Eagles TAWK

Jessica Kordas

In 2007, Michael Vick, then quarterback for the NFL Atlanta Falcons, was convicted and sentences to 23 months in prison for dog fighting related offenses.  When Vick was arrested and charged, the NFL suspended him from the league indefinitely.  After Vick’s release earlier this year, the NFL commissioner reinstated him, allowing Vick to play in the NFL should a team choose to hire him.  Shortly after this announcement Vick signed a contract to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie thought that Vick was taking an active role to be a valuable member in society, as such he offered Vick a second chance.  In addition, Lurie promised disappointed fans that the Eagles organization would also actively participate in the animal welfare arena.  Lurie’s full statement can be read here.  Related blawg posts are here.

A few weeks into the 2009 season the Eagles announced they would keep their promise and set up a community outreach program called Eagles Tawk.  This program is designed to help educate people on a number of important issues including, spaying and neutering pets, eliminating dog fighting, and the benefits of pet adoption.  The sports world revolves around money and, while hiring Vick inevitably hurt Lurie’s pocket temporarily, fans will ultimately forget the harm that Michael Vick caused.  While this program doesn’t make up for the things that Vick, it may help a new demographic to become interested in animal welfare.  Continue reading

Euthanasia is NOT the Answer

Elisa D’Ortenzio

As the year 2009 comes to an end, over 4 million dogs and cats will have been euthanized in the United States alone due to over population in animal shelters. Dogs and cats that do not end up living in shelters often live as strays on the street. Television commercials such as those from the ASPCA which focus on promoting animal adoption and ending violent animal cruelty, often fail to educate the public as to the fate of the millions of animals that live in the shelters if they are not adopted.  Continue reading

Disgusting Animal Abuse Case in Lithuania Leads to the Potential for Stricter Punishments for Animal Abuse

Irina Knopp

Recently, the shocking video of a dog being thrown from a bridge has circulated the internet.  Svajunas Beniuk from Kaunas, Lithuania was the culprit.  Svajunas, who was joined by at least two other people who filmed the event, took a neighbor’s dog and threw it from a bridge.  The dog had allegedly killed some of his mother’s chickens in their home village. In an ironic showing of compassion, Svajunas waited until the traffic cleared before he threw the dog.

The dog, named Pipiras (Lithanian for Pepper), spent several days unable to move.  A man discovered him, took him to the police station, and the police sent Pepper for medical treatment. Earlier reports stated that Pepper avoided serious bone fractures but had multiple injuries to his internal organs from the 60+ foot fall. The local citizens, in a beautiful outpouring of compassion, offered assistance and wanted to take care of Pepper after he would recover. Sadly, the latest reports on the local Russian radio station in New York indicate that Pepper has passed.  Continue reading

The Utopian Suggestion of Natural Predator Reintroduction

Jonathan Vandina

The deer population in the Northeast has exploded. Some maintain that one of the reasons is due to the previous housing boom. During the boom, thousands of acres of land were cleared with the intentions of building homes that were never built.  This cleared land permitted sunlight to hit the ground, which facilitated grass growth leading to the population explosion.

There are more deer in the Northeast today than there were when the settlers first arrived. Although development and land clearing may be partially to blame, we cannot forget the fact that humans also extirpated the main predator, mountain lions (Puma concolor). Due to the over-explosion of deer, the lack of natural predators and the inability of the land to sustain them, many of these animals will die slow deaths of starvation. Sick deer may also spread disease which can adversely affect the rest of the population.  Although hunting may eliminate a small portion of this manmade suffering, some people claim there is a better way; that is to reintroduce their natural predators. Continue reading

Exotics Lose in Florida

Marjorie Levine

Last month, a red-bellied piranha was caught by a 15-year-old boy.  The next day, fish and wildlife officials caught two more in the same lake.  No, this didn’t take place in the Amazon; it happened in West Palm Beach, Florida, The Piranha is not a Florida native, but, like the New York Snowbirds, these animals like the heat!  From south of Florida’s borders, these non-native animals have invaded Florida due primarily to negligent pet owners. When pets becomes too large, people simply release them into the wild without thinking of any consequences. The pets survive and flourish in Florida because the conditions are so similar to that of their natural ecosystem.

Although Florida has laws about importing non-native species, pet stores are still able to obtain licenses to sell exotic animals cheaply, which in turn attracts people to buy these exotic pets without researching the specifics of their care.  Some released pets, such as the green iguana, are able to move on land, migrating to different parts of Florida where Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission finds them almost impossible to control.  However, these piranhas were confined to one lake in West Palm Beach.  They could not infest other areas of Florida, as land animals can.  Why, then, was the choice made by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) to poison the entire lake to remove this one species? Continue reading

Where Have All The Rational People Gone?

[The following post is written by one my Animal Law students who prefers to remain anonymous –dnc]

I read an article recently that really offended me. The article was written on November 21, 2009 by Gary Steiner and was published in the New York Times Op-Ed section (Steiner’s piece has already been discussed  on this blog here).

The first line in this article that bothered me actually did not originate from him. He quotes Issac Bashevis Singer in his story “The Letter Writer” as saying that the killing of animals for food is the “eternal Treblinka.” For those of you who are not aware, Treblinka was a Nazi extermination camp. In one year there were 850,000 people killed there. The problem I have with Singer’s comparison is that there was no benefit whatsoever to the Nazis by killing these people. Of course many Animal Rights activists do not think it is right to kill animals for human benefit, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who denies that the humans who do kill animals gain a benefit from them. In fact, I think the whole issue is whether it is right for humans to kill animals for their benefit. You may not feel the benefit is justified, but we are not talking about wanton slaughter like there was in Treblinka.

Please just read this short article about Treblinka at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treblinka_extermination_camp, and then I feel that you will agree that to even repeat this ridiculous comparison destroys any validity that could possibly have come out of this article. That is my problem with Steiner. What would possess him to read this ridiculous comparison and then quote it? Obviously he read it and said something to the effect of “hey, wait a second, that’s right. Slaughtering animals for a benefit to human’s is exactly the same as a mass extermination of humans for absolutely no reason.” And then he decided to quote it. All I can say to him is, well I think Abraham Lincoln said it best, sometimes it is “better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

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No Humane Slaughter? No Problem (because) No Standing

David Cassuto

The 9th Circuit recently decided Levine v. Vilsack, a case challenging the  ongoing failure of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include birds under the auspices of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA).  The case was brought by a group of plaintiffs in 2005, claiming that “inhumane methods” of poultry slaughter increased their risks of food-borne illnesses and health and safety dangers and caused “aesthetic injury” to the plaintiff poultry workers.   They sought an order declaring that (1) “USDA’s decision to exclude chickens, turkeys, and other poultry species from the protections provided by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 . . . to be . . . not in accordance with the HMSA of 1958 and the APA;” (2) “declaring unlawful and setting aside USDA’s September 28, 2005 Federal Register Notice containing the agency’s policy statement . . . that the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 . . . does not require ‘humane handling and slaughter’ for poultry;” and (3) “enjoining USDA from excluding chickens, turkeys, and other poultry species from the protections provided by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 . . . .”

The district court granted summary judgment to the USDA.  On appeal, the 9th Circuit reversed.  That might seem like good news (Michael Markarian thinks so)  but to my mind … not so much.  The court reversed because of that age-old bugaboo of environmental and animal law: lack of standing.  The court found that of the 3 prong test for standing to sue in federal court (injury-in-fact, causation, & redressability), plaintiffs failed to meet the third prong.  Continue reading

Another Shelter Fiasco

Angela Garrone

A three week investigation has been ongoing at the Memphis Animal Shelter in Memphis, Tennessee after authorities discovered deplorable conditions at the shelter.  Sheriff’s deputies raided the facility on October 27 2009 after receiving numerous reports of abuse at the shelter. (photo gallery from the shelter raid here)  Complaints about the conditions of the shelter have been thrown around at least since 2007.  In 2007, the state found that the shelter was out of compliance with the minimum standards established by the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.  The state found various violations of record keeping concerning drug usage for euthanizations.

Memphis City Mayor A. C. Wharton fired  Memphis Animal Services supervisor Ernest Alexander nine days after law enforcement authorities raided and closed the shelter. (see City’s search warrant here)  Alexander previously oversaw a shelter in Albuquerque, NM until 2008 when he was hired after a nationwide search by former Mayor Willie Herenton.  Herenton was searching for a new administrator in response to long term complaints about the shelter from animal rights activists.  Three other shelter employees remain suspended with pay until the city finishes their investigation.

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Protecting Animals, One Mouthful at a Time

David Cassuto

Emory University is attempting to preserve “heritage” turkeys by feeding them to its students.  The Standard Bronze and Bourbon Red turkeys are in danger of dying out due to lack of demand.  So, apparently, is the Tennessee Fainting Goat and other species that don’t fit the factory farm mold.  The lede of this Chronicle of Higher Ed. article (pay site but there are day passes…) declares: “Sometimes the best way to save something is to eat it.”  It then describes how Emory ordered 1,600 pounds of birds for its Thanksgiving meals.

I’m fascinated by this rhetoric as well as how this type of logic goes routinely uncontested.  Last time I read the Endangered Species Act, it said nothing about how only edible species merit preserving.  Continue reading

The Grey Lady’s Vegan Debate

David Cassuto

They NYT recently featured an op-ed by Gary Steiner that lays out the challenges of ethical veganism in contemporary society.  I have my issues with the piece, which suffers from a rigidity that can be off-putting to people of all stripes.  More interesting, though, are the letters it generated.  Amid a few thoughtful exceptions (both pro and con), the same tired arguments against veganism get recycled over and over as if they were revelatory and/or had any intellectual rigor.

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It’s a Girl!

Kate Blacker

Meet my new edition, Rhonda.  She was rescued by Farm Sanctuary and lives in upstate New York.  I think she has my eyes.  You, too, can sponsor a turkey just in time for the holidays.

I admit it is a bit cliché to talk about turkey cruelty on Thanksgiving.  But it is also quite an exercise in gratitude to reflect on the life and death of a Thanksgiving turkey.  I am thankful for not having my toes chopped off.  I am thankful no one will trim off a piece of my face or neck (unless I elect to have such work done and I don’t mind paying the taxes).  I am grateful that my eyes and lungs do not burn in agony as I live out the rest of my days breathing in ammonia and standing in my own waste (and the waste of everyone around me).  I am not so overdosed with antibiotics and hormones that my little legs break underneath the immense weight of my unnaturally oversized body.

Yes, our Thanksgiving turkeys are mutilated at birth and tortured to death.  Their lives are replete with pain, misery and even sexual abuse.  I have a lot to be thankful for when I compare my life to that of the turkey.  And don’t be deceived; the life of a natural/organic turkey is no better.  You can check out some “free range” turkey farm pictures here.

Maybe we don’t need to kill turkeys in order to get the most out of Thanksgiving this year.  Maybe we can capture the spirit of Thanksgiving by having compassion for one another and by treating everyone with a little kindness.

Some Further Thoughts on Gadhimai

Sandra Mekita

Tibetan Volunteers for Animals has joined forces with other animal rights activists to petition the Nepalese government to stop the slaughter of a half a million animals during a “Gadhimai” festival on November 24th and 25th.  This festival is considered the world’s largest animal sacrifice. The animals slaughtered are generally: goats, buffaloes, ducks, roosters and pigeons.

The activists say that they are sensitive to the devotees needs but they feel that the sacrifice is unnecessary suffering. The Nepalese government is concerned about impinging on the sentiments of the devotees. (Sound familiar?)

Although, I, personally, don’t subscribe to organized religion, I have always been under the belief that exercising one’s own religious beliefs is essential to the traditions that this country is firmly grounded. However, religion is something that can be molded, changed, and broken down over time. Essentially, religions are adaptable. For example, the Vatican has come up with modern “sins” to keep the religion current and applicable to people in modern times.

Animal Sacrifice is a barbaric ritual, something used during the same time human sacrifice was being practiced. Animal sacrifice can be traced back to the Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, Ancient Romans, Aztecs and the Yorubas. Many have banned this practice centuries ago.

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More Human than Humans

Michael Friese

As the years go by mankind finds that it has more in common with its ape cousins than previously thought.  The ape that humans have the most in common with is the chimpanzee.  Emory University may have closed the gap even further with a new play entitled Hominids.  In this play humans enact a true story of intrigue that occurred within a troop of chimpanzees in the 1970s.  The most interesting thing about the play is that the actors are not pretending to be chimpanzees, rather the play’s  approach is to enact the story as if it were humans upon whom the story is based.

A summary of the play is as follows:

“A conniving kingmaker and his young protégé conspire to overthrow a popular king. Their plot fails, so they murder him instead. The kingmaker then installs his protégé as ruler. The young king does not properly reward his mentor, however, so the kingmaker selects a new protégé. Together, they torment the young king to the point of madness. He throws himself into the palace moat and drowns.
The brutal power struggle reads like a Shakespearean tragedy, but it actually happened on an island of captive chimpanzees at a Holland zoo during the late 1970s.”

The implications of this play are far reaching.  It intends to leave spectators wondering what makes us human.  The play asks how different are chimpanzees than humans?  Specifically these questions have important effects on the ethics of medical testing on human’s closest relatives.  If chimpanzees’ actions are so close to human actions, then how can we justify testing on chimpanzees in situations where testing on humans would be unethical?

Chimpanzees have and are used in biomedical research because of their close genetic similarity to human beings.  In some cases chimpanzees are the only available nonhuman species that can be infected with the microorganism that is being studied.  Two well known microorganisms whose creation of vaccines depended on the testing of chimpanzees, are Hepatitis B and C.

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Talking Turkey and the Sanctimony of American Slaughter

Christine Saenz

It’s that time of year again. A time when 45 million turkeys are slaughtered, stuffed, and feasted upon for Thanksgiving dinners across the U.S. According to PETA and other sources, this 45 million makes up 1/6 of the number of turkeys killed each year in America. While many animal rights groups will be imploring President Obama to pardon all turkeys this season, you shouldn’t have to worry about a protest stampeding across your lawn if you partake in this gluttonous “tradition.” Apparently the protestors and news media outlets will be thoroughly preoccupied with the Hindu Gadhimai festival in Nepal, where, every 5 years, 200,000+ animals are ritualistically sacrificed to bring peace and prosperity to devotees.

Last week, an organizing committee member defending the ritual stated, “We will not stop this centuries-old tradition now. This is our religion, belief and tradition and we will continue with it no matter what.” Sound familiar? The 45 million turkeys slaughtered in the U.S. this year will die in the name of our own time-honored beliefs and traditions. On one end of the world, hundreds of thousands of buffaloes, pigs, sheep, birds, and goats (to name just a few) will have their throats slit by priests and their carcasses distributed to devotees after the festival. In our own country, hundreds of millions of turkeys will live their lives in tightly-packed, windowless “houses,” hung upside down in shackles (alive), mercilessly slaughtered, and decorated on dining room tables.

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Does the Winter Mean Fur Coats?

Simona Fucili

As the holiday season is approaching, one cannot help notice all of the fur ads you see in magazines and commercials.  The ads portray fur coats as a symbol of elegance and status but fail to show how the original owners of these coats met their gruesome deaths.  According to the Spanish animal-rights organization Igualdad Animal, four hundred thousand minks are killed and turned into fur coats every year.  The organization advocates for the abolition of animal slavery and has been researching the killing of mink to produce fur coats.  Some of Igualdad Animal’s research was recently highlighted by a press agency that focuses on Mediterranean countries referred to as ANSAmed.

November is usually the month where mink farms prepare to harvest the mink fur.  This year, Igualdad Animal Organization decided to videotape this process through the use of hidden cameras.  This ghastly video was distributed through the online version of the Publico newspaper to illustrate “the other side of the fur business and the suffering behind the elegance of a mink coat.”  The video shows a very cruel reality of the harvesting of mink fur.  It vividly illustrates where conditions the mink live in, as well as, the cruel procedure used to separate the fur from the animal.  In the video, you can see that the minks are usually killed by carbon monoxide blown from the exhausts of large tractors.  In addition to the images shown in the video, the organization took more than 650 pictures from various farms in Spain during different hours.  All the material was collected and distributed as part of an investigation conducted by Igualdad Animal organization.  The results of the investigation were published on the Piel Es Asesinato website.

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Animal Law Grant Opportunity for Students

From the email:

Animal Welfare Trust is currently seeking applicants for our 2010 Student Grant Program.  The grant provides up to $5000 per recipient for graduate students to work on an independent research project under faculty supervision or for an unpaid position within an established organization.  Internships can be for a summer, semester, or year-long duration.  Details about the grant program, the application process, and information on past recipients can be found on our website at www.animalwelfaretrust.org under “student internships.” The deadline for this grant opportunity is March 1, 2010.

Our particular areas of interest are farm animal welfare, humane education and pro-vegetarian campaigns (though by no means are we limited to these areas).  Please pass this announcement on to any students you think may be interested and feel free to cross post as well.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you!

Ali Berman
Animal Welfare Trust
141 Halstead Avenue, Suite 301
Mamaroneck, NY 10543

(914)-381-6177 ext 102

No Bunnies Threw Up in the Filming of This Ad…or Maybe Some Did?

Christine Saenz

I recently watched this “Sweet Million’s” commercial, one ostensibly cute enough to elicit a genuine “awww” from Dick Cheney. Bloggers from across the country have almost unanimously agreed that “widdle bunniewunnies riding in widdle teacupsis” is the cutest thing they have ever seen. In contrast, my non-comformist younger sister watched the 30 second clip and noted that “they all look so sad.” Sad, scared, or sedated? Once we push past the sickeningly sweet image of a rabbit spinning in a teacup, we are forced to confront the grim reality that bunnies do not, in fact, voluntarily race down slides, drive bumper cars, take photos, or ride in hot air balloons. The only rabbits I have ever seen at a carnival were cooped up in cages to be sold as household playthings—and, unsurprisingly, they were not wearing doll’s clothing. So this begs the larger question – what exactly are these rabbits doing in this commercial, and more importantly, who monitors their use in advertisements to ensure they are handled properly and treated humanely?

That job belongs to the American Humane Association (AHA), though it is painfully clear that they have no qualms about bunny bumper cars. While on set, the AHA works with the Screen Actors Guild to “make certain that no animals are harmed during the filming.” But their supervision starts and ends there—the AHA does not monitor the training of animals prior to filming, and is not responsible for their fate after the shoot. Perhaps they assume that the bunnies merely win a few prizes and head home after an exciting day at the fair.

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Factory “Farmaceuticals”

Jessica Morowitz

Premarin® is a hormone replacement therapy drug manufactured by Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals.  The drug is widely prescribed to an estimated nine million women to help them cope with the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats.  Premarin® gets its name by virtue of what it is made from—PREgnant MARes’ urINe (PMU).  That means that in order to manufacture this drug, Wyeth needs a constant supply of pregnant mares.

It is not surprising that the conditions these mares experience are not unlike those experienced by animals raised for food in factory farms.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, the mares enter the barns in September, and remain tethered in their stalls until March or April.  The stalls are very narrow, and do not allow the mares to turn around or move more than a step or two in any direction.  While inside they are constantly hooked up to a collection system that even further restricts their movements, and can make it uncomfortable to even lie down.  Moreover, the mares are often denied access to an adequate supply of water in an effort to concentrate the hormones in their urine and increase profits.  Typically, the mares will be ‘in production’ for about eight or nine years consecutively, getting pregnant and giving birth year after year.

What is just as bad if not worse than the way these mares are treated, is the inevitable by-product of all these pregnant mares—the foals.  Sadly, they are usually weaned from their mothers too early, at around three or four months of age instead of six months.  This is due to the nature of the production system.  The mares are usually bred-back right after giving birth (within a few weeks), and need to move back into the barns in September to begin urine collection.  Like the fate of many of the mares when they are no longer able to produce, these foals are often sent to auction.  From auction these horses often find their way to into feedlots, and eventually slaughterhouses.    While there are a few rescue organizations out there dedicated to the adoption of PMU mares and foals, there are not nearly enough of them to keep up with the estimated 40,000 PMU foals born each year.

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Are We Protecting Our Pets?

Sarah Murphy

pet vaccinationVaccination is a hotly debated topic, appearing in the news on a regular basis.  Is there a link between childhood vaccines and autism?  Is there going to be a mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers for H1N1?  Why is it though, that the issue of companion pet vaccination also does not come up during these vaccination conversations?

Animals, like babies and young children that receive vaccinations, do not have a voice or say in the vaccine debate.  Pets’ human caretakers, veterinarians and lawmakers make the vaccination decisions.  People want to make sure their pets are adequately protected, that they are following the laws in place in their state, and that they are getting their pets the care they need.

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Eating Like a Rogue

Vanessa Merton

A bit of wisdom from Sarah Palin’s new book:

“If any vegans came over for dinner, I could whip them up a salad, then explain my philosophy on being a carnivore,” she wrote. “If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?”  Follow this link for photo of SP with caribou:


Romeo’s Law

Gillian Lyons

In response to public outcry of a videotaped beating of a Labrador Retriever, Romeo- on April 16, 2008 Kentucky passed S.B. 58 (dubbed Romeo’s law) which amended § 525.135 to state that the “torture of a dog or cat is a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class D felony for each subsequent offense if the dog or cat suffers physical injury as a result of the torture, and a Class D felony if the dog or cat suffers serious physical injury or death as a result of the torture.”

According to the ALDF website- attorneys have prosecuted the first successful case under this law- resulting in a felony conviction of a man who stabbed two cats to death.  The article regarding the case can be found here.

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Top 75 Blogs for Vegans and Vegetarians

One blogger’s take: find it here (and look for us!).

“Voiceless” Making Itself Heard

David Cassuto

Fine op-ed on animal welfare laws here by Katrina Sharman of Voiceless, an Australian animal advocacy organization.  Parallels to the U.S. situation are clear and present…

“One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, No Fish”

Jennifer Church

This Monday, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the international body that sets annual tuna fishing limits, announced a reduction in the fishing quota of the Bluefin Tuna.  However, most scientists agree that the reduction does not go far enough to save bluefin tuna from near extinction. The EU, US and Japan have decided to limit the 2010 catch quotas to 13,500 tons.  Catches were lowered from 28,500 tons to 22,000 this year. Scientists say that is still 7,000 tons over what they would advise.

A single bluefin tuna can sell for $100,000 and is traditionally used for sashimi.  Overall, it’s a billion dollar global business that is driven by an appetite for tuna, especially in Japan.  The bluefin population is less than a fifth of what it was in the 1970s, making it one of the most threatened fish in the sea.  Illegal overharvesting is the main cause of the bluefin’s sharp population decline.  Many scientists urged the ICCAT to accept nothing less than a fishing quota of zero, however the commission has never reduced the allowable catch by as much as scientists recommended (See the blog post written last year regarding this very issue.)  Now many fear the species is inevitably headed toward extinction.

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Stephen Iannacone

On Halloween night, Manu Ginobili, a shooting guard for the San Antonio Spurs, swatted down a bat that got loose in the AT&T Center.  The bat had been loose for most of the game and after several failed attempts by the Spur’s mascot to catch the bat in a net, Ginobili got close enough to hit and kill it.  After the game, Ginobili said: “I didn’t think it was a big deal. Then the whole arena started chanting my name” and also referred to the bat as a “just a mouse with wings.”  The Spurs’ head coach noted, “He’s never ceased to amaze me the years he’s been here. … He just did it again.”  Some reports even suggest that this may be one of Ginobili’s “greatest athletic achievements” next to winning a gold medal in the Olympics and an NBA Championship.  Highlights on ESPN replayed the clip over and over in order to brag about his great reflexes.  Reports also say that the real burden is on Ginobili, because he now has to go through a series of rabies shots.  Does this seem wrong to anyone?  An entire stadium cheering over the death of a defenseless creature and giving praise to this person as if he has accomplished something great.

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Long Island House of Horrors: Animal Abuse in a Suburban Backyard

Katy Steere


On November 5, 2009 43-year-old Sharon McDonough of Selden, New York was arrested on charges of running a “pet concentration camp” in her Long Island home. Upon investigation, the remains of at least 20 dogs were found buried in her backyard in shallow graves. Neighbor Andrea Martinez said, “The smell was unbearable. They were taking bags out by the dozen. It was crazy.”

McDonough’s children claim she forced them to help torture the animals. Sharon’s eldest son, Doug, 21, told reporters, “She would have the oldest kids hold down the dog while we duct-taped his mouth and she would hit him.” Five dogs and a cat were removed from the home, all found packed into cages with feces and urine in their matted coats. They were being cared for at the Suffolk County SPCA and are now up for adoption. Her six daughters, aged 18 months to 13 years old, were also removed from her custody.

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Ohio’s Issue 2: Good for Animals?

Laura Schierhoff

On November 2nd, Ohio voters passed Issue 2, a constitutional amendment, which creates a ‘Livestock Care Standards Board’ to set standards for livestock and poultry care, food safety, disease prevention, farm management, and animal well-being.  The Board will comprise of 13 Ohioans appointed by the governor and the legislature with minimal oversight.  The Board will have the authority to establish the standards governing the care and well-being of livestock and poultry in Ohio.  As stated in my previous post on Issue 2, this ballot initiative was in response to the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) having picked Ohio for the next State to target for agriculture legislation banning confinement treatment of farm animals.

The battle may have been won for Ohio, but the war is still on as far as HSUS is concerned.  With little money invested into defeating Issue 2 (Ohio farmers and agribusiness lobbies spent over $4 million), HSUS is gearing up for future legislation in Ohio and other states.  While Ohio lawmakers refused to work with HSUS on humane farming legislation, Michigan recently agreed on legislation on improved livestock-standards, requiring that egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves must be able to stand up, lied down, turn around and extend their limbs.  The lawmakers, agribusiness interests, and HSUS came together to jointly agree on livestock-care legislation.  Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of HSUS said that “the solution forged in Michigan shows that open-minded and fair discussions among stakeholders can lead to good outcomes for farmers and for animal welfare.”  Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, said his group and others decided to work with the animal-rights groups rather than against them.  He said the decision was based on “a healthy dose of pragmatism.  In terms of public policy, it made sense to sit down with them.”  Michigan is the seventh state to act on livestock standards, including Arizona, California, Florida, Maine, Colorado, and Oregon.

Ohio farmers claim that the health and well-being of animals is at the forefront of this amendment and argue that unhealthy animals do not produce the healthy products.  This of course is false, and there is much evidence supporting the fact that very very unhealthy animals are indeed the types of animals that we find in our food.  The animals raised for human consumption are genetically designed for productivity, fed unnatural diets, and pumped full growth hormones and antibiotics, which can hardly be argued as a “healthy” way of raising them.  One of the biggest problems I have with letting farming interests decide on animal cruelty is that they certainly do not have the physical and mental well-being of animals at heart – ultimately they are a business and want to maximize profits.

While reading blogs and articles about Issue 2, I came across a farmer who phrased my opinion of this whole situation perfectly:  “We are stewards and caretakers of these animals and we have a moral obligation to treat them humanely.”  With the passage of Issue 2, I sincerely hope that conditions for farm animals improve in Ohio, as promised, but I really doubt that will be the outcome.

Oreo’s Survival Ends With Euthanization


Tiffany Gallo

On June 18, 2009 New Yorkers were outraged and saddened to hear that a one-year old pit bull mix was beaten and thrown off the roof of a six floor building in Brooklyn.  Oreo suffered two broken legs and a fractured ribcage, but miraculously survived the fall. After months of rehabilitation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was able to repair Oreo’s injuries.

Despite Oreo’s physical recovery, the ASPCA made the decision to euthanize the pit bull on November 13, 2009. Following months of both physical and obedience rehabilitation, the ASPCA determined that Oreo’s erratic aggression made her a danger to both humans and other animals.

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Does Your Pet Need an iPhone?

Bridget Crawford

Pet Acoustics” makes an iPhone app so that “you and your pet can experience the power of Pet Acoustics’ music for your dog, cat or horse from your iPhone, iPod Touch or other music player.” Here’s the official description from the company’s website:

Just as music for humans can change the mood and feel of an environment, this is true for animals as well. Pet Acoustics music has been specifically designed for the hearing sensitivities of your pet, both in frequency, volume and rhythm to calm and soothe your pet anytime, anywhere.

Amazingly, dogs, cats and horses hear two to three times more than humans. In our homes, barns and pet-care environments, animals can develop stress, anxiety, and aggression in reaction to sounds. Pet Acoustics music has been specifically developed to support your pet’s sensitive hearing thereby ensuring relaxation. An easy tool for pet owners, this music will greatly benefit your pet by filling their environment with a sense of safety, connectedness and love.

Play your choice of music with repeatable results for rest time, separation anxiety, thunderstorm nervousness, car travel, veterinary visits, barn time, trail rides, walking with your dog, grooming, puppy and kitten training or for quiet time.

Pet Acoustics music is designed for you and your pet together! Play My Dog and Me, My Cat and Me, My Horse and Me, whenever you and your pet want to enjoy quality time and relax!

I am quite willing to accept that animals are sensitive to music, but I’m still laughing at this. I’m sure the creators are, too…all the way to the bank!

Innocent Woman Mauled by Chimp: Who is to Blame?

Lindsay Macleod

ChimpanzeeIn February 2009, Charla Nash, a 55-year-old woman was visiting her friend Sandra Herold in Stamford, Connecticut, when Herold’s pet chimp, Travis, suddenly attacked her. The crazed chimp tore off Nash’s nose, lips and eyelids before being shot dead by cops. Nash was left with no face or hands and is now suing Herold for $50 million. Nash appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show this week and bravely revealed what remains of her face.

This was clearly a terrible accident, and I feel horribly for Ms. Nash.  But I also feel bad for Travis, who should never have been a pet to begin with. Chimpanzees are known to possess incredible strength, with the average adult male having four to five times the upper-body strength of an adult human. They are also very difficult pets. They typically act aggressively toward their owners when they reach adulthood, and once raised by humans, they cannot be re-introduced into the wild because other chimpanzees will reject them.

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The Pig, The CAFO, & The Flu

David Cassuto

tamworth pig and pigletExcellent piece here regarding the pig CAFO/swine flu link and another one here about the inefficacy of the vaccine approach to prophylaxis.  And yet another interesting piece here about the intelligence and social nature of pigs.

In light of these developments, let’s consider the American approach to pigs: mass confinement in facilities so devoid of stimulation for the animals that their tails are amputated to prevent them from biting each other.  In addition to torturing the animals, these facilities incubate disease, which our government then attempts to treat not by addressing the cause (factory farms) but rather with a mass vaccination program that will almost certainly fail, and a PR campaign to rename swine flu, H1N1.

What will we learn from this logic-defying juxtaposition?  If history is any predictor: nothing.

Can U.S. v Stevens Bite Back?

Irina Knopp

barking_cartoon_dogI am currently working on a paper that looks at the case, arguments for and possible consequences of U.S. v Stevens. Recently, I’ve found several articles online suggesting that the statute in the case thought to promote animal rights in America could possibly hurt animal rights groups.

Rory Eastburg, author of the article “High Court to Consider Categorical Ban on Cruelty Images,” warns that animal rights groups should be very careful what they wish for because such groups often use film and images to expose the animal abuses that go on and the vague exemption for serious content in 18 U.S.C. § 48 may get them in trouble.

He states, “Many if not all films made by such groups falls squarely within the terms of the statute because they are recording unlawful treatment of animals.” Eastburg fails to explain how animal rights group videos/images would fall under the interstate commerce element of 18 U.S.C. § 48.

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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.

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Buggery and Factory Farming

Rodell Green was just sentenced to three years imprisonment for having sex with a horse. Over at the Atlantic Blog, correspondent Wendy Kaminer asks the following “quick question“:

Can someone explain to me why it is a criminal offense to have sex with animals but entirely legal to kill and eat them?  Surely laws against bestiality don’t reflect concern about the rights of animals, (who would probably opt for sex over death.) I don’t mean to denigrate meat eating (I’m a carnivore;) I do mean to point out the absurdities of imprisoning people for “buggery.”

In a sense, Ms. Kaminer is right. It is simply inconsistent for the law to send someone to jail for three years for having sex with a horse while simultaneously allowing billions of animals to unnecessarily suffer as a result of factory farming.

Nevertheless, I believe that there is a way to explain this inconsistency. As I pointed out in a previous post, it’s unclear whether the purpose of bestiality statutes is to protect animals from cruelty. As a matter of fact, I think that bestiality statutes have little to do with preventing animal suffering. Instead, it’s more likely that the purpose of bestiality statutes is to enforce a moral principle, namely: that it’s against natural law and morality for human beings to have sex with an animal.  This reading of bestiality statutes is supported by the history of laws criminalizing such conduct.

The first statute criminalizing bestiality in common law jurisdictions was England’s Buggery Act of 1533. The statute made engaging in anal sexual intercourse or having sex with an animal a crime punishable by hanging. These acts were criminalized because they were unnatural and against God’s will. After all, as Blackstone (in)famously asserted in his famous Commentaries, someone who engaged in these acts committed the “abominable and detestable crime against nature”. As a result, it seems fairly obvious that what inspired bestiality laws was the state’s desire to enforce a particular moral view.

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IUCN Academy Colloquium — No Animal Law Here…

David Cassuto

I’m currently in China having all kinds of interesting experiences.  For example, it was only in Shanghai a few days ago that I saw my first wheelchair-accessible urinal.  I’ve also seen more pictures of Chairman Mao in the last 2 days than I had seen in the previous . . .  well, ever.   I’m here for a series of meetings.  Presently, I’m in Wuhan attending the Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law – an annual meeting of an organization dedicated to the teaching of environmental law around the world.

I did not speak about animals at this Colloquium.   Neither has anyone else.  In fact, today’s lunch speaker presented some data about the research interests of the membership and animal law merited mention only as one the disciplines least often listed as a primary research interest.  Indeed, I’m one of only 6 academy members who did list it.

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