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

The ESA at 40

Ellen Zhangellen

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

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

International Animal Crime

Ellen Zhang

On the 7th and 8th of November, 500 of the leading law enforcement and environmental experts came together at the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)- United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference (ECEC) in Nairobi, Kenya. They discussed recent trends in environmental crime and the impacts of those violations. “This is a global phenomenon. This is a global market place. It’s globally active syndicates, criminals who are engaging in this trade who are causing damage to national economies and communities,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director, and “[there is] a rapidly escalating environmental crime wave.”

According to UNEP, environmental crime is associated with international criminal syndicates. UNEP and Interpol are working together to provide a global system of communication for information sharing to prevent environmental Zhang piccrimes.

“People from around the world are outraged that organized criminal networks are robbing the world of our elephants, rhinos, tigers and other wildlife, purely for the profit of a very few outlaws,” said Azzedine Downes, president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), who presented at the conference. He called for countries to commit to developing security task forces to battle environmental crime and highlighted the importance of cross-boundary cooperation. Continue reading

California Protects Endangered California Condor with Ban on Lead Ammunition

Anne Haas

Condor119On October 11, California became the first state to ban lead in hunting ammunition. “Lead poses a danger to wildlife,” said California Governor Jerry Brown in a signing message. “This danger has been known for a long time.” The ban will help to protect a number of mammal and bird species, including the endangered California Condor.

The California Condor nearly went extinct in the 1980s – by 1982, their population had dwindled to twenty-two. Thanks to a successful captive breeding program, that number has increased to 424, but lead from ammunition remains a major threat to their recovery. Continue reading

Environment, Ethics, & the Factory Farm

David Cassuto

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

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

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

A Response to Jeff and Joe Regarding Our Primary Right

by Carter Dillard

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

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

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

Continue reading

9th Circuit Continues to Rubber Stamp Illegal Whaling

Stephen O’Donohue

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

Continue reading

THE PRIMARY RIGHT

Carter Dillard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Issues with California’s Foie Gras Ban

Seth Victor

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

Sheep (and ranchers) Find No Home on the Range

SHEEP-1-popup

Seth Victor

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

Why International Trade is not Dolphin Safe

Seth Victor

You may have your own opinions about the World Trade Organization (WTO), whether positive or negative. Regardless, the WTO wields influence over imports and exports worldwide. As we have discussed at length on this blawg, animals are commodities, and thus the policies of the WTO are important when considering animal rights.Dolphins in Net

Over the last several months the WTO has taken issue with dolphin-safe tuna. To summarize what is a long and involved debate, since 1990 the United States has provided labels specifying whether dolphins were killed (though “harmed” isn’t covered) through the harvesting of tuna to be sold in the U.S. market under the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (originally the labels really meant that purse seine nets, the type that often harm dolphins, weren’t used). Mexico, via a complaint to the WTO, claimed that these dolphin safety measures unfairly impeded Mexico’s tuna trade. The WTO agreed, and ruled that the dolphin-safe labels are “unnecessarily restrictive on trade.”  This ruling comes out of one of the core principles of the WTO’s policy of non-discrimination. Under the doctrine of “the most favoured nation” all WTO countries must extend to each other the same trade advantages as the most prefered trading nation would receive. National equality also states that foreign traders must be treated the same way as domestic traders. When you consider the long history of violence and discrimination associated with international trade, including the United States’s own origins, this is sound policy. Yet as always, the devil is in the application.

Continue reading

Shark Week

Allen Shiu

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

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

Myths, More than Traditional Medicine, Driving Rhino Slaughter

 Andrew C. Revkin

x-post from Dot Earth

Rhino horns seized by Customs in Hong Kong

Rhinoceros populations from Asia through Africa are plummeting in the face of burgeoning illicit trade in their horns, much of it driven by myths promoted by criminal smuggling syndicates and targeting the new wealthy in China and Vietnam. The Green blog and Dot Earth have explored these issues, but it’s worth a slightly deeper dive, here provided in a “Your Dot” contribution from Matthew Wilkinson, the founder and editor of the informative Safaritalk blog.

Here’s an excerpt and link to the full essay by Wilkinson, which I’ve posted via Slideshare.net:

Matt Wilkinson: As someone who devotes his days to highlighting wildlife conservation in Africa, when I’m asked to name my greatest concern, without hesitation I say the poaching onslaught devastating rhinoceros populations. With so many pressing problems besetting wildlife and the environment, why this one issue over and above everything else? The answer is shaped by the shocking way in which the rhinos are killed and their horns removed, the widespread myths fueling the recent poaching escalation and the apparent inability of governments to tackle this massive problem with anything approaching competence. Continue reading

When Carnivores Become Neighbors

David Cassuto

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

 

 

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

Existence Value Introduced as an Argument for Standing in ESA Lawsuit

David Cassuto

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has construed the Endangered Species Act to exclude captive populations of  the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population.  This means that these endangered orcas  are deprived of the protections of the statute and can be exploited for profit by commercial operations.  A number of individuals and animal advocacy organizations including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), on whose board I sit, brought suit in the Western District of Washington to challenge this interpretation.

To wit:

SHELBY PROIE; KAREN MUNRO;                              Case #3:11-05955-BHS
PATRICIA SYKES; ANIMAL LEGAL
DEFENSE FUND, a non-profit
corporation; and PEOPLE FOR THE
ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS,
INC., a non-profit corporation,
Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES
SERVICE, ERIC C. SCHWAAB, in his
official capacity as Assistant Administrator
for Fisheries of the National Marine
Fisheries Service; and REBECCA M.
BLANK, in her official capacity as the
Acting Secretary of the United States
Department of Commerce,
Defendants.
____ _______________

Last week, ALDF amended its complaint to include a standing claim based on “existence value.”  It declared:

16. ALDF also brings this case on behalf of its members who, on information and belief, place significant and particularized value on the continued existence of Southern Resident killer whales, and whose interests in ensuring that the species continues to exist are injured by
NMFS’s decision to exclude the captive members of the population from the list of endangered species because protecting captive members of a listed species is necessary to ensure that it will not become extinct in the future and can eventually be recovered.

and   Continue reading

Banning Invasive Species — A Congressional Failure to Lead

Sarah Markham

Congress has been consistently asked to ban the importation of pythons into the United States, which Congress has failed to do.  This is an error on Congress part; as recently as October 17, 2011 a 16 ft. long Burmese python was discovered in Florida with a 76-lb. adult female deer inside.  This is an example of the long drawn out debate regarding native versus exotic (invasive) species.  Unfortunately this illustration is not rare or unheard of; in 2005, a python burst in the Everglades after attempting to swallow a live 6-ft. alligator.  It was not the fist documented event, and unfortunately not the last.  Both Flora and fauna exotic species can be considered pests.

Attributing the titles of native, non-native or invasive species must be questioned before asserted.  These titles have implications for mankind as well.  Additionally, a species being non-indigenous is not necessarily indicative of environmental harm.  Some species of plants that are not native to the ecosystem where they are found have provided great environmental benefits.  While another significant portion are considered invasive, especially if they: have rapid growth; asexual reproduction; can live off a variety of sustenance sources; have a tolerance of wide range of environmental conditions; or have an association with humansContinue reading

Livestock, Antibiotics & You

Adrianne Doll

United States livestock, mainly those animals raised for meat, are fed 28.8 million pounds of antibiotics each year.  This translates to 80% of all antibiotics in the country, including those for human use.  The consequence of consistently feeding antibiotics to livestock is antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Humans come in contact with these bacteria through eating food from industrial livestock facilities, living in environments contaminated with waste from such facilities, or by direct contact with animals that are over medicated.  Illnesses, in humans, caused by these bacteria do not react to antibiotics as they are supposed to, and instead become “super bugs” that require much stronger and heavier dosages of antibiotics.  Some infections have been found to not even react to these stronger antibiotics, for example staphylococcus.      Continue reading

The New Jersey Bear Hunt

Brittney Holmgren

New Jersey has begun its second annual six-day bear hunt in an effort to control the state’s growing bear population. This year’s hunt will allow about 6,200 hunters to track down the animals.

As expected, anti-hunt protestors were ready early Monday morning at the beginning of the hunt, winning a ruling from the sate Appellate Court allowing the protestors to demonstrate outside the check –in station on Route 23.

Hunters feel differently, with one stating “It’s not just walking and shooting. I think bears are a natural renewable resource and hunters are doing their job by hunting and keeping the bear population in check.” Continue reading

Should We Leave Certain Species Behind?

Theologia Papadelias

Should we let certain endangered species die out? Scientists have long stated that biodiversity is significant in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, but some are taking a seemingly unintuitive view that has been termed conservation triage. Conservation triage focuses resources on animals that can realistically be saved, and giving up on the rest. Those that fall into the too-expensive-to-save category might include the panda and the tiger.

Unfortunately, economic factors must be taken into consideration and some species require more money to save than others. For example, the California condor population saw an increase to 381, with 192 living in the wild, since 1987. An ongoing monitoring and maintenance program that costs more than $4 million a year helps keep them going. But is this program a success or merely a waste of finite resources? Continue reading

The Disappearance of Honey

Theologia Papadelias

Recently, beekeepers have been observing unusually high losses of honey bees. This phenomenon has been termed, “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). The mysterious onset of decline in the honey bee population has been linked with the following causes: viruses, fungi, pathogens, parasites, and pesticides.  Researchers also believe that bees are more susceptible to CCD when they are additionally exposed to stress by commercial beekeepers through seasonal trucking back and forth across the country.

The New York Times article, “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery,”
described a “major” breakthrough. A group of scientists led by Jerry Bromenshenk, working with the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, said in their jointly written paper that a virus and fungus were found in every killed colony the group studied; however, neither agent alone seemed able to devastate a colony.

It was later revealed that Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk was linked with Bayer
CropScience.  Why is this so significant? Dr. Bromenshenk had received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination.  Astonishingly, before receiving this funding, Dr. Bromenshenk had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers in the class action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003, ultimately dropping out and receiving the grant. Dr. Bromenshenk had also acknowledged as much that his company would profit more from finding that a disease, rather than pesticides, was harming bees. Recently, Bayer has come under a great deal of scrutiny for manufacturing and marketing the highly controversial pesticide clothianidin, a next-generation neonicotinoid, a toxic compound to honey bees. Continue reading

Nonnative Snakes Populating South Florida

Josh Loring

Earlier this month it was reported that officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission encountered a 16-foot Burmese python in the Everglades (this issue has been previously raised in the Blawg here).  Officials felt compelled to kill the snake so to prevent the further re-producing of the species, as well as preventing it from travelling north to more populated areas.  Officials report that at the time the snake was caught and killed, it had recently consumed a 76 pound female deer.  Continue reading

Elephant Poaching Increasing in Kenya

Usra Hussain

The Samburu National Reserve located in Kenya has experienced a high rate of elephant poaching this year in comparison to the past 11 years.  Although, elephants do not have any natural predators other than lions, elephants are threatened by human beings.  African and Asian elephants are hunted for their ivory tusks and illegally traded for money. The conservationists of the Samburu National Reserve have been actively fighting poachers in order to protect the elephants in their reserve. However, even with their efforts, the elephants in this reserve are continually being killed for their tusks.

One elephant in particular has been attacked twice for her tusks.  Khadija, an elderly elephant from the Samburu National Reserve has been one of many elephants this year that have been killed by poachers.  She suffered bullet wounds which were treated by an elephant organization, but again Khadija was targeted by poachers again. Unfortunately, she did not survive the second attack, leaving behind 8 orphan children.  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

Environmentalism & Factory Farming

David Cassuto

Good article in GOOD Magazine on environmentalism and industrial agriculture featuring an interview w/me.

Wolf Delisting Op-ed

David Cassuto

Between Kathleen and me, we’ve taken up a lot of blawgwidth on the wolf issue and yet there’s so much more to be said.  Here’s my bid to bring it into the mainstream media.

Mass Animal Deaths: Nature, Nurture, Conspiracy, or Apocalyspe?

Rosana Escobar Brown

The Red-winged Blackbird deaths on New Year’s Eve 2011 sparked an international debate over trends in mass animal deaths around the globe.  That night, 5,000 birds plummeted to their demise over the Beebe, Arkansas, with low-flying and fireworks cited as the cause.  One report assumed the birds just began “colliding with things” due to poor eyesight.  But this event alone did not coax the controversy; just two days earlier over 100,000 fish were found floating in the Arkansas River a mere miles from Beebe, and three days after the barrage of blackbirds, 500 more birds of mixed breeds fell from the sky in Louisiana.  Reasons provided ranged from disease to power line exposure.

Photo by Liz Condo/The Advocate, via Associated Press

As if these occurrences weren’t enough to incite conspiracy, extraterrestrial, and apocalypse theorists, skeptics began compiling evidence of recent occurrences around the globe.  The more jarring stories include 40,000 Velvet Crabs washing ashore in England, 2 million floating Spot Fish in Maryland’s Chesapeke Bay, a “carpet” of Snapper sans eyes in New Zealand, and 100 tons of mixed fish in Brazil.  These incidents come with varying explanations from researchers, none of which include government conspiracy or “end of days” prophecies.  However, the paranoid public seems alarmed at the phenomenon and is claiming the animals are omens of biblical proportion.  Aptly termed the “Aflockalypse” by online cynics, articles range from claiming Nostradamus predicted this as a sign of the end of days and others point to bible verses and claim this occurred once before in the fall of the Egyptian Empire.  One Google Maps user created a global mapped record of recent mass animal deaths in an attempt to find a pattern, and I must admit that the incidents appear in astonishing numbers. Continue reading

Law, Food, & Vegas

David Cassuto (also up in GreenLaw)

Alas, blogging has paid a heavy price for what has been and continues to be a very busy semester.  But it’s been busy in a good way.  To wit, I am recently returned from both Las Vegas and Rio.  I’ll discuss Rio in my next post but first, to Vegas.

A few weeks ago I attended the Conference of the Association of Law, Culture & Humanities held at UNLV.  This very fine interdisciplinary conference had three panels organized by UNLV’s Professor  Bret Birdsong on Law & Food.  The panel discussions ranged from GMOs to marketing and were uniformly excellent.  My talk (I was on one of the panels) grew out of some of my previous work.  It explored the unique normative challenges raised by the human/animal dynamic and how those challenges manifest in animal law and, consequently, in food law as well.  I argued that many of the failings of animal law (and environmental law) can be explained by the fact that it does not arise from the traditional relationships from which laws are created.  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

Amidst a Windy Congress, Some Protections for Birds

David Cassuto (also up in GreenLaw)

I’ve blogged before about the dangers to wildlife from wind turbines.   Well, this just in: yesterday, the Department of the Interior released draft guidelines to protect wildlife from wind turbines  while calling on all involved in the industry to rigorously monitor, assess, and incorporate best practices into their designs.

The guidelines look to promote compliance with the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, as well as other relevant statutes.  They advocate a tiered approach, including preliminary evaluation or screening, site characterization, pre-construction monitoring and assessments, post construction monitoring and assessments, and research. Continue reading

Wind, Birds and the Power Grid

David Cassuto

Let’s be clear: Our hero favors alternative energy, including wind power.   However, nothing is all good and wind turbines kill birds.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 400,000 birds are killed each year by blows from the blades of wind turbines.  And as the Department of Energy moves ahead with its (laudable) goal of transitioning the nation’s power supply to 20% wind power, measures must be taken to protect the avians at risk.  According to the American Bird Conservancy, the golden eagle, whooping crane, and the greater sage-grouse—face “especially severe” threats from wind energy and are most at risk from “poorly planned and sited wind projects.”  The American Wind Energy Association disputes the dimensions of the threat, claiming that “A reasonable, conservative estimate is that of every 10,000 human-related bird deaths in the U.S. today, wind plants cause less than one. The
National Academy of Sciences estimated in 2006 that wind energy is responsible for less than 0.003% of (3 of every 100,000) bird deaths caused by human (and feline) activities.”   Continue reading

Some Kangaroo News

David Cassuto

Kangaroos are routinely brutalized and treated as pests in Australia.  This from the email regarding some recent developments:

THINKK, the think tank for kangaroos, based at the University of Technology Sydney and supported by Voiceless, released two reports late last year examining the killing of kangaroos in Australia.

Each year over three million kangaroos are ‘harvested’ and over a million joeys are killed as part of the commercial industry.  This is the largest land-based slaughter of wildlife in the world. 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

Wolverines — Endangered but Not “Endangered”

David Cassuto

And speaking of the Endangered Species Act…

This just in:

After a thorough review of all the available science, the Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the contiguous United States population of wolverine should be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, the rulemaking to propose ESA protections for the wolverine will be delayed while we work on listing proposals for other species in greater need. The wolverine will be added to the list of candidates for ESA protection. As a candidate species, the wolverine will not receive protection under the ESA; however, we will review its status annually and will continue to work with landowners and partners to implement voluntary conservation measures.

The results of status review indicate that climate warming is the primary threat to wolverine. Our evaluation found that the effects of climate warming are serious but so far have not resulted in any detectable population effects to the species. Because the threat of climate warming is not imminent, we will use our resources to work on listing determinations for species at greater risk of extinction.

So, what does this all mean?  It means that the Fish & Wildlife Service, whose finding is quoted above, has determined that wolverines meet the criteria for listing under the Act but that no action will be taken right now because other species are a higher priority.  Continue reading

Wolves, Laws and Parochialism

David Cassuto

I would like to say a few more words about the so-called “State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act and its stated intent to strip wolves of all Endangered Species Act protections.  While I have no reason to assume this bill will pass (are you listening, Congress?), the fact that officials elected to national office could propose such a thing underscores much of what’s wrong with, well, with everything.

As an initial matter, wolves pose little threat to people.  In the 230+ year history of the United States, the number of wolf attacks can probably be counted on one person’s fingers and toes.  The number of fatal attacks is far fewer.  Wolves do, however, sometimes eat livestock.  Since their reintroduction (emphasis on re- introduction because they used to live there until we exterminated them) into the Northern Rockies, ranchers have raised a royal ruckus because they occasionally lose animals to wolves.  Rather than treat this as a cost of doing business, ranchers argue that the wolves’ existence constitutes an unwelcome intrusion into the natural order of things.  This despite the fact that the wolves used to inhabit the region in far greater numbers than the 1700 or so that currently exist there and that ranching (and the factory farming that it supports) has caused widespread damage to the region’s ecosystem.           Continue reading

Which Animals Matter (yet again)?

Seth Victor

To paraphrase the oft quoted excerpt from Animal Farm, all cute and fuzzy animals are equal, but domesticated cute and fuzzy animals are more equal than others. This sentiment was yet again demonstrated over the last week. In one corner, we have human pets, who are mercilessly being tortured for the pleasure of a rather repugnant fetish in crush videos. After U.S. v. Stevens struck down a law aimed a regulating depictions of cruelty, Congress quickly passed a narrower bill that was signed into law by President Obama on Friday. As reported by ALDF, “the more narrowly written law that emerged makes it a crime to sell or distribute videos showing animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury. It exempts depictions of veterinary and husbandry practices, the slaughter of animals for food, as well as depictions of hunting, trapping or fishing.” Hopefully the narrower scope will survive the inevitable legal challenges.

Continue reading

Bill Would Strip Wolves of ESA Protection — Forever

Apparently still traumatized by their experiences reading Little Red Riding Hood as children, 8 members of Congress  have introduced a bill called the State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act.  The sole purpose of HR 6485 is to render any listing of wolves as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act legally irrelevant.

You can’t  make this stuff up.

Read an informative post 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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,265 other followers