China — Where Pigs Go to Die

David Cassuto

Here’s a scary quotation from a scary article:

The fastest growth in meat consumption occurs when people’s income is less than $5,000 per year, and China’s current figure is around $ 3,000, so we are still on the fast track.

So says Ma Chuang, vice secretary-general of China Animal Agricultural Association.    Continue reading

RICO Case Against Petland to Proceed

David Cassuto

A federal district court in Phoenix has allowed a racketeering trial  to proceed against Petland.  The suit alleges that Petland violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and myriad state laws by misleading thousands of consumers across the country into believing that the puppies they purchased were healthy and came from high-quality breeders.  Read more here; related post here.

Cow Abuse

ABC News expose of horrific abuses by the dairy industry.  More here.

Starve the Poor (and the Animals)

David Cassuto

Lt. Governor Andre Bauer of South Carolina recently compared poor people to stray animals. He declared himself focused on reducing the number of people on government assistance because:  “my grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed.”

Continue reading

Haggis is Legal

David Cassuto

Apparently, haggis was illegal.  It was banned in 1989 by health officials fearing mad cow disease (which is not really called mad cow nor is it confined to cows).  Haggis is a pudding made of (among other things) sheep offal and oatmeal.  It is a prized component of Scottish cuisine and a particular favorite at commemorations of the poet, Robert Burns, especially Burns Night, which happens to be tonight.  Continue reading

How Not to Parent

Bridget Crawford

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports here about a mother who forced her son to bludgeon his pet hamster.  The 12 year-old’s offense?  Bad grades.  After the child told his teacher about the incident, the teacher reported it to the authorities.  The mother was arrested and charged with animal cruelty and child cruelty (as well as battery).

This makes my stomach turn.

Announcing “Our Hen House”

David Cassuto

Mariann Sullivan & Jasmin Singer

Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer are two of the jewels in the crown of the animal advocacy movement.  Both women have labored tirelessly on behalf of the voiceless for many years and in many ways.  Now they have a new way.  Their new project is called Our Hen House and is much more than blog.  It is, in their words, “a central clearinghouse for all kinds of ideas on how individuals can make change for animals.”  Below is some skinny from an email blast inviting people to the site.  It is a great thing they’re doing.  But don’t take my word for it.  Go and see.  And then stay and help.

Dear Friends,

You might be wondering why you got this email. If you’d like, please click “unsubscribe” below, and please pardon the intrusion. But if you’re interested in learning about Our Hen House — a new project that we’ve gleefully begun — then read on… Continue reading

NYSBA Environmental Law Section Conference Call on CAFO Permitting

From the email:

The Environmental Law Section’s Agriculture and Rural Issues
Committee will host a conference call on Wednesday, February 3rd
from 2:00 – 3:00 pm to provide information and answer questions
about the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit

This call is open to any Environmental Law Section member wishing
to participate.  Attorneys Scott Crisafulli at DEC and John
Rusnica at NYS Agriculture and Markets will present information on
the program and answer questions from call participants. Ruth
Moore, General Counsel, NYS Agriculture and Markets, and
Environmental Law Section Agriculture and Rural Issues Committee
Chair, will act as moderator.

If you would like to participate in the conference call, just send
an email by January 22nd to and provide your
name and contact information. You will then be sent an invitation
with a call-in number and code for the call on February 3rd.

Go Here, Read This

David Cassuto

This is a very interesting piece by Stephanie Ernst.  She argues that the crusade against factory farming undermines the larger animal rights movement by creating safe rationalizations for the consumption of local, “humanely raised” animal products.

Here’s a little taste:

It’s time for the vegan/animal rights movement to stop battling factory farming. And by that, of course, I mean that it’s time to stop presenting factory farming as the enemy, as the sole problem, when the problem is not confined to factory farming. Why? Continue reading

Animal Control = Execution in Two Mississippi Counties

David Cassuto

What kind of a world do we live in where a person pledging to be the 41st vote against health care reform wins Ted Kennedy’s seat?  The same sort of world, apparently, where an animal control officer slaughters hundreds of animals and dumps their bodies in a creek.  Here’s some data:

A Mississippi animal control officer for both Canton and Madison Counties has been terminated from his position among allegations he slew hundreds of animals and dumped the bodies in a creek in Canton, according to reports.

Police would not disclose how many carcasses of dogs and cats were killed, but said that Alonzo Esco has been officially accused of poor treatment of animals, reports said.  Continue reading

Some Legal News

David Cassuto

I don’t often get around to doing roundups of animal law in the news.  Fortunately, there are folks with more gumption than I.  ALDF, for example.  Check it out.

Cap and Trade for Animals?

David Cassuto

A journey outside the box of animal welfare law brings us to this article, ” An Introduction to Cap and Trade for Animal Welfare,” by Alan Nemeth, in the Journal of Animal and Environmental Law.   The article is about just what the title says.  Nemeth is an adjunct professor  at the Washington College of Law and the founder and first chair of the Maryland State Bar Association’s Section on Animal Law.

Here’s a teaser from the introduction:

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, H.R. 2454, which includes a straightforward concept and tool intended to reduce pollution, that of cap and trade.  Thinking outside of the proverbial box, could a market‐based approach such as cap and trade be successfully used to improve animal welfare throughout the United States and across the various industries that use animals?  Continue reading

ABA-TIPS Event in Chicago

From the email:

ABA-TIPS Humane Education Project – Chicago

Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART), the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and Northwestern Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter are pleased to invite you to a free training workshop for the Humane Education Project of the American Bar Association’s TIPS Animal Law Committee. The primary objective of the Humane Education Project is to cultivate compassion and empathy in our youth toward animals and foster respect for the environment. For additional information on the program, please see below.

Continue reading


David Cassuto

What can one say?  Unimaginable suffering on an epic scale unleashed on a population that was already barely surviving.   Please help.  My organization of choice is Doctors Without Borders but there are lots of them out there.  Whatever we can do is what needs to be done.

The Tropical Fish “Crop”

David Cassuto

The recent cold weather in Florida has hurt the tropical fish industry.  I have a few things to say about this.  For one, the NYT refers to the fish as a “crop.”  I’ve railed about rhetoric in this space before (here, for example) but this one feels really egregious.  Since when are animals a “crop?”  What is it about fish that demotes them from sentience?  Continue reading

Food Fight at McDonald’s

David Cassuto

So a woman throws a tantrum and destroys some property when her McDonald’s meal is prepared wrong (apparently, she was “unhappy with her cheeseburger”).  Some foundational questions: how does one prepare such a thing “right?”  And how would one know?

NYSBA “Hot Topics in Animal Law” CLE Program

David Cassuto

Looks good.  Full skinny here.  Find it on and at:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
New York Hilton
1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York City
Bryant Suite, 2nd floor

More info from: Kim Hojohn, Staff Liaison, or 518/487-5593

Fasting on the Bayou

David Cassuto

I blog from New Orleans, where I am attending the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) annual meeting.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, tomorrow is the meeting of the Animal Law section. 

Today I field tripped with the Environmental and Natural Resource sections.  We first visited a swamp and marshland (there is a difference between the two) and after lunch, we toured the lower Ninth Ward to see both the remaining devastation from Katrina as well as some fascinating and hopeful rebuilding efforts (including Brad Pitt’s Make It Right project).  All in all, it was a wonderful day spent with great colleagues witnessing both the struggles and triumphs of the natural and human world. 

There was one rub, though.  Continue reading

Why It’s Not About the Elephants

David Cassuto

Here now, a few words about the Ringling Brothers case.  The suit focused on the treatment of Asian elephants – an endangered species – by the circus.  Much credible evidence suggests that the elephants were mistreated, both by intent (using bullhooks to “train” them) and by the rigors of the circus life, a life which confined them for much of their lives, prevented them from socializing and from moving freely about and generally forced them to live counter to their instincts and nature.  These allegations and others seemed to place the circus in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), whose “Take” provision (Section 9) prohibits the “take” of any endangered species. 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(B).

The term “take,” as used in the ESA, includes actions that “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” 16 U.S.C. § 1532(19). The Fish and Wildlife Service defines “harm” to include any act that “actually kills or injures wildlife,” including actions that “significantly impair[ ] essential behavioral patterns.” 50 C.F.R. § 17.3. “Harass” under the ESA means: an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.  In sum, the Supreme Court has made clear that the ESA defines “take”  “in the broadest possible manner  to include every conceivable way in which a person can ‘take’ or attempt to ‘take’ any fish or wildlife.’ “ Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Cmtys. for a Greater Or.,515 U.S. 687, 704 (1995).

On the face of it, the allegations regarding the treatment of the elephants land squarely within the scope of behavior prohibited by the ESA.  This lawsuit marked the first time the ESA had been invoked to cover the treatment of performing elephants.  I do not here have time to summarize the merits and facts of the case; you can read more about it here and here and elsewhere.  I must focus on the procedural posture of the case since it ultimately proved dispositive.   Continue reading

Newsflash: Dolphins are Smart

David Cassuto

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

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

Some Thoughts on “Old Partner”

Matthew Blaisdell

Film Forum provides the following quote and review in its promotion for “Old Partner,” a film in a 1-week engagement at the theater (ending January 5th). (

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened,”
 (Anatole France).  “Mr. and Mrs. Lee, elderly peasants, eke out a living from their farm in a remote portion of South Korea, served by a 40-year-old ox who is their friend, their colleague, their lifeblood — and clearly Mrs. Lee’s (successful) competitor for her husband’s love and loyalty. OLD PARTNER is a gentle, poignant tale of man and beast, one that will be familiar to anyone who has ever cherished a pet; but here that love is magnified by the symbiotic nature of the relationship. Mr. Lee gathers special fodder for his ox and refuses to use insecticide for fear of poisoning him. Like THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL, this is a moving documentary of near-biblical dimensions.”

Thinking about this film in the context of animal issues reminds me of two related ideas: 1) the value of symbiosis involved in domestication; and 2) the great tension between sentimentality and hard legal/policy analysis.  Continue reading

Ringling Brothers Decision — Justice Denied

David Cassuto

The decision is in.  It’s a debacle.  Read about it here.  I’ll have more to say when I’ve studied the opinion.