Life’s a beach–or an entangled beak (no more balloon releases!)

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Ocean Conservancy – click image

Michigan City, Indiana is a great hometown–a Great Lakes hometown. Located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, we Michigan Cityzens were lucky to grow up basking on warm, “singing sand,” diving into big breakers (with dire warnings of the undertow looming large in childhood), and exploring the wild dunes that would eventually become the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. On a recent trip home, I crammed in as many visits as possible to “my” great lake. Even Montana’s Big Sky country can’t quell the frequent longing for that spectacular lakefront, its reeling shorebirds, towering dunes, and waving marram grass. Continue reading

Why our modern lifestyle spells disaster

Seth Victor

Do you love your meat? Well, love it or hate it, it may well cause the collapse of our global society. In the latest report confirming the strain factory farming and overconsumption of animal products causes our environment, The Guardian reports that mass food shortages are predicted within the next 40 years if we as a species do not scale back meat consumption. It’s a simple matter of not having enough water to produce the crops necessary to support the animals needed to satisfy current consumption, to say nothing of what another 2 billion human mouths will bring to the table. If we do not scale back, food shortages and water shortages could be a worldwide reality, as well as food price spikes. Continue reading

Speciesism in three uneasy pieces

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

I don’t read the morning paper anymore so much as I confront it. What will it be today–a romantic, river-runs-through-it feature on catch-and-release fly fishing? Gloating trophy shots of dudes in hunter orange and the ungulates they conquered with high-powered rifles? Another guest opinion column defending trapping as a management tool for a renewable resource? (Or, in the case of wolves, as suppression of unwanted competition for the aforementioned ungulates?)

Maybe a photo of a child clinging to a sheep in a mutton bustin’ contest? An article on taxidermy, horse racing at the fairgrounds, or a feature on  the derring-do of bullfighters? (You used to know them as rodeo clowns, but they’ve come up in the world.) A full-page ad for a local ammo manufacturer featuring teenage girls and their African safari kills? Ice fishing tourney stats? No matter the season, there’s always a reason for animal exploitation–and someone willing to talk about it, someone ready to report it, and someone eager to read about it.

Within four days recently, a trio of items appeared in the paper to perfectly illustrate the speciesism that so naturally saturates the human experience. Whether for entertainment, convenience, or greed and entitlement, we human animals are a speciesist species. Continue reading

The animal industrial complex: The monster in our midst

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

Given the opportunity, what would you say to a couple hundred high school students about animal exploitation? In 30 minutes? I had that chance as a speaker at a Missoula, Montana high school in April. Having taught there several years ago, I already knew that kids at this school are generally awesome and take pride in their open-minded, “alternative” image. Still, I was clued in by a few that the animal rights viewpoint isn’t any more warmly embraced there than it is in the rest of society. Go figure.

Earth Day was the occasion, so I chose factory farming for my topic–its gross cruelty to animals, its devastating impacts on the environment and humans. Continue reading

Capitalism and captive marine mammals go hand in flipper

Click image for theme song

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Dillard’s department store has raised my ire. Again.  And again, swimsuits figure in.

The first time–several years ago now–a swimwear sale ad blew me out of the water with its sexualized portrayal of a six-year-old girl. The swimsuit itself was OK…well, except for the two big flowers printed strategically on the chest of the swimsuit top. That, combined with the exotic dancer pose the child was photographed in, and I was e-mailing Corporate Office in a hurry and a fury to suggest that their advertising department sorely needed some awareness-raising and sensitivity training.

This time, a quarter-page ad trumpets “Swim Day,” a swimsuit promotion running in conjunction with Discovery Cove in Orlando. Come in and try on a swimsuit! Register to win the Grand Prize and you could find yourself swimming with dolphins, snorkeling with rays, and hand feeding exotic birds. In the background behind the swimsuit model, four captive dolphins leap from the water in a synchronized stunt. Continue reading

Meat by any other name would be as troubling

Seth Victor

Humans have been flirting with the idea of lab-grown, or in vitro meat for a while. We’ve commented about it previously here. PETA has a standing offer of a $1 million monetary incentive for the first successful synthetic meat that can find its way to supermarket shelves. Yesterday, FT Magazine ran a feature by William Little about a lab in the Netherlands that is poised to take the big step between the laboratory and the cash register, though that step is still years away.

As usual, many of the problems surrounding this concept have been revealed through humor. Thank you, Mr. Colbert. But it isn’t the public’s perception that I worried about as I read Mr. Little’s article. It’s the viability of this process. I’ve read articles touting the benefits of lab meat, including reduced pollution and less consumption of natural resources, if the process is profitable. I’m not arguing that replacing the CAFO system we currently employ for our meals isn’t admirable. I just question whether this is the way to do it, and if we aren’t just creating a new monster.

Continue reading

Of Easter hams and meatless fish

Google Images

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

‘Tis the Easter season. This is apparent thanks to the frequency with which supermarket advertising circulars appear, each and every one featuring the dead, sliced body of a pig front and center. How else to celebrate the Season of Renewed Life?

Indeed. Let’s sit down to a meal of flesh from an intelligent, sentient being who was brought into the world to suffer a hideous, hellish life and die a cruel, industrial death solely to grace our tables as we give thanks to the Lord of compassion for His sacrifice born of love…and the miracle of Easter. Amen!

If Jesus ate meat at the Last Supper, it would have been lamb. Jewish Passover traditions call for lamb, and so do most European traditions. But, in north Europe pigs were always important. Hams, from pigs slaughtered in the winter, then salted and smoked were ready to eat in the spring-before fresh meats were available. This is especially true in North America where lamb was never an important meat.  ~Food Historian Bruce Kraig, WLS-TV Chicago

Lambs all over North America must wipe their woolly brows in relief every Easter: Whew, dodged a bullet! But I digress. Continue reading

Death threat follows posting of trapped wolf picture

Earth Island Journal "fair use" photo from Trapperman.com

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Imagine a wild animal lured to a baited foothold trap. The trap springs, catching the unsuspecting creature by the paw. Imagine–it isn’t difficult–the fear and pain; the thrashing attempts to free the firmly-clamped foot.

Now imagine people gathering to watch the terrified animal attempting to free himself. Guns–constant companions in this part of the world–are produced and shots are fired. The animal is hit but not down; a circle of pink forms in the snow, the trap’s anchor chain at its center. Pictures are taken; pictures are posted.

When the location is the Northern Rockies and the animal is a wolf, this scenario is not only feasible, it actually happens. This time it was in Idaho. Continue reading

All factory, no farm: And the CAFOs go rolling along

HSUS photo

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

The human population in Montana hit the one million mark early in January. Of the 50 states, the Treasure State ranks 44th in population, fourth in area. There’s a lot of “there” out there under the Big Sky, and elbow room enough at roughly seven humans per square mile. We like it that way.

But the folks in rural Shelby, Montana (pop. 3500+) will have a million new squealing neighbors to cozy-up to if Gov. Brian Schweitzer prevails in talks with Chinese capitalist investors. Sure, a $150 million hog processing plant will bring jobs, but given what is well documented about factory farms, it will also bring tons of unwanted baggage in water pollution, air pollution, surface contamination, a host of human ailments including asthma, headaches, skin and eye irritation, and worse–much worse. Just ask the residents in south central Michigan, who now issue “stench alerts” thanks to the numerous CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation) operating near Hudson, MI. Continue reading

Feral cats: The government fix–or the humane fix?

www life with cats.tv

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

October 16th is National Feral Cat Day. That’s just under a month out, but forewarned is forearmed, and if feral cats aren’t on your radar now, perhaps they will be.

Feral cats (also called community cats) weren’t on my radar until my cousin Beth, a feral cat activist in Indiana, e-mailed to ask that I contact federal officials (via an action alert from Best Friends) about the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s role in undermining community trap-neuter-return–or release–(TNR) programs. Continue reading

Horse slaughter: What would Jesus do?

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Proponents of horse slaughter have reared their heads again and are braying loudly. Why? Senate Bill 1176, The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, has been introduced into the 112th Congress with bipartisan support. This bill will “…amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes.” Apparently there’s much to dislike here if you’re in the horse industry and rely on institutional exploitation to keep your concerns humming along. Then again, if you possess a heart and a sense of justice, there’s much to abhor about horse slaughter (graphic). Continue reading

Environmentalism & Factory Farming

David Cassuto

Good article in GOOD Magazine on environmentalism and industrial agriculture featuring an interview w/me.

Wolf Delisting Op-ed

David Cassuto

Between Kathleen and me, we’ve taken up a lot of blawgwidth on the wolf issue and yet there’s so much more to be said.  Here’s my bid to bring it into the mainstream media.

Mass Animal Deaths: Nature, Nurture, Conspiracy, or Apocalyspe?

Rosana Escobar Brown

The Red-winged Blackbird deaths on New Year’s Eve 2011 sparked an international debate over trends in mass animal deaths around the globe.  That night, 5,000 birds plummeted to their demise over the Beebe, Arkansas, with low-flying and fireworks cited as the cause.  One report assumed the birds just began “colliding with things” due to poor eyesight.  But this event alone did not coax the controversy; just two days earlier over 100,000 fish were found floating in the Arkansas River a mere miles from Beebe, and three days after the barrage of blackbirds, 500 more birds of mixed breeds fell from the sky in Louisiana.  Reasons provided ranged from disease to power line exposure.

Photo by Liz Condo/The Advocate, via Associated Press

As if these occurrences weren’t enough to incite conspiracy, extraterrestrial, and apocalypse theorists, skeptics began compiling evidence of recent occurrences around the globe.  The more jarring stories include 40,000 Velvet Crabs washing ashore in England, 2 million floating Spot Fish in Maryland’s Chesapeke Bay, a “carpet” of Snapper sans eyes in New Zealand, and 100 tons of mixed fish in Brazil.  These incidents come with varying explanations from researchers, none of which include government conspiracy or “end of days” prophecies.  However, the paranoid public seems alarmed at the phenomenon and is claiming the animals are omens of biblical proportion.  Aptly termed the “Aflockalypse” by online cynics, articles range from claiming Nostradamus predicted this as a sign of the end of days and others point to bible verses and claim this occurred once before in the fall of the Egyptian Empire.  One Google Maps user created a global mapped record of recent mass animal deaths in an attempt to find a pattern, and I must admit that the incidents appear in astonishing numbers. Continue reading

In Poor Taste

Seth Victor

I’ve been meaning to comment about an article I read earlier this month. As NPR’s Robert Krulwich reports, a couple of innovators from the UK have created carnivorous machines. I think the article sufficiently captures the mix of awe and  horror at the development of furniture that derives its energy from consuming animals. Sci-Fi disasters aside, the idea of inanimate objects not just killing as a pest-removal system, but actually needing to “eat” to “survive” raises questions, namely, why?

I’m all for alternative fuel sources, but this is too much. First, as I understand the process from the video link, microbial fuel cells aren’t terribly efficient. Eight flies powering a clock for twelve days may sound impressive, but we are talking about

clocks, which don’t require a tremendous amount of energy. Stealing electrons from bacteria isn’t going to power a car anytime soon. Yes, animals (and some plants) can convert bio-mass into energy, but this is the only way they (we) have evolved to create energy. Ultimately most terrestrial life relies on solar energy, so why not just go to the source. Oh wait, we already do that. Continue reading

Rivers, Agriculture & Climate Change

David Cassuto

I’ll be a visiting professor at  Williams College this coming semester, teaching climate change law & policy as well as environmental law at the Center for Environmental Studies.  So, climate change has very much been on my mind of late.  This is not a new thing, of course.  I’ve blogged frequently about the relationship between animal law & policy and climate change and written more extensively about it elsewhere as well.  In addition, I’ll be talking about CAFOS and climate change as part of the animal law panel  at the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) meeting this weekend.

However, I recently stumbled on a new (to me) aspect of the pernicious relationship between industrial agriculture and climate change: the denitrification of rivers.  Microbes in rivers convert nitrogen to nitrous oxide (as well as an inert gas called dinitrogen).  That nitrous oxide then makes its way into the atmosphere where it becomes a potent greenhouse gas as well as a destroyer of atmospheric ozone.  Continue reading

Wolves, Laws and Parochialism

David Cassuto

I would like to say a few more words about the so-called “State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act and its stated intent to strip wolves of all Endangered Species Act protections.  While I have no reason to assume this bill will pass (are you listening, Congress?), the fact that officials elected to national office could propose such a thing underscores much of what’s wrong with, well, with everything.

As an initial matter, wolves pose little threat to people.  In the 230+ year history of the United States, the number of wolf attacks can probably be counted on one person’s fingers and toes.  The number of fatal attacks is far fewer.  Wolves do, however, sometimes eat livestock.  Since their reintroduction (emphasis on re– introduction because they used to live there until we exterminated them) into the Northern Rockies, ranchers have raised a royal ruckus because they occasionally lose animals to wolves.  Rather than treat this as a cost of doing business, ranchers argue that the wolves’ existence constitutes an unwelcome intrusion into the natural order of things.  This despite the fact that the wolves used to inhabit the region in far greater numbers than the 1700 or so that currently exist there and that ranching (and the factory farming that it supports) has caused widespread damage to the region’s ecosystem.           Continue reading

Finding the Factory Farms

David Cassuto

We’re often told (because it’s true) that 10 billion animals are killed for food in this country every year.  The implications of that number for climate change, water and air pollution, and animal suffering are well-documented and appalling.  But most of us have never seen a factory farm.  Agribusiness counts on the “out of sight, out of mind” effect to keep the population quiescent and, for the most part, the strategy works.

So where are those 10 billion animals?  Continue reading

The Dirty South? No; More Like Dirty Cleanup Efforts

Douglas Doneson

Early May…

With law school final exams a few days away, keeping up with current events was the last thing on my mind. But this past May, the BP oil spill was literally all over the place. Prior to transplanting to New Orleans for my summer internship, I applied to every volunteer site I could to help clean up oil covered wildlife, restore beaches, and clean the marshes. I expected to be busy every weekend cleaning oil-covered birds and being a part of an all-hand-on-deck effort. In reality, the HAZMAT training, BP certification, and paraprofessional experience kept many potential volunteers away.  I did follow through however, and after completing the HAZMAT training and BP certification online (where I answered 3 or 4 questions about putting on gloves correctly and whether I knew what to do if I became dehydrated), I applied for the more demanding and risky volunteer positions such as handling and cleaning oil covered wildlife.  As a former veterinary technician and zoo keeper I had paraprofessional training too. To my surprise, very few of my emails or phone calls were returned.              Continue reading

Live From the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights in Brazil

Elizabeth Bennett

DAY 1 Ola from the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights.  First, I would like to say that I am very thankful that Pace Law School and the Center for Environmental Legal Studies provided me with the opportunity to attend this prestigious and world-renowned conference and for all of the conference organizers’ hard work and hospitality.  As the presentations I have attended thus far have been informative and thought-provoking for me, I will do my best to share my experience with you.

Upon arrival, a symphony was playing.  After introductions and honorariums, Professor David Cassuto of Pace Law School and Director of the Brazil-American Institute for Law and Environment (BAILE) spoke about current trends in environmental law and the animal world.  He discussed the intersection of animal and environmental law and how they often clash, despite the many common grounds upon which they merge.  He went on to discuss the legal framework for protecting animals, distinguishing between animal welfarists and animal rights activists, stating that animal welfarists wish for stronger laws, while animal rights activists believe that humans should not use animals at all.  He also pointed out that in the United States legal system, animals are property and the laws concerning animals regulate relationships between humans about animals.  He made an interesting comparison between the appropriateness of humans making laws on behalf of nonhuman animals and politicians enacting laws on our behalf without truly knowing us, what we desire, or how we would like to be protected.  This comparison comes as an interesting response to doubts about human ability and right to make laws about non-human animals when they do not completely understand what animals want or need.

Professor Cassuto also discussed whether animals can be considered “persons” under the law and how this would change the way we protect them.  This served as a great opening to the Conference, as many of the presentations that followed addressed these questions and dealt with similar issues. Continue reading

More On the “Us or Them” Canard

David Cassuto

From the Interesting Summer Reading Desk comes this piece on the persistent and ongoing failure of predator eradication as a management tool and on the continued use and advocacy of said failed method throughout the country.  Here, with a hat tip to HumaneSpot.org, is the abstract for “Us or Them” from Conservation Magazine:

Continue reading

The Whale Killing Compromise Founders

David Cassuto

The perseverating continues about whether to `compromise´and allow some whaling in exchange for countries like Iceland, Norway and Japan agreeing to slaughter fewer whales in fewer places.  Even some major environmental organizations, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, have signed on.  As Stephanie Ernst  points out, there is a dangerous ethical compromise in acquiescing to the killing of some in exchange for the survival of others.     Continue reading

Christopher Stone on Nonhuman Legal Standing

David Cassuto

Christopher Stone, author of the seminal 1972 law review article, Should Trees Have Standing,  takes on the issue of standing for nonhuman animals.  Stone writes with characteristic eloquence about something that — while it may sound legally arcane — could well be the single most important issue in animal law today.

The Brown Pelican — Another Gulf Casualty

David Cassuto

Pesticides nearly wiped out the brown pelican during the 1960s.  With great care and lots of luck, the species recovered from the brink of extinction.  Now, thanks to BP and our national petroleum addiction, it’s back.

Cute Frogs and the Death of Nature (But Certainly Not the Oil Spill…)

David Cassuto

This post is not about the oil spill in the gulf.  It´s not about the hideous and incalculable damage to fragile coastal wetlands, marine life, and shore birds, or the other collateral damage from this petroleum-based nightmare.  It´s not about the lack of a viable disaster plan or the continued national unwillingness to connect this spill with unsustainable consumption levels.  Nor is it about BP´s ongoing denial of the seriousness of the spill or the Obama Administration´s tepid public response coupled with inadequate laws and a dysfunctional system of oversight.   Continue reading

Sloth

Seth Victor

 I wrote that gluttony is the biggest of these applied sins, but I may have spoken too soon. Everything I’ve written so far is meaningless if no one critically considers the issues contained in these posts, and while my goal is to get people thinking and talking about these issues, that alone is not enough. It’s a tired saying, but actions do speak loudest. Where our society goes with animal rights is determined solely by what actions we take. It’s that simple. For that reason, sloth is the greatest sin to overcome.    Continue reading

The CAFO Hothouse

David Cassuto

The Shameless Self-Promotion Desk kicks into high gear with this from the email:

Today, on Earth Day 2010, the Animals and Society Institute is pleased to announce the release of our sixth policy paper, titled “The CAFO Hothouse: Climate Change, Industrial Agriculture and the Law.” Written by David N. Cassuto, a professor at the Pace School of Law, the paper is a very timely overview of how government policies and agribusiness interests have combined to create inhumane and unhealthy conditions within our nation’s food supply, and what that means for our planet’s future.

“The CAFO Hothouse” describes, in thorough but easily digestible detail, how CAFOs (“concentrated animal feeding operations,” commonly known as factory farms) have replaced smaller family farms in the last few decades, the direct and indirect impact they have on greenhouse gas emissions, and how better policies and practices would help mitigate the resulting environmental damage and improve conditions for billions of farmed animals.

This paper is the first in our series to address agricultural issues, and is part of our overall mission to use science-based arguments to promote more responsible public policy.

Here’s an Excerpt:    Continue reading

The Return of the Bully Pulpit — Obama´s Conservation Initiative

David Cassuto

Children in the United States spend about half as much time outside as their parents did.  Between 1995 – 2020, more land will be converted to housing in the Chesapeake Bay area than in the previous three and a half centuries.  Theodore Roosevelt is one of Barack Obama´s favorite presidents.  And President Obama will likely never shoot a bear.

This is some of the takeway from the launch of the president´s new conservation initiative — an admirable effort to cobble together a coalition of the willing to do something other than bomb other nations.  The idea is to bring federal and  state governments and the private sector together to encourage outdoor recreation, connect wildlife migration corridors and facilitate the sustainable use of private land.  In a time of little available $$ and dwindling public will, this seems like a useful way to refocus the national gaze on the natural world.  Particularly strategic (and true) is the argument that conservation initiatives create rather than cost jobs.     Continue reading

Looking Within and Without in the Amazon

David Cassuto

I’ve returned from the Amazon where a wonderful time was had by all.  This trip — part of the Pace Law School Comparative Environmental Law class — was a complete success.  We saw toucans, caimans, sloths, monkeys, and all kinds of other wonders, including the Meeting of the Waters.  We lived on a boat that took us up the Rio Negro, one of the major feeder rivers of the Amazon, swam in the coffee colored water, and reconnected with the reasons so many of us went into environmental law.

Of course, the less wonderful was never far from sight.  Our hotel in Manaus had a little “zoo” where animals (including jaguar, giant turtles and others) are imprisoned in small cages so guests can come by and gawk (few do).  The fish served on the boat and everywhere else came from industrial farms, which have arisen to meet growing demand for fish that once proliferated throughout the region.    Continue reading

CITES Folderol Continued

David Cassuto

The banner times at the CITES Meeting continue.  No protection for sharks either.  Earlier in the week, delegates declined to protect several key species of coral.  And, of course, let’s not forget last week´s debacle with the bluefin tuna and the polar bear.   Continue reading

RIP: Stewart Udall

David Cassuto

Stewart Udall has died.  Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy & Johnson, congressman from Arizona, and architect of many the nation’s most powerful environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, Wilderness Act, and others, Udall was a visionary and a politician — a combination rarely seen then or since. 

Udall’s 1963 book, The Quiet Crisis, helped launch and continues to inspire the environmental movement.  In his later years, he sued the government on behalf of those exposed to radiation from nuclear testing and uranium mining.  Udall’s efforts led to the passage of the Radiation Exposure Safety Act.  Many of his family, including his son Tom and brother Mo, serve or have served the nation in Congress. 

Read a full obit of this extraordinary man here.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Industrial Agriculture & Climate Change

David Cassuto

Santos was interesting.  First, who knew there was a significant mountain range between Rio & Sao Paulo?  Even having flown this route many times, I was surprised by the size and extent of the range which we drove over.

My talk on biofuels, industrial agriculture and climate change was well-received in an odd but increasingly common way.   Though I mentioned animal treatment only tangentially and concentrated on the massive pollution and climate change culpability of factory farming, 90% of the questions and comments I received dwelt on animal treatment and even animal rights.         Continue reading

Thinking About Elephants

Bruce Wagman

I have been thinking about elephants.  The recent disappointing judgment in the hard-fought Ringling Brothers case is really only one reason.  I’ve been involved in a few nonlitigation matters trying to help make life better for elephants in zoos in different states, have visited the elephants at PAWS in California, and have spent many hours watching the amazing interactions and overwhelming magic of hundreds of elephants in several Tanzanian parks.  There are many elephant experiences that stand out in my mind, including on the one hand one long heating-up morning when we spent about two hours watching about 220 elephants of all ages and sizes (as best as we could count) in one spot in Tarangire National Park, and on the other being shocked into outrage when I learned about the crushing pain they suffer by virtue of almost every confinement situation in America, the literal disintegration of their foot bones as they are forced to stand on them, in some of the worst pain one could imagine, without any relief.  When it comes to elephants in zoos and circuses, the news is grim. 

I had to learn the science of elephants for my job, and that requirement is one of the fantastic things about practicing animal law, especially for someone like me.  That is, in order to do a good job, I am compelled to learn not just the law, but often the biology, physiology, psychology and behaviors of whatever species is at the center of the case I am litigating.  For me that is turning work into fun or at least intellectual exploration, which is fun for a law geek like me.  Because there are “cat people” and “dog people” and “chimp people;” and when on safari in Africa some people mainly want to see the big cats; others the birds.  There is an inherent speciesism, just like when we pet a cat and eat a cow, or think it is bad to eat dog because we do not do it, but it is okay to eat a pig because we do.  But I’m a garbage-can animal lover, meaning I love them all.  So when I am in Africa, ask me what I want to see, and I don’t care, as long as it’s wild.  People say warthogs are ugly and I think they are beautiful, perfect.  And when I am home ask if I prefer my dogs or cats, and my response is: “anything nonhuman will do, I love them all.”  So the requirement that I learn about some species or other is just a joy, and something I have done literally dozens of times over the course of my career.  And you really cannot adequately litigate for animals if you don’t understand them – as well as the law.  Continue reading

Burying Factory Farms with Faint Praise?

David Cassuto

Not too long ago, I blogged about Beppe Bigazzi, the Italian tv host who advocated for stewing cats.  My working theory was that Bigazzi could not possibly have been stupid enough not to know his remarks would create a backlash.  If so, then he was being wonderfully subversive  in a manner only available to those who are full participants in the culture they critique.

I had the same thought recently when reading this  NYT piece by Adam Shriver last week (admittedly, this thought did not occur to me when reading Jennifer Church’s earlier post on Shriver’s writings).  Mr. Shriver opined that since factory farms are inevitable (because they produce the meat we eat), we should turn our attention to genetically removing the pain centers in the animals we torture.  The responses to Shriver’s piece took him to task for the bald stupidity of his argument (starting with his failure to interrogate the assumption that factory farms are necessary).  Continue reading

Blogging from Brazil

David Cassuto

I’m live-blogging from the plane on my way to Rio.  Actually, that’s not true.  There’s no in-flight internet connection so by the time you read this, the time of writing will have long passed.  Indeed, this situation reifies the ongoing and insuperable challenge faced by all writers.  Time, a crucial component of all experience marches ever onward; the writer can only try to invoke through words that which can never come again.  Or, as Jean-François Lyotard puts it, “in description, writing tries to meet the challenge of being equal to its momentary absence.”  Upshot: even though I’m not live-blogging, I just like saying “live-blogging” so that’s what I did.

In any case, I’ll be in Brazil for the next several months, teaching at the Getulio Vargas Foundation School of Law in Rio (FGV Direito-Rio).  FGV is the only law school in Brazil that utilizes the Socratic method and is well on its way to developing a world class environmental law program under the direction of my former student now colleague, Romulo Sampaio.  My stay in Rio has been made possible through the good offices of the late great Senator Fulbright.  Continue reading

The Return of the Aurochs — Along With Some Baggage

David Cassuto

Ever seen an aurochs?  Ever heard of one?  Answers to the latter query may vary but the response to the former is assuredly “no.”  The aurochs is an ancestor of domestic cattle and went extinct in 1627.  Though domesticated 8,000 years ago, it also lived in the wild in much of Europe until the end of the Middle Ages.

Today, there is an effort to bring back the aurochs using a technique called “back-breeding.”  Here’s how they hope it will go:

Scientists will first scour old aurochs bone and teeth fragments from museums in order to glean enough genetic material to be able to recreate its DNA. Researchers will then compare the DNA to that of modern European cattle to determine which breeds still carry the creature’s genes and create a selective-breeding program to reverse thousands of years of evolution. If everything goes as planned, each passing generation will more closely resemble the ancient aurochs.

Owning What You Eat

David Cassuto

From the shameless self-promotion desk: I have a new chapter/article available on SSRN.  It’s called Owning What you Eat: The Discourse of Food.  You can get it here.  It will appear in DEMOCRACY, ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY AND INTERNATIONAL LAW, a book forthcoming this fall.

Here’s the abstract: Continue reading

Hypatia — Call for Papers

David Cassuto

Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy has issued an intriguing call for papers, which follows below:

4. Animal Others Special Issue
Volume 27 Number 3, Summer 2012
Guest Editors: Lori Gruen and Kari Weil

We are soliciting papers for a special issue of Hypatia on Animal Others. Scholarship in “Animal Studies” has grown considerably over the last few years, yet the feminist insights that much of this work borrows from and builds on remains relatively unrecognized. This special issue of Hypatia will remedy this by showcasing the best new feminist work on nonhuman animals that will help to rethink and redefine (or undefine) categories such as animal-woman-nature-body. The issue will provide the opportunity to re-examine concerns that are central to both feminist theory and animal studies and promote avenues of thought that can move us beyond pernicious forms of othering that undergird much human and non-human suffering.  Continue reading

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

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