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.

 

 

 

 

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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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?

My First Animal Cruelty Case

ALDF Angelique Vita Rivard

A few weeks ago I had the unique opportunity, as an intern for the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, to work on an animal cruelty case. Unfortunately, not unlike other counties, the assistant district attorneys (ADAs) and police officers who work in Westchester see their fair share of animal cruelty cases. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Westchester County (SPCA) is usually at the forefront of these cases. Still, it is unusual for an animal cruelty case to be taken out of local court and handled by the Westchester County ADAs or for it to actually go to trial. So, as a young law student with a passion for animal welfare, I was fortunate to be able to assist the Westchester County ADA on an animal cruelty case that was headed for trial.

The Facts. Briefly, here are some of the facts of the case. The Defendant was seen forcefully throwing a tiny Yorkshire Terrier puppy into the street. Multiple eyewitnesses saw the Defendant and its aftermath. Additionally, the Defendant’s heinous crime was captured in full view by a surveillance camera from a building across the street. Fortunately, thanks to the attention of the witnesses, the responding police officers, the SPCA and the Westchester Animal Hospital, the little puppy survived. 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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Animals Are Biggest Losers in Sequestration

Seth Victor

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

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

Why horse meat tacos are the least of our worries

Seth Victor

Taco Bell moved to pull beef off its UK menus this past Friday because of traces of horse meat found in the product. A spokesperson for the company commented: “We apologize to our customers and take this matter very seriously as food quality is our highest priority.” The problem with this statement is that it calls into question just what Taco Bell considers to be “food quality.” Obviously phenylbutazone isn’t something Taco Bell wants in its products. This is a company that is trying to brand itself as something more than fast food, from the “Think Outside the Box” campaign, to the recent artesian kitchen look with chef Lorena Garcia and her supposed quest for the “highest quality ingredients.” Not convinced? You can go to the Taco Bell website and learn more (or in keeping with the company slogan, Learn Más!). Here, at last, you can rest easy knowing that Taco Bell uses 88% premium ground beef, and 12% signature recipe. What? 12% of its product is. . . a recipe? The assurance I should get by hearing this supposed break down of ingredients is undermined when I haven’t a clue what that means. The ad tells me to go to the website learn what the recipe is, but it’s buried. Hunt it down though, and it comes out to water and a bunch of seasoning. So no worries there, I guess. How about this premium beef? Continue reading

Legal Issues with California’s Foie Gras Ban

Seth Victor

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

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.

After a while, crocodiles

CROCODYLUS NILOTICUS

Seth Victor                                                 

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

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

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

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.

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

The Seagull or the Whale?

Seth Victor

Seagulls around Argentina have become too crafty for their own good. Exhibiting behavior straight out of a Hitchcock movie, the gulls have figured out that if they peck at the skin of breaching right whales, they can open wounds on the whales, and then feast every time the cetaceans surface. Apparently this started with a few gulls, but they have spread the word, and now the birds pose a serious threat to the whales’ livelihood, especially the calves. Citing the danger to the whales, the Argentine government is now permitting people to shoot the gulls, and recover their bodies before they are ingested, before the whales migrate to safer seas. Environmentalist are upset with the decision, claiming that is it not the fault of the birds, so much as it is the fault of the open landfills in the area that have attracted them in the first place. Clean up the trash, and the birds will naturally disperse. The issue is also an economic one, as whale watching makes up a significant part of tourism revenue. Continue reading

Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse

Seth Victor

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

Animals Can Be Victims, Too

Seth Victor

Rather than regurgitate Scott Heiser’s words, I encourage you to read ALDF’s post about State v. Nix, in which the Oregon appellate court held that individual horses count as separate victims, reversing a trial court holding that multiple abused horses merged into a single count of animal abuse. As the post mentions, this is a very exciting case, and will be very useful persuasive law for cases across the country.

Foie Gras, with Hollande-aise Sauce

Seth Victor

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

Is a pet-free world possible?

Seth Victor

Gary Francione rejecting the premise that animals can be property is not new; the good professor has been expressing his view for decades that the key to animal equality must be, in part, approached through our definitions of ownership. He recently posted  that pet ownership is unnatural, even if it were possible to create and enforce laws that gave pets legal status as persons. He goes on to say that even if there were only two dogs left in the world, and good homes could be assured to all of the offspring, pet ownership would still have no place, and he would work to end the institution. Continue reading

Hog Wild: Where Florida Hogs Can’t Catch a Break

Seth Victor

Population control is a powerful justification. If a species has outgrown its habitat, the population needs to be managed, lest the over-abundance of animals wreak havoc on the natural environment. And if that habitat wasn’t destroyed by the animals, but instead was converted into pools and condominiums, limiting the range of the animal, it seems that the solution remains the same.

I don’t intend to discuss the hypocrisy of population control as a whole just now. I bring it up, however, because the way in which it is done is of great concern. The problems with wolf hunts have been covered extensively in this blawg. Recently, their ranks of the persecuted have been joined by a perhaps unlikely bedfellow – hogs. Continue reading

Taking the Teeth out of Animal Fighting

Seth Victor

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

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

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Seth Victor

The plight of the assailed pit bull has been mentioned a few times on this blawg. Even internationally, these dogs are targeted as problem animals who will sooner rip out your throat than look at you, which is of course blatantly untrue. There are circumstances in which pit bulls can be dangerous, but this is generally the work of the people raising these dogs than their inherent nature.

Last week in Ohio, someone finally got that memo, and a new measure will “[change] current law that defines a vicious dog as one that has seriously hurt or killed a person, killed another dog or is among those commonly known as pit bulls. The new measure removes the reference to pit bulls from the definition and requires evidence to prove pit bulls are actually vicious.”

Come again? Defining vicious dogs as ones that are actually vicious and not just including ones that are unfairly demonized? That’s as crazy as judging someone not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Youth Can’t Handle the Truth?

Seth Victor

I happened to watch CNN this afternoon at the deli where I had lunch. The featured story focused on what age is too young for a child to be vegan.

Recently there has been a stir surrounding “Vegan is Love” by author Ruby Roth. To quote the Amazon summary,”Roth illustrates how our daily choices ripple out locally and globally, conveying what we can do to protect animals, the environment, and people across the world. Roth explores the many opportunities we have to make ethical decisions: refusing products tested on or made from animals; avoiding sea parks, circuses, animal races, and zoos; choosing to buy organic food; and more.”

Such brashness.

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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.

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Planet of the Hominids

WETA/20th Century Fox: The ape rebellion in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

ANDREW C. REVKIN  (x-post from Dot Earth

6:35 p.m. | Updated 

Last weekend, I took my two sons, 13 and 21, to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which we thoroughly enjoyed on several levels. It’s a rousing slave revolt, an entertaining techno-thriller, a drama about a dysfunctional household (chimp included) dealing with disability and job-related stresses (in the conflicted genetic engineer played by James Franco). (Manohla Dargis liked it, too, as did my sons’ favorite critics, the team at Spill.com.

It’s also a film about the troubled relationship of Homo sapiens to its closest kin, the other species in our taxonomic family, the Hominidae. Abuses have occurred from the forests of the Congo basin and Borneo to the research centers of drug companies and universities.

In the realm of drugs and medicine, there’s certain research that can only be done on apes or other primates. Where does one draw the line, in terms of which research goals are lofty enough to justify killing or causing pain to animals. Are some animals too sentient for such uses?

Some Thoughts on The Ghosts in Our Machine

Donna Oakes

I first read about The Ghosts in Our Machine this past May. It is described as “A film & web narrative in development about the individual animals used within the machine of our modern world”.

This project reminded me of how important images (whether in photographs or film) are in eliciting that “aha” moment. The moment when that fog lifts away and we see the truth about how animals are treated – and more importantly, the moment when we see how we have been unwitting accomplices.

I wanted to learn more about the connection that the team members have to this project.  In this post, Liz Marshall (producer, director, writer), Jo-Anne McArthur (photographer, main human film subject) and Ananya Ohri (researcher) provided deeply personal answers to the following questions:

Most people who become advocates for animals can recall having some type of ‘aha’ moment that set them on their path. Was this something that you experienced (and if so, can you tell us about it)?
Additionally, what aspect of the film do you think has the most potential for creating that moment for viewers – and why?

Ananya Ohri’s answer: Continue reading

Meat Without Slaughter

burger                                                                               photo by Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

ANDREW C. REVKIN  (x-post from Dot Earth)
Can you have a hamburger without a slaughterhouse?  Michael Specter provides a fresh look at the prospect of growing meat in labs instead offeed lots and pastures in The New Yorker this week.

In a podcast accompanying the article, Specter acknowledges there is “ghoulish” aspect to “lab meat,” but notes that industrial-scale livestock husbandry is ghoulish, as well. He then ticks down the benefits, beyond the ethical one of having meat without slaughterhouses, if this technology can prove profitable. These include less demand for land and pesticides, fewer emissions of methane and more options for developing foods without harmful health impacts. Continue reading

The War on Pit Bulls

Lili Corn

Dog fighters concerned about whether they’re abusing their pit bulls

enough to achieve maximum viciousness in the fight ring can breathe a sigh of relief.  The popular dog fighting game application for Android, “Dog Wars,” from Kage Games, is back with a new name.  Pulled from the market for a few days last week due to trademark problems, the app was rereleased as “KG Dogfighting” on Saturday.   Those over the age of 14 are once again free to chose a game personality (perhaps the professional football player looking for a thrill) and get to work injecting virtual dogs with steroids, shocking them with electric currents, forcing them to drag around tractor trailer tires to build muscle, and sending them into the ring to rip apart opponents (or be ripped apart themselves).

          As heinous as it sounds, this game is not only real, but marketed as an attempt to raise awareness against animal cruelty.  Following this logic, one can only imagine what anti-pedophilia or anti-racism games would involve.  Search images of “dog fight victim” on the Internet if you want to see the true face of dog fighting and decide whether you think it is an appropriate subject matter for a game. Continue reading

The Donation Loophole in the Lacey Act – A Win for Animal Smugglers?

Jacqueline McMahon

In the United States, animal smuggling is a $10 billion industry.  Worldwide, animal smuggling is seen by participants as a “low risk, high profit” business because of the limited breadth of domestic legislation, undermanned agencies, and lax penalties.  The U.S. Lacey Act, one of the key pieces of legislation designed at targeting animal smuggling, prohibits the sale of exotic animals or their body parts for profit.  While the language may seem like outright prohibition on smuggling, animal smugglers are finding loopholes in the Act to continue the trade.      Continue reading

In Poor Taste

Seth Victor

I’ve been meaning to comment about an article I read earlier this month. As NPR’s Robert Krulwich reports, a couple of innovators from the UK have created carnivorous machines. I think the article sufficiently captures the mix of awe and  horror at the development of furniture that derives its energy from consuming animals. Sci-Fi disasters aside, the idea of inanimate objects not just killing as a pest-removal system, but actually needing to “eat” to “survive” raises questions, namely, why?

I’m all for alternative fuel sources, but this is too much. First, as I understand the process from the video link, microbial fuel cells aren’t terribly efficient. Eight flies powering a clock for twelve days may sound impressive, but we are talking about

clocks, which don’t require a tremendous amount of energy. Stealing electrons from bacteria isn’t going to power a car anytime soon. Yes, animals (and some plants) can convert bio-mass into energy, but this is the only way they (we) have evolved to create energy. Ultimately most terrestrial life relies on solar energy, so why not just go to the source. Oh wait, we already do that. Continue reading

Should Michael Vick Own a Dog?

Seth Victor

My quick answer is no, but Scott Heiser from ALDF offers a more detailed explanation about what realistic enforceable judicial options exist to keep abusers like Vick (who recently stated that owning a dog will help with his rehabilitation) from owning animals. You can read Heiser’s Q&A here.

 

UPDATE: While we are on the subject of punishment and rehabilitation, apparently President Obama went out of his way to praise the Philadelphia Eagles for giving Vick a second chance. Very interesting. You can read the article here.

Finding the Factory Farms

David Cassuto

We’re often told (because it’s true) that 10 billion animals are killed for food in this country every year.  The implications of that number for climate change, water and air pollution, and animal suffering are well-documented and appalling.  But most of us have never seen a factory farm.  Agribusiness counts on the “out of sight, out of mind” effect to keep the population quiescent and, for the most part, the strategy works.

So where are those 10 billion animals?  Continue reading

Turkey Pardons (reprised)

David Cassuto

As I sat down to type some Thanksgiving thoughts, I found myself returning to what I wrote a couple of years ago, back when this blog was first beginning.  I’m still saddened and bewildered by the idea of pardoning turkeys.  And, since not many people read the blog back then, I offer those now two-year old thoughts back up again for your consideration.

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.          Continue reading

D.C. Passes Wildlife Protection Act

Gillian Lyons

Earlier this week, the D.C. City Council unanimously passed B18-498, the Wildlife Protection Act.  You may be wondering exactly what type of wildlife resides within the limits of the District of Columbia and the answer, inevitably, is various species that the human species unfortunately views as “pests.”  Many of these species fall under B18-498’s protections.

In effect, B18-498 regulates pest control companies operating within city limits, imposing on these companies certain humane treatment standards for the animals they are called upon to control.  For instance, the Act prohibits glue traps, as well as snare/snap traps; it prohibits lethal measures that are not approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association; it requires that trapped injured animals be taken to rehabilitation centers; and, it mandates that pest control officers attempt to reunite mothers with their young and keep family units in tact when trapping (and hopefully releasing) animals.  The Act also requires those working in the “pest control” industry to be trained and licensed. Continue reading

Sex, Animal Abuse, and the Internet

Seth Victor

In Long Island, New York last Tuesday,  the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a bill, sponsored by legislator Jon Cooper, creating the nation’s first registry for people convicted of animal abuse. The online registry operates in a similar fashion to the online registration required for sex offenders under Megan’s Laws. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty will be required to submit and keep updated their name, address, and photograph to the publicly searchable database for five years following their conviction. Convicted abusers will have to pay $50 annually for the cost of the registry, and those who do not face a $1,000 fine and one year imprisonment.

Mr. Cooper is quoted stating, “We know the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence…Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals, so in a strange sense we could end up protecting the lives of people.” In acknowledging the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, a relationship of which many people are not aware, Mr. Cooper illustrates how animal protection laws can serve both human and animal interests.

Continue reading

Compassionate Children’s Literature

From the email:

For immediate release:

A Morning of Compassionate Children’s Literature
with Farm Sanctuary
at the Community Bookstore of Park Slope
BROOKLYN, NY (October 9, 2010)—The Community Bookstore of Park Slope is pleased to host “A Morning of Compassionate Children’s Literature with Farm Sanctuary.” The event takes place Sunday, October 17th at 11am and is free and open to the public. (Address: 143 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn, NY—between Carroll Street and Garfield Street).    Continue reading
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