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.

 

 

 

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

Moving Animal Cruelty Crimes to the Penal Law?

Nicole Geraci

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi has proposed a bill to move animal abuse crimes from the Agriculture Markets Law into BLOG 1 picture[1] copythe Penal Law, a change which he and CNY SPCA note is long overdue.  According to Brindisi, “Many animal abuse laws were written 50 years ago. And most judges and lawyers are just not familiar with agriculture market laws as they are with the penal law . . . When you have a case of animal cruelty, the courts and lawyers may not consider them “real crimes” with animal abuse, even when they are in fact severe crimes.”  Unfortunately, I think this mindset probably exists amongst the general public as well, and this bill proposal is a means of addressing the problem.  Recent cases of animal abuse across Central New York, as disturbing as they are, may be just the momentum needed to enforcing harsher punishments for violators of animal cruelty.  Continue reading

Equine freedom, but at what cost?

Seth Victor

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

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

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

Why the King Amendment is Hypocritical

Seth Victor

Recently Angelique Rivard explained some of the dangers inherent in Rep. Steve King’s amendment to H.R. 6083, the Farm Bill. What makes this amendment maddening is that Mr. King has cited law to support this measure that he would decry as the product of an overreaching government in almost any other circumstance. There is no doubt that Mr. King’s proposal is intended to end state protection for farmed animals; his website proudly declares that he hopes to terminate the efforts of animal rights groups, ensuring “that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.”

King has hardly been the darling of animal rights before this foray, as Stephen Colbert nicely summarizes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund both gave him a 0% rating in 2012. This came after a 2010 statement at a National 4-H Conference that “the HSUS is run by vegetarians with an agenda whose goal is to take meat off everyone’s table in America.” King has also previously voted against broadening the definitions of the Endangered Species Act in 2005 which would have enabled better listing criteria.

Continue reading

ALDF Files Suit Challenging Ag-Gag

David Cassuto

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

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

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.’”

Legal Issues with California’s Foie Gras Ban

Seth Victor

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

Michigan dog fighting penalty increases

Seth Victor

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

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

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

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

Talking Ethics and Factory Farming

David Cassuto

Great symposium at South Texas College of Law last week on animal law and ethics.  Many thanks to Professor Fran Ortiz for putting it together.  Here’s the full lineup and, if you want to stream my lecture, you can click below (although I don’t know how long the link will be live).

Cassuto: Environment, Ethics & the Factory Farm

Rescued Dog “Missy” Raises Legal Questions

Patricia Chang

In mid-August, a German Shepherd mix named Missy made international headlines after she was rescued by a team of volunteer climbers from a ridge on Colorado’s 14,000-foot-high Mount Bierstadt. Her owner, Anthony Joseph Ortolani, said that Missy’s paws became so blistered and cut during the climb that she couldn’t walk, and that he and his friend tried to carry the 112-pound dog down the rocky terrain for two hours through rain and snow. When a storm rolled in, however, he chose to leave the dog behind because he feared for his and his friend’s well-being.

Once Ortolani made it down, he contacted the Clear Creek County Sheriffs Office but was not given any assistance; he was told that rescue crews do not attempt to retrieve animals. Missy, stranded and injured, was left on her own for eight days. 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

Kansas State Fair’s Restrictions on PETA are Upheld

Image

Adonia David

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

Why our modern lifestyle spells disaster

Seth Victor

Do you love your meat? Well, love it or hate it, it may well cause the collapse of our global society. In the latest report confirming the strain factory farming and overconsumption of animal products causes our environment, The Guardian reports that mass food shortages are predicted within the next 40 years if we as a species do not scale back meat consumption. It’s a simple matter of not having enough water to produce the crops necessary to support the animals needed to satisfy current consumption, to say nothing of what another 2 billion human mouths will bring to the table. If we do not scale back, food shortages and water shortages could be a worldwide reality, as well as food price spikes. Continue reading

Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse

Seth Victor

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

Foie Gras, with Hollande-aise Sauce

Seth Victor

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

Taking the Teeth out of Animal Fighting

Seth Victor

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

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

Running in Place

Seth Victor

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

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

Meat by any other name would be as troubling

Seth Victor

Humans have been flirting with the idea of lab-grown, or in vitro meat for a while. We’ve commented about it previously here. PETA has a standing offer of a $1 million monetary incentive for the first successful synthetic meat that can find its way to supermarket shelves. Yesterday, FT Magazine ran a feature by William Little about a lab in the Netherlands that is poised to take the big step between the laboratory and the cash register, though that step is still years away.

As usual, many of the problems surrounding this concept have been revealed through humor. Thank you, Mr. Colbert. But it isn’t the public’s perception that I worried about as I read Mr. Little’s article. It’s the viability of this process. I’ve read articles touting the benefits of lab meat, including reduced pollution and less consumption of natural resources, if the process is profitable. I’m not arguing that replacing the CAFO system we currently employ for our meals isn’t admirable. I just question whether this is the way to do it, and if we aren’t just creating a new monster.

Continue reading

The Troubling Path from Pig to Pork Chop

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link Between Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse?

Ciara Smyth

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

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

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

Spencer Lo

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

Eliminate Euthanasia by Gas Chamber

Spencer Lo

At an animal control facility in Florence, Alabama, where stray, unwanted animals are routinely euthanized, a young beagle named Daniel was sent to die in a gas chamber along with 17 other dogs. Amazingly (perhaps miraculously), Daniel survived the 17-minute ordeal unscathed, and has now found a permanent home with the help of animal rescue groups. His story recently featured on Anderson Cooper’s show, bringing national attention to the fact that, while Daniel’s survival is unique, his situation was not. Between six and eight million animals are brought to animals shelters each year, and with nowhere to go, upwards of four million are euthanized, many by carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide inhalation. 18 states have outlawed some forms of gassing, while only 9 have prohibited euthanasia by gassing altogether.

As documented by The Humane Society, euthanasia by gas inhalation can be unreliable and cause prolonged suffering and great distress. Death is not always quick, as it can take up to 25-30 minutes to end an animal’s life, and loss of consciousness and brain function occurs only after vital organs are shut down. Further, where multiple animals are gassed at the same time, feelings of panic and excitability can cause fights to break out. A far more effective, and painless, method of causing death is euthanasia by injection (EBI), using sodium pentobarbital, which results in clinical death within 2 to 5 minutes, and loss of consciousness within 3 to 5 seconds. Clearly, then, EBI is more humane, and yet it still isn’t legally mandated in most states.   Continue reading

A New American Pastime: Hog Dog Fighting

Adrianne Doll

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

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

Dolphins Dead Following Rave at Swiss Aquarium

Josh Loring

Police are investigating the deaths of two dolphins from a Swiss aquarium.  The dolphins died following a techno rave that was held at the facility earlier this month.  The first dolphin, Shadow, was found dead directly following the event, which led experts to suspect the cause of death was stress related due to the deafening music being played in close proximity.

It has been well documented that loud music is known to bother dolphins and other marine mammals in captivity who navigate by echolocation, which entails bouncing sonar waves off other objects to determine location, shape and distance.  The confined tank walls create an environment where the reverberations from their own sonar cause great stress.  Back in October, Senior Vice President of PETA, Dan Matthews, attended a fundraiser at the Georgia aquarium and witnessed the effect first hand.  While observing beluga whales, he witnessed one “squirming and twisting” more than the others.  He asked one of the aquarium staff members whether the music bothered them, which she replied, “Well, yes.  Especially the males―as soon as the music starts pounding, they go nuts and start attacking the harbor seals in the tanks.”  Continue reading

Reducing Funding for Animal Research

Usra Hussain

The University of Pennsylvania houses as many as 5,000 animals a year at their medical and veterinary schools.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an official warning letter to the University of Pennsylvania for its “failure to establish programs of adequate veterinary care” for some of its research animals.  Over a course of three years, reports have stated, that the Ivy League institution may be responsible for up to 115 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The inspections also noted that, “two dogs had interdigital cysts (often from standing on wire flooring); dirty and algae-filled water containers for four horses, and three gerbil deaths that occurred because of ‘unsuitable sipper tubes.”  In another incident  at Penn, a newborn puppy was found dead, trapped beneath a floor grate. The puppy had slipped through the grate unnoticed, and an unknown amount of time passed before his death.

The University of Pennsylvania had more than double the amount of violations in comparison to other Ivy League schools.  The Agriculture Department, which regulates research facilities that use animals, and  the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) found that the eight Ivy League universities had what it called “disturbingly high numbers of Animal Welfare Act violations,” many of which were repeat or severe. Despite these violations, the University of Pennsylvania continues to receive the highest amount of federal research funding among all Ivy League Schools.  According to PCRM, University of Pennsylvania received $1.4 billion from the National Institutes of Health since 2008 for researching.  Continue reading

Violence in Context

Adonia David

 Yesterday I received an email with a picture of cats that were force-fed toilet cleaner by Proctor and Gamble – an example of animal testing of the type that goes on every day.  The photo was posted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an umbrella entity that many view as a fringe and frightening network of individuals who are willing to save animals in testing facilities by taking steps that are prohibited by society such as property destruction etc. (ALF’s guidelines insist that all precautions be taken to make sure no animals or humans are harmed when any destruction occurs, but the fact remains that arson and similar activities are carried out at times).  I have seen other information posted by ALF, perhaps the most disturbing being the story of Britches, a newborn monkey stolen from his mother for a study on “maternal deprivation” and whose eyes were sewn shut to study “sight deprivation.” He was kept in what appeared to be a shut cabinet and given none of the affection a young animal requires.  Members of ALF saved him and, watching the video, I’ll freely admit that I saw them as the heroes of the story despite their reputation. Continue reading

The Power of Undercover Videos

Ciara Smyth

            On Friday, November 18th 2011, McDonald’s and Target announced they were dropping one of their main egg suppliers after videos emerged showing the supplier’s employees engaging in multiple acts of cruelty against its animals.  The undercover videos  shot by the animal activist group Mercy for Animals show various acts of severe cruelty  being committed against the birds at different facilities of Sparboe Farms, a Minnesota based company.

The courageous acts of individuals from organizations like Mercy for Animals, and the internet, have become a farm animals’ best friend.  As blogger George Buchanan correctly states in his discussion of the workers harming the hens, many other animal right organizations have also gone undercover to expose the conditions of poultry farms.  Just recently, after the release of undercover videos taken at a slaughterhouse by Richard Couto and his organization, The Animal Recovery Mission, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the City of Hialeah Police Department arrested an accused ringleader of the illegal slaughterhouse.  He was subsequently charged him with three counts of animal abuse and 40 counts of confining animals without food or water. Rudesindo “Rudy” Acosta and his associates’ acts of brutal violence against hundreds of helpless animals, including cows, horses, sheeps, pigs and ducks, is beyond egregious and completely shocking to the conscience.
           Undercover video taken includes the repeated beating of pigs with sledgehammers while their stomachs are sliced open.  In one instance, “the killer actually put his hand in the pig’s jugular and ripped it out with his bare hands” said Couto.  Investigators also allege that animals were butchered and boiled alive in some instances.  Another video shows a cow struggling to stay alive after being shot.  Its head is draped over a bucket and a knife rammed into its throat. “I can’t imagine what that animal was going through,” said Couto. Animals are kept aliive to slowly bleed out because the blood has monetary value and is used to make blackened sausage.  Investigators told reporters that more slaughterhouse raids could be coming. They say they’re not going to allow this kind of animal abuse in their city. Just last week, the accused ringleader made his first appearance in Miami-Dade County bond court.  The judge set bail for $500,001.  Yup – over half a million dollars – now this is a judge I would like to shake hands with! Continue reading

Workers Caught Harming Hens

More on the Sparboe mess…:

George Buchanan
  Sparboe Farms, which runs facilities in Colorado, Iowa, and Minnesota, that supply both Target and McDonalds with eggs, was dropped by the two companies due to animal cruelty. A group called Mercy for Animals filmed “hens crammed in crowded cages, workers burning beaks and one, trying to shove a bird inside the pocket of a co-worker, apparently for fun. Another worker presses his thumb against the back of a chick’s neck until it breaks

The egg supplier, Sparboe Farms, was also sent a warning letter earlier in the week by the FDA, which “found ‘serious violations’ after visiting five of the companies’ production facilities, including failure to have and implement a written Salmonella Enteritidis prevention plan and failure to prevent stray poultry, wild birds, cats and other animals from entering poultry houses.”   Both PETA and The Humane Society have complained, and released videos of the inhumane treatment that occurs at these poultry facilities in years past. But, perhaps with huge corporations such as McDonalds and Target pulling their accounts from egg suppliers, like Sparboe Farms, other suppliers will take notice and not only set standards that conform with anti-cruelty laws; but will also keep an eye on their employees to ensure the treatment that cost Sparboe Farms the lucrative accounts of McDonalds and Target, does not take place at their egg supplying facilities.    Continue reading

McDonald’s and Target Drop their Relationship with their Egg-Supplier, Sparboe Farms

Heather Schlemm

            Mercy for Animals revealed an undercover video of five egg producing farms in three states that both McDonald’s and Target purchase from. Mercy for Animals had its people hired at Sparboe farms and wired them with hidden cameras from May 23rd to August 1st to document the animal abuse occurring. Sparboe Farms is one of the nation’s largest egg suppliers and has facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado. Target Corp. was purchasing from the Litchfield Minnesota one and has now agreed to pull all eggs from this farm off its shelves. Target claims to have just been made aware of the facilities conditions and that is why they are immediately stopping their purchases. McDonald’s had purchased from the Vicent, Iowa plant for all its west locations and now says it will never work with Sparboe again. McDonald’s and Target released full statements on their decision to stop using Sparboe. Continue reading

Animal Abuser Registry Laws: NY is First, but Shouldn’t all States Jump on the Bandwagon?

Ally Bernstein

Last month, with a unanimous vote by the Legislature, Albany County became the third county in New York, and the Nation, to require persons convicted of misdemeanor or felony animal cruelty charges to register on the animal abuse registry. According to “Local Law K,” first time offenders will remain on the registry for 10 years and second time offenders will remain there for life and will be prohibited from owning an animal while on the registry. Other provisions of the law will subject offenders to fines and and other punishments for failure to comply.

    According to the Albany Times Union, the laws passed were followed by enthusiastic applause from the legislatures, apparently an “unusual move” after new laws are passed. Lead sponsor, Bryan Clenahan stated, “We know that animal abusers are the same people who commit violent acts toward children and other innocent victims in our community. By taking a stronger approach to animal abuse, we are working to create a safer, more peaceful community for pets and people alike.” Interestingly, this statement reflects that the law was created in order to further the protection of the children and other innocent victims, based on the correlations related to animal abuse and abuse to humans. However, whatever the case may be for why the laws were adopted, they are a major step in the prevention of animal abuse. Continue reading

“Proposition B” Repealed: Suffering Falls Victim to the Economy

George Buchanan

        Less than two years ago Missouri passed Proposition B, the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.” However, in April of 2011 Proposition B was repealed.

The United States Humane Society estimates that there are roughly 4,000 puppy mills in the U.S. alone, and that 2-4 million of these dogs are sold each year. All of these dogs will suffer some form of physical or psychological issues due to the horrible conditions they are raised in, and a good portion will wind-up being euthanized when they are not sold. Proposition B required wire flooring for cages eliminated by November 2011; Maximum allowable breeding females per business = 50; Cage height = taller than any dog standing erect; Maximum number of times a female may be bred within 18 months time = 2; Larger enclosures by November 2011. Although these requirements are not exactly ideal for a dog’s well being, they would be an up- grade over the previous conditions the dogs were forced to endure. Continue reading

No Tranq-Guns in Ohio

 Rosana Escobar Brown

The recent slaying of about 50 exotic animals in Ohio has animal lovers (like myself) in an uproar.  While it is obvious that law enforcement officials needed to protect the safety of local residents and also had to follow orders, images of the grizzly scene beg the question…

How could this have been avoided?

For starters, the Ohio police could have had more than a few tranquilizer guns lying around; especially out there in farm country where loose animals pose a real problem.  Ohio even has laws about mandatory reporting obligations when exotic animals escape.  Does this mean that whenever receiving a report that an animal is loose, the authorities just show up guns blazing?  Something is very off here. Continue reading

Bill Clinton is a Vegan?

Ashley Macdonald

Don’t worry, it’s for health reasons.  A quadruple bypass and two stents in a clogged artery, to be exact.

I was surprised to read that our former President no longer includes meat, eggs, or dairy in his diet.  Even more surprising was the fact that animal welfare and environmental protection were not mentioned once when he explained his drastic dietary transformation—not even as corollary benefits! When asked directly if he was a vegan, he reluctantly acknowledged that he was.

Americans embraced and encouraged President Clinton’s love of fast-food and meat.  It was something most people could relate to and reminded us that he was just an ordinary American. Could he have publicized his vegan diet 15 years ago without hurting his chances of reelection? Probably not. But what is it about veganism and vegetarianism that makes our elected officials so uncomfortable?

For one, the meat and dairy industries exert great influence over Congress and executive agencies like the USDA. With campaign contributions at stake and pressure from persuasive lobbyists, it is not surprising that beef, pork, poultry, and dairy products are supported and promoted by the government. Continue reading

The Real Cruella de Vils: The Little-Known Back Story of the Animal Welfare Act of 1966

Ally Bernstein

What would you do if one day, after letting your beloved Husky, Niko, play outside for two hours, you went to get him from the backyard but he wasn’t there? First, you would probably search the neighborhood, followed by checking the local pounds and posting signs in hopes that all of these efforts would bring your lost Niko home. Thinking to yourself “how bizarre”, after letting Niko play outside in your fenced in backyard for 6 years, “why now would he decide to run away?” As you go down the list of possibilities; “did he chase a squirrel, did I leave the gate open, did he jump the fence”, what happened to Niko?

Two days go by and you see a “LOST DOG” sign near the local post office, but its not for Niko, its for Bishop, another Husky in the neighborhood. “Well that’s weird,” you think to yourself about the coincidence that two Huskies would go missing from the same neighborhood within the same week. What about the next few days when your friend at the grocery store tells you that her sister’s Husky, Layla, went missing the night before after being let out for her nightly exercise. Is this still a coincidence? Continue reading

Who’s Your Softer Side

Sarah Saville

Baltimore’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission just launched a new campaign targeted towards juveniles.  The “Show Your Softer Side” Campaign features a series of photographs of famous athletes and their pets with the tagline “Only a Punk Would Hurt a Cat or Dog.”  It targets juveniles because youths often commit the worst abuses in an effort to show their “toughness.” More information on the Commission can be found here.

Although the Campaign has generally been well received, not everyone is happy about it.  Within hours of the launch, editorial critiques like this one, began popping up.  These critiques claim that it is a waste to spend resources on preventing animal abuse when there are still violent crimes committed against people.  Such critique misses the bigger picture.  Animal abuse is statistically a precursor to abuse against people.  Punishing and preventing these abuses prevents crimes against people.  And even without regards to preventing crimes against people, preventing animal cruelty is important in its own right.  Cats, dogs, and other animals are sentient beings capable of suffering.  We adopt them into our families and breed and train them to be dependent on us.  They deserve are respect and our protection.  And we have the ethical responsibility to give them as much.

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