PETA’s Use of Women

PETA takes a lot of grief from the animal advocacy community and from feminists for its use of naked or sparsely clad women in its public events.  This blogger offers a contrasting view.  For my part, though I find the controversy surrounding PETA’s methods interesting and worth having, I worry that the resulting schisms in the animal advocacy community undermine the movement.

–David Cassuto

Publishing Opportunity for Non-fiction Animal Prose

from the email…
Call for Submissions: Animals
For an upcoming issue, Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about the bonds—emotional, ethical, biological, physical, or otherwise—between humans and animals. We’re looking for stories that illustrate ways animals (wild and/or domestic) affect, enrich, or otherwise have an impact on our daily lives.
Essays must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with a significant element of research or information, and reach for some universal or deeper meaning in personal experiences. We’re looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice.
Creative Nonfiction editors will award one $1000 prize for Best Essay and one $500 prize for runner-up.
Guidelines: Essays must be: unpublished, 5,000 words or less, postmarked by November 13, 2009, and clearly marked “Animals” on both the essay and the outside of the envelope. There is a $20 reading fee (or send a reading fee of $25 to include a 4 issue CNF subscription); multiple entries are welcome ($20/essay) as are entries from outside the U.S. (though subscription shipping costs do apply). Please send manuscript, accompanied by a cover letter with complete contact information, SASE and payment to:
Creative Nonfiction
Attn: Animals
5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Please share this announcement with anyone who might be interested in submitting work. Please email any questions to

Bestiality and the Sex Offender Registry

If you were wondering whether judges in Kansas were paid enough, the answer is “NO.”    Judges in Kansas have to sometimes decide whether a person caught en flagrante with his ex-girlfriend’s dog (after sneaking into her garage) should have to register as a sex offender.  (Apparently so.)  That type of work, in my humble opinion, defies a compensatory dollar figure.

For the full, unadulterated skinny on this, read State v. Coman, 2009 WL 2633688 (August 28, 2009).  For a great analysis of the opinion and the legal morass through which the court must wade, visit Leonard Link.

H/t to Bridget Crawford for the heads up.

–David Cassuto

Ted Kennedy & Animals

Ted Kennedy’s death is a great loss for all kinds of reasons but not much of the eulogizing has focused on his animal advocacy.  This piece does a nice job of summarizing the Senator’s long-time devotion to animal causes — from animal fighting, to factory farming, to seal hunting, he sometimes led, sometimes followed, but always fought the good fight.  Truly a public servant in the best and most honorable sense of the term.

–David Cassuto

Update on Westlaw Unfair Treatment Post – Victory for Puerto Rican Law Schools

After a conversation with University of Puerto Rico Law School Dean Aponte-Toro and Professor José Julián Alvarez, Thomson Reuters executives decided to reinstate printer services to Puerto Rican law schools. Thanks to all who helped!

Luis Chiesa

IUCN Study of Elephant Meat Trade — Consulting Opportunity

logo-iucnFrom the email — an opportunity to lead a study for the IUCN Species Survival Commission on the elephant bushmeat issue in Central Africa.   Note the looming application deadline.

The Impact of the Elephant Meat Trade in Central Africa
Call for Applications – Deadline 4 September 2009
1. Background
The IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group aims to undertake a study to improve
understanding of the elephant meat trade on elephant populations in Central Africa. The
study will elaborate on bushmeat research already undertaken throughout the region by a
number of institutions, but will focus on the African elephant. The study will examine the
dynamics, scale and impact of the elephant meat trade throughout the Central African subregion.
The study will examine the trade in elephant meat as a factor in illegal killing of
elephants, relative to the ivory trade. It will also study the linkages between multiple
resource extraction (timber, minerals) and the levels of elephant meat trade and consumption
at the site, city, and regional level. This will include a number of case studies for which new
data will be collected. Finally, the study will explore the policy implications for elephant
conservation of the elephant meat trade throughout the region and make recommendations for
further research and policy implementation.
2. Overall Objective
The objective of the study is to enhance knowledge of contemporary meat market dynamics,
patterns and trends in Central African countries by undertaking an elephant meat trade impact
3. Core Study Components
The study seeks to expose the linkages between the elephant meat trade and larger social and
economic dynamics at play, including, but not limited to: ivory trade; logging (legal and
illegal); mining; infrastructure development; global economic trends; law enforcement at the
national and international level; and community forest governance.
The study will consist of a summary study plus additional case studies identified as necessary
to contribute new data.
4. Geographical Coverage
African elephant range States of the Central African sub-region: Cameroon, Central African
Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and
5. Key Responsibilities of the Lead Consultant
 Take responsibility for the quality and timely delivery of the entire study as per the
above Terms of Reference.
 To supervise sub-contracted consultancies as regards their technical contribution to
the study and ensure high quality and timely contributions.
 Submit draft and final reports by agreed deadlines and according to the agreed
reporting format, with full bibliographic references, accreditation of all contributors,
and including appropriate validation of all the data and cases presented.
 Elicit analytical input from AfESG and other technical advisors throughout the
consultancy, and particularly prior to finalisation of the recommendations and
conclusions and ensure all the comments are incorporated in the final report
6. Deliverables
 A summary study on the impact and features of the elephant meat trade across the
Central African sub-region, integrating information from new case studies.
 A number of detailed case studies – fully edited and referenced – to be published
along with the summary study.
 An executive summary summarizing the main findings and recommendations in a
simple and communicative language.
7. Timeframe
The final study will be published in March 2011.
8. Qualifications
The lead consultant will have advanced university degrees and complementary skills in
biology, conservation or related fields and will also have considerable experience in the
Central African sub-region and with research on bushmeat. He/She will have a strong track
record of peer reviewed publication on relevant topics, and fluency in written and spoken
English and French.
9. Expressions of Interest
IUCN is asking interested persons or consultants to submit a short Letter of Interest for this
consultancy, identifying their experience in undertaking such research and his/her Curriculum
Vitae together with an indication of the daily fees. In addition, interested persons or
consultants are expected to include in the application a 2 page summary of how they will
conduct the study.
Expression of Interest should be addressed in English language to
Deadline: 4 September 2009.
The detailed Terms of Reference for this study are available on request

Westlaw Puerto Rico Unfair Treatment

Given that issues related to animal law are directly and indirectly referenced in various Thomson Reuters casebooks and hornbooks, I want to share with Animal Blawg readers a couple of e-mails that highlight a policy adopted by the legal publishing giant in charge of Westlaw and Foundation Press that seems to discriminate against students at Puerto Rico law schools.

It appears that Thomson Reuters has stopped making printers and supplies available for free to law students in Puerto Rico although it still makes these supplies available to students in mainland law schools. A University of Puerto Rico professor decided to stop assigning Thomson Reuters books as required reading materials until Thomson Reuters changes its policy. I will do the same thing and will inform Thomson Reuters of my decision. Probably some of you agree that something should be done but can’t stop making use of books and materials published by Thomson Reuters. In that case, I urge you to contact Thomson Reuters executives to share your concerns about this policy. You can contact them here:

Here’s the text of the e-mails explaining the matter in more detail:


Dear Thomson Reuters executives:

The enclosed e-mail by [a third year law student] to you is self-explanatory. In it, he objects to your discriminatory policy  to discontinue providing the printers’ service (complimentary printers and supplies), which were installed at the local Puerto Rico law school libraries. That policy, it seems, is only directed against Puerto Rican law schools. I am also informed that all efforts by our head librarian at the University of Puerto Rico Law School to have Thomson Reuters end that discriminatory policy have been rebuffed.

Since Thomson Reuters seems only to understand cost benefit analysis (in its own idiosyncratic way), let me complicate that analysis a bit. If Thomson Reuters does not immediately change its discriminatory policy to make it non discriminatory (for instance, a  cap on sheets of papers and ink, applicable to all law schools everywhere on a per student basis), I will cease using Thomson Reuters texts in my courses, and will urge all colleagues at the four Puerto Rican law schools to do likewise. I will also bring the matter up with as many colleagues as I can in United States law schools.

I teach Constitutional Law, Federal Jurisdiction and Comparative Law. In Constitutional Law I have used Foundation Press  casebooks for 28 years, usually Gunther´s (now Sullivan & Gunther), but some years I also used Cohen’s. During those 28 years I also used some version of Nowak & Rotunda’s hornbook as an additional text. My sections usually have between 60-80 students. In Federal Jurisdiction I have always used Wright’s casebook, and many times I have also assigned Wright’s hornbook as an additional text to the 30-40 students in that course. In Comparative Law, which I have taught for some seven years,  I have used Schlesinger’s casebook and Glendon’s nutshell.  I usually have some 10-15 students in that course. Also, I have taught that course four times in January at the University of Ottawa Law School, and will be teaching it again this January, Those courses usually have 15-20 students. I had already informed Ottawa that I would be using the new edition of Schlesinger (Mattei et al.) next  January, but there is ample time to change that. And, as you well know, and Aspen and  Lexis-Nexis  representatives keep reminding me, there are many satisfactory susbtitutes for all of these texts.

I am sending a copy of this e-mail to Professors Kathleen Sullivan, John Oakley and Ugo Mattei, whose casebooks I would be forced to discontinue using, if you discriminatory policy remains in effect, and to Professors Owen Fiss and Carol Rose, of the editorial board of your University Casebook Series (Foundation Press). I will also forward it to as many stateside professors of Puerto Rican descent as I can identify. Professors Angel Oquendo (Connecticut), Pedro Malavet (Florida), Ediberto Román (Florida International) and Alberto Bernabe (John Marshall) immediately come to mind. All professors at Puerto Rico law schools will also receive a copy of this e-mail.

Since moral arguments have not been enough to make Thomson Reuters reconsider its discriminatory policy, I hope that math does the trick.


Professor of Law
University of Puerto Rico School of Law


Dear All:

First let me introduce myself:  I am a CPA with 30 years of experience, 22 of these with Andersen.  I am also your client (XXXXXXX) for audit, accounting and tax solutions. In addition, I am also a third year law student at the University of Puerto Rico Law School evening program.

I am writing to you because I became aware that Westlaw made a decision at the end of the 2008-2009 school year to discontinue providing the printers’ service (complimentary printers and supplies), which were installed at the local Puerto Rico law school libraries.  As you may imagine, Westlaw, as well as Lexis-Nexis printers at the local law school libraries are mostly used by full time students who spend most of their day and night at the schools, but more importantly, by underprivileged students with limited resources who do not have at their disposal computers, printers and other technological equipment.  Although we may take for granted that nowadays everybody has a computer and a printer, our local reality in Puerto Rico is still much different than the one for US law school students.  Based on a local law school census made, it seems that the canceling of this service was limited to the Puerto Rico law schools, as contacts have been made with US law schools and so far Westlaw has not limited the printers’ service at their libraries.

I was informed that the printers and related supplies use at the Puerto Rico law schools is proportionately much higher than the one at US law schools.  Should this be the case, it would be totally consistent with the fact that Puerto Rico law school students, as opposed to US law school students, have less resources at their disposal, as mentioned before, forcing them to use your research and printers’ services at the local law school libraries.

I am fortunate enough to have at my disposal the necessary equipment and supplies at my office and home, allowing me to perform research and print any documents therefore I am not affected by your decision to discontinue the printers’ service at the Puerto Rico law school libraries.  However, it is really sad for me to be witness to many of my fellow students’ hardships trying to come up with means to pay law school and sacrificing themselves and many times their families, which for many of us would be difficult enough; now having to add another obstacle forcing them to stay even longer hours at the law school libraries to be able to perform research only through Lexis-Nexis in order to be able to print through their printers after making long waits for their few printers.

As a CPA I know that many budget cut decisions are made on a cold-blooded cost/benefit basis.  I must assume that his was the case on the decision to discontinue the printers’ service at the Puerto Rico law school libraries.  Someone must have received the budget cost pressures down the line and may have made a quick analysis arriving at the conclusion that Puerto Rico law schools were a good and inoffensive start.  However, I have been related to Thomson Reuters as a client for many years and know that there is a commitment to the markets you serve and to the human realities that may escape unnoticed behind the cold blooded budget cut figures.  This is why I am giving you notice of an unfair treatment to Puerto Rico law schools and more specifically to the many underprivileged law students who really need your support.

Please make it happen; now they are just underprivileged students, some day they might be your clients as I am!!!

Best regards.



Posted by Luis Chiesa

Deer Culling in Westchester — Rhetoric vs. Reality

I recently received the email below from my colleague (and occasional guest-blogger), Vanessa Merton.  I found the topic so interesting (and topical — see the panther post below) and the email such a good read that I asked her if I could post it on the blawg.  She agreed and so…

deer suburbs

David, I didn’t see this subject referenced on the blawg under “deer” or “hunting”, but I’m imagining that you’re well aware of the major deer “culling” (killing) movement developing all around our immediate area: in my little, recently highly gentrified, home town 12 miles from Times Square, we may have a major deer kill by this winter, probably executed (J) by sharpshooters or maybe bow hunters – see .  And of course, similar government-sponsored (not merely permitted, but sponsored) kills have been proposed for Westchester County parks —,+2009 – and across the Hudson in Rockland County —,+2009 .   (These “solutions”, billed as interim if not final, may soon embrace moose as well – see news story below.)

I recently sat through the first Hastings-on-Hudson legislative hearing on a deer hunt proposal and was struck by the intensity of the many advocates for mass killing and the frequency of their use of the term “rats with hooves.”  The “cull” (I wish I had time to look up the etymology of that word – it’s so exquisitely clinical) proponents proclaimed themselves “animal lovers” and said that those who opposed systematic killing of deer were NOT animal lovers but rather (with an acid tone of contempt) “deer lovers,” because deer so ravage the natural habitat, other wildlife are driven out or starved.  (I’m a little hazy on the mechanics of this phenomenon – the deer eat what skunks and possums and raccoons eat? — but apparently it’s all documented in the legislative report.)  That rhetoric adroitly raises the issue: what is the right position for an animal advocate when confronted with government proposals to exterminate or at least vastly reduce a given animal population such as rats, lice, bedbugs, mosquitoes, etc.?  (I have to tell you, if I could wave a wand or even fire a .22 and kill all the mosquitoes on earth, I’m pretty sure I’d do it.  The bats can learn to eat something else.)

Continue reading

Panthers in the Suburbs

[The op-ed below appeared in the Westchester Herald (ten or so pages after Ed Koch’s movie review and immediately following  Congressmember Nina Lowey’s piece on health care reform).  It deals with recent sightings of what appear to be a large cat in the New York suburbs.  For some good background on the issue, see this New Yorker article and this piece in a local Hudson Valley newspaper.]

pantherReactions to the unconfirmed sightings of panthers in the Palisades and local townships bring a serious ecological dilemma into focus.  Assuming this animal(s) is an eastern panther and not an escaped exotic pet, it is a member of a population of animals once thought extirpated from the Northeast.  That would make any plan to trap the cat and place it in captivity both ecologically misguided and potentially violative of the Endangered Species Act.  The plan also represents a hyperventilated response to understandable community unease.  It would be much better to slow down and carefully consider the implications of the animal’s presence as well as what to do about it.

Continue reading

Another Look at Banning Depictions of Cruelty to Animals

John A. Humbach, Pace University School of law

As most readers here know, in United States v. Stevens, 533 F.3d 218 (3d Cir. 2008), the Third Circuit struck down the Federal statute (18 U.S.C. § 48) that prohibited the creation, sale or possession of media depicting cruelty to animals. However, both the majority and dissenting opinions may have crucially misunderstood the applicability of New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747 (1982), the principal case that the government relied on in supporting the statute. Since Stevens is on its way to the Supreme Court, this may be worthy of comment.

Continue reading

First Animal Blawg Poll – Why do you believe Veganism is Morally Appealing?

Given that polls about veganism seem to be the cool thing to do these days, here’s my first foray into the internet polling world. Check out the poll’s format. Isn’t it way cooler than the one used by Leiter for his veganism poll?

Luis Chiesa

Leiter Poll — The Sequel

Brian Leiter has reported the results of his poll here and contributed his own analysis of veganism, which he concludes to be a “kind of harmless and in many ways sweet eccentricity.”  I am omitting his preceding discussion, which is quite thoughtful and interesting and bears reading in its entirety.  However, in my view, his conclusion relies on an unsubstantiated assumption that animal existence is synchronic (as opposed to diachronic).  Furthermore, even if animals did exist only synchronically, that fact would not be morally dispositive.  Michael Dorf and the commenters at his blog take this argument on quite ably, and I commend their posts as well as Leiter’s responses to you.

Overall, despite an intellectual disagreement, I remain grateful to Leiter for his willingness to take on this issue — which he does, as far as I can tell, purely in the spirit of intellectual curiosity.  I continue to believe, however, that his choice of words when describing veganism is sub-optimal.  Describing it as a harmless and sweet eccentricity demeans both vegans and their values.   The question of how we relate to other species, both in and outside of the legal realm, offers some of the most interesting, complex and important moral issues of our time.  I hope that as this discussion continues, all points of views can be respectfully considered (by all sides), even as they are rigorously challenged and debated.

–David Cassuto

More on the Meat/Climate Change Nexus

The link between livestock agriculture (particularly but not exclusively industrial agriculture) and climate change is getting some serious discussion, albeit not by those who actually pass laws about such things.  I’ve blogged about the issue here and am finishing up an essay for the Animals & Society Institute on CAFOs and climate change.

Legal Planet has a post discussing a colloquy at about the issue.  The Grist dialogue features Tom Philpott, a sustainable agriculture maven from North Carolina, and Eliot Coleman, an organic farmer and author from Maine.  Essentially, Philpott claims that meat agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change and Coleman says it isn’t (although he decries industrial agriculture).  You can decide for yourself who gets the better of the exchange.  The trio of essays (Sean Hecht’s Legal Planet post and the Grist exchange) very much merit reading.

–David Cassuto

Who Gets to Know What About Whom Regarding Animal Experimentation

Guest blogger: Vanessa Merton

I know absolutely nothing about the legal merit of the ruling described below, but it raises the question whether personal identifier data about particular individual researchers legitimately should be withheld from these reports, in an era when scientists like Dr. George Tiller and Dr. Barnett Slepian are gunned down in their home or church because crusaders object to the morality of their work.

I can understand why animal rights activists may want to know all the details of what takes place during experimentation on animals, but it’s less clear why they need to and should know precisely who is conducting the experimentation (presumably, generic listings of the credentials, licensure, training, etc. of researchers could satisfy concerns about staff competence to conduct research).  So, would and should animal rights activists agree that the research facilities may redact personal identifiers, in deference to their concerns about risk to the individual researchers?

Vegetarianism is Immoral??

Apropos of the dustup surrounding the Leiter Poll, this guy over at the National Review thinks vegetarianism (and, one would assume, veganism) is immoral.  His argument is beyond shallow but that’s the way these things sometimes go.

H/T: Animal Ethics.

–David Cassuto

Bill to Ban Canned Hunting in NY in the Pipeline

Once upon a time, the NY State Legislature passed a bill outlawing canned hunting only to have then Governor Pataki veto it.  The current law permits canned hunts except that the animals can’t be tied to a stationary object of confined in a pen or box.  The current bill, which is pending in the Assembly Codes Committee, would ban hunting in fenced areas, essentially ending the practice in NY.

Hat tip for the skinny to the Animal Law Coalition blog, which has an informative and excellent post here.

–David Cassuto

Dorf on Leiter’s Poll – A Must Read!

Cornell’s Michael Dorf recently posted a very witty response to Leiter’s veganism poll. In my first post on the subject I took issue with  the poll’s “veganism is disgusting” alternative. Professor Dorf believes that the proposed poll responses “trivialize veganism”. I agree.  From his comment to Dorf’s post, it’s unclear whether Leiter understands why animal advocates might object to the way in which the alternatives are phrased in the poll.

Read Dorf’s post  here.

Luis Chiesa

More on Leiter’s Veganism Poll

Surprisingly, my recent post about Professor Leiter’s poll on “attitudes toward veganism”  seems to have sparked substantial interest among AnimalBlawg readers. Given the attention that the post has received, I want to keep readers updated on a couple of developments regarding this topic.

First, it seems that Professor Leiter was somewhat annoyed by AnimalBlawg readers and other animal advocates who decided to participate in the poll. Here’s what he had to say after some of us linked to his poll:

UPDATE: Unfortunately, some pro-vegan websites have now linked to this, thus skewing the results, at least for now.  I would encourage other law-related blogs to link, so that we can get a less skewed sample of opinion.  Thanks.

Regardless of whether animal advocates voted in sufficient amounts to significantly skew the poll results, it seems pretty obvious to me that most people (50%)  who follow Leiter’s blog believe that “[v]eganism is neither morally commendable nor morally wrong, but is a reasonable personal choice for some individuals to make”. This is probably an accurate reflection of what most law professors (and students) think about veganism. (On a side note, I’m curious to know what option Professor Leiter voted for).

Second, it looks like Professor Bainbridge also voted for the “veganism is a reasonable personal choice option”. Bainbridge explains his choice in the following manner:

Brian Leiter’s taking a poll of his readers on veganism. For lack of a better option, I chose “Veganism is neither morally commendable nor morally wrong, but is a reasonable personal choice for some individuals to make” as my answer. I’d qualify that statement, however, by noting that the attitude of moral superiority on the part of many vegans gets old real fast. Plus, the efforts by some vegans to turn the issue into a political one, using the state to regulate food choices (see, e.g., foie gras bans), needs to be resisted at every opportunity.

Professor Bainbridge raises two important points. Do animal advocates generally and vegans (and vegetarians) in particular display an “attitude of superiority” when they talk about their lifestyle and food regimen? I’m sure that some do, but it’s far from clear whether most or even “many” do so.

The other interesting point raised by Bainbridge is his suggestion that the animal advocate’s attempt to ban foie gras should be resisted. While Professor Bainbridge’s contention that the state should not regulate food choices is understandable as an abstract proposition given his conservative political views, it’s not clear why he takes issue with proposals to ban foie gras but has no problem with banning dog fighting in order to prevent animal cruelty. A couple of years ago, Professor Bainbridge defended his views by pointing out that:

(1) Because “the enduring truths of what Burke aptly called “original justice” are revealed slowly, with experience, over time”, conservatives are guided by tradition, experience and history,

(2) There is a long history of  opposition to dog fighting, as “England prohibited it and other blood sports as early as 1835” and “[t]here is a longstanding consensus in the Anglo-American tradition that blood sports are cruel and ought to be banned”.

(3) There is no tradition or long history of opposition to foie gras in this country.

(4) Therefore, the wisdom of tradition and history “justifies an infringement on human property rights” in the case of dog fighting, but doesn’t justify governmental intervention in the case of foie gras.

This strikes me as a particularly weak argument. After all, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously asserted in The Path of the Law, “[i]t is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV”.

Luis Chiesa

Pennsylvania Bar Institute to Host Animal Law Seminar

August 13th and 26th in Mechanicsburg and Philadelphia respectively.  This is the PBI’s 6th year doing this.  CLE is available.  More info here.

Leiter’s Poll on Veganism

Over at the “Law School Reports” blog, Professor Brian Leiter is conducting an interesting (unscientific) poll on “what is your attitude towards veganism?”.  Given that I’m a vegetarian, I voted for the option stating “Veganism is the morally most defensible dietary regimen, and I admire those who adopt it and wish I could do the same”.

I would like to believe that vegetarianism is the second best option. I must confess that I have not been able to stop eating dairy products.  So far, the results are as follows:

Veganism is the morally most defensible dietary regimen, which is why I am a vegan 2% (1)
Veganism is the morally most defensible dietary regimen, and I admire those who adopt it and wish I could do the same 25% (14)
Veganism is neither morally commendable nor morally wrong, but is a reasonable personal choice for some individuals to make 61% (34)
Veganism is morally indefensible, and vegans have made a serious error in adopting such a dietary regimen 4% (2)
Veganism is disgusting 9% (5)

For the record, I think that “the veganism is disgusting” alternative is, well, disgusting. Make your vote count!

Luis Chiesa

A Bill to Ban Aerial Wolf Hunting

wolf huntingI’m fresh off the Long Trail.  Every year, my son and I head into the Vermont woods to be together and to be alone.  These are the best of times.

During my absence some good things happened.  For example, Judge Sotomayor got confirmed.  Plus, a few tentative steps were taken to halt the shooting of wolves from airplanes in Alaska.

Senator Feinstein and Congressman Miller (both CA Democrats) have introduced legislation to ban the shooting of wolves from the air by anyone other than state or federal wildlife employees during declared biological emergencies.

Aerial wolf killing–which Alaskans twice voted to ban only to have their wishes rejected by the State Legislature — is about as far from hunting as CAFOs are from farming.  Furthermore, despite Sarah Palin’s garblings, this issue does not implicate the 2nd Amendment and has nothing to do with Ashley Judd.  It is about using fixed wing aircraft to terrify and then butcher defenseless animals.

Proponents call this practice “predator control.”   Actually, that would make a good title for this bill.  Never have there been predators more in need of control.  Let us wish this bill godspeed as it runs the legislative gauntlet.

More here and here.

–David Cassuto

Journalists Argue that Criminalizing the Depiction of Animal Cruelty is Counterproductive

A respected association of journalists – the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) – filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case dealing with whether it is a violation of the first amendment to criminalize the depiction of animal cruelty. David and Suzanne have blogged about the case here and here.

According to the RTNDA, the federal statute will “make it impossible to cover cruelty as news, ironically eliminating the kind of public exposure that helps in the battle against such cruelty.” Along the same lines, counsel for RTNDA explains that:

We don’t take issue with the fact that the goal of preventing crush videos and other animal cruelty is certainly a worthy one, but argue that it is this very interest in protecting animals from abuse that makes speech about their treatment so valuable. The brief points out that media outlets ‘often expose the abuse of animals, participate in the national debate over the proper treatment of them, and cover commonplace activities involving animals such as hunting and fishing.’ But the law compromises the news media’s ability to perform any of these functions without fear of prosecution.

At first glance, the RTNDA concerns strike me as overblown. After all, the federal law at issue contains an exception which states that the ban “does not apply to any depiction that has serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value”. It would seem that this exception saves the statute. The ACLU, however, has argued that it does not, since:

(1) “such exceptions are strictly limited to depictions of sexual conduct, which are not at issue here”,

(2) the exception clause “contains only one prong of the three-prong test for obscenity, and [the Supreme Court] has emphasized that all three prongs must be met before speech can lawfully be prohibited”, and

(3) “[t]he breadth and vagueness of [the exception] will make it impossible for people to know whether their speech will be considered criminal”.

The Humane Society, as one would expect, sees it differently. According to their amicus brief, the Supreme Court should rule that the depiction of animal cruelty is akin to the depiction of obsence sexual acts for the purposes of the First Amendment, given that:

“Although [the Supreme Court has] previously applied its obscenity jurisprudence to materials that appeal to the sexual subset of these base instincts, there is no justification in history or reason for treating materials that appeal to sadistic but (perhaps) not sexual impulses any differently”

I think that the Government and the Humane Society have the better argument here. Depiction of animal cruelty has little or no value. It should thus not be generally worthy of heightened First Amendment protection. On the other hand, in cases that involve the legitimate use of such depictions (e.g., journalistic purposes) it would seem that the aforementioned exception saves the statute. The ACLU’s argument that the exception is impermissibly vague is unconvincing, for it is not vaguer than typical obscenity ban exceptions, which are clearly constitutional.

Perhaps some of our readers – or David – can chime in with their opinion regarding the RTNDA’s contentions.

Luis Chiesa

Bullfights in….California?

One of the most vexing problems that animal advocates face is fighting animal cruelty that is justified by reference to religious traditions. David has written about the problem here. A not so well known instance where there is a clash between religion and cruelty is in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where the hot summer nights give way to a spectacle that many Americans don’t know takes place in their country: bullfighting. The fights are organized mainly by a community of Portuguese immigrants who claim that the bullfights are an integral part of their religious and cultural tradition. Why can such a cruel spectacle be conducted lawfully in California? Because the San Joaquín bullfights are bloodless! How can a bullfight be bloodless? The L.A. Times explains:

In 1957, California banned gory bullfights but did allow supporters — mostly Portuguese dairy farmers from the Azores, where the sport is popular and bloodless — to continue the tradition as long as the bull isn’t harmed or killed, and contests were staged in conjunction with religious festivals.

The Velcro adaptation – a bandarilha tipped not with razor-sharp darts but with nonlethal Velcro – was introduced in 1980 by Dennis Borba, an American-born matadorwhose father, Frank, was one of a few pioneering immigrants to revive the old-world spectacle in the 1960s.

Recently, animal advocates claimed that at least some bullfights are not really bloodless, as some 30 barbed banderillas were found at a bullfight in Los Angeles County. Harming bulls with real banderillas is, of course, unacceptable. Assuming, however, that the Velcro version of the banderilla is used, should the spectacle be banned anyway? Why or why not?

Luis Chiesa

Animal Cruelty Now a Felony in Arkansas

As of July 29th, 2009 (last Friday), animal cruelty became a felony in ArkansasAct 33 makes torturing a dog, cat or horse a felony on first offense, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a $10k fine.  There’s a 5 year sentencing enhancement if any of these acts are committed in front of a child.  That last provision brings up the issue of who lawmakers perceive as the true victims of animal cruelty — the animals who endure the cruelty or the people who witness it (Luis has written compellingly on this very issue).  But I’ll not cavil about this or why the law only extends to dogs, cats and horses.

My president keeps telling me not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  So, while I’m trying not to cry over the state of health care reform, I’ll be happy about the fact that this law has actual teeth and represents a significant step forward for animal protection.

–David Cassuto

Brief Ruminations on Spanish Anti-Cruelty Laws

While writing the syllabus for the comparative criminal law seminar that I will teach in Buenos Aires this September, I stumbled upon Spain’s anti-cruelty statutes. It seems that in Spain it’s only a crime to mistreat companion animals (Art. 337 of Spanish Penal Code) or unjustifiably inflict pain on non-companion animals pursuant to a public show or sporting event (Art. 632(2) of Spanish Penal Code). Therefore, it seems that, contrary to what I have argued is the case in the United States, Spain’s anti-cruelty statutes do not seek to protect the animal itself from cruel mistreatment. Rather, the goal of Spanish cruelty laws appears to be the protection of those with close emotional ties to the mistreated animal or those who witness the infliction of unjustifiable harm on the creatures. Furthermore, at first glance, it appears that Spanish cruelty statutes protect animals less than their American counterparts, for unjustifiably mistreating non-companion animals is a crime in many, if not all, states regardless of whether it takes place in public or private.

I wonder why Spain’s legislature decided to limit the scope of Art. 632(2) by requiring that the mistreatment occur in public.  Perhaps it was meant to ban animal fighting. This would seem rather odd, though, as it clearly was not intended to ban bullfighting and, given that dogs are companion animals,  dog fighting would be a crime pursuant to Art. 337 if the dogs are significantly harmed as a result of the event.  Do any of our Spanish readers know the answer to this question?

Luis Chiesa