When Can an Animal be Seized as Evidence?

horses in pasture

Seth Victor

A provocative case came out of the Oregon Supreme Court two weeks ago addressing a warrantless seizure of a horse that was used to convict the defendants of animal abuse. As Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) reports, in the consolidated cases of State v. Fessenden and State v. Dicke, the court held that an officer was acting in accordance with the exceptions to the warrant requirements when he observed a starving horse on defendants’ property and took the horse to a veterinarian for emergency medical attention. The defendants were later charged with animal abuse, but they contended that the seizure of the horse was in violation of their right to privacy, and as it was a warrantless seizure, the evidence (the horse) had to be suppressed.

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On Eating Your Pets

Seth Victor

dog sandwich

An article caught my eye this morning about a man in New Mexico who was charged with a felony for extreme cruelty against a dog. The man allegedly stabbed his girlfriend’s dog in the heart, and then marinated the remains of the animal in preparation to cook it. While animal cruelty is a crime in New Mexico, eating dogs or cats is not, and if the defendant is successful in showing he did not act cruelly, there is no consequence for killing a companion animal for food.

These types of cases crop up every once in a while, often accompanied by outrage from some segments of the population over the wanton nature of the act. As always, since the law codifies our social voice, some states have put laws in place to discourage this kind of behavior. In New York, for example, one may not ” slaughter or butcher domesticated dog or domesticated cat  to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption.”

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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.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Global Animal Law Conference in Barcelona, Spain

David Cassuto

Pardon the partial self-interest, but the below-mentioned conference (at which I will be speaking) has all the makings of a faboo event.  I spoke at the First Global Animal Law Conference back in 2002 (I believe) and it was great.  The field has grown enormously in the intervening decade and this conference reflects that growth.

The 2nd Global Animal Law Conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain on July 10-11, 2014. Our goal is to bring together some the best legal minds from around the world to discuss the many and varied animal law issues and challenges that so many of us face.

Over the two-day Conference we expect to have more than 25 speakers from over 15 countries, most of whom are internationally known law professors who have taught and written on animal issues. The Conference is limited to 180 attendees, and will be conducted entirely in in English. 

The history of the 1st Global Conference, ten years ago, suggests that this will be an important event for all attendees who seek to expand their own network of personal connections, develop global strategies to improve animal welfare and increase their understanding of our diverse cultures and legal systems around the world. Continue reading

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

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.

 

 

 

How Puppies Can Help the Incarcerated

Seth Victor

When we talk about animals and the law, we often focus on how those laws affect and (fail to) protect animals, how penalties for harming animals are developing, and also how animals are used to enforce the law. What about animals who are used to help rehabilitate people on the other side of the law? Dogs, our faithful best friends from PuppiesBehindBarsAtWarwickApril2010the animal world, are the poster animals for rehab. Some of the most recognized examples are seeing-eye dogs, and with hundreds of soldiers returning with a plethora of physical and mental damage, service dogs for veterans continue to be in demand. But while America gladly clads itself in the garb of war heroes and the auspices of social care (insert partisan comment here), it is also houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated humans. What about those forgotten 2,266,800?

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Standing for Animals

Anika Mohammed

An issue that plagues animal rights advocates is something we, as people, take for granted: standing to sue. In order to find standing, generally three factors must be found: 1) injury-in-fact, 2) causation, and 3) redressability. Unfortunately for animals, courts do not recognize the injury of an animal alone to give that animal standing, even though their rights have been violated.

Standing to sue is an issue recognized around the world. The Filipino case Minors Oposa was considered a ground-breaking case, and its affect felt around the world. In Minors Oposa the high court of the Philippines expressed their willingness to recognize the standing of not just minors, but future generations not yet born. This was done in an attempt to protect future generations’ right to a balanced and healthful ecology. Though this may seem like a wild idea, suing on behalf of future generations, it makes sense. When harm is being done, the affected parties should have their interests protected, even if someone else has to bring the action. Continue reading

Law, Animals, and Professors

TAGORE - WIN_20131209_213438

Tagore Trajano

In early September, I arrived in the U.S again with a new goal, “… pass through the bridge between being a student and being an international Professor”.

At a good teaching university, a professor is expected to be formal, and faraway from his students. However, I had learned that being a good University Professor is to be ready to share the opportunities, and show for his students that all of them have a great path in their lives.

This is one of the lessons that you can pick from David Cassuto’s Law Classes Continue reading

Human Overpopulation as an Animal Rights Issue

Anika Mohammed

Overpopulation of humans, what does this mean?

anika Generally, people are using resources more rapidly than they can be regenerated. According to the Animal Welfare Institute the affects of overconsumption of resources by humans is currently having adverse effects across the world. Aside from the obvious consequences overpopulation creates for humans, there is a very real and dangerous affect for animals.

What is the affect of overpopulation on animals?

There is no simple answer to this question. The demand created by humans exceeds the available resources, causing these resources to be depleted at a rate that rejuvenation cannot keep up with. An example of this can be seen through the increased demand for food due to overpopulation. For many people, this involves the consumption of meats. This causes an increase in food production, such as grains, that is then used to feed livestock, that is then consumed by humans. In order to meet the demand for these grains and livestock, more land is taken away from wildlife. Therefore, not only are more animals being consumed due to the population growth, more of their habitat is also taken away. Continue reading

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

Student Fellowship!

David Cassuto

From the email:

Animal Welfare Trust is currently seeking applicants for our 2014 Student Grant Program. The grant provides up to $5000 per recipient for graduate students to work on an independent research project under faculty supervision or for an unpaid position within an established organization. Internships can be for a summer, semester, or year-long duration. Applications are due on March 1, 2014. Animal Welfare Trust believes that we can make a meaningful contribution to animal welfare by encouraging students to work on projects that facilitate positive reform for animals. Details about the grant program, the application process, and information on past recipients can be found on our website. Continue reading

Equine freedom, but at what cost?

Seth Victor

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

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

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

DePaul Animal Law Conference

David Cassuto

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

8:30 am – 5:00 pm

DePaul Center, Room 8005

1 E Jackson Blvd

Chicago, IL 60604

Seating is limited. Please REGISTER now.

DePaul University College of Law is an accredited Illinois MCLE provider. This event has been approved for up to 7 hours of CLE credit.

Over the past several years, the legal, moral and ethical issues surrounding animals in contemporary food production and distribution have received significant attention because of books such as “Fast Food Nation” and “Eating Animals,” documentaries such as “Food, Inc.” and “Forks Over Knives,” and the release of undercover footage depicting modern slaughterhouse conditions. At the same time, consumer interest about where food comes from and the value of organic eating and non-meat diets is at an all-time high.

Please join us for a day of education, analysis and discussion about the legal protection of animals as food. Gary Francione, one of the most well-known figures in the modern animal rights movement, will appear as our Luncheon Speaker. Panels include The Raising and Slaughtering of Farm Animals, Ag-Gag Laws, Undercover Investigations and Exposing Animal Cruelty, Food Labeling: What Labels Actually Mean for Consumers and Animals, and Prohibition vs. Regulation: Are Incremental Steps Enough? A free vegan lunch will be served during Professor Francione’s speech and a reception will follow the event.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.”

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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.

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Fantastic Opportunity for Up and Coming Animal Lawyers

David Cassuto

Below follows a fellowship opportunity from an outstanding organization that is looking to fund young animal lawyers.  If you fit the profile, I urge you to apply without delay.

From the email:

 The Equal Justice Works Fellowships Program provides financial and other forms of support to lawyers working on innovative legal projects throughout the U.S.  The two-year Fellowships offer salary (up to $41,000 annually) and generous loan repayment assistance; a national training and leadership development program; and other forms of support during the term of the Fellowship.

Equal Justice Works recruits “sponsors,” including law firms, corporations, bar associations, foundations and individuals, to fund our fellowships. This year, we have sponsor interest in funding a fellow working in the area of animal law.   You have been identified to us as an expert in this area who might help spread the word to potential fellowship candidates.  The sponsor is looking for applicants anywhere in the US working on animal law projects

General Information about 2014 Equal Justice Works Fellowships 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.

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A Response to Jeff and Joe Regarding Our Primary Right

by Carter Dillard

Sincere thanks to Jeff and Joe for their biting critique of the idea of a primary human right that guarantees humans access to wilderness and complete biodiversity. This response, which is geared for the audience of the blog generally, will divide their critique into eight points and respond to each (taking their points a bit out of order), before drawing back to the theme of this blog in order to explain why the right not only survives their appraisal, but can simultaneously satisfy environmental, human, and animal interests.

1. Primary in what sense, and based on what evidence?

Jeff raises a challenge to the idea of a primary right by arguing that the term implies universal acceptance. Because, Jeff argues, many people will reject the value of being alone in the wilderness the right cannot be universal and therefore fails. First, it’s not clear to me that the Tembé would not recognize something like a right to wilderness or the nonhuman, given their historic struggle to preserve the rainforest around them. Second, as Joe notes, whether the Tembé actually recognize the right and underlying value or not does not defeat the right, any more than Hutu leaders’ failure to recognize the universal right of all peoples to be free from genocide, and the GOP’s recent refusal to recognize universal rights for the disabled that trump parental authority, prove that those rights are wrong. As discussed below, this is in part because claiming a right is like saying “you ought to do this,” which cannot be proven wrong with the response “we don’t/won’t do that” (this is simply the difference between an “ought” and an “is”). The responding party might not do the thing or want to do the thing, but perhaps they still ought to. The universality of particular rights derives not from universal acceptance, but from logical arguments that deduce the particular rights from things all humans – because of certain social and biological shared characteristics – will value, whether they admit it or not, see e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

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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.

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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

New European Study Confirms English Cooking Is Still Bad

Seth Victor

Though the title of this post is a bit hyperbolic in invoking the classic stereotype about English foodEnglish Breakfast, a new study posted in BMC Medicine confirms that processed meat, such as that found in the classic English Breakfast pictured to the right,  increases the risk of premature death. The study evaluated “448,568 men and women without prevalent cancer, stroke, or myocardial infarction, and with complete information on diet, smoking, physical activity and body mass index, who were between 35 and 69 years old.”  You can read the abstract here. One of the takeaways is that “if everyone in the study consumed no more than 20g of processed meat a day then 3% of the premature deaths could have been prevented.”

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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

THE PRIMARY RIGHT

Carter Dillard

Thinking about our first or “primary” human right is actually a new way of thinking about how to protect the environment, and how to visualize what our planet ought to look like.

When we think about the idea of being free, we usually think about the freedom to act, or the right to do what we want without others interfering. But freedom also means the right not to be acted upon and to be free from other people, in other words, to be let alone. Unless we have some special obligation, like being the parent of a child, we are generally free to get away from other people and the influence they would otherwise have over us.  When it comes to particular countries and governments, which are really just collections of individual people, unless we have committed a crime or done something unusual, we also have a right to leave and be free of them. For example, we are free to leave the United States, and forcing people in the former Soviet Union to live behind the Iron Curtain violated their human rights.  We should not be forced submit to any other person’s influence, or collection of persons’ influence, against our will.

Because we have the right to leave any person and any country, it follows that we have the right to leave every person and every country. One implies the other.  If you were to leave every country on earth until you got to the last country, you should be able to leave that one as well.

How do we do that? First, we have to see the earth as actually made up of two worlds – the human and the “nonhuman,” or those species other than humans.  Countries are political entities – they are based on the organization of human power and influence. Leaving every country on earth does not mean having to fly to the moon; it means leaving, as best one can, human power and influence and entering the nonhuman world – what we generally call wilderness. The nonhuman world is, by definition , comprised of those places in the world occupied by species other than humans living in their natural habitats.

Keep in mind that nonhumans don’t live in countries or organize into systems of rights the way we do. So the earth divided into human and nonhuman worlds would look something like the earth did for most of human civilization – limited human societies surrounded by a sea of relatively complete biodiversity and wilderness.  It would be other species, living and flourishing in their habitats, all around us in an interconnected system. This view of earth is no fantasy – if biodiversity can be protected, our birthrates continue to decline, and we continue to urbanize, this planet will look very much like that: city-states awash in a sea of nature.

But this is the point: For us to be free, for it to remain possible to be free of every person and country on earth, the nonhuman world must be protected and allowed to flourish. Without it we would remain locked in that last country on earth, permanently subjected to others’ influence, or as one senator said in passing the Wilderness Act of 1964, “without wilderness this country will become a cage.” Because we have a right to leave all others and their influence, or the “cages” we create for each other, the nonhuman world must remain and flourish. It is a necessary condition for freedom to actually mean something.

Why call this right to be free from others the “primary right?” Rights are about other people, and your relationships with them. Given that, the primary right, or the first thing that is decided in any systems of rights, is whether you relate to or are influenced by other people at all. The first thing about any system of rights that is decided is whether you are even part of it. People in the Soviet Union would not have had to worry about the lack of human rights in that system if they could have simply gotten away.

How does thinking about the environment in terms of the primary right change things? First, it gives us a theoretical baseline, a way of seeing what our planet ought to look like. This is something most environmentalists have not been able to agree on. Second, it changes the basic thinking in environmentalism: the focus should be on freedom, not well-being. Third, protecting the nonhuman world because it ensures the very possibility of human freedom is different than protecting nature for its own sake. Those most responsible for harming the nonhuman world have gone unpunished because humans are less apt to act until we know we have something to lose. Thinking about our primary right shows us that we are losing something right now, that those most responsible for destroying the nonhuman world are violating our right to be free.

If we value freedom we value nature, or the nonhuman world, because it makes the act of consenting to others’ influence possible. Protecting the environment is not about making a world dominated by humans safe, healthy, and sustainable – a pleasant place for humans to live. It is about restoring the nonhuman world around us as best we can so that freedom actually means something.

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

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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.

Animal Law Lecture at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Santa Catarina, Brazil

David Cassuto

Our hero is lecturing on Animal Law next week at the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministerio Publico), Florianopolis, Brazil.   See you there?

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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

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

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

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.

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

Employment & Scholarship Opportunities at ALDF

David Cassuto

From the email — opportunities for students and recent grads at ALDF:

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has some great opportunities available right now that I thought you might like to share with your students.

First, we are hiring a Litigation Fellow (JD required within last three years) to begin immediately. This position will last roughly one year. The application deadline is Oct. 15, 2012.

We are also hiring Litigation Fellows to begin in fall 2013, which means current third-year students can apply. These positions will last roughly two years, and the deadline to apply is Oct. 20, 2012.

Finally, we are awarding ALDF Advancement of Animal Law Scholarships to outstanding members of our Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters this fall. The application deadline is Oct. 15, 2012. Active SALDF members who are committed to animal protection and the field of animal law are encouraged to apply.

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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