Joyce Tischler is ABA TIPS Animal Law Section Honoree

Joyce Tischler will be honored by the Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice (TIPS) Animal Law Section at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association which convenes this week in Chicago.   Tischler, co-founder of the ALDF and animal advocate for three decades, will be presented with the Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award. More on Joyce and the award here and here.

A wonderful honor, richly deserved.  Noises Off!

–David Cassuto

Animal Advocacy: A Threat to All That’s Right and Good…

Here’s a newsflash: animal rights people control the discourse on animal issues.  At least that was the message of the recent meeting of the Animal Agriculture Alliance.  One speaker, Professor Wes Jamison of Palm Beach Atlantic University, opined that animal advocates drape their message in a cloak of religiosity because people are ignorant about yet receptive to religion and therefore vulnerable to messages couched in piety.  Plus religious converts tend to be zealous and donate big bucks.

Bruce Vincent explained that animal advocates thrive on conflict and market fear.  He urged attendees to budget money in their business plans to become activists for animal and extractive industries.  Vincent is the Executive Director of Provider Pals, a cultural exchange program linking school groups with farmers, ranchers, miners, loggers, oil field workers, commercial fishermen and “others who provide the basics of everyday life.”

Kay Johnson Smith, executive vice president of the Animal Agriculture Alliance believes that if industrial agriculture doesn’t act soon, regulations will be on the horizon.  Her solution: Create self-imposed guidelines and follow them.  Factory farmers should not squash the discussion; they should take it over.  Only through being proactive can the industry stay unregulated.

There’s much more from many other people, which you can read here.

What can we take away from all this?  As I see it, this level of consternation would bode well were Big Food not still skating along without any real threat of regulation and protected by laws like AETA.  As things stand, such rhetoric augers neither good nor ill; it simply reflects the status quo and the fact that Industrial Agriculture did not become dominant by being complacent.  We should study these speeches carefully, absorb their lessons and fear neither the speaker nor the spoken word.

–David Cassuto

Finch Fighting Ring Broken Up

Good grief; who even knew there was finch fighting?  Another day, another gruesome exploitation of animals in the news…

–David Cassuto

Racing “At” (Not “To”) the Airport

MIAToday, I learned that county officials would like to install slot machines in Miami International Airport (MIA).  Generally, I disapprove of slot machines; they embody all the bad about gambling (anti-social, no skill involved & you can’t beat the house) and none of the good (skill involved, you can beat the house, and it’s social).  However, the thing that makes this issue blawg-worthy lies with the Florida law that only permits slots at places where there is quarter horse racing.

That’s right, in order to have slot machines at MIA, there must also be horse racing.  One would think that would end the matter — it’s a ridiculous law, but it’s the law nonetheless, and horse racing and airports do not mix.  That’s what one would think but . . . Not so much.

County officials are currently considering a plan to hold horse races in the airport’s employee parking lot.  I kid you not.  Of course, holding races in the employee parking lot (the law requires 20-40 per year) would raise a host of problems — not least of them where employees would then park.  Nevertheless, officials, seeing the $17 million/year in revenue that slots will supposedly pour into county coffers, push on undeterred.  They are also negotiating with other tracks to hold the airport’s races there — whatever that means.

If this goes through and MIA starts having races in the parking lot, I have some other great ideas.  Cock-fighting in the VIP lounge?  Canned hunting in baggage claim?  I also think the security area would make a great CAFO.  If any airport officials read this blawg, let’s talk asap; we need to get in front of this thing.

–David Cassuto

Sunstein… More on the Inertia Sweepstakes

Yes, there are other things to blog about but the Cass Sunstein nomination saga is both perversely fascinating and important.  Sunstein’s views on animal issues are at best tangential to the position of Head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.  Yet, they are raising Republican dander like nobody’s business.  Today, Senator John Cornyn placed another hold on the nomination, all but eliminating any chance Sunstein will be confirmed before the August recess.

As this post points out, Sunstein has the support of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board while his views on regulatory policy have raised some eyebrows among liberal advocacy groups.

“We have concerns about some of his academic writings regarding his approach to regulatory policy and regulatory review,” Bill Samuel, AFL-CIO legislative director, told The Chicago Tribune. “We want to hear more from him about how he intends to approach regulatory policy.”

It would seem that no constituency is entirely happy with his candidacy.  Some in the animal advocacy community are as unenthused as our friends in the Senate.  Maybe that means if Sunstein ever gets confirmed, he’ll be beholden to no one.  Or, of course, it might mean he’ll owe everyone.  So far, it’s looking more like the latter.

–David Cassuto

Sunstein, Chambliss and the Pound of Flesh

In case you were wondering what (among other concessions) Cass Sunstein had to do to move his nomination forward, here’s a little tidbit.  Sunstein wrote Saxby Chambliss a letter, which Chambliss then read into the Congressional Record, in which Sunstein promises to  “respect” gun rights and “not take any steps to promote litigation on behalf of animals.”  In entering the letter into the record, Chambliss said “While I cannot agree with his ideas, his legal theories or his views, now that he has been educated about the toll they would take on hard-working farmers and ranchers in America, I am not going to keep him from any further consideration.”

As other concessions trickle into public view, I fear that what might have been a significant stride forward will instead turn out to be a prettied up form of inertia.  But I hope I’m wrong.

–David Cassuto

In Memoriam: Frank McCourt

tdy_couric_mccourt_051115.300wTo my knowledge, Frank McCourt did not spend a lot of time thinking about animal issues.  However, he was the first person who taught me to care about writing and to appreciate the power of language.  He did that as he did everything — with a twinkling eye and a raft of good stories.

Every Friday, we read the NY Times restaurant review in class.  He used to say: “If you can write well about food, you can write well about anything.”  Mimi Sheraton was the food critic back then and she wrote marvelously about food.  Mr. McCourt loved reading her columns aloud and his delight in her prose was itself utterly delightful.  To this day, I still read the restaurant column every week even though I don’t live in NYC and can’t remember the last time I actually went to a restaurant it reviewed.

Mr. McCourt also taught me to write only about things I really care about.  He always said, “If it doesn’t interest you, what makes you think it will interest me?”   Back then, I didn’t think animal issues were important.  But I do now and were it not for him, I don’t know that I would be teaching and writing about them.   So, I like to consider Mr. McCourt an animal advocate by proxy.

In any case, he was a truly wonderful teacher.  I will miss him and I wish him safe travels.

Frank McCourt: 1930-2009.

–David Cassuto