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

Chipotle’s “Scarecrow”: A Call to Veganism?

Maeve Flanagan

             Recently, Chipotle released an animated short film designed to draw attention to the perils of processed food, while, of course, trying to get people to play the company’s new online game.  Chipotle, which was primarily owned by McDonalds until 2006, is known in the industry for its efforts to use organic ingredients and naturally raised animals in its menu.  The short film is certainly touching- there are images of adorable animated cows packed in tight crates and chickens being pumped with what are presumably hormones.  The main character, the Scarecrow, is working in a food processing factory as a repair man and gets a first hand look at these horrifying practices.  The Scarecrow returns home to his charming cottage to find that a pepper (could it be a chipotle pepper?) has grown in his garden.  He works hard in this newly

Chipotle scarecrowblossoming garden until he has enough food to open a stand in the city where he once worked.  But there’s something missing from the Scarecrow’s new restaurant- meat. Continue reading

New Jersey Gestation Crate Bill …

Megan Hopper-Rebegea

Gestation_crates_5On May 14, 3013, the New Jersey Assembly passed NJ A.3250 / S.1921, a Bill to Ban Cruel Confinement of Breeding Pigs by a vote of 60 to 5 in the Assembly and 29 to 4 in the Senate.  The legislation prohibits the extreme confinement of breeding pigs in crates that do not allow the animals to turn around.  If the legislation had been signed by Governor Chris Christie, it would have made New Jersey the tenth state to outlaw these types of gestation crates.  A.3250 / S.1921 would require that breeding pigs be able to at least stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs.  Continue reading

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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The Ag-Gag World — Where Victimizers are the Victims

David Cassuto

We’ve spent considerable blawgwidth here on Ag-Gag laws, with more doubtlessly to come.  Recently, I’ve been asked to speak and blog about the issue a fair bit and from that emerged the following post.  It is or will be posted in some places where people are less familiar with the issue.  (I’ll update with links)

ag-gag-factory-farming-1Agricultural animals are not covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act.  Many states also exclude them from their anti-cruelty laws.  As a result, they have virtually no legal protections and spend their short lives in horrific misery before being turned into salable flesh (or, in the case of laying hens, into compost).  However, there are a few federal regulations that still apply and some states do not exempt them from cruelty protections. The most powerful force for animal protection, though, is public outrage.  Most people do not know how animals are treated in agriculture and are outraged when they learn.  Consequently, activists sometimes chronicle some of the more egregious abuses in undercover videos.  The videos themselves document everything from standard procedures in factory farms to deliberate, conscience-shocking acts of sadism.

Faced with these abuses, how have state legislatures reacted?  By turning the videographers into criminals.  People who expose the animal abuses now face draconian penalties and felony status.  So-called “Ag-Gag” bills have become law in a dozen states with several more poised to make the leap.  Under one proposed law, named the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act  (you can’t make this stuff up), those convicted of documenting animal abuse at agricultural facilities would potentially face felony charges and have their name added to a “terrorist registry.”  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

New European Study Confirms English Cooking Is Still Bad

Seth Victor

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

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Animals Are Biggest Losers in Sequestration

Seth Victor

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

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

Why horse meat tacos are the least of our worries

Seth Victor

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

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

Summer Intern Position w/Compassion Over Killing

David Cassuto

Heads up, law students:

From the email . . .

SUMMER LITIGATION INTERN POSITION

Compassion Over Killing (COK) is seeking Litigation Interns for Summer, 2013 (unpaid). Compassion Over Killing is a national nonprofit (501(c)(3)) animal advocacy organization. Working to end animal abuse since 1995, COK focuses on ending and preventing cruelty to animals in agriculture. The 2013 Summer Litigation Interns will work with COK’s Legal Advocacy Program in our West Coast office in Torrance, California.

The Summer Litigation Interns will work on litigation projects aimed at protecting farmed animals; most of these projects are plaintiffs’ litigation. These projects will likely employ a variety of legal theories, relating to areas such as state criminal cruelty laws, false advertising and unfair competition laws, tort liability, environmental protection laws, administrative law, tax, and corporate law. The interns will have opportunities to research new projects as well as assist heavily with ongoing projects. They will work closely with Compassion Over Killing’s general counsel.   Continue reading

Talking Ethics and Factory Farming

David Cassuto

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

Cassuto: Environment, Ethics & the Factory Farm

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.

Ag-Gag Laws: Terrorists, Extreme Vegetarians, Crazy Vegans and Our Right to Freedom of Expression

Ally Bernstein

 Terrorists, extreme vegetarians, crazy vegans… is that what they are calling us now? That is certainly what Senator David Hinkins, the Sponsor of Utah’s bill H.B. 187 that prohibits trespassing, photographing, or filming at agriculture operations said about the people opposing the bill. In defense of the bill, he argues the bill is aimed at “the vegetarian people” and “crazy vegans” who “are trying to kill the animal industry” referring to animal welfarists and those concerned with dredging out the truth about the agriculture industry as “terrorists.”

Sorry Senator Hinkins, but I don’t think that is what us “vegetarian people” are doing. Last time I checked, the vegetarian, vegan, and animal welfare movements were hinged on notions and principles such as cruelty free, environmentally friendly, and a reduction of harm and suffering for all species. The advancement of our movement has never been achieved by terrorist tactics such as fear inducing threats, punishment for exposing the truth, and suppressing people’s rights. It is a far stretch of the imagination to compare the animal welfare movement to a terrorist movement considering our mission is to end the suffering of species beyond our own. Continue reading

Why our modern lifestyle spells disaster

Seth Victor

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

Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse

Seth Victor

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

Foie Gras, with Hollande-aise Sauce

Seth Victor

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

Meat Animals, Humane Standards Other Legal Fictions

… is the title of my forthcoming essay in Law, Culture & the Humanities (a special issue on Law & Food).  Get it here.

Here’s the abstract:

Law and food are distinct concepts, though the discipline (Law and Food) implies a relationship worthy of study.  The conjunction (“and”) creates meaning.  However, its absence also conveys meaning.  For example, “meat animal” suggests that animals can be both meat and animal.  This conflation has powerful legal Continue reading

Hot, Crowded & Legal

David Cassuto
Here’s a teaser from my forthcoming piece, “Hot, Crowded & Legal: A look at Industrial Agriculture in the United States and Brazil.”  The article is co authored with the fabulous Sarah Saville (Pace JD 2012) and will appear in the Animal Law Review.  The article is based on a talk I gave at the Review’s Inaugural Symposium in Fall 2011.

This essay examines the impact of industrial animal agriculture in the United States and Brazil.  It surveys the respective regulatory environments in the two countries and discusses how their regulatory regimes have enabled the spread of factory farming while taking little heed of its pernicious effects.  We focus on the United States and Brazil for several reasons.  First, they are the first and eight largest economies in the world, respectively.  Second, both countries have very large agricultural sectors and play significant roles internationally.  In addition, both countries have begun to address the issues raised by factory farming while yet having much work yet to do.  

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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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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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Torturing Puppies and Eating Factory-Farmed Meat: What’s the Difference?

Spencer Lo

If you needed to torture puppies in order to enjoy the taste of chocolate, would doing so be wrong? Wouldn’t doing so be obviously wrong? Most who would say ‘yes’ regularly purchase and consume factory-farmed meat, seeing no problem with the latter, and yet, the two may not be morally distinguishable. According to at least one philosopher, they are not. In a highly provocative and creative paper, Alastair Norcross makes the case that purchasing and eating factory-farmed meat is morally comparable to torturing puppies for gustatory pleasure, and meat-eaters who realize this ought to become vegetarians (or at least give up factory farmed-meat). It’s an argument worth thinking about. (Other arguments for vegetarianism can be found here and here).

Norcross begins his paper with the story of Fred, who is on trial for animal abuse (see the lecture version here). The police discovered that in Fred’s basement, 26 puppies had each been confined in small wire cages. For 26 weeks, Fred would perform a series of mutilations on them, without anesthesia, and then brutally end their lives. His defense?  He is a lover of chocolate, and torturing puppies was the only way for him to enjoy it. Continue 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 Power of Undercover Videos

Ciara Smyth

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

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

Workers Caught Harming Hens

More on the Sparboe mess…:

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

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

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

Heather Schlemm

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

Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Cartons should be Regulated

Sheila Rodriguez

Most Americans care about the welfare of farmed animals. Egg companies

Image courtesy of Compassion Over Killing

know that, and many market their eggs with labels claiming the hens were treated well. What consumers don’t know is that many of the animal welfare claims on egg cartons are meaningless.

In my article, The Morally Informed Consumer: Examining Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Labels, I argue that egg consumers have a right to know how hens are raised. Most hens are packed eight or nine birds to a cage. The cages are so small that hens are unable to stretch a wing. The overcrowding causes them to fight, so their beaks are cut off to prevent them from injuring other birds. The fewer than 5% of eggs in theU.S. that are not produced under these conditions are from hens that were not even allowed outside. Continue reading

Supreme Court to Rule on Treatment of Downed Animals

Adonia David 

 The horrors of slaughterhouses were brought home to many Americans in 2007 when undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States at a California slaughterhouse showed workers abusing cows who were unable to walk (“downers”) by dragging them with forklifts, using water hoses on them, and shocking them with electric prods.  Footage of the video can be seen here.   The slaughterhouse was the second largest supplier of meat to the National School Lunch program, and the Department of Agriculture recalled 143 million pounds of meat following the release of the video.  California responded to this abuse by strengthening a state law relating to downed animals so that any such downed animal in a slaughterhouse is to be humanely euthanized immediately, and their meat shall not be sold for human consumption.

 The meat industry has claimed that California’s law conflicts with a federal law, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which requires downed animals to be examined.  Under the federal regulations, if an animal shows signs of specified illnesses during the examination, its meat to be destroyed,  but otherwise it may be butchered for human consumption.  Asserting that the California law is preempted by federal law and that it violates the dormant commerce clause, the National Meat Association brought suit in National Meat Association v. Brown.  A district court judge granted an injunction which was overturned by the Ninth Circuit.  The Supreme Court granted certiaori and on November 9, 2011 heard arguments on the case.  The decision is expected in a few months, but unfortunately the Court seemed to be leaning towards the meat industry during the arguments. Continue reading

The Ban on Foie Gras

Elizabeth Rattner

          According to a California law set to go into effect in July, it looks as though fine-dining establishments across the state of California will no longer be offering foie gras on their menus. In July, California will become the first state to outlaw the production and sale of foie gras. For those of you unfamiliar with the specifics of foie gras (“fatty liver”), it is a delicacy that sells for around $50 per pound. Foie gras is produced when a metal tube is forced down a duck’s throat and into its gullet to feed enormous amounts of corn into the duck three times daily. This process causes the duck’s liver to expand up to ten times its natural size as the duck becomes grossly overweight.  According to many animal-rights activist groups, this is a cruel and inhumane practice (the ducks feel so much pressure that they tear out their own feathers and cannibalize each other, while many others die as a result of their organs exploding or from choking as they are force feed) and groups have been pressuring restaurants to stop serving foie gras for quite some time.

While California may be the first state to implement the law and apply a fine of up to $1,000 a day to restaurants that continue to offer foie gras, California is not the first state to consider the ban. In 2006 Chicago outlawed foie gras, yet the ban was lifted two years later when prominent chefs rebelled. 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

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?

The Ghosts in Our Machine – Reflections

Donna Oakes

Last week’s post about The Ghosts in Our Machine featured insightful and thought provoking remembrances of the ‘aha’ moment from 3 of the project team members – Jo-Anne McArthur, Liz Marshall and Ananya Ohri -

Those remembrances were so honest and inspiring that I found myself going back to the post and reading them over and over  again – especially during those moments when I wondered if there will ever be true justice for animals.

Just as inspirational are the writings of 2 other team members – Nina Beveridge (producer) and Lorena Elke (researcher). These are their reflections on the project and what it has meant to them on a very personal level.

Nina’s reflections:

Working on“The Ghosts In Our Machine”  has been a unique and transformative experience for me. It is a cross media documentary so we wanted to employ cross media strategies to gain support and build community. First we built a website ‘demo’ as a sales tool to find funding partners. Simultaneously Cross Media Director/Producer/Writer Liz Marshall created a beautiful trailer with our photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. We accomplished these with a lot of hard work, sweat  and support from professionals who collaborated with us. Once our website and trailer were unveiled, we launched our social media campaign (facebook, vimeo, youtube), which Liz has done an amazing job spearheading. As our community took shape and the outreach progressed, we launched our crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo. The best part about the indiegogo campaign is that the people who donated have become really vested in our project. This is where the magic really started to begin for me. I feel like we are a big family now. It’s exciting to see so many people rooting for the project!         Continue reading

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

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

Environmentalism & Factory Farming

David Cassuto

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

New York Ag-Gag Legislation

Douglas Doneson

Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, and most recently New York have introduced bills designed to suppress undercover photojournalism which exposes food safety issues, criminal activity, and the abuses that occur behind the closed doors of the animal agribusiness. Although these bills have slightly different language, each one, if passed would criminalize the act of taking a photograph or videotaping farmed animal facilities without the written consent of the owner.

The justification for New York’s “ag-gag” bill:  Continue reading

Holland Debates Banning Ritual Slaughter

Laurens Peters

Approximately 2 million animals are slaughtered in the Netherlands without stunning each year. This number is composed mainly of poultry, but also of large numbers of sheep and cattle. Although Dutch and European laws generally prohibit slaughter without stunning, exception is granted to ritual slaughter, practiced by parts of the Jewish and Muslim communities. In 2008, the Royal Dutch Veterinary Society published a report proving that this practice causes the animals to experience much stress and unacceptable suffering (video produced by the Party for the Animals, contains shocking footage).

This month, the Tweede Kamer (the Dutch Lower House of Parliament) completed a first reading of a bill to prohibit ritual slaughter, i.e. to make the existing ban on slaughter without prior stunning absolute. The bill was introduced by the Dutch Party for the Animals (PvdD), which holds two seats in the House. Although the proposal is likely to be adopted, it has received plenty of media attention. The discussion has been focused on the clash of fundamental rights and values. 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

Graphic Content

Will Sheehan

Public perception has always played a significant role in the battle for animal rights. Newspapers, publishing houses and television have traditionally served as facilitators–and occasionally unwitting allies–of the movement. Due to the persuasiveness of visual aids, it is clear that the future battleground for the public relations struggle will take place on Youtube and other online media sources. These websites have revolutionized anti-cruelty documentation through the distribution of inexpensive, visceral and uncensored viral videos depicting the inhumane treatment of animals. This has elevated animal advocacy to an unprecedented level.

Continue reading

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