is abuse routinized and regimented, honed into a profitable business model. [Read the rest.]

The Humane Society findings focus on the practice of keeping pregnant sows for months in cages barely bigger than the animal. The group’s Web site notes that laws banning gestation crates have been passed in eight states – Ohio,ArizonaCaliforniaColoradoFloridaMaineMichigan, and Oregon – with bills pending in Delaware, Rhode IslandNew Hampshire, Connecticut,MassachusettsVermont, New Jersey and New York.

The group credits many retailers — including Burger KingWendy’s,Subway and Safeway – for moving away from producers that use gestation crates.

6:33 p.m. | Updated below | The Oklahoma Pork Council told the state’s KTOK radio station: Continue reading

Link Between Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse?

Ciara Smyth

On November 26th, 2011, Chicago police officers responded to a call and found little Christopher Valdez dead had been beaten to death in his home, as his family prepared to celebrate his fourth birthday.  The boy was found to have died from multiple blunt force trauma and his death was ruled a child abuse homicide Saturday.  Police were alerted to the house after he was discovered by his aunt and uncle, who had come to investigate after a neighbor told them that Christopher was sporting a black eye when he attended Thanksgiving at their home the previous day.  Police charged the mother’s live-in boyfriend, Cesar Ruiz, with first degree murder, concealment of a homicidal death, and for having a suspended driver’s license.   The mother of the toddler was originally charged with concealment of a homicidal death and with endangering the life of a child.  However, after it was revealed through police questioning that she observed Ruiz beating her son earlier in the week he was murdered, and had joined in by spanking the toddler herself, the charges against the mother were upgraded to include first-degree murder.  Steven Valdez, the boy’s great uncle, previously described Ruiz, as anti-social and violent.  He said that two weeks before the boy’s death, Ruiz beat a dog severely after it relieved itself in his home.

Family members want to know why Christopher was allowed to stay with his mother and Ruiz following her conviction in October for domestic battery after she admitted to punching Christopher in July “because she was angry” and to using make-up to cover his injuries.  She was sentenced to parenting classes, given a conditional discharge, and was not sentenced to jail. Following the incident, but prior to her conviction, the Department of Children and Family Services determined that that there was “no credible evidence” of abuse and allowed the boy to remain in the home. The toddler’s death this month has naturally raised a lot of discussion and commentators to ask questions on DCFS’s oversight in allowing the child to remain at home. Continue reading

New Rules for Feld Entertainment, Inc.—Pay and Comply

Spencer Lo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed a $270,000 civil penalty on Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (“Greatest Show on Earth”), for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act spanning a period of years, from June 2007 to August 2011. The civil penalty was made pursuant to a settlement agreement, the largest of its kind in U.S. history, in which Feld Entertainment agreed to “develop and implement annual AWA compliance training for all personnel who work with and handle animals (animal trainer, animal handler, animal attendant, and veterinarian technician).” After March 31, 2012, employees who work with and handle animals would be required to complete the training within 30 days of being hired, and by February 28, 2012, Feld must have established a staffed AWA compliance position. This development is welcome news following recent failures to hold Feld accountable for animal abuses, particularly against elephants. Just this past October, a lawsuit brought by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Protection Institute, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act, was dismissed in federal appellate court because they lacked standing. Continue reading

A New American Pastime: Hog Dog Fighting

Adrianne Doll

There is a new game in town joining the ranks of cock and dog fighting: hog-dog fighting.  Many southern states report high frequency of such fights, and even justify the cruelty as a solution to their “hog problem.”  The fighting is even being advertised as a new American pastime for the whole family to enjoy, through events, such as hog-dog rodeos, and television, like American Hoggers.  There are numerous website posts looking for places to hunt hogs and hog dogs for sale.

Dogs, often pit bulls, are taught to attack hogs on command.  The hogs usually had their tusks removed with bolt cutters and are unable to defend themselves from highly trained attack dogs.  The defenseless hogs are ripped apart and left to painfully bleed to death.  Often the owners enter their dogs in contests that reward the fastest attacking dog with trophies and cash prizes.      Continue reading

Israel Bans Declawing

Adonia David

 Israel has banned the practice of cat declawing, joining the ranks of a number of other counties that have found it inhumane enough to prohibit.  This week, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a law prohibiting declawing (with a few medical exceptions).  Violators can face up to a year in prison as well as a fine.  This is good news for Israeli cats.  Unfortunately for American cats, the situation is not quite as bright. In the United States, declawing cats is a common practice among pet-owners, with one poll showing 55% of cat owners approve of the practice.   Unfortunately many people do not understand that declawing a cat is not simply the same as clipping its claws.  Declawing is really amputation, and similar to actually removing the last segment of a human’s finger or toe.  While some pet owners insist that their cats act the same as they did before declawing and they do not know the difference, the hidden truth is that declawing affects the way a cat walks and balances.  The difference in the way thei r feet grip the ground can lead to back pain.  Other complications can include hemorrhages, regrowth of the claw inside the foot, lameness, and abscesses.  For more information on the physical aspects of declawing, see here.    Continue reading

Civil Penalties Assessed Against Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros.)

Sarah Markham

A strong message of against animal cruelty has been delivered to the public, especially those who exhibit animals for profit, with the assessment of civil penalties against the Ringling Brothers.   On November 28, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Field Entertainment, Inc., paid $270,000 in fines for violations of Animal Welfare Act pursuant to an agreement that have been reached with USDA.

The Animal Welfare Act requires that minimum standards of care be provided for animals exhibited to the public.  PETA repeatedly urged the USDA to take action against Ringling Brothers for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  In 2009, PETA led an undercover investigation to reveal “the saddest show on earth,” which included the exhibited animals being struck with bull hooks.  In August of this year, an elephant ‘stumbled’ according to Ringling Brothers, but an eyewitness believed the elephant collapsed when the handlers were moving her. Continue reading

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