CAFO Calumny

Today’s NYT reports that the pork industry is incensed at the public relations drubbing their industry has taken as a result of the swine flu outbreak.  The pork industry insists that it should be called something else.  Tom Harkin has decided to call the virus the “so called” swine flu.  Meanwhile, a number of countries, including the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Ecuador have banned the importation of U.S. pig products.

Now, there is no reported case of anyone contracting the disease through consuming pig products and it is highly unlikely that any such transmission would occur.  It would seem that the millions of people who are refusing to buy pork because they’re scared of contracting the flu are misguided and acting out of a type of reactionary ignorance that I usually abhor and which has led to some horrendously pernicious lawmaking.  So, I confess that the downturn in pork consumption connected with this outbreak does give me a moment of pause.

There; I’m over it now.  When it comes to factory farming, I’m a brutal instrumentalist.  Any reason that people want to use to help them stop eating factory farmed pig meat works just fine by me.

David Cassuto

Hog CAFOs and the Swine Flu Outbreak — You Do the Math

hogssm21 Flying below the media radar (at least in the United States) is an apparent link between a Smithfield Farms hog confinement facility in Veracruz, Mexico and the swine flu outbreak.  Although it has received little attention here, the issue has gotten significant coverage in Mexico.

Initial reports linked the disease’s vector to flies that reproduce in contaminated pig waste although that theory apparently does not withstand close scrutiny.  Others link it to a vicious cycle of wild ducks drinking contaminated water from sewage lagoons, landing and excreting in  “farmed” fish ponds, whose water then gets drunk by confined chickens,whose feces gets mixed into the feed to confined pigs, who then excrete the contaminants back into the sewage lagoons,which then gets drunk by the ducks, ad infinitum.

Even if it turns out that Smithfield’s facility did not spawn the virus, however, that conclusion would change little.  Adding massive confinement facilities with poor sanitation to an impoverished rural community with poor infrastructure is a recipe for disaster.  If not now then soon.

Hat tip to Daily Kos for breaking the story.  See also the OC Progressive.

David Cassuto

Free Speech or Free Tyranny?

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to finally determine whether selling videos depicting animal cruelty should be constitutionally-protected speech.

This year, it will hear the case of United States of America v. Robert J. Stevens. The defendant, who sold dogfighting and hog-dog fighting videos, was the first person to be convicted under a 1999 federal law prohibiting the creation, possession and/or sale of videos depicting animal cruelty with the intention of profiting financially therefrom. He was convicted by a U.S. district court in 2005, but a U.S. appeals court vacated the holding as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.  

According to one article, “Stevens argued in his appeal that the federal law was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad because it criminalized depictions of conduct that was either legal or happened before dogfighting was outlawed, prosecuted people who did not take part in the underlying conduct or could be extended to hunting and fishing violations.” 

According to the Washington Times, “the U.S. government seeks to carve out an exception to free speech in the case of those selling videotapes of pitbull fighting and the fetished crushing of small animals by high-heeled shoes.”

There has been a question for some years now regarding of legality of sales of videos depicting dog fighting, as well as fetish “crush” videos, in which small animals are crushed by high-heeled shoes. The Humane Society of the United States is currently suing online merchant and four other companies because of their sales of dogfighting and cockfighting videos and magazines. Dogfighting is illegal in all U.S. states, and cockfighting is illegal in 48 states.

-Suzanne McMillan

Tail-Docking Goes the Way of the Dodo

In addition to ultimately being killed, and to (for most), being severely confined indoors, without fresh air, soil or trees, American factory-farmed animals are subjected to a horrifying line-up of painful physical mutilations. These are all a result of farmers’ desires to keep their work easy and predictable, and reflect the shift to factory-farming that has occurred in the U.S. since the 1940s.

While the last few decades have seen more or less blind acceptance of tail-docking, debeaking, tooth extraction, dehorning, branding, detoeing, ear notching, castration, and other generally excruciating procedures conducted without anesthesia, things are beginning to change.

As the public has become increasingly sensitized to the plight of animals packed for months and sometimes years in windowless warehouses know as “factory farms”, and as they begin to support offering these animals more space, and perhaps fresh air and a natural social network, they also begin to question the mutilations inflicted on the animals.

Nowhere does the American public seem more interested and proactive in such issues than in California. Last year saw the passage of the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, banning the extreme factory-setting confinement of egg-laying hens, calves intended for veal, and pregnant pigs. The state is once again leading the way with the help of its newly created Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture (see January 17, 2009 post). It has approved Senate Bill 135 to ban the routine tail-docking of dairy cows for management purposes, due to it being a form of “needless animal cruelty inflicted on animals raised for food.” 

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, tail docking was introduced in an effort to curb disease and infection in dairy cows and those milking them. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association claims there exists insufficient scientific evidence to support this practice for the sake of routine herd management. The American Association of Bovine Practitioners agrees, stating it “is not aware of sufficient scientific evidence in the literature to support tail docking in cattle.” To the contrary, there exists clear scientific evidence of animal welfare problems associated with tail docking, as enumerated by the American Veterinary Medical Association: acute temporary pain; long-term, chronic pain; potential infection; psychological stress; increased vulnerability to flies; increased sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures; potentialyl compromised ability to communicate with other cows.

The practice is banned in many European countries and some Australian states, and is disapproved of by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the California Veterinary Medical Association, and various animal welfare experts, public health experts and agricultural scientists

To become law, the bill must next be approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee. The Illinois senate has also introduced a bill to ban tail-docking of dairy cows by amending the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act. This is a great first step. Next, we need all states to adopt this legislation and expand it not only to other species who are forced to suffer unnecessary and deleterious tail cutting, but to other ridiculous and painful practices inflicted on various species, including tooth clipping, disbudding and dehorning, castration, detoeing, mulesing and debeaking.

 -Suzanne McMillan

The Helmsley Controversy Continues…

This one’s for Professor Crawford…

The Washington Times reports today that Leona Helmsley’s estate trustees have allocated $136 million of the trust’s first dole-out of $137 million (out of an estimated total of $5 billion) to medical charities rather than dog charities — the latter being what some animal advocates feel her will indicated she wished. 

The content of her will makes it difficult to discern her ultimate wish. The will created a trust fund (in addition to the notorious pet trust created for her dog, Trouble, the amount of which was drastically reduced by a judge in a separate and equally controversial situation invoking issues of animal rights and animal law).

The will’s mission statement, drafted 4 years prior to her death, stated that her two priorities for estate distribution were helping the poor and caring for dogs. However, she later struck the first priority and added to the second the phrase “and other such charitable activities as the trustees shall determine.”

This past February, a surrogate court judge ruled that the trust’s trustees have sole authority to determine where the funds are allocated… yes, that sounds about right. Yesterday, the trustees chose to distribute the funds such that only a fraction ($1 million of the first $137 million bundle) went to animal advocacy organizations, while most went to medical research programs benefiting humans.

The response from the Humane Society of the United States — one of the animal advocacy organizations selected to receive a tiny portion of the funds — is that it is “a trifling and embarrassingly small amount” and that “Mrs. Helmsley’s wishes are clearly being subverted.”

And so we find ourselves again embroiled in a national debate over the priority that ought to be given to man’s best friend. Whereas the scandal revolving around Helmsley’s dog Trouble invoked people’s feelings about the role of companion animals in one’s family, this debate pushes people one step further: to consider the value we ought to assign dogs who are not part of our families; not our best friends. This raises the questions of how much priority we should assign, as a society, to canine protection and advocacy, and how we feel about those who think these are, or ought to be, a high priority.

Although in this case, canine interests are clearly trumped by human interests, dogs and all animals gained a little ground today simply by being thought of in a serious and legally discerning manner. That attitude, on the part of executors, trustees, judges, attorneys, and society at large, is what is required for all animals’ interests to advance within the legal world.

-Suzanne McMillan


Animal Terror(ists)

So, a few days after the administration gets roundly criticized for suggesting that former members of the military might be susceptible to right-wing extremism, we learn today that the FBI’s Most Wanted “Domestic Terrorist” is an animal rights activist who has allegedly bombed two offices in northern California.  Nobody was hurt in either bombing.

Without excusing or condoning the bombings (indeed, even as I condemn them), I have to wonder whether this individual (who the Bureau and CNN describe as a “strict vegan”) would top the terrorism list if he had right wing politics.  Sarah Palin, for example, isn’t sure abortion clinic bombers are terrorists even though such actions kill people.  I wonder if the FBI also senses a discontinuity here.

David Cassuto

Content Cows Come from Cariocas, not California

Whenever I talk to someone about becoming a vegetarian, I have to be very conscious of the argument I present. I usually start by letting people ask me questions about my own lifestyle, rather than come off as an agenda pusher.  But where we go from there is another matter. We can talk about environmental impact, moral rights, human health problems, or even if said person approves of the food system we have. I do not think, however, that I have ever had a productive conversation with someone unacquainted with animal rights about the emotional injustice of factory farms, and that is unfortunate.

Emotions are tricky, even restricted to humans. We find it difficult at times to emphasize with our friends during trying periods, let alone with millions of other humans continents away, whose plights make most of our troubles trivial. Perhaps it is no wonder that many people cannot understand the emotions of farmed animals. An inability to understand these emotions, however, is no excuse not to try, or more egregiously, to dismiss them as nonexistent.

Earlier this month, I was able to travel to Brazil as part of the Comparative Environmental Law class here at Pace Law School.  The class is team-taught taught by Professor Cassuto at Pace and via teleconference with Professor Romulo Sampaio (Pace LLM ’06, SJD expected ’09) of the Getulio Vargas Foundation School of Law in Rio de Janeiro.  We spent the first three months of the semester learning about water law and other environmental concerns shared by, and unique to both countries.

During the trip, we spent time in the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland. While I was there, I had the opportunity to see Brazilian cattle in several settings. Brazilian cows, with their marked humps, looked a bit alien to me on first impression. I met a few while in Campo Grande, at a rodeo. Walking around the fair grounds, I came across a pavilion where about a dozen cows were standing, some sitting, and some lying down. Some mothers even had their calves with them. I come from a rural New Jersey county, so seeing cows up close is nothing new. Still, it was refreshing to see an animal that many Americans never meet, save for meat. True, these cows were to be sold, and most of them would face a similar fate as their American cousins, but at least these cows had breathed in air that was not contaminated with their own waste and the smell of disease. They were standing in hay, some with their children, and though some backed away from me when I approached, others were inclined to give my hair an authentic “cow-lick”.

I hesitate to say these cows were happy. They certainly looked more content than the tragic faces I have seen in factory farm documentaries. Still, I am not an animal behaviorist, and I do not know if what I observe is true. I recently finished Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals. While I enjoyed the various stories about animal behavior, Masson reaches too many conclusions about animal personalities that are over-romanticized and unsupported, and I do not want to come across in the same manner. That is the danger of the emotional argument. Many of us who empathize with animals and experience spontaneous discomfort with, and moral outrage towards factory farms have difficultly marshalling those impressions into an effective argument for someone who does not. Moral rights and atrocious conditions arguments can be explained, but saying that a cow should be let outside because she will be happier will not convince doubters, either to the veracity or the relevance of the position.

While we were out in the heart of the Pantanal, I took a morning to explore several of the fields surrounding our lodgings. I say “fields,” but this being the Pantanal, there were not just wide grasslands, but also thick groves of trees, marshes, and terrain of unparalleled beauty. In one field, I came upon a herd of cows grazing along the road. They also saw me, and immediately, without a sound save for their hooves, the formed a line across my path several meters ahead of me. The calves peaked out between the adults’ legs, while they all stared at me. I took a circuitous path around them; cows in numbers, no matter how benign, are intimidating. As I rounded them, they shifted almost imperceptivity so the herd remained facing me. On my way back through the field, the same proceeding unfolded. Feeling bolder, this time I took a step towards the herd. Several dozen eyes watched me. I took another step, and then as one, they all bolted in a hasty retreat until they were a hundred yards away. I’m not sure what I expected them to do, but I didn’t want to give chase, and I walked on. Looking back, I saw a bull I had not noticed before come out of the trees. He watched me walk, and when I had gone down the path, he bellowed towards the herd, which then casually made its way back to where I had been, and resumed grazing. Relating this experience back to Prof. Sampaio, he stated simply, “Oh yes. The cows here are very curious.”

I do believe that animals have emotions, and I think they are more similar to humans’ than they are foreign. Curiosity, enjoyment of what one is doing, and fear are all emotions we understand, and all of these were expressed in those animal’s faces. I believe that the cows I saw in the Pantanal and in Campo Grande were happier and lived a fuller life than the cows in American CAFOs, enough so that when I saw the meat served to my classmates at lunch in Rio, it seemed a little less like a badge of societal excess. This is not to say that Brazil isn’t in danger of going the way of the United States; I am writing a paper on that very issue. Yet no matter how I address animal protection laws and meat export rates, there is very little room in a sustainability argument for an appreciation of happy cows. Thus I leave my musings here, in a less structured format, where I am free to believe that the Pantanal’s roaming cattle are content; if nothing else, they made me smile.

Seth Victor

Animal Scholarship Opportunity in Social Text

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Social Text


We are soliciting papers for a special issue of Social Text titled SPECIES.  The past decade has witnessed the emergence and crystallization of a field of scholarship hailed as “Animal Studies” or alternatively, the “Post-human turn.”  While this relatively novel formulation reflects a self-conscious interest in animals, it also intersects with longstanding forms of humanistic and social science research on animals that preceded the articulation of an animal-centered field of research.
Inter/disciplinary approaches toward and investments in the study of animals based in philosophy, literature, anthropology, postcolonial studies, history, to name a few—probe a range of critical positions.  Many studies in this field are interested in relations between humans and animals, often interrogating human/animal distinctions in order to de-center humans as ur-subject.  This special issue of Social Text in part will query this trend and thereby the transparency of this human-animal divide and where and how it gets marked; as well as the intellectual instrumentalizing of animals in order to understand humans, which often result in anthropomorphizing of animals through an accordance of “agency”
and “rights”; and will also pursue a potential “post-human” interest in animals in and of themselves.

Our aim for this issue is to map some of the above tendencies while at the same time charting the relatively unknown parameters of this rapidly evolving field. Crucial to our project is an emphasis on both geographical as well as species diversity.  Though there are notable exceptions, their exists a current Euro -American trend in animal studies as well as its tendency to focus on domesticated animals without thoroughly investigating how distinctions between domesticated and non-domesticated animals arise historically and geographically. These are tendencies we seek to disrupt.
Possible themes that submissions may address include:

•    the unsettling of taxonomies of scale and hierarchies of scientific
knowledge across species; heavily trafficked and policed boundaries between humans, animals, and other life forms.

•    animals and intimacy/affection/love/disgust.

•    primates, insect studies, parasites, bacteria, and other forms of
living that challenge the presumed stability and impermeability of human bodies as somehow separate from animals or separate from non-human animals (incompanionate species).

•    pets as neoliberal projects; animals as laborers, producers, consumed
and consumers; domestication as global phenomenon.

•    animals as ubiquitous but also geographically singular and wondrous;
place and species familiarity.

•    animals we ‘live’ with–interrogation of the category ‘domestic’ animal.

•    nature/nuture; animals as ‘natural”; animals as biological proxy for
research (like us, but not like us); use of animals in biotechnology; cloning.

•    animal demography; biopolitics and population construction; the rise
and demise of species.

In addition to standard academic essays, we are open to alternative forms for submissions such as comics, poetry, short fiction, review essays, photo-essays and images (pending production approval).  Essays should be no longer than 8000 words.

Deadline for submission of full essay/contribution is June 1, 2009, though the co-editors of this issue (Jasbir Puar and Julie Livingston) are happy to review abstracts beforehand.  Submissions should be emailed to both editors at and

Fur Is Green?

Guest Blogger: Seth Victor

Today I discovered the “Fur Is Green” campaign, sponsored by the Fur Council of Canada. I don’t think anyone who reads this blog will find this campaign anything less than absurd. While I could possibly see someone buying the “Respect for the Land” and “Respect for the People” prongs, I find immense tragicomedy in the “Respect for Animals” section. Adorned by earthy tones and trendy phrases like “eco-conscious,” and the particularly nauseating Beautifully Canadian link (to be clicked at your own risk), the site proudly proclaims, “Nothing is wasted!” The Fur Council wants you to know that we already use animals in practically everything we do, and that the fur trade represent less than one percent of the animals killed in the name of human use. Beyond that, they take care not to trap outside of the regulations developed by Agriculture Canada, and that no endangered species are every used; apparently, they are either never caught by advanced, discriminating traps, or they simply are not used, whatever their actually fate may be.

I think most environmentalists looking at “Fur Is Green” will recoil from its message and not be swayed into purchasing fur lined boxers over environmentally destructive synthetics. I am, however, aware that there are campaigns that emphasize the eco-friendly aspects of hunting, which have their own merits, so perhaps I am wrong. What disturbs me about this campaign is not how effective it may be, but how quickly this decade’s environmental movement is being eroded into a pop culture term devoid of meaning. If the Fur Council can adopt its butchering as a green alternative, I hesitate to think what other environmental disasters could be given the stamp of approval. Prof. Cassuto already mentioned Orwell’s comment about how words matter, but it bears repeating.

Moreover, this campaign illustrates how anthropocentric environmental concerns can be. If fur is good for the environment, we must be excluding other mammals from inclusion in this sustainable world. What kind of world are we saving from pollution by not choosing synthetics? Often when people talk about factory farms as an environmental disaster, they are addressing the methane and waste pollution, but not the cows who are deprived of a full life.

Lastly, I wonder how many people are disturbed by the Fur Council’s reasoning, but are not bothered that the exact same reasoning underlies the laws that keep farmed animals in the atrocious conditions in which they exist. Fur Council assumes that since we are already using animals, we should continue to do so, and that it is actually something of an accolade that they do not come close to destroying as many lives as food production does (I must say that this is the first time I have seen that percentage spun in this manner). How, I ask, is this any different from state laws that allow current industry norms to dictate legal standards for animal treatment, or the underlying philosophy that animals should be denied legal rights because they do not have legal rights? Furthermore, what does that say about Fur Council’s aforementioned standards of care? There is no difference, and yet I am willing to bet that many people who are outraged by this site will not think twice about their next hamburger.

Wording Is Everything

I am delighted that my post has generated so much cogitation.  As the debate continues, though, I want my position clearly understood.  What I said was that vegans and omnivores alike must examine their roles in the industrial food apparatus and in that context stated that it is intellectually inconsistent to decry animal cruelty while eating a cafeteria cheeseburger.  I did not intend to condemn meat-eating — that’s a discussion for a different day.  What I did try to do is point to the hypocrisy of eating factory-farmed food (meat and dairy) while simultaneously criticizing the behavior that created it.  To do so is intellectually inconsistent.  Mariann (in her comment below) is quite right that I do not exclude intellectually inconsistent people from the debate.  My view is that we are all intellectually inconsistent in our way.  My goal is to incorporate our collective/respective inconsistencies into the debate, rather than pretending they do not exist.

–David Cassuto

It Depends on the Cheeseburger

David’s post on the morality of food choices is generating an important debate. What spurred the discussion was David’s assertion that “[a]s a matter of intellectual consistency, it makes no more sense to decry animal cruelty while eating a cafeteria cheeseburger than to condemn racism while attending a lynching”.

I also find it problematic to condemn animal cruelty while feasting on a Big Mac. The problem is one of hypocrisy. It reminds me of Larry Craig and Ted Haggard arguing against gay rights while simultaneously engaging in homosexual behavior. If expressions of moral condemnation are going to carry weight, they ought to not only be uttered but also lived by. Thus, people who truly believe that factory farming is morally unjustifiable should  stop eating factory farmed products. Otherwise, they’re complicit in the very behavior they’re condemning. This is both morally objectionable and strategically ineffective.

On the other hand, whether it’s objectionable to decry animal cruelty while eating a cheeseburger may very well depend on the cheeseburger. Many animal advocates believe that it’s possible to be a responsible omnivore. It’s unclear, for example, whether eating non-factory farmed meat that was humanely raised is morally objectionable. Thus, I’m not ready to state that David’s hypothetical cheeseburger eating animal advocate is being hypocritical if the meat he was eating was humanely raised.

This is not a minor quibble. If I’m right, a person may justifiably decry the horrors of factory farming while simultaneously arguing that his willingness to eat a (humanely raised) cheeseburger should not be dismissed as mere hipocrisy. One must not forget that that although there seems to be a growing consensus regarding the wrongfulness of factory farming, there is no such consensus with regard to the wrongfulness of eating humanely raised meat (putting aside, of course, the thorny problem of defining what counts as “humanely raised meat”).

– Luis Chiesa

Defending Diet Defensively

Interesting piece in today’s NYT about Jeffrey Masson and his path to veganism.  It’s heartening that in the space of a couple of weeks the Gray Lady featured Kristof’s piece (mentioned below) and this one, both of which deal with diet and animal rights.  Overall, I see articles like these as an enormous net positive so the following cavil should be taken in that context.

My quibble involves the ubiquitous need of (non-animal activist) people who write about animal rights and diet to trumpet the challenges of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.  Kristof felt compelled to avow his bona fides as a meat eater and Eric Konigsberg, who wrote the Masson piece, had to open with a joke about the tastelessness of vegan food and to focus on Masson’s nostalgia for and occasional indulgences in dairy products.

It seems to me that non-animal based diets need no longer be treated as fringe behavior (if indeed they should ever have been) and it’s time to move the discourse toward examining the normative issues underlying the American diet.  For my part, I believe that all of us (from vegans to omnivores) need to inspect the way our lives interweave with industrial agriculture and to cry from the rooftops about how corn subsidies as well as confinement pens link directly to animal brutalization.  If we keep the focus on the horrific wrongs of factory farming, then it will become harder and harder for people to shrug good naturedly and chalk up their willingness to eat cruelty to a philosophical disagreement about whether or not to eat meat.  As a matter of intellectual consistency, it makes no more sense to decry animal cruelty while eating a cafeteria cheeseburger than to condemn racism while attending a lynching.

David Cassuto

Summer Grants for Law Students Interested In Animal Law

From the email:


ALDF Summer Research Grants:

Through the funding of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Legal & Historical Center will be able to offer four $1,000 summer research grants. Under our grant program students are assigned topics and they draft a paper for posting on the website along with relevant primary legal materials. The commitment is to a minimum of 100 hours to be completed before August 15, 2008.  We have full explanatory information on how to do the work from a computer located anywhere in the United States, or even foreign countries if you have Internet access. It is suggested that you should be comfortable with a computer, but you do not have to know how to build web pages.

This project has been under way for over five years. We now have considerable material available on the Website at: We have created a basic set of materials for a number of animal issues, posting hundreds of cases and statutes in the process. There are now about 4,000 people who visit the site on a daily basis. Two of our student papers have been requested for printing in books. Please take a moment to view the site if you have not done so before. However, much remains to be done. Summertime and law students combine to create a opportunity to add even more materials to the site.

We have publication needs in enforcement by humane societies, local ordinances, zoning, landlord tenant, comparative law with other countries, state cruelty laws, and animal liability laws. We also need to have more topics that are species focused — tigers, ferrets, and dairy cows being just a few. We are open to additional topics if you have interests and expertise within a particular area.

Please consider applying for a summer research grant.

We will take applications from any student enrolled in an ABA US law school. Given the limited number of grants and the expected number of applications, those who have completed their second year of law school will be given a priority.

Questions? Contact Professor David Favre:,


Application for Summer Research Grant

For the summer of 2009, four research grants of $1,000 will be made available for law students willing to commit to a minimum of 100 hours research over the summer. These will be awarded by May 10 from those that apply by May 1, 2009.

_______________________________________                  ______________________________

Applicant                                                                                  e-mail

_______________________________________                  ______________________________

Law School                                                                              phone

_______________________________________                  ____________________

Will be completing which semester of Law School                     Cumulative Law School GPA

Please provide a professor’s name for a reference:


Please provide some background information about your interests and experience with animals and animal legal issues.

Your level of computer experience:

Return to Prof. David Favre –, Fax: 517-432-6801

Michigan State University College of Law

Shaw Lane

East Lansing, MI 48824-1300

Citizen Suits and Cruelty Laws

One would not expect to find a progressive animal cruelty law in a state that leads the (un)civilized world in the factory farming of hogs.  Yet, North Carolina’s animal protection statute contains a citizen suit provision — which means that private citizens can bring suit against violators of the law.  This private right of action (a rarity in the world of animal law) has yielded some noteworthy successes.

Private rights of action do not solve the problem of cruelty nor address the inequalities underlying the human/nonhuman dynamic.  But this is true throughout environmental law.  Most of the major environmental statutes contain citizen suit provisions even as the laws fail to resolve or even address many of the most urgent issues regarding our relationship with our surroundings.  Ultimately, though, there is no question (in my mind, anyway) that it is better to have laws than to not and that it is better to enforce those laws than to not.  Citizen suits help enforce laws and thus, despite the imperfections of the current legal regime, it would be nice if we had more of them.

David Cassuto

New York Leading Thoroughbred Racehorse Owner Charged With Animal Abuse

One of the big names in New York’s thoroughbred racing industry – Ernie Paragallo – was charged with 22 counts of animal cruelty involving more than 170 horses under his care. He allegedly failed to feed and take care of his horses in an adequate manner. This unfortunate development highlights some of the uncomfortable issues that the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) has to address if it is to demonstrate to the public that thoroughbred racing can be carried out in a humane fashion. After both Barbaro and Eight Belles died after competing in nationally televised triple crown races, this is no easy task. Read the story here.

– Luis Chiesa

For All Your Vegan Needs

You learn something new every day, the saying goes. Well, today that “something” for me was that there are vegan condoms. What are vegan condoms? Those that are not tested on animals, that contain no animal-based ingredients and use no animal products in the processing. (Casein, a milk protein is used by many manufacturers at the processing stage.) The Vegan Society even puts its “seal of approval” on one particular brand.

-Bridget Crawford

Kristof on Animal Rights

Yesterday’s New York Times featured an Op-Ed column by Nicholas Kristof on animal rights. The piece is titled “Humanity Even For Nonhumans”. Here’s an excerpt from the column:

“In recent years, the issue [of animal rights] has entered the mainstream, but even for those who accept that we should try to reduce the suffering of animals, the question remains where to draw lines. I eagerly pushed Mr. [Peter] Singer to find his boundaries. “Do you have any compunctions about swatting a cockroach?” I asked him.

“Not much,” he replied, citing reasons to doubt that insects are capable of much suffering. Mr. Singer is somewhat unsure about shellfish, although he mostly gives them the benefit of the doubt and tends to avoid eating them.

Free-range eggs don’t seem offensive to him, but there is the awkwardness that even wholesome egg-laying operations depend on the slaughtering of males, since a male chick is executed for every female allowed to survive and lay eggs.

I asked Mr. Singer how he would weigh human lives against animal lives, and he said that he wouldn’t favor executing a human to save any number of animals. But he added that he would be troubled by the idea of keeping one human alive by torturing 10,000 hogs to death.

These are vexing questions, and different people will answer them differently. For my part, I eat meat, but I would prefer that this practice not inflict gratuitous suffering.

Yet however we may answer these questions, there is one profound difference from past centuries: animal rights are now firmly on the mainstream ethical agenda.”

You can read the rest of the column  here.

– Luis Chiesa

The Vegetarian at Passover

Vegetarian Seder Plate

Vegetarian Seder Plate

What’s a vegetarian to do with a religious holiday ritual that involves a shank bone? There appears to be good authority that eating meat at Passover is not mandatory. According to Rabbi J. David Bleich, “Jewish tradition does not command carnivorous behavior…” See Vegetarianism and Judaism, TRADITION, Summer 1987, at 86.

For further guidance from Shomrei Adamah, a group of Jewish environmentalists (the name means “Guardians of the Earth”), see here. Pesach is a story of freedom from oppression. The animal rights movement is, too.

-Bridget Crawford

Taking Animal Advocacy Seriously (Part 1 of 3)

Why is it that serious people sometimes don’t take animal advocates seriously? I believe it has to do with the sort of claims that animal advocates sometimes advance. Take, for example, my post on the value of human and animal life. The position I defended there – that it is, all things being equal, more wrongful to kill a human being than to kill an animal – is accepted by most people as uncontroversially true. Many animal advocates also believe that this proposition is sound (e.g. Peter Singer). As the comments to my post reveal, however, some animal advocates consider that claiming that human life is more valuable than animal life is speciesist. Putting aside the merits of the speciecism objection (I think it’s unfounded), I believe that defending this sort of claim does more harm than good to animal advocacy.

The people we need to convince in order to achieve meaningful reforms that will alleviate or eliminate animal suffering are understandably concerned when they hear claims that seem to suggest that factory farming is as wrongful as the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda (if taking animal life is as wrongful as taking human life, it follows that killing animals en masse should amount to genocide or a crime against “humanity”). I’m not suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with factory farming or that those who engage in this awful practice should not be condemned. I do believe, however, that we alienate people when we defend arguments that would lead to accepting the dubious proposition that the owner of Tyson Foods is as worthy of condemnation as Hitler, especially when the truth of the claim that animal life is as valuable as human life is by no means self-evident. This is the type of argument that we can do without if we want more people to start taking animal advocacy seriously.

– Luis Chiesa

Harvard Law Review Student Note on Animal Rights

The February 2009 edition of the Harvard Law Review (here) includes a student-written section on “Developments in the Law – Access to Courts.”  One of the subsections entitled “Aesthetic Injuries, Animal Rights, and Anthropomorphism” explores the expansion of animal rights through a claim that injury to an animal is an “aesthetic injury” to a human being with (traditionally cognizable) standing.  This is a clear and well-written student piece that is a good starting point for folks interested in animal law.

– Bridget Crawford

Law Librarians of New England to Caucus on Animal Law

This is a great development and looks to be a very interesting meeting:

LLNE Spring 2009 Meeting Hosted by Quinnipiac University School of Law Library

Animal Law

Who should attend?

Academic, court, and firm librarians will benefit from learning about this emerging area of law.  Today, there are 104 law schools in the US and Canada (including Quinnipiac, Harvard, UConn, Suffolk, Northeastern, and Boston University) that offer course selections in Animal Law.  In a few short years, these law students will be advocating for your firms’ clients, prosecuting animal cruelty cases in your courthouses or teaching in your law schools about this new area of law.

What is it?

The Animal Legal Defense Fund describes animal law as a combination of statutory and case law in which the nature – legal, social or biological – of non-human animals is an important factor. Animal law encompasses companion animals, wildlife, animals used in entertainment, animals raised for food, and animals used in research. It permeates and affects torts, contracts, criminal law, trusts and estates, family law, and international law.  This emerging legal specialty reflects the changes in attitudes that have evolved over the past thirty years towards our animals, food, and environment.

More about our program!

We’re going to start the day (after coffee of course!) with QUSL Professor Gail Stern’s “Biophilia and the Bookworm.”   Biophilia is the instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems as defined by Pulitzer Prize winner naturalist Edward O. Wilson.  Professor Stern will discuss how the body of laws we have today evolved.

Following Professor Stern’s presentation, a panel will be about bioethics and the use of laboratory animals.  Featured on this panel will be Dr. Herbert J. Van Kruiningen from the University of Connecticut, Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science, and QUSL Professor John Thomas.  Professor Thomas, QUSLs Health Law expert, will take a pro animal tack.  While we can’t guarantee it, JT as he’s locally known, is a talented and erudite guitarist and may be persuaded to add a musical note to our day.

After our vegetarian lunch, we’ll have a panel on Connecticut law.  Mr. Kerry Patton, a Quinnipiac law student, authored “Justice of Animals, the State of the Law in Connecticut” in the October 2008 issue of the Connecticut Lawyer.  In his article Kerry discusses the link between violence against animals and violence against humans; in particular, the role animal abuse plays in domestic violence cases.   Kerry will discuss the topics in his article for our panel and talk about ongoing legislative efforts to deal with this issue.

QUSL Professor David Rosettenstein will also participate on this panel.  Professor Rosettenstein, a long time advocate for animals, will bring his passion and dedication to us in his discussion of the controversial leg hold traps.

Our third speaker on this panel will be attorney Eric Annes from the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.  Attorney Annes will discuss open space initiatives and their impact on wildlife.

Our last speaker of the day will be QUSL Professor Linda Meyer who has both her law degree and a doctorate in philosophy from University of California Berkeley.  Professor Meyer will bring a sensitive and intellectual approach to the issues involving factory farms and our food supply system.

Last but not least, you’re invited back to the QUSL Library for tours and refreshments.

We hope you’ll join us.

Register here:

Foreskins vs. Lab Rats

You never know where you will encounter an ethical dilemma.  This article discusses how scientists are making significant progress toward phasing out animal experimentation by using cells from neonatal (human)  foreskins instead of animals in their research.   In many, if not most respects, this capability represents a tremendous leap forward.  Experimentation on animals results in the gruesome mistreatment and death of millions of animals annually (rats and mice are not even covered by the inadequate protections afforded other animals under the Animal Welfare Act) (see also here).

However, routine circumcision of infants is itself a highly problematic endeavor.  Consequently, substituting the one for the other is less a solution than a step along what one hopes will be a path toward a scientific method that does not rely on the suffering of any being at all.

David Cassuto