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.

 

 

 

 

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

Voiceless Grants for 2014

David Cassuto

From the email:

Do you have a project that will help animals but need a hand to get started? Applications for the 2014 Voiceless Grants Program are now open.

Now in its eleventh year, the Grants Program has awarded a combined total of almost $1.4 million in funding to universities, local councils, and non-profit organisations for projects with a focus on improving the lives of animals in Australia. You can take a look at all of our past projects including major national campaigns, ground-breaking research reports and funding for animal sanctuaries.

Voiceless is once again looking for projects that challenge institutionalised cruelty to animals, with a view to making animal protection the next great social justice movement. Voiceless will consider applications for projects which fall into one of the following categories:

  • Factory farming;
  • The commercial kangaroo industry; or
  • Building animal protection as a social justice movement.

In addition, all projects must be relevant to animals in Australia and either change attitudes or build awareness about animal suffering, encourage the public to take action for animals in their personal lives, or work to modify or create new laws or policies to further animal protection in Australia.  

Not sure if your project fits the criteria? Please read the ‘Grant Applications that will not be considered’ section on our website, before preparing your submission.

Applications for the 2014 Voiceless Grants Program can be submitted on our website and are due by 5:00pm Tuesday 1 July.  

For more information about the application process, visit the Voiceless website or contact our Administrator and Web Officer, Zoe Robertson. 

Looking forward to receiving your application,

The Voiceless team

 

 

Can California regulate egg production under the Commerce Clause?

New standard for chickens

New standard for chickens

Seth Victor

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

Legislation Proposed in NYS to Ban Exotic Animals in Circuses

David Cassuto

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

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

 

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

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

Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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?

Order of Protection for Your Pet

Kendall Shea

 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

Organized Crime and Dogfighting

Rafael WolffFirst Post Animal Law Image

How can anyone hurt this little, cute puppy?

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

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

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

The Ag-Gag World — Where Victimizers are the Victims

David Cassuto

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

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

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

Scientists See Cruelty in Killing Method Used in Japan’s Dolphin Roundup

ANDREW C. REVKIN

A still image from video shot of the dolphin roundup and slaughter near Taiji, Japan, by the dolphin-protection group Atlanticblue.de.
(x-post from Dot Earth)

In a new peer-reviewed study, scientists assess the killing method employed by the dolphin hunters of Taiji, Japan, by watching video recorded surreptitiously in 2011 by a German dolphin-protection group, AtlanticBlue. The still image at right is from the video, which can be seen here (but be forewarned; this is not suitable for children — or many adults, for that matter).

Here’s the researchers’ not-so-surprising prime conclusion:

This killing method does not conform to the recognized requirement for “immediate insensibility” [some background is here] and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.

Of course given that these are wild, big-brained animals rounded up with methods made infamous in the crusading and Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” even if a slaughterhouse standard were met, the controversy would hardly fade. (Watch my 2010 interview with the film’s director, Louis Psihoyos.)

Here’s the abstract of the paper, followed by a brief interview with one author, Diana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist at Hunter College who was an adviser on the documentary and has made no secret of her campaign to end cruelty to this species:

A Veterinary and Behavioral Analysis of Dolphin Killing Methods Currently Used in the ‘Drive Hunt’ in Taiji, Japan

Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, Volume 16Issue 2, 2013 (DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2013.768925)

Andrew ButterworthPhilippa BrakesCourtney S. Vail & Diana Reiss

Annually in Japanese waters, small cetaceans are killed in “drive hunts” with quotas set by the government of Japan. The Taiji Fishing Cooperative in Japan has published the details of a new killing method that involves cutting (transecting) the spinal cord and purports to reduce time to death. The method involves the repeated insertion of a metal rod followed by the plugging of the wound to prevent blood loss into the water. To date, a paucity of data exists regarding these methods utilized in the drive hunts. Our veterinary and behavioral analysis of video documentation of this method indicates that it does not immediately lead to death and that the time to death data provided in the description of the method, based on termination of breathing and movement, is not supported by the available video data. The method employed causes damage to the vertebral blood vessels and the vascular rete from insertion of the rod that will lead to significant hemorrhage, but this alone would not produce a rapid death in a large mammal of this type. The method induces paraplegia (paralysis of the body) and death through trauma and gradual blood loss. This killing method does not conform to the recognized requirement for “immediate insensibility” and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.

Here are my questions and Reiss’s responses:

Q.

Can you tell me in a few words what this analysis means to you in the larger context of human/animal relations?

A.

. Dolphins are a cognitively and socially complex species that exist in their own societies in the seas. To see any animal treated in this way is shocking. Given what we know scientifically about the awareness, sensitively, cognitive and social prowess of dolphins, this treatment is unjustifiable and unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately. In the larger context of human and non-human animal relations, the methods used to herd dolphins and then kill them is off-the chart in terms of any concern for animal welfare. At a time when most countries are concerned for the conservation and welfare of dolphins and whales it is strange and disturbing to see a modern country like Japan continue to ignore scientific knowledge and concern for these species.

In most modern countries these mammals are protected but sadly we see these exceptions. Our scientific knowledge needs to transcend cultural and geographic boundaries and these species need global protection.

Q.

One of the standard replies from Japan on this issue (whether with whales or dolphins) is that we, for example, cherish bison but eat bison burgers. Is there a distinction?

A.

You cannot compare bison to dolphins in the cognitive domain. However, bison are not killed in this inhumane manner. Nor are lab rats. In cases in which animals are domesticated for food, most modern countries are striving for better animal welfare practices that minimize pain and suffering during the killing process with the goal to render an animal unconscious quickly before it is killed. This is not the case in the dolphin drive hunts. These are not domesticated animals; they are wild dolphins that are captured within their social groups, mother and young, and slaughtered using a technique that actually prolongs death, pain and suffering. The herding procedures themselves are inhumane and may include forced submersion as the dolphins are dragged by their tails to shore to be killed.

This is not to say that dolphins should be killed. They should not.

For more on Reiss’s views, I encourage you to read Claudia Dreifus’s 2010 interview with her for Science Times and watch Reiss’s recent TEDx talk on dolphin intelligence.

In an interview last month with the journalist David Kirby, Mark Palmer, the associate director of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project, estimated that the dolphin hunters of Taiji killed nearly 900 dolphins and pilot whales this season and kept nearly 250 to sell for alive to the aquarium trade (which is booming in the Middle East and Asia).

| Related | In dolphin research, as in climate change science, a move from research to a mix of science and activism can create complex dynamics. To explore, read Erik Vance’s 2011 Discover Magazine feature, “It’s Complicated: The Lives of Dolphins & Scientists,” which chronicled how Reiss’s shift played out.

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

Animals Are Biggest Losers in Sequestration

Seth Victor

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

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

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.

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

Bullfighting: Justifying Cruelty with Tradition

Spencer Lo

The judges on France’s Constitutional Council, a 9 member body, ruled yesterday that bullfighting does not contravene the constitution, rejecting a challenge by the animal-rights group CRAC who seeks to ban the practice nationwide. Although bullfighting is prohibited in certain parts of France, the tradition has remained popular in the south – particularly in the Nimes and Arles areas – for the past 150 years. Professor Diane Marie Amann offered a brief analysis of the Council’s ruling here. CRAC contended that an exception contained in the country’s criminal code which explicitly protected bullfighting—if it occurs in regions “where an uninterrupted local tradition can be invoked”—violates equal protection principles (“The law…must be the same for everyone, with respect to protection as well as to punishment”). In other words, because bullfighting is prohibited in some areas on animal cruelty grounds, the same practice should be prohibited everywhere, otherwise unequal treatment would result. Rejecting this argument, the judges affirmed the tradition exception as constitutionally permissible. But the decision raises the obvious question, what’s so special about tradition? Why should entrenched cultural traditions, however humanly significant, take precedent over the welfare-interests of animals?   Read more

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

The Art of Killing–for Kids

Spencer Lo

In our culture, the moral divide between humans and animals is sharp in numerous areas, but perhaps most consciously so in one: the sport of hunting. Since the activity involves consciously deciding to kill another sentient, sensitive being, the issue of inflicting suffering and death cannot be avoided, at least for the hunter. At some point every hunter will inevitably confront unsettling questions: Is my having a good time an adequate moral reason to deliberately end an animal’s life? Should I be concerned about my prey’s suffering, as well as the resulting loss for his or her family? These reflective questions, and many others, will now be asked by New York youths (ages 14-15) this Columbus Day weekend during a special deer hunt planned just for them. Armed with either a firearm or crossbow, junior hunters will be permitted to “take 1 deer…during the youth deer hunt”—no doubt in the hope that the experience will enrich their lives. A hunting enthusiast once observed after a youth hunt, “I’ve never seen a [9-year old] kid happier…We were all the better for it.”   Read more

Kansas State Fair’s Restrictions on PETA are Upheld

Image

Adonia David

It is state and county fair season.  Speaking as a born and bred Midwesterner, I can say that for many of us, there is a bit of magic associated with them. Fairs are hot summer days and evenings, cotton candy, roasted corn, and the sound of cicadas floating high above the tumult.  Fairs are ferris wheels and other scary looking rides set up by carnies overnight that look as though they may tumble to the ground any moment.  And fairs are animals.  Animals – the glory of a state fair: cows and calves and bunnies; goats and pigs; chickens of all shapes and sizes and plumage.   The animals are beautiful.  Many are gentle, hand-raised by children in 4H, and many of them are destined for slaughter.   Just what this death involves seems to be generally ignored by fair-goers.  It disturbs the magic. 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.

Foie Gras, with Hollande-aise Sauce

Seth Victor

Recently French President François Hollande pledged to fight California’s ban on foie gras. How he plans to do this, I am not sure, and the president himself has admitted that he cannot fight the law directly. Fearing that California’s legislation will encourage other states and, perhaps closer to home for the new leader, other EU countries to implement similar laws, he vows to use free trade treaties to continue to export this traditional French product while “bombard[ing] US political leaders with gifts of foie gras ‘for their own great enjoyment.’” How kind of him. Continue reading

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

U.S. v. Stevens Revisited

David Cassuto

The Shameless Self Promotion Desk is back!  The most recent issue of the Journal of Animal Ethics has a piece by me offering some thoughts about U.S. v. Stevens.  It’s titled: “United States v. Stevens: Win, Loss or Draw for Animals?”  You can download it here.  The abstract follows below:

Robert J. Stevens, proprietor of “Dogs of Velvet and Steel,” was indicted for marketing dog-fighting videos in violation of 18 U.S.C.§48, a law criminalizing visual or auditory depictions of animals being “intentionally mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed” if   Continue reading

City Rejects “Art” Project’s Proposed Chicken Slaughter

Adonia David

Recently my hometown of Lawrence, KS found itself in the midst of a battle over whether five chickens should be slaughtered for an art project to take place in the city.  The project, by Amber Hansen, entitled “The Story of Chickens – A Revolution,” was to consist of a traveling chicken coop containing five heritage chickens that would be set up at various places in Lawrence.  Townspeople would interact with and care for the chickens, and at the end of the project the chickens were to be publicly slaughtered and served at a potluck the next day.

The purpose of the project was, admittedly, a good one.  Hansen wished to address the disappearance of the small farm and the disconnection most people have from the animals they eat.  She wanted to “transform the contemporary view of chickens as merely “livestock” to the beautiful and unique creatures they are, while promoting alternative and healthy processes of caring for them.”  The project hoped to allow the citizens of Lawrence to “visualize an urban landscape that is accommodating and accepting of the presence of animals.”

The project created a large amount of discussion with thoughtful people both advocating for, and opposing it (interspersed with a good number of people making snide comments).  Those who advocated for it, including some who are very concerned about animal welfare, felt that the message was necessary and that people should, indeed, connect with the meat they choose to eat.  Those opposed felt that there is no need, and no excuse, to kill living sentient beings in order to present a message.  Various comments regarding the project can be seen hereContinue reading

Torturing Puppies and Eating Factory-Farmed Meat: What’s the Difference?

Spencer Lo

If you needed to torture puppies in order to enjoy the taste of chocolate, would doing so be wrong? Wouldn’t doing so be obviously wrong? Most who would say ‘yes’ regularly purchase and consume factory-farmed meat, seeing no problem with the latter, and yet, the two may not be morally distinguishable. According to at least one philosopher, they are not. In a highly provocative and creative paper, Alastair Norcross makes the case that purchasing and eating factory-farmed meat is morally comparable to torturing puppies for gustatory pleasure, and meat-eaters who realize this ought to become vegetarians (or at least give up factory farmed-meat). It’s an argument worth thinking about. (Other arguments for vegetarianism can be found here and here).

Norcross begins his paper with the story of Fred, who is on trial for animal abuse (see the lecture version here). The police discovered that in Fred’s basement, 26 puppies had each been confined in small wire cages. For 26 weeks, Fred would perform a series of mutilations on them, without anesthesia, and then brutally end their lives. His defense?  He is a lover of chocolate, and torturing puppies was the only way for him to enjoy it. Continue reading

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