District Court Upholds the Right to Sell Foie Gras

gaggle-of-geeseSeth Victor

The blawg previously commented on the ongoing issues surrounding California’s ban on the sale of foie gras, particularly the idea of giving away foie gras as a “complimentary side” when selling some other food. Last week Animal Legal Defense Fund filed another suit in the battle, arguing that La Toque restaurant was illegally selling foie gras in violation of California’s Health and Safety Code § 25982.

The suit, however, is somewhat of a moot point. On January 7th the California District Court overturned the Health and Safety Code banning the sale of foie gras, granting partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs, among whom is Hot’s Restaurant Group, the aforementioned makers of the complimentary foie gras side. The District Court summarize the issue as “whether a sales ban on products containing a constituent that was produced in a particular manner is an “ingredient requirement” under Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).” The plaintiffs argued that the PPIA preempts the Health and Safety Code. Judge Stephen V. Wilson agreed, and has enjoined the California Attorney General from enforcing the law. In summary, PPIA is a federal law that regulates the sale and distribution of birds and expressly prohibits states from imposing certain conditions on food and ingredients. Judge Wilson held that the Health and Safety Code, which is a state law, was in conflict with the federal law, and that the federal law must be held above state regulations. The “production” of including fatty liver in the sales of food is, apparently, an ingredient, and therefore must be regulated, with regards to foie gras, at the federal level.

Health and Safety Code § 25981, which bans the practice of force feeding a bird for the purpose of fattening the liver, was not before the District Court, and remains in effect. Also, there are several other facets of the plaintiff’s argument that were not granted summary judgment, including a Commerce Clause attack. The Commerce Clause argument and the remaining section banning “production” still presents an important argument, although the restaurants’ main challenge has now been overcome; Californian restaurants largely import all of their foie gras, thus the production bar will have a much smaller impact.

Progress at the Cost of Our Humanity

Seth Victor

The New York Times this week published an investigation into U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, and, perhaps predictably, the results are disturbing. I heartily suggest reading the whole article, but for those in a rush, here are some of the interesting takeaway points:

  • U.S. Meat Animal Research Center is pioneering ways to produce meat more efficiently and cheaply via re-engineering farmed animals through surgery and breeding techniques
  • In pursuing this research, animal welfare has taken a backseat. For example, since 1985, 6,500 out of the 580,000 animals the center has housed have starved. 625 have died from mastitis, an easily treatable infection.
  • Nearly 10 million piglets have been crushed by their mothers each year, not because this is what mothers naturally do, but because they are being forced to have larger litters of weak piglets, and the mothers themselves are artificially larger, kept alive longer to reproduce.
  • For thirty-one years, the Center worked on genetically modifying cows to regularly produce twins, noting that single births were not an efficient way to produce meat. By injecting cows with embryos from other cows that birthed twins, and then injecting them with semen from bulls who sired twins, the Center produced cows that have a 55% chance of having twins, when naturally the chances are 3%. Many of the female calves of twins are born with deformed vaginas, and the artificially large wombs create birthing problems even for single calves. Over 16% of the twins died.
  • Thirty to forty cows die each year from exposure to bad weather, not including storms, in which several hundred more die.
  • 245 animals have died since 1985 due to treatable abscesses.
  • In 1990, the Center tried to create larger lambs by injecting pregnant ewes with an excessive amount of male hormone testosterone. Instead, the lambs were born with deformed genitals, which made urination difficult.
  • In 1989, the Center locked a young cow in place in a pen with six bulls for over an hour to determine the bulls’ libidos. The industry standard is to do this with one bull for fifteen minutes. By the time a vet was called, the cows hind legs were broken from being mounted, and she died within a few hours.
  • The scientists charged with administering the experiments, surgeries, and to euthanize do not have medical degrees. One retired scientist at the Center was quoted saying, “A vet has no business coming in and telling you how to do it. Surgery is an art you get through practice.”
  • “The leaner pigs that the center helped develop, for example, are so low in fat that one in five females cannot reproduce; center scientists have been operating on pigs’ ovaries and brains in an attempt to make the sows more fertile.”
  • Regarding oversight, “A Times examination of 850 experimental protocols since 1985 showed that the approvals [for experiments] were typically made by six or fewer staff members, often including the lead researchers for the experiment. The few questions asked dealt mostly with housekeeping matters like scheduling and the availability of animals.”
  • “The language in the protocols is revealing. While the words “profit” or “production efficiency” appear 111 times, “pain” comes up only twice.”

Continue reading

ANIMALS USED FOR AGRICULTURE: WHAT IS THERE TO HIDE?

Christine Murphy

In some states, the act of entering onto another’s property and recording undercover videos revealing animal cruelty on farms is illegal. At first glance, this is understandable as everyone has an interest in their own property rights. But there’s a catch. What happens when the activities carried out Image for first blog poston that land are not only illegal, but affect on society as a whole? Farm animals are slaughtered everyday and used for food, cosmetics, and even clothing products which enter the economy and are then provided to us for our use and consumption. The treatment of these animals before slaughter is horrifying, and yet this industry seems to be protected from revealing this information from the public.

In seven states today, ag-gag laws exist. These laws prohibit individuals from entering an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner.

In Animal Legal Defense Fund et. al. v. Otter et. al., the Plaintiffs challenged Idaho’s ag-gag law Continue reading

Carriage-Horses and the Soul of the New York City: Have we destroyed the charm?

Christine Murphy

For some, the vision of a horse-drawn carriage is romantic, with a charm that cannot be matched.

“Horses have walked the streets of New York since the seventeenth century—Broadway was actually carved by them—and for generations they’ve been cherished mascots of tradition, reminding us that for all the ways the city changes, it never completely burns away its layered soul of New Amsterdam hustle, Revolutionary-era imperiousness, and Gilded Age Image for second blog postgentility.”-New York Magazine

             But the reality is that once we stop and think about the horses used in this industry, it’s downright cruel. Should these animals have to endure intolerable conditions purely for our entertainment?

The New York City Administrative Code has regulations Continue reading

Fly Away Geese

Carmen Parra

Following Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger’s 2009 landing of a US Airways airplane into New York City’s Hudson River after striking a flock of geese, the issue of bird strikes has become a recurring topic in the media. The USDA has assigned Wildlife Service agents to capture and slaughter between 700 to 1,000 Canada geese inhabiting the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and the areas surrounding LaGuardia Airport, each year.  The agents capture and gas the geese while they are in their molting phase during the summer, when they are unable to fly.  The refuge, located near John K. Kennedy International Airport, covers 9,000 acres of open bay, saltmarsh, mudflats, upland fields and woods, and is self-described as parraone of the “most significant bird sanctuaries in the Northeastern United States…”

However, the number of bird strikes nationwide between 2009 and 2012 remained relatively unchanged.  It appears that killing the geese that will inevitably continue breeding is not the most effective method of preventing bird strikes.  Opting for alternatives that provide long-term solutions, which also happen to be the most humane, seems to be the most effective choice.

Other countries have successfully implemented scientific methods to avoid bird strikes.  For example, Continue reading

Animal Welfare Trust Summer Grants

David Cassuto

From the email:

Animal Welfare Trust is currently seeking applicants for our 2015 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. Applications are due on March 1, 2015. Animal Welfare Trust believes that we can make a meaningful contribution to animal welfare by encouraging students to work on projects that facilitate positive reform for animals. Details about the grant program, the application process, and information on past recipients can be found on our website.

Our particular areas of interest are farm animal welfare, humane education and pro-vegetarian/vegan 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 contact me.
Thank you!

Ali Berman
Animal Welfare Trust
141 Halstead Avenue, Suite 301
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
914-589-6778
ali@animalwelfaretrust.org
www.animalwelfaretrust.org

Summer Internship with Compassion Over Killing

David Cassuto

From the email…

Compassion Over Killing (COK) is seeking legal interns for Summer 2015 (unpaid). Compassion Over Killing is a national nonprofit (501(c)(3)) animal advocacy organization. Working to end animal abuse since 1995, COK focuses on ending and preventing cruelty to animals in agriculture.

COK’s Legal Advocacy Program is offering Litigation Internships out of its West Coast office in Torrance, California, as well as Policy Internships out of COK’s Washington, D.C. office.

Litigation Interns will work on litigation projects aimed at protecting farmed animals; most of these projects are plaintiffs’ litigation. These projects will likely employ a variety of legal theories, relating to areas such as state criminal cruelty laws, false advertising and unfair competition laws, tort liability, environmental protection laws, administrative law, tax, and corporate law.

Policy Interns will work on diverse projects aimed at improving legislative, regulatory, industry, and corporate policies that impact farmed animals. All Summer Interns will have opportunities to research new projects as well as assist heavily with ongoing projects. They will work closely with Compassion Over Killing’s attorneys.

Excellent research and writing skills are required. In addition, Litigation & Policy Interns should be interested in exploring novel approaches to protecting animals through litigation. Candidates with a background and interest in animal protection are preferred, although it is not required. Interested law students should apply with cover letter, resume, writing sample, list of three references, and law school transcript to Compassion Over Killing’s Legal Advocacy Program at legal@cok.net. Please indicate whether you are applying for a Litigation Internship or Policy Internship in the email subject line. Applications are considered on a rolling basis.

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