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 ESA at 40

Ellen Zhangellen

“What a country chooses to save is what a country says about itself,” Mollie Beattie, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director 1993-1996.

Forty years ago this month, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).  When signing the ESA into law on December 28, 1973, President Nixon stated, “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alive, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.” Continue reading

Amended CHIMP Act Allows More Chimpanzees to Retire to Federal Sanctuary

Anne Haas

On Wednesday, November 27th, President Obama signed into law a Chimp Haven Photobipartisan bill to support the retirement of research chimpanzees.

Earlier this year, the National Institute of Health (NIH) announced plans to retire about 90 percent of U.S. government-owned chimpanzees currently used in medical research to Chimp Haven, a national chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. However, the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, signed into law in 2000, placed a $30 million cap on spending for federally owned chimpanzees in sanctuaries. NIH was expected to reach that cap in mid-November, affecting both the retirement and care of chimpanzees in laboratories and at Chimp Haven. Continue reading

The Consequences of a Mauling

Megan Hopper-Rebegea

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 meganCompoeru, 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

Trick?…Or treat?

Gina LeDonne

ledonne animalblawg2The 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

The March for Elephants

Gina LeDonne

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

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

ledonne animalblawg1

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

Rescue beagle dogs reopens the debate on Animal Experimentation Law in Brazil

Tagore Trajano

About a month ago, the rescue of approximately 178 dogs beagle of the Institute Royal research relumed the Brazilian Animal experimentation Law debate. In this week, some Brazilians representatives have discussed to install in the next few days a Parliamentary of Inquiry (CPI) to investigate all types of maltreatment of animals in Brazil.Brazilian Advocates

A Parliamentary Front in Defense of Animals have tried to approve projects prol-animals since 2003, but public policy about animal rights has always been treated as a joke in the House of Representatives. The debate involving the mistreatment of animals resurfaced after the invasion of the Royal Institute in São Paulo , by protesters opposed to animal testing .

In Brasília, activists have proposed to create a federal fund for animals, Welfare Animal Code, and a anticruelty tag in the products. Companies should inform the packaging of their products if they were or were not tested on animals.

Animals in research labs have since been protected under the Laboratory Animals Act –LAA (2008), legislation which set the rules about animal testing and research and revoked the Vivisection Act (1979). The LAA created the National Animal Experimentation Counsel (CONCEA), responsible for creating new rules about animal experimentation in Brazil. However, most of Brazilian Professors advocated that there are some incongruences with the Constitution that prohibits animal abuses.

Looks like it’s time to draw the path that Brazil wants to take in defense of animals, rethinking laws that allow to use of animals as food, entertainment, and experimentation.

Related articles

Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates “Don’t Eat Anything with A Face” At Kaufman Center, December 4th

David Cassuto

From the email…

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

Equine freedom, but at what cost?

Seth Victor

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

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

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

Animal Law in Barcelona

David Cassuto

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.

Mind if I Order the Cheeseburger & Other Questions People Ask Vegans

David Cassuto

Professor Sherry Colb of Cornell Law School has written an excellent new book.  Check out my review of it here: http://verdict.justia.com/author/cassuto.

Chipotle’s “Scarecrow”: A Call to Veganism?

Maeve Flanagan

             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

Chipotle scarecrowblossoming 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

Are Cats and Dogs People, or Toasters? A Primer on Pet Personhood

David Grimm

 “Dogs Are People, Too”. So ran the headline of a New York Times op-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 pet peopleexceptionalism 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.

What is the current legal status of pets?

We may view our cats and dogs as friends, family, and even virtual Continue reading

Environment, Ethics, & the Factory Farm

David Cassuto

PigletBitingCagelgOnce again, the Shameless Self-Promotion Desk whirs into action.  This new piece, forthcoming in the South Texas Law Review, is a transcription of a lecture I gave there last spring.  Here is the abstract:

What are the ethics behind factory farming? What are the ethical implications? This essay (transcribed from a lecture given at the South Texas College of Law) focuses on the environmental implications while defining those environmental implications through the lens of animal law and ethics.

Farms have become factories, and the animals raised in those factories are simply commodities. That is why we cannot have a discussion about Continue reading

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

A Response to the Primary Right

Jeff Pierce

In his post on the Primary Right, Carter Dillard equates the right to be let alone with the right to be alone, as in, utterly and completely alone.  Up PR1Carter’s sleeve hides an unspoken premise resembling something like this: the influence of other human beings, however minor, spoils my inalienable right to be ruggedly individual.

I characterize his conception of freedom as rugged individualism because the right to be alone feels unmistakably American.  Thoreau is lurking there, skipping stones with Herbert Hoover and Paul Ryan.  To call the right “primary” suggests it’s universal.  But if a Tembu South African or a Tembé Brazilian failed to recognize herself in this concept, the right to be alone is neither universal nor primary.

PR3The right to be alone is distinctly American for another reason: Carter extracts it from a dissenting opinion Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1928.  This is the same Louis Brandeis who, while yet an attorney in 1890, sowed within American jurisprudence an entirely novel right when he published, with Samuel Warren, “The Right to Privacy” in the Harvard Law Review.

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

9th Circuit Continues to Rubber Stamp Illegal Whaling

Stephen O’Donohue

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

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.’”

Ag-Gag Panel at iV– Ivy League Vegan Conference

David Cassuto

For those of you in the New Haven area today, please join me at iV, the Ivy League Vegan Conference.  It looks like a very interesting day.  I am on a panel about Ag-Gag laws.

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

Sheep (and ranchers) Find No Home on the Range

SHEEP-1-popup

Seth Victor

From the tone of the NY Times article, John Bartmann doesn’t sound like a bad man. Though some readers might demonize him because he is involved in animal farming, this isn’t the CEO of a major industrial producer, and it would be inaccurate to lump him in under the same heading. I expect Mr. Bartmann knows a thing or two about sheep husbandry, and likely has his own grievances with the CAFO industry. Still, his plight is indicative of the complicated issues surrounding modern farming, and is not free from critique. The decline of the modern rancher, especially in the drought of 2012, highlights many of the problems with food in the United States, through both animal and environmental perspectives. 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.

Why International Trade is not Dolphin Safe

Seth Victor

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.Dolphins in Net

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.

Continue reading

After a while, crocodiles

CROCODYLUS NILOTICUS

Seth Victor                                                 

Just in case you were worried that a python outbreak wasn’t enough, there’s another top predator in southern Florida. This past fall there have been sightings of Nile crocodiles south of Miami. This presents a bit of a conundrum for wildlife supervisors. You see the Nile crocodile is on international threatened lists, and is disappearing in its native habitat. Because Florida, however, is not its native habitat, and because the state already has to manage with non-native snakes eliminating the mammal population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has authorized a state shoot-to-kill order. Though there are native crocodiles in Florida, the Nile crocodile is known to be fiercer and more deadly, and is one of the few animals left on the planet that still hunts humans.

While Nile crocodiles haven’t reached the infestation levels of the python, they are potentially more problematic in smaller numbers. FWC officers suspect that the crocodiles may have originated from an illegal captive breeding facility, but it is still unknown exactly from where they are coming, or how many there are.

Again we are faced with the same unresolved questions on how to handle non-native species that can drastically alter a habitat. Do we preserve a threatened species, one of the greatest and most resilient in history, or do we hunt down the crocodiles before they make other animals endangered or extinct? Or do we simply pit the pythons and crocs against each other in a winner-take-all showdown on prime time? Either way, it’s hardly an enviable decision for the FWC.

Souls On Board

Stephen O’ Donohue

 

grace_hudson_flyingDenying 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

Warning! Animals Were Harmed During The Making of This Movie

Ally Bernstein

Now wouldn’t that be nice. The truth, for once. But no, the disclaimer, “No animals were harmed during the filming of this movie” will roll right across the 60 foot movie theater screen as the new film, “The Hobbit”, reels right along this December. In an article published last week, the American Humane Association claimed that “no animals were harmed during the actual filming.” While it might be true that no animals were harmed during the filming, it is not true that no animals were filmed during the making of “The Hobbit”.  In fact, 27 animals died unnecessary deaths due to the horrendous housing conditions they were kept in for use in the film. Continue reading

Turkey Pardons (again)

David Cassuto

In what has become a (quasi) Thanksgiving tradition, I offer these thoughts that I first penned back in 2008, when the blog was new.   

Much has been said about the ritual of Thanksgiving and its accompanying slaughter of hundreds of millions of defenseless birds, most of who lived short lives of unrelenting and abject misery.  I have little to add to what’s already out there except my own indignation and sorrow.

But I do have something to say about the Thanksgiving ritual, particularly the embedded legal contradiction in the practice (discussed by Luis below) of pardoning turkeys.  To pardon means “to release (a person) from further punishment for a crime.”  At Thanksgiving, however, the concept of the pardon gets up-ended.  The turkeys supposedly petitioning for clemency have committed no wrong.  Their lives consist of brutal mistreatment with slaughter soon to follow (the latter, I might add, will occur devoid of any of the protections of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act since under Department of Agriculture regulations, birds are not “animals” and thus not legally entitled to a merciful death).  If anything, egregious crimes have been wrought upon these birds.  Yet, every year, one or two are selected at random and “pardoned.”  This ritual amounts to transferring the guilt of the perpetrators on to the victims and then forgiving a token few of them in a bizarre act of self-absolution by proxy. Continue reading

Ag-Gag Laws: Terrorists, Extreme Vegetarians, Crazy Vegans and Our Right to Freedom of Expression

Ally Bernstein

 Terrorists, extreme vegetarians, crazy vegans… is that what they are calling us now? That is certainly what Senator David Hinkins, the Sponsor of Utah’s bill H.B. 187 that prohibits trespassing, photographing, or filming at agriculture operations said about the people opposing the bill. In defense of the bill, he argues the bill is aimed at “the vegetarian people” and “crazy vegans” who “are trying to kill the animal industry” referring to animal welfarists and those concerned with dredging out the truth about the agriculture industry as “terrorists.”

Sorry Senator Hinkins, but I don’t think that is what us “vegetarian people” are doing. Last time I checked, the vegetarian, vegan, and animal welfare movements were hinged on notions and principles such as cruelty free, environmentally friendly, and a reduction of harm and suffering for all species. The advancement of our movement has never been achieved by terrorist tactics such as fear inducing threats, punishment for exposing the truth, and suppressing people’s rights. It is a far stretch of the imagination to compare the animal welfare movement to a terrorist movement considering our mission is to end the suffering of species beyond our own. Continue reading

Boo: World’s Richest Dog

Eliza Boggia

Boo

Meet Boo, the world’s cutest dog. This is not a judgment call, but actually a trademark. Not only is Boo (actually, his owner) an intellectual property rights holder, but the little dog is quite popular. This 6-year-old Pomeranian has product endorsements and his own line of toys.  His stuffed animal, modeled after him, goes for about $20.  He has 5.5 million fans on his facebook page, about half as many as international icon Madonna. His page says, “My name is Boo. I am a dog. Life is good.” His favorite foods include chicken, cheese, flowers, grass and dirt. Continue reading

Sea Mammals Weep While They Seem to Smile

Dong Luo

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

Shark Week

Allen Shiu

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

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

Cows Send Intimate Text Messages to Farmers

Stephanie Chery

Imagine a world where a farmer will get a text message from his cow telling him she’s feeling sick or that she’s in heat.  Nope, it is not a joke. We live in that world.

New technology in farming has been developed to give farmers some very detailed information about the current condition of their cows.  According to an article in The New York Times, a system has been developed to track exactly when a cow is in heat.

The system works by way of a heat detector, a small sensor, which is implanted in the cow’s genitals and a motion sensor, attached to the cow’s neck, which measures movements made by the cow. The results of both sensors combine using an algorithm which determines whether or not the cow is in heat.  If the results indicate that the cow is in heat then an SMS is sent to the farmer.  A SIM card is affixed to the cow’s sensory collar so that the farmer can pay for the text messages.

Although, the development can give rise to any number of jokes about cows “sexting” their farmers, the truth is that the current conditions of cows in countries like Switzerland and Scotland where the technology is being tried out is no laughing matter. Continue reading

When Carnivores Become Neighbors

David Cassuto

With apologies for the late notice, if you’re in Westchester this evening, please join us:

 

 

Examining the Legal Protections of Animals Used in Entertainment

David Cassuto

From the email — looks like a very interesting program:

On October 17, 2012, the DePaul University Center for Animal Law in Chicago, Illinois, will host “Examining the Legal Protections of Animals Used in Entertainment.” This daylong symposium will feature panels on the legal protections accorded to animals used for entertainment purposes, such as in movies, television, zoos, circuses, and racing. These areas will be examined through a filter of ethical responsibilities involved in using animals for entertainment, legal liability for the misuse of animals, the history of the field of animal law in entertainment and what happens to animals after they “retire.”

 Our lunchtime speaker Professor Gary Francione will deliver the keynote address, “Animals as Property: The Challenges of Animal Law.” One of the most well-known figures in the modern animal rights movement, he is the author of six books, most recently The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? Other speakers will include Christine Dorchak of GREY2K USA, Karen Rosa of the American Humane Association Film and Television Unit, Sheriff Matt Lutz of the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office, and Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation.  Continue reading

Do We Need Pandas?

Eliza Boggs

On September 23, 2012, a baby panda cub died unexpectedly at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.  Shortly after, the mother panda began cradling a toy, indicative of the idea that she too is struggling with the reality of no longer being a mother.  In both the wild and captivity, baby pandas face surprising obstacles.  In 2006 in China, a mother panda, weighing in around 200 lbs., fell asleep while nursing her baby and accidentally crushed her four-ounce cub to death.  Unlike the fate of the Chinese cub, the death of this cub remains a mystery. Though the zoologists are still unable to determine the cause of death, a necropsy ruled out strangulation.  But what happened?

With the murky and at best minimal protections afforded to thefragile existence of the panda bear, this issue is more important than ever. Dovetailing this important issue of protecting pandas in zoos is the debate over whether the preservation of pandas is an effort worth making at all. Some make the contention that saving pandas are a waste of governmental time, resources and money.  Indeed, The Linnean Society of London has already scheduled a debate entitled, “Do we need pandas? Choosing which species to save.”  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

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