Chimpanzees Granted Legal Person Status (Almost)

Star enjoys a moment in the sun at the Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, La.Seth Victor

I’m going to keep this short and sweet. The following linked article is pretty self-explanatory, but suffice to say, granting chimpanzees a writ of habeas corpus is a monumental step on the road to personhood. While that may not be the intention of the judge, it’s going to make for an interesting hearing on May 6th. Stay tuned.

Update: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/04/22/401519113/n-y-judge-amends-habeas-corpus-order-for-chimps

Coexisting: When a Mountain Lion Lives Under the House

Jennifer Molidor

When we take away wild places for wild animals, those animals find ways of showing up in our backyard. When that animal is a predator all hell breaks loose, suburban-wild style. This was exemplified by last week’s hysterical reaction to a California mountain lion known as “P-22” found in the crawl space under a house. We must conquer that cultural paranoia if we are to coexist with wild animals. And we must stop destroying wild lands if we don’t want wild animals showing up in our backyards.

In the past 30 years, three people out of more than 30 million have been fatally injured by a mountain lion in California; less than a dozen fatalities in 125 years in the U.S (a handful more if you add Canada and Mexico). California Fish & Wildlife estimate a person is 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion. So why are we so afraid of attacks?

What’s the Law?

On June 5, 1990, Californian voters approved Proposition 117 – the Mountain Lion Initiative – (called the “People’s Initiative” after Mountain Lion Foundation volunteers gathered more than 680,000 signatures to put it on the ballot). Prop 117 did two important things: it banned trophy hunting and it helped save land for mountain lions to stay wild.

Prop 117 created a Habitat Conservation Fund of $1 million a year until 2020 to “acquire, enhance, restore” wild lands for wildlife. That Proposition also changed mountain lions from “game” hunted for “sport” to “specially protected mammals” who aren’t allowed to be killed for fun.

A property owner can kill a mountain lion who threatens humans or animals only with a depredation permit. This permit is required by law and even with this permit a person is prohibited from the use of “poison, leg-hold or metal-jawed traps and snares.” Breaking this law can lead to criminal charges.

Media Meow

Coming “eyeball to eyeball” with P-22 last week, a worker installing a security system had the surprise of a lifetime. But Continue reading

Chicago Animal Law Symposium

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Jennifer Molidor

On Saturday, April 4, over 70 law students and animal advocates came together to attend the first symposium of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (SALDF) Chicago regional network. At this cutting-edge event, top experts discussed hot button issues like “ag gag” laws, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, contemporary issues in Illinois animal law, the convergence of food safety law and animal protection, and the problem of police shootings of companion animals. This student-organized event took place at the Chicago-Kent College of Law and was generously sponsored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and made by possible by the collaboration of SALDF Chapters at Chicago-Kent College of Law, The John Marshall Law School, DePaul University College of Law, Northwestern School of Law, and the University of Chicago Law School. The day’s presentations began with a moving keynote address by Anna Morrison-Ricordati, animal law attorney at AMR Law Group. She discussed social perspectives on the relationship between humans and nonhuman animals. This was followed by a lively and interactive discussion of legislative efforts to oppose the efforts of animal advocates through ag gag laws and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Odette Wilkens, executive director of the Equal Justice Alliance, explained how the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) labels a wide range of legal activism as “terrorism” and the dangerous chilling effect this has on law-abiding animal advocates. Chris Green, ALDF’s director of legislative affairs, followed with a discussion of how ag gag laws aim to control our behavior by instilling fear of prosecution and intimidating people from gathering evidence of animal abuse on factory farms. Other presentations included one by Cherie Travis, assistant general counsel for the Cook County Sherriff’s Department, who discussed the tragic problem of dog shootings by police, particularly in Chicago. Cherie discussed the work she does training Illinois police officers, in order to prevent the use of nonlethal force against dogs. Diane Balkin, contract attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, then discussed this issue at a national level and important new legislation aimed at preventing shootings of companion animals by police. Great presentations followed by Anna Morrison-Ricordati, Carney Anne Nasser, legislative counsel for the ALDF, Chris Berry, ALDF staff attorney, and Kelsey Eberly, ALDF Litigation fellow. The symposium also included screenings of the new documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine, which illuminates the lives of individual animals living within and rescued from the machine of Continue reading

Coexistence with Coyotes

Jennifer Molidor

cala

Coyotes roam the Northern California landscape as naturally as the curving arms of oak trees and shimmering light of golden grasses. Animals are the environment, the land is our home, and no matter where I rest my head, I dream of this homeland. Its skin, scattered with abandoned Quonset huts, fading into fields with salted, rusting abandoned relics of farm equipment baring aquamarine, metallic undersides from fog long come and gone. Pines and redwoods sighing through picnics and lovers’ quarrels, soaring bi-planes overhead, rising and falling like the Cooper’s hawks who cross the valley floor, searching among the mustard meadows as the earthy smells of pastures carry the work of day into dusk, and the awakening of streetlights flicker among the song of the crickets. Night falls and a coyote cries.

It is the intersection of the nonhuman and human world where that dream is disturbed. My colleague argues that the primary right, the inherent right to be free of society—to unshackle oneself from the company and governance of others—codifies a moral duty for humans to preserve wild places. Without these spaces, consent is manufactured, not given. Simply put, freedom is the ability to be free from people. But with the human population exploding, where can wild animals go to be free?

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What a relief to unburden oneself from human society. To wake up, alone but in a new place. To figure it out, alone. To survive by yourself. To thrive by yourself. Creativity must be alone, because of alone. Traveling on one’s own far surpasses traveling with human companions, most of the time. Those spiritual journeys, when our senses are most alive, when the silences of solitude allow our hearts to feel what we hide in dialogue, those adventures are the most memorable and the most wild within. And yet we are not alone. The nonhuman world is always there, and that is why freedom means coexisting.

Solitude quiets everything else, a reminder to feel only this thing, live only in this story. In my story, I have a good dog who shares my life and heals my heart. She accompanies me everywhere—in travels, walks, work days, and wanderings. And when a coyote runs by, she stays by my side. She is shy, loyal, smart, goofy, gentle, and athletic. We share a preference of being alone, napping in the sun by an old oak tree. She chose me and I chose her—kindred spirits, or so I choose to believe.

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Posy in the creek, Santa Rosa laguna (photo: Ian Elwood)

Her work friend is a big, loafing red-haired Burmese Mountain/Lab mix who obeys the laws of nothing. He Continue reading

Los Angeles Animal Law Symposium

Jennifer Molidor

Much has been made recently about the shocking results of an investigation into taxpayer-funded experiments on farmed animals. Most people don’t know the degree to which the law fails to protect farmed animals, or the catastrophic impact of “factory farms” on our planet. That’s why this topic is so important to animal law, and why factory farms are the focus of  the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s very first symposium for its Los Angeles regional attorney network, on Saturday, March 28, 2015.

This cutting-edge event features top speakers in animal law, including ALDF’s director Stephen Wells, Ethan Brown, CEO and co-founder of “Beyond Meat,” Will Potter, author of Green is the New Red, David Simon, attorney and author of Meatonomics, Leslie Brueckner, senior attorney at Public Justice, Paige Tomaselli, senior staff attorney for the Center for Food Safety, Robert K. Rasmussen, Dean and Professor of Law and Political Science at USC Gould School of Law, and T.J. Tumasse, ALDF Manager of Investigations. These speakers, and many others, will discuss the legal challenges and strategies for taking on factory farms.

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Factory farms confine and slaughter 10 billion farmed animals every year. Chickens, pigs, cows, turkeys, 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

Mayogate Controversy: Epic Food Fight Over Meaning of ‘Mayo’

Spencer Lo

Just Mayo

[Update 12/20/14: Unilever has dropped its lawsuit against Hampton Creek, without gaining any concessions in return. As public health lawyer Michele Simon observed, “It’s clear that Unilever realized its mistake and just wanted the whole thing to go away, and just in time for the holidays. It’s a fitting end to a colossal PR blunder.”]

Creating and mainstreaming superior food made solely from plants—especially one that cuts into a giant competitor’s profits—can get you sued: that is what Hampton Creek Foods, a vegan food technology company striving to create more sustainable and affordable food, recently learned soon after its eggless mayonnaise Just Mayo landed in national retail chains. Unilever, the owner of Hellmann’s and Best Foods, feeling it could no longer ignore Hampton Creek’s growing success, has filed a lawsuit against the start-up company alleging false advertising and unfair competition. Their central claim? Just Mayo deceives consumers into falsely believing that the eggless mayo product is real mayonnaise, when it is not, since “real mayonnaise” must contain eggs—according to both common dictionary definitions and the Food and Drug Administration’s standard of identity for mayonnaise. The deception, according to Unilever, allegedly caused it to suffer “great and irreparable injury” warranting injunctive relief and significant monetary damages. Continue reading

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