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

What the 2014 Farm Bill means for animals

Seth VictorFarm Bill

Although the Farm Bill is a comprehensive and nuanced piece of legislature that keeps food on our tables, perhaps the most notable part about this year’s version is something that is not in it: the “King Amendment”, a criticized hypocritical measure,  did not make the final cut, due in part to a large outcry against stripping states of their ability to regulate their own agriculture. As The Huffington Post reports, industrial agriculture was checked on several other fronts as well, including measures that would have loosened corporations’ requirements for labeling animal products. It is also now a federal crime to attend or take a child under the age of sixteen to an animal fighting event. There are other very important aspects of the law, such as the reduction of Food Stamps and a drastic curtailing of farm subsidies. Still, when looking at what was at risk directly affecting animals, this one counts as a win.

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

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.’”

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

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

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.

Continue reading

Fits of Madness

Seth Victor

Some years it’s sick pigs.  Other years it’s food companies publicly recognizing the need for less antibiotics in meat, because that apparently isn’t good for anyone. At the moment, it’s another bout of mad cow disease sending ripples through the international markets. Most of us can remember the British outbreak in 1997, which forced many people to reconsider their dinners and actually think about what they were eating. So what happened? Well, regulations were adjusted just enough to quell the public outcry, officials swore to never let this sort of thing happen again, and the news went away as soon as the outbreak was under control. Back to business as (mostly) usual.

One species in this system is acting insanely, but I’m not convinced it’s the bovines. Anyone want to take the over/under on when and what the next outbreak in farmed animals will be?

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 Other Greenhouse “Gas”: Cows & Climate Change

Jillian N. Bittner

You drive to the supermarket in your “green” car, checking your back seat before you leave for your re-usable bags– yet you stand on line about to purchase the packaged beef sitting at the bottom of your cart and do not stop to think twice about the environment? – Perhaps you should.

While the environmental legal community emphasizes the desperate need to harness and reduce CO2 emissions as a way to mitigate the current and impending consequences of greenhouse gases on climate change, the community at large has ignored the impact of a greater culprit – CH4, or rather methane gas.  Animal agriculture accounts not only as a source of CO2, or nitrous oxide (N2O; another potent greenhouse gas), but is the number one source of methane gas worldwide – beating out the effects of vehicles and airplanes combined. But why should the environmental and legal communities be more concerned with CH4? According to the EPA, “methane is about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than CO2 by weight.”

Cows, and the corresponding beef industry, are the largest contributors of methane gas. Cows produce this effect partly through belching and flatulence as a consequence of their digestive systems, which are characteristic of ruminant animals. Yet CAFOs remain unregulated. Continue reading

New York Ag-Gag Bill Dies

Douglas Doneson

The New York “ag-gag” bill S 5172, designed to deter meth addicts from stealing anhydrous ammonia overdosed on reason and died today on the senate floor.  Maybe the New York state representatives realized that the majority of meth labs in this country have been outsourced to Mexico.

Or maybe they realized that anhydrous ammonia is primarily used for plant/ soil fertilization and since factory farmed animals are not pasture raised, animal farmers probably don’t have that much NH3 lying around anymore.  Continue reading

EPA Releases Emissions Data on CAFOS — Interpretation to Follow

David Cassuto
Here’s an interesting development: EPA has released data from a national study of emissions from CAFOS  that raise pigs, broiler chickens, cattle, and turkeys.  Of course, we don’t know how interesting it is because the agency has not yet interpreted the data.  If you’re of a number-crunching bent, you can see it all here.

AALS Animal Law Panel

David Cassuto

Ok, there’s much to catch up on and this will be the first post of several.  Let’s start with the AALS Animal Law Section panel held last Saturday in San Francisco.  The conference in general was quite good.  Despite a labor action at the main conference hotel, which caused many sections (including ours) to be moved at the last minute, and despite the session taking place at O-dark thirty (8:30 a.m.) on a Saturday, the session was well-attended by interested folk, many of whom were new to animal law. Continue reading

Rivers, Agriculture & Climate Change

David Cassuto

I’ll be a visiting professor at  Williams College this coming semester, teaching climate change law & policy as well as environmental law at the Center for Environmental Studies.  So, climate change has very much been on my mind of late.  This is not a new thing, of course.  I’ve blogged frequently about the relationship between animal law & policy and climate change and written more extensively about it elsewhere as well.  In addition, I’ll be talking about CAFOS and climate change as part of the animal law panel  at the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) meeting this weekend.

However, I recently stumbled on a new (to me) aspect of the pernicious relationship between industrial agriculture and climate change: the denitrification of rivers.  Microbes in rivers convert nitrogen to nitrous oxide (as well as an inert gas called dinitrogen).  That nitrous oxide then makes its way into the atmosphere where it becomes a potent greenhouse gas as well as a destroyer of atmospheric ozone.  Continue reading

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

Some Antibiotic News

Gillian Lyons

According to some sources, as much as 70 percent of the antibiotics produced in the United States are fed to animals housed in the factory farm industry, animals otherwise known as “food product animals.”  These antibiotics are used not only to prevent the spread of disease among animals housed in small overcrowded quarters, but are also used to spur rapid growth and production (and therefore rapid economic benefit for the factory farm industry).

It is generally recognized that the widespread use of antibiotics in factory farms has, and will have, a significant impact on human health. For instance, in a report from the United States General Accounting Office it was noted that antibiotic use is already connected to the presence of Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli in humans.  The report also suggested that the use of antibiotics in food product animals lessens the effectiveness of antibiotics used to treat humans for other diseases. Continue reading

Fries, Beer, and the IUCN Colloquium

David Cassuto

Belgium is pretty cool.  Ghent is an absolutely beautiful city, filled with the kind of stunning architecture that one might expect to see in European cities better known for their visual splendor.  And did you know that Ghent was the second-largest city in Europe (behind Paris) for quite a while, quite a while back?  Just up the road is Bruges – a medieval city that was a bustling center of commerce until its harbor silted up 400 or so years ago.  As a result, it still looks much as it did then.  And back then, it looked mighty good.

Let’s see… what else?  The pommes frites – to which I had been looking forward with almost maniacal glee – were not all that.  In my experience (admittedly limited to Ghent), one can do much better on St. Mark’s Place in NYC.

The beer, however.  Oh, the beer.  Oh, it’s good.  It’s good beer.

Continue reading

Part 2 of the Brazilian Odyssey

David Cassuto

I flew Business Class on the way home.  Business Class is better than coach.  In fact, I’m seriously considering renaming my child Business Class.  I’ve also written several epic poems and elegies to Business Class and am thinking about getting a tattoo.

But I digress.

I’m back in the U.S. after a truly rich and useful swing through the Brazilian cities of Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Brasilia.  My thanks go out to the United States Department of State, particularly the good people in the consulate in Sao Paulo and the embassy in Brasilia for making my time so valuable and pleasant.  In each city I spoke about industrial agriculture and climate change (my lecture drew on the policy paper I recently wrote for the Animals and Society Institute).  I also gave several interviews for the press.  Both the reporters and the audiences met me where I was – engaging both the environmental issues and the animal ethics.  The Q&A sessions were routinely excellent.

Porto Alegre is the home of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (URGS), where I have spoken several times over the years and whose law school has a long friendship with Pace. Professor Fabio Morosini was my host.  He comes at these issues via international law and his perspective and insights were enormously useful.  He’s also a terrifically nice guy.  The law school hosted a roundtable for students, faculty and interested members of the community prior to my lecture where we discussed climate change in the larger context as well as the role of meat consumption and industrial agriculture.  Both there and in the discussion following my lecture, we wrestled with the issue of national responsibility and collective action.  Given the U.S.’ status as one of the largest carbon emitters, the founder of factory-farming and voracious consumer of meat, it is always a challenge to go to other countries and discuss the idea of shared sacrifice and vigilance about industrial agriculture.  But even as one must accept and acknowledge the historic and continuing role of U.S. policies and consumption patterns, it is also important to acknowledge that this is an international dilemma requiring collective action at both the domestic and international levels.                 Continue reading

EPA Region 2 — Taking It To the CAFOs

David Cassuto

The news release speaks for itself:

Region 2 Issues a Class II Administrative Complaint to a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation for Illegal Discharges and Numerous Permit Violations On July 15, 2010, Region 2 issued an Administrative Complaint against Wilkins Dairy Farm, LLC (“Respondent”) for several violations of the Clean Water Act and the regulations governing the operation of concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”).  The Respondent owns and operates a CAFO that confines approximately 287 mature dairy cows and 125 heifers and heifer calves.  On April 20, 2010, EPA conducted a Compliance Evaluation Inspection of the facility, and observed numerous violations of the Clean Water Act and its Continue reading

Some Further Thoughts on Ohio

David Cassuto

I’m back in the northern hemisphere, missing the tropical juices and proximity to the beach but enjoying my family (human and non), my friends, and my deck with its accompanying martinis.  I’ve also been pondering the Ohio deal I blogged about before getting on the plane last week.  As you may recall, the ballot initiative in Ohio containing important agricultural reforms has been indefinitely postponed in exchange for a number of concessions.    Continue reading

Come 2011, Some More Regulation for CAFOs

David Cassuto

From the Correcting Inane Regulations Desk:

One could say that EPA has regulated CAFOs under the Clean Water Act for years.  Big Ag operations are required to obtain NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits for their discharges and consequently, the Agency has monitored such discharges and protected the public from the environmental hazards these operations create.  Of course, if one said all that, one would be wrong

That´s how the story might read if we lived in a rational world.  Instead, Industrial Ag operations can claim — without having to provide verification — that its facilities do not discharge into the waters of the U.S.  Consequently, many CAFOs do not obtain permits, which means their discharges are not regulated.    Continue reading

The Show-Me State Legislature Making the World Safe for Factory Farms

David Cassuto

I used to live in Missouri (in Rolla — a place locals call “The Middle of Everywhere“).  I have many fond memories of my time there including my first visit to Stonehenge, drinking grape juice made from local grapes (the wine is pretty good, too), and doing a radio show on gulf coast rhythm and blues for the local NPR affiliate .  So it pains me even more than it might to report about the steady capture of the legislature by agribusiness. 

Continue reading

Missouri Court of Appeals Keeps Friends Close and CAFOs Closer

David Cassuto

Excellent post here about a recent Missouri Court of Appeals decision eradicating a buffer zone between the historic town of Arrow Rock and a proposed CAFO.  In Missouri, a CAFO need be sited only 3000 feet  from residential areas.  Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster litigated this case furiously on behalf of the factory farms, arguing that the town´s ordinance requiring the facility be further away represented a trend that  “[i]n the eyes of the agricultural community, [was] starting to spin out of control.” 

Continue reading

Some Measurable Poultry-Related Success in the U.K.

David Cassuto

A while back, I relayed some info about the `Quash the Squash´ campaign by the RSPCA in the UK aimed at improving the lot of chickens.  Apparently, the campaign was/is very successful.  Despite the recession, British consumers are increasingly willing to spend more money on `higher welfare´chickens.  And, more importantly, they are buying less chicken in general.  Excellent trends, both.  Particularly the latter.  Read more about it and take a brief poll here.

Gluttony

Seth Victor

            Gluttony is the big sin, the flagship of cruelty against animals, and because of that it is the hardest for me to put into original words. So many advocates before me have written so well about the consequences of over consuming animals. The message is simple, and is articulated best by Michael Pollan: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. That is a message aimed at fixing American health problems, which stem from our poor diets. In becoming better eaters, we will also become better stewards to animals. The poor treatment of factory farmed animals is a disaster, and it leads to the downfall of our health, our environment, and our economy, to say nothing of the animals who live in hell because of our dietary indulgences. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are an apt topic for any of the sins, but I’m sticking with the obvious one.  That the omnivore’s dilemma is the biggest and most oppressive issue in the animal rights world should come as no surprise to any of this blawg’s regular readers. For those of you just visiting, take some time read this post. Or this one. This one, too. It’s kind of a big deal.                Continue reading

The CAFO Hothouse

David Cassuto

The Shameless Self-Promotion Desk kicks into high gear with this from the email:

Today, on Earth Day 2010, the Animals and Society Institute is pleased to announce the release of our sixth policy paper, titled “The CAFO Hothouse: Climate Change, Industrial Agriculture and the Law.” Written by David N. Cassuto, a professor at the Pace School of Law, the paper is a very timely overview of how government policies and agribusiness interests have combined to create inhumane and unhealthy conditions within our nation’s food supply, and what that means for our planet’s future.

“The CAFO Hothouse” describes, in thorough but easily digestible detail, how CAFOs (“concentrated animal feeding operations,” commonly known as factory farms) have replaced smaller family farms in the last few decades, the direct and indirect impact they have on greenhouse gas emissions, and how better policies and practices would help mitigate the resulting environmental damage and improve conditions for billions of farmed animals.

This paper is the first in our series to address agricultural issues, and is part of our overall mission to use science-based arguments to promote more responsible public policy.

Here’s an Excerpt:    Continue reading

EPA Takes on a CAFO and Wins

David Cassuto

From the email — some good news from the good people at EPA Region 2.  What I like about this is that EPA is inspecting CAFOS and that it is (at least sometimes) able to use the Clean Water Act as an enforcement mechanism.

Administrative Settlement Reached with Large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

On March 10, 2010, Region 2 issued a final order finalizing a settlement
with Berkshire Valley Dairy, LLC, for its violations of the Clean Water
Act and the regulations governing the operation of large concentrated
animal feeding operations.  The Respondent is a dairy farm that confines
approximately 1000 mature dairy cows and 300 heifers and heifer calves.
On April 21, 2009, and again on May 7, 2009, EPA conducted Compliance
Evaluation Inspections of the facility and observed numerous violations
of the CWA and its implementing regulations, including the discharge of
manure to a tributary of Roeliff Jansen Kill and numerous failures to
adequately document and implement a comprehensive nutrient management plan, best management practices, inspections, and proper operations and maintenance of the facility.  On June 29, 2009, EPA issued an Administrative Order directing the Respondent to correct its violations, and on January 12, 2010, EPA issued an administrative Complaint, proposing to assess a penalty of $12,000. 

Under the March 10, 2010 settlement, the Respondent will pay a penalty of $8,100.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Industrial Agriculture & Climate Change

David Cassuto

Santos was interesting.  First, who knew there was a significant mountain range between Rio & Sao Paulo?  Even having flown this route many times, I was surprised by the size and extent of the range which we drove over.

My talk on biofuels, industrial agriculture and climate change was well-received in an odd but increasingly common way.   Though I mentioned animal treatment only tangentially and concentrated on the massive pollution and climate change culpability of factory farming, 90% of the questions and comments I received dwelt on animal treatment and even animal rights.         Continue reading

Thinking About Pigs

Bruce Wagman

Pigs have been on my mind a lot lately.  Years ago I met several of them at the Farm Sanctuary home in Orland, California, and while I already had appreciated their complex personalities and emotional lives, getting to spend time with them changed the knowledge to revelation.  We sat on a riverbank with Gene and scratched pig bellies in the sun and watched them playing, eating, lounging.  The grunts of joy and doglike behavior was notable from the guy I was petting.  He was halfway onto his 1000-plus pound back, grunting and snuffling while I rubbed and cooed to him.  That day, probably fifteen years ago, has never left me, and my love of his species was further informed by my visits and introductions to the great pig friends I have made at Animal Place.  They impressed me as a thoughtful, prescient, and extremely playful bunch; eminently curious, very thoughtful, and wise. 

That’s a great image but mainly, for the past ten years or so, when I think of pigs, I think of mother-torture.  From dealing with the issues and cases, I now have, seared in my mind, images of “gestation crates” or “sow stalls,” those confinement technique weapons of cruelty that the modern pig meat industry utilizes for commercial efficiency, while simultaneously robbing their pigs of every sense of being an individual, a pig, a mother.    A select group of female pigs are chosen, presumably for their genetic superiority, to be turned into living machines who are repeatedly impregnated until they are worn out and wasted by the industry and then thrown out like so many pounds of trash.  During their lives they go from gestation crate (while pregnant) to farrowing crate where, after giving birth, they are placed so that their young can suckle but cannot otherwise interact with their mom, who is again kept on a concrete slab inside bars, in an area that is usually slightly smaller than the mother, so that she not only has to lie in her waste, but she is also pushed into metal bars 24-7.  Pigs in these confinement situations suffer in pain from the lack of exercise and movement, and experience psychological damage from the lifetime of deprivation and denial. Continue reading

Burying Factory Farms with Faint Praise?

David Cassuto

Not too long ago, I blogged about Beppe Bigazzi, the Italian tv host who advocated for stewing cats.  My working theory was that Bigazzi could not possibly have been stupid enough not to know his remarks would create a backlash.  If so, then he was being wonderfully subversive  in a manner only available to those who are full participants in the culture they critique.

I had the same thought recently when reading this  NYT piece by Adam Shriver last week (admittedly, this thought did not occur to me when reading Jennifer Church’s earlier post on Shriver’s writings).  Mr. Shriver opined that since factory farms are inevitable (because they produce the meat we eat), we should turn our attention to genetically removing the pain centers in the animals we torture.  The responses to Shriver’s piece took him to task for the bald stupidity of his argument (starting with his failure to interrogate the assumption that factory farms are necessary).  Continue reading

Another E. coli Flesh Recall

David Cassuto

There’s really nothing one can say about this that’s new.  Oh, the ongoing infamy.

Owning What You Eat

David Cassuto

From the shameless self-promotion desk: I have a new chapter/article available on SSRN.  It’s called Owning What you Eat: The Discourse of Food.  You can get it here.  It will appear in DEMOCRACY, ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY AND INTERNATIONAL LAW, a book forthcoming this fall.

Here’s the abstract: Continue reading

Ohio Issue 2 Aftermath

David Cassuto

Reports of the death of animal advocacy in Ohio in the wake of last fall’s passage of Issue 2 have been greatly exaggerated.  Ohioans for Humane Farms has begun the process of getting an initiative on the ballot that would:

1. Require the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to establish minimum humane standards for certain farm animals within six years after adoption of the amendment. The minimum standards would:

  • Prohibit a farm owner or operator from tethering or confining any calf raised for veal, pig during pregnancy, or egglaying hen, on a farm, for all or the majority of a day, in a manner that prevents such animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending his or her limbs, or turning around freely. This prohibition would not apply during certain times set forth in the amendment, including, but not limited to, during veterinary treatment, certain livestock exhibitions, and scientific or agricultural research. Continue reading

NYSBA Environmental Law Section Conference Call on CAFO Permitting

From the email:

The Environmental Law Section’s Agriculture and Rural Issues
Committee will host a conference call on Wednesday, February 3rd
from 2:00 – 3:00 pm to provide information and answer questions
about the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit
program.

This call is open to any Environmental Law Section member wishing
to participate.  Attorneys Scott Crisafulli at DEC and John
Rusnica at NYS Agriculture and Markets will present information on
the program and answer questions from call participants. Ruth
Moore, General Counsel, NYS Agriculture and Markets, and
Environmental Law Section Agriculture and Rural Issues Committee
Chair, will act as moderator.

If you would like to participate in the conference call, just send
an email by January 22nd to Sections@nysba.org and provide your
name and contact information. You will then be sent an invitation
with a call-in number and code for the call on February 3rd.

Go Here, Read This

David Cassuto

This is a very interesting piece by Stephanie Ernst.  She argues that the crusade against factory farming undermines the larger animal rights movement by creating safe rationalizations for the consumption of local, “humanely raised” animal products.

Here’s a little taste:

It’s time for the vegan/animal rights movement to stop battling factory farming. And by that, of course, I mean that it’s time to stop presenting factory farming as the enemy, as the sole problem, when the problem is not confined to factory farming. Why? Continue reading

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association — A Climate Change Hero…?

Painting by Sue Coe

David Cassuto

Guess what?  Apparently, human contributions to climate change is still iffy science and even if it weren’t, the beef industry sequesters rather than releases carbon and should be rewarded for its zealous fight against climate change.  So says the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).  According to the NCBA, agriculture was responsible for less than 6% of total U.S. GHG emissions while land use, land use change, and forestry activities resulted in a net carbon soil sequestration of approximately 17.4% of total U.S. CO2 emissions, or 14.9% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, “Agriculture actually provides a significant net benefit to the climate change equation,” said Tamara Theis, chief environmental counsel for the NCBA. “Rather than being subject to overly-burdensome regulations, agriculture should be rewarded for the carbon reductions we provide.”

Note the deft rhetorical move: land use, land use change and forestry do not necessarily have anything to do with agriculture.  Nevertheless, Big Ag is taking credit for it while also underselling its role in emissions.  Such claims would be laughable if they weren’t so pernicious.  Well, actually, they’re still laughable.  But they’re also dangerous.  The NCBA has just filed suit in the DC Circuit challenging EPA’s right to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  Now, you may be saying — isn’t this what Massachusetts vs. EPA was all about?  How can the NCBA challenge a Supreme Court ruling?   Continue reading

More on the Vegan Dialogues

Matthew Blaisdell

This is a summation/expansion of my comments (see post & comments here) relating to the NY Times Op-Ed in which the writer likened the killing of animals for meat consumption to the Holocaust.

I know only about as much as the general public regarding animal rights/law.  I do think that the issues involved are fascinating, difficult and complex.  What strikes me is what I will call the ‘moralizing’ tenor of much of the dialogue.  I call these dialogues ‘moralizing’ because, to me, they rely on assumptions about ethics applied to a code of behavior, and are imbued with strong judgments about those behaviors.  What has been happening is that those who focus on the ‘immorality’ of factory farming have been attacked for not subscribing to the ‘immorality’ of eating animal products.  For example, see a selection from the postings made by a friend of mine:

“Actually, I think many meat eaters are a self-righteous bunch … I long ago gave up trying to convince meat eaters to change after I realized that theirs is much less a rational choice, than a thoughtless submission to a base urge.”

To me, such statements (as well as those likening the consumption of animal products to murder or the Holocaust) are either intended to introduce the listener to this moral code by way of a provocative statement, or to communicate to a listener who subscribes to the same moral code.  I am concerned with is the first of these motives.   Continue reading

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