Sea Mammals Weep While They Seem to Smile

Dong Luo

Dozens of protesters crashed through the gates of an Ontario theme park on Oct 7th railing against its treatment of marine life and managed to shut down a dolphin show at Marineland in Niagara Falls. Dylan Powell of the group Marineland Animal DefenSe, which organized the protest, says that the group is dedicated to ending animal captivity and is determined to shut down Marineland for good (Marineland closed for the season that weekend). Continue reading

All Volunteer Military? Not If You’re a Dolphin

Spencer Lo

Does the United States still conscript people into the military? Yes—the case of military dolphins

Both from a strategic and moral standpoint, it is no surprise that when military action is contemplated, governments tend to favor effective tactics involving the least risk to human lives. Even better are effective tactics involving low risk to all human lives. If the goal of the military action is justified, what could be morally problematic with using such means? These widely held notions likely motivated the U.S. Navy’s recent contemplated use of military dolphins in the ongoing conflict between Iran and United States.

As reported in the New York Times, Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a crucially strategic waterway where 16 million barrels of oil flow through every day, and it can do so in relatively short time by deploying mines. U.S. governmental officials warned that Iran’s threat, if carried out, would cross a “red line” provoking a military response. Should the situation escalate to that point, the U.S. military would need to deal with the problem of how to detect (and then destroy) the mines, for which there is a time tested solution: mine-detecting dolphins. Once detected, the job of destroying the mines falls to human divers. Nonetheless, even though military dolphins operate only in a secondary role, the risk of harm to them is very real; they could accidentally set off live mines and, more seriously, prompt the Iranians to intentionally target them and other dolphins in the area. Still, is there a moral problem here? In addition to the strategic merits of the tactic, wouldn’t the very low risk to humans fully justify using dolphins in this way? Continue reading

Some Thankful Sea Lions

Gillian Lyons

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, since 2008 40 California Sea Lions have been removed from the Bonneville Dam area (which straddles the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.) 25 of these sea lions were euthanized, 10 were given to aquariums and 5 were captured and subsequently died (of unspecified causes.)  Why was such a charismatic species being systematically removed from the area?  The sea lions feed on spring chinook salmon and steelhead when the fish become stymied by the Dam and such action was needed, the agency claimed, to protect the endangered and threatened fish runs.  Apparently, however, NMFS determined that only those sea lions that were “persistent offenders” and were caught repeatedly eating salmon or steelhead deserved the “removal” sentence, and as of March 2010, the agency had a list of 64 sea lions eligible to be euthanized for such behavior.         Continue reading

Help Wanted: HSUS Animal Law Litigator

David Cassuto

Hey you litigators, here’s a good looking  job:

JOB OPPORTUNITY
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) seeks an attorney with at least one year of relevant legal experience for a Staff Attorney position within the Animal Protection Litigation Section in our Washington, DC office.
The Animal Protection Litigation Section at The HSUS conducts precedent-setting legal campaigns on behalf of animals in state and federal courts around the country, and also serves as the primary line of defense against legal attacks on legislative measures designed to protect animals from cruelty and abuse. With a team of over a dozen in-house litigators, numerous outside attorneys, and a docket of more than forty active cases, the Animal Protection Litigation Section oversees the largest litigation program dedicated to ensuring the humane treatment of animals in the country. More information is available at www.humanesociety.org/about/departments/litigation/.

General Description: The Staff Attorney will work with some of the nation’s leading animal protection lawyers on all aspects of the organization’s animal protection litigation efforts. The Staff Attorney will serve as lead and co-counsel in a variety of state and federal court actions, primarily including actions to protect threatened and endangered species, marine mammals, migratory birds, and other wildlife, and also actions to improve the treatment of captive animals such as those used in traveling shows and other exhibitions, animal fighting ventures, medical research and other experimentation, puppy mills, and factory farms.   Continue reading

Endangered Sei Whale Sushi — You Just Have to Know Who to Ask

The Hump, a chic Japanese restaurant in Santa Monica, served sushi made from the flesh of the endangered sei whale to customers willing to fork over the appropriate dough.  Two patrons went to the restaurant with an undercover film crew and, after racking up a $600 tab, requested whale meat.  The chef served it up —  it was even identified as such on their tab.  The patrons (and their film crew, who were acting at the behest of Louie Psihoyos, Oscar-winning director of The Cove) smuggled some flesh out of the restaurant, where they had it genetically tested.    Continue reading

Newsflash: Dolphins are Smart

David Cassuto

This article discusses some recent scientific findings about the intelligence of dolphins and their ability to communicate and learn.  The researchers conclude that “it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing.”

That’s nice, of course, but one wonders how many more such studies will be required before the obvious becomes too blatant to ignore.  Quite a few, apparently, if  the comments to the piece are any barometer.  My personal favorite:  Continue reading

NEPA, Preliminary Injunctions, and Animals

David Cassuto

A few days ago, I and a few colleagues from Pace and several other American law schools met at Shanghai Jiao Tong  University School of Law with a number of Chinese academics and members of the Chinese Ministry of Environment.  We were there because the Chinese government wanted our input as it attempts to reshape the country’s environmental law regime to make it more effective and enforceable.  Towards that end, the members of the Ministry were particularly interested in the United States’ National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NEPA requires that federal agencies contemplating an action that could significantly impact the environment do an assessment to determine the scope and nature of those potential impacts.  This involves a preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) and then, unless the EA makes clear that no significant environmental impact is possible, a full review in the form of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

NEPA is purely procedural in scope; once an agency carries out a proper review, it can go forward with the proposed action regardless of the potential impact.  However, the assessment process often reveals potential mitigation measures and/or legal hurdles that can change or even halt a given project.

My presentation to the Chinese dealt with the 2008 Supreme Court case, Winters v. NRDC (129 S.Ct 365 (2008)).  In Winters, the NRDC filed suit to stop the Navy from using Mid-Frequency Active Sonar (MFA) during exercises off the California coast until it completed an EIS that adequately documented potential harms to marine mammals.  The Navy lost in the lower courts, where the district court issued (and the circuit court upheld) a preliminary injunction staying the exercise pending resolution of the lawsuit.  The Navy asked for and received an emergency exemption from the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) relieving it from compliance with NEPA.  The Navy then went back to the lower courts asking that the injunction be lifted.  The lower courts refused – holding that the CEQ’s action violated the separation of powers.  The Navy appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed on a number of grounds.

Continue reading

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