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.
The 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 →
Pardon the partial self-interest, but the below-mentioned conference (at which I will be speaking) has all the makings of a faboo event. I spoke at the First Global Animal Law Conference back in 2002 (I believe) and it was great. The field has grown enormously in the intervening decade and this conference reflects that growth.
The 2nd Global Animal Law Conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain on July 10-11, 2014. Our goal is to bring together some the best legal minds from around the world to discuss the many and varied animal law issues and challenges that so many of us face.
Over the two-day Conference we expect to have more than 25 speakers from over 15 countries, most of whom are internationally known law professors who have taught and written on animal issues. The Conference is limited to 180 attendees, and will be conducted entirely in in English.
The history of the 1st Global Conference, ten years ago, suggests that this will be an important event for all attendees who seek to expand their own network of personal connections, develop global strategies to improve animal welfare and increase their understanding of our diverse cultures and legal systems around the world.Continue reading →
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 →
Although the Farm Bill is a comprehensive and nuanced piece of legislature that keeps food on our tables, perhaps the most notable part about this year’s version is something that is not in it: the “King Amendment”, a criticized hypocritical measure, did not make the final cut, due in part to a large outcry against stripping states of their ability to regulate their own agriculture. As The Huffington Post reports, industrial agriculture was checked on several other fronts as well, including measures that would have loosened corporations’ requirements for labeling animal products. It is also now a federal crime to attend or take a child under the age of sixteen to an animal fighting event. There are other very important aspects of the law, such as the reduction of Food Stamps and a drastic curtailing of farm subsidies. Still, when looking at what was at risk directly affecting animals, this one counts as a win.
Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”
Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.
When we talk about animals and the law, we often focus on how those laws affect and (fail to) protect animals, how penalties for harming animals are developing, and also how animals are used to enforce the law. What about animals who are used to help rehabilitate people on the other side of the law? Dogs, our faithful best friends from the animal world, are the poster animals for rehab. Some of the most recognized examples are seeing-eye dogs, and with hundreds of soldiers returning with a plethora of physical and mental damage, service dogs for veterans continue to be in demand. But while America gladly clads itself in the garb of war heroes and the auspices of social care (insert partisan comment here), it is also houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated humans. What about those forgotten 2,266,800?
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 →
Heading to Romania as a Peace Corps volunteer I read about and was warned several times about the packs of stray street dogs, known in Romania as câine vagabond. At least one Peace Corps volunteer was bitten each year and had to make several trips to Bucharest from their home site to receive rabies vaccinations. The dogs are a remnant of the Communist regime when residents were moved into large apartment buildings, known as blocs. Animal activist, Livia Compoeru, explained that “[w]hen the great demolitions came, many houses were knocked down and owners moved to apartments and could not take dogs with them.”
In September of this year, a four year old boy was mauled by stray dogs while playing with his brother in a park in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Bucharest has a population of approximately 2 million people and 60,000 stray dogs. One hospital in Bucharest has treated 9,760 people for dog bites during the first eight months of 2013. This was not the first death caused by stray dogs. In the past few years, another Bucharest woman was killed by a pack and a Japanese tourist died after a stray severed an artery in his leg. After the mauling of the young child, animals have been hacked, kicked, and torched to death in revenge. The picture below shows a street dog whose jaw was hacked off. Continue reading →
The Christmas trees are surfacing and the very last Halloween candy rejects are being picked over or tossed, so, I’ve begun to think about the “trick” that lasts well into the holiday season, you know, that one that is certainly no “treat”: animal products masquerading as harmless sweet confections. So many holiday foods are non-obvious sources of animal products—ones that are derived from processes and conditions that are just as harmful to the animals as meat-eating itself. Conscious vegetarians stay away from the obvious animal foods, but: gummy bears? Jell-o molds? Marshmallow topped sweet potatoes? What do they all have in common? Gelatin. Continue reading →
Generally, people are using resources more rapidly than they can be regenerated. According to the Animal Welfare Institute the affects of overconsumption of resources by humans is currently having adverse effects across the world. Aside from the obvious consequences overpopulation creates for humans, there is a very real and dangerous affect for animals.
What is the affect of overpopulation on animals?
There is no simple answer to this question. The demand created by humans exceeds the available resources, causing these resources to be depleted at a rate that rejuvenation cannot keep up with. An example of this can be seen through the increased demand for food due to overpopulation. For many people, this involves the consumption of meats. This causes an increase in food production, such as grains, that is then used to feed livestock, that is then consumed by humans. In order to meet the demand for these grains and livestock, more land is taken away from wildlife. Therefore, not only are more animals being consumed due to the population growth, more of their habitat is also taken away. Continue reading →
A recent edition of the ScienceTimes, a section of the NY Times includes several noteworthy animal articles. Elephants Get the Point of Pointing, by Carl Zimmer writes about a new research lead by Dr. Byrne’s suggesting elephants understand human pointing, a rare gift in the animal kingdom. Dr. Byrne’s states, “Even our closest relatives, like chimpanzees, don’t seem to get the point of pointing.” Researchers have done tests, such as putting food in one of two identical containers and then silently point at the one with food. Primates and most other animals studied fail the test, some have done well, such as domesticated mammals, especially dogs. These results have prompted researchers to speculate that during domestication animals evolve to become keenly aware of humans. Dr. Byrne’s began to wonder if elephants would pass the pointing test, so last year one of his students went to Zimbabwe, and for 2 months tested 11 elephants. The study found that 67.5% of the time elephants could follow the pointing. Dr. Byrne’s would also like to study the pointing test on whales and dolphins but thinks “they make elephants look easy to work with.”
ives to promote elephant conservation through scientific research and educational programming announced a study on April 17, 2013 co-authored by 12-14 year old students from East Side Middle School in NYC, revealing elephants were not able to recognize visual cues provided by humans, although they were more responsive to voice commends. The study is a three-year endeavor to create a comprehensive middle school curriculum that brings elephant into classrooms as a way to educate young people about conservation by getting them directly involved in work with endangered species. This research tested elephant pointing to find food hidden in one of two buckets, and the elephants failed this Continue reading →
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.
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 →
Award-winning NPR series Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US)— the Oxford style series championing the art of debate and intelligent discussion—will close it’s sold out fall season on December 4th asking the question, should we eat meat?
According to a 2009 poll, around 1% of American adults reported eating no animal products. In 2011 that number rose to 2.5%–more than double, but still dwarfed by the 48% who reported eating meat, fish or poultry at all of their meals. In this country, most of us are blessed with an abundance of food and food choices. So taking into account our health, the environment and ethical concerns, which diet is best? Are vegans on the right track, or are we meant to be carnivores?
Clinical researcher and author of 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart, Dr. Neal Barnard and President and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary Gene Baur will argue for the motion, “Don’t Eat Anything with a Face.” Chris Masterjohn, Nutritional Sciences Researcher and blogger for The Daily Lipid will argue against the motion with farmer and author Joel Salatin.
WHAT: Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates “Don’t Eat Anything with a Face.” WHEN: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 / Reception 5:45-6:30 / Debate 6:45-8:30 PM WHERE: Kaufman Center/129 W. 67th Street (bet. Broadway and Amsterdam)/New York, NY 10023 TICKETS:, visit http://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/
The debate will take place in front of a live audience at Kaufman Center in New York City. Before the debate, audience members will vote on the motion; afterward, the audience votes again. The team that moves the most voters to its side will be the winning team in this provocative debate. 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.
Recently, Chipotle released an animated short film designed to draw attention to the perils of processed food, while, of course, trying to get people to play the company’s new online game. Chipotle, which was primarily owned by McDonalds until 2006, is known in the industry for its efforts to use organic ingredients and naturally raised animals in its menu. The short film is certainly touching- there are images of adorable animated cows packed in tight crates and chickens being pumped with what are presumably hormones. The main character, the Scarecrow, is working in a food processing factory as a repair man and gets a first hand look at these horrifying practices. The Scarecrow returns home to his charming cottage to find that a pepper (could it be a chipotle pepper?) has grown in his garden. He works hard in this newly
blossoming garden until he has enough food to open a stand in the city where he once worked. But there’s something missing from the Scarecrow’s new restaurant- meat. Continue reading →
“Dogs Are People, Too”. So ran the headline of a New York Timesop-ed over the weekend. The piece, written by Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Burns, argued that because dogs experience some of the same emotions we do (as evinced by some preliminary MRI studies Burns and a friend carried out on canine brain activity), they should be granted rights and “a sort of limited personhood”. The National Review shot back with its own editorial, arguing that personhood for dogs is a threat to human exceptionalism and that it would effectively turn pets into slaves.
What exactly is pet personhood, and how could it impact the relationship between you and your cat or dog? I cover this topic in my new book, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs, to be published this spring by PublicAffairs. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know.
The Mekong River is the 12th largest river is the world and runs through China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. This river, as many others in the world, is as important for those countries as it is for the animal life depending on it.
Here we have a good example of that.
According to The Economist, the construction of the first dam in lower Mekong is “in full swing” in Laos. The objective of this huge construction is to provide 1,300 megawatts to Thailand, which will cost $ 3.5 billion. 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.”
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.
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
Though the title of this post is a bit hyperbolic in invoking the classic stereotype about English food, a new study posted in BMC Medicine confirms that processed meat, such as that found in the classic English Breakfast pictured to the right, increases the risk of premature death. The study evaluated “448,568 men and women without prevalent cancer, stroke, or myocardial infarction, and with complete information on diet, smoking, physical activity and body mass index, who were between 35 and 69 years old.” You can read the abstract here. One of the takeaways is that “if everyone in the study consumed no more than 20g of processed meat a day then 3% of the premature deaths could have been prevented.”
As reported by Mother Jones, there is a lovely outcome to the government’s sequestering: “The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s budget would be slashed by $51 million. This would result in a furlough of as much as 15 days for all employees, including 8,400 meat inspectors, as well as a loss of 2 billion pounds of meat, between 2.8 and 3.3 billion pounds of poultry, and over 200 million pounds of egg products. Meat shortages may also lead to price increases, leading to a domino effect on restaurants, grocers, and small businesses. There are also concerns that food safety ‘could be compromised by the illegal selling and distribution of uninspected meat, poultry, and egg products.’”
Or, as author Lemony Snicket might phrase it, “The news reported that there was going to be a loss, a word that here means ’13 million cows and over a billion chickens were killed for no use at all, because a bunch of people were busy fighting over other things, like how much money they could spend on themselves.’”
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 →
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 complaint 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 →
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.
You may have your own opinions about the World Trade Organization (WTO), whether positive or negative. Regardless, the WTO wields influence over imports and exports worldwide. As we have discussed at length on this blawg, animals are commodities, and thus the policies of the WTO are important when considering animal rights.
Over the last several months the WTO has taken issue with dolphin-safe tuna. To summarize what is a long and involved debate, since 1990 the United States has provided labels specifying whether dolphins were killed (though “harmed” isn’t covered) through the harvesting of tuna to be sold in the U.S. market under the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (originally the labels really meant that purse seine nets, the type that often harm dolphins, weren’t used). Mexico, via a complaint to the WTO, claimed that these dolphin safety measures unfairly impeded Mexico’s tuna trade. The WTO agreed, and ruled that the dolphin-safe labels are “unnecessarily restrictive on trade.” This ruling comes out of one of the core principles of the WTO’s policy of non-discrimination. Under the doctrine of “the most favoured nation” all WTO countries must extend to each other the same trade advantages as the most prefered trading nation would receive. National equality also states that foreign traders must be treated the same way as domestic traders. When you consider the long history of violence and discrimination associated with international trade, including the United States’s own origins, this is sound policy. Yet as always, the devil is in the application.
Denying rights to animals has long been rationalized by the presupposition that animals lack consciousness, awareness, feelings, and last but not least, a soul. While scientific studies provide a plethora of data supporting the argument that animals are aware and do feel, science admittedly falls short of being able to prove or disprove the existence of any living being’s “soul,” regardless of religious groups’ varying definition of the term. Furthermore, one of the fundamental limitations of the United States government is the separation of church and state. For decades, however, the U.S. government has, through the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), promulgated a definition of the word “soul” that does not include animals. When declaring an emergency, the pilot in command is asked by the controller for the amount of fuel and number of “souls” on board the aircraft. The FAA, in an Advisory Circular in 2008, defined “souls on board” as the “total number of passengers and crew” to the exclusion of animals because they are “cargo.” Continue reading →
Compassion Over Killing (COK) is seeking Litigation Interns for Summer, 2013 (unpaid). Compassion Over Killing is a national nonprofit (501(c)(3)) animal advocacy organization. Working to end animal abuse since 1995, COK focuses on ending and preventing cruelty to animals in agriculture. The 2013 Summer Litigation Interns will work with COK’s Legal Advocacy Program in our West Coast office in Torrance, California.
The Summer Litigation Interns will work on litigation projects aimed at protecting farmed animals; most of these projects are plaintiffs’ litigation. These projects will likely employ a variety of legal theories, relating to areas such as state criminal cruelty laws, false advertising and unfair competition laws, tort liability, environmental protection laws, administrative law, tax, and corporate law. The interns will have opportunities to research new projects as well as assist heavily with ongoing projects. They will work closely with Compassion Over Killing’s general counsel. Continue reading →
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 →