How Hurricane Katrina Turned Pets into People

Credit: Best Friends Animal Society

Credit: Best Friends Animal Society

Nearly half the people who stayed behind during Hurricane Katrina stayed because of their pets. Helicopters and boats would come, but the rescuers largely refused to take cats and dogs. So many owners, unwilling to abandon a family member, refused to go — and many of them died. Others did leave their pets, convinced they would be able to retrieve them in a few days. But officials kept them out for weeks, leaving the animals to fend for themselves. Dogs waited on rooftops, cats clung to debris in toxic waters, and pets starved to death in barricaded homes. Even for a nation grappling with the human tragedy of Katrina, the plight of dogs and cats struck a nerve. The public flooded Congress with letters, and in 2006 the legislature — despite being bitterly divided over war, immigration, and seemingly every Continue reading

Cecil the Lion: Will U.S. Laws Hold Trophy Killer Accountable

All around the world, people are outraged by the trophy killing of Cecil the lion, and not simply because he suffered needlessly for days, or because lions are charismatic animals, or even because a rich white American killed a much-loved member of a national park halfway around the world in the African nation of Zimbabwe. Why has Cecil reached our hearts when so many other animals are poached (and, animal advocates remind us, so many other animals suffer every day)? Why is everyone – from animal advocates to hunters to talk show hosts to the New York Times and the Guardian – so horrified by this brutal killing? The answer lies in freedom.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 3.38.44 PMCecil, a 13-year old lion, lived safe in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe under legal protection. But he was unfairly lured out of his refuge, tricked by poachers who tied a dead animal carcass to the back of a truck. Father to many cubs (who will likely now die), Cecil was an easy target while eating. Minnesota dentist and trophy-hunter Walter James Palmer then shot Cecil with an arrow. But Cecil suffered for 40 hours before he was tracked down, killed with a rifle, beheaded, and skinned. His body was left to rot in the sun.

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His head—with its distinctive (and incriminating for the trophy-killer) black mane–was missing, along with the now notorious Walter Palmer (the head has now been turned over to Zimbabwean authorities).

Cecil wore a GPS tracking collar, as part of an Oxford University research project. Ironically, Oxford’s study challenges the ridiculous notion that killing animals incentivizes the public to conserve them (and conserve them for more killing, i.e. “hunting”). So it is simply beyond reason to believe Palmer didn’t notice that collar when he shot Cecil, twice, once using a crossbow scope and 40 hours later using a rifle scope, or when Palmer later skinned and decapitated the lion. Palmer is a marksman with at least 43 large game animals on his killing resume (according to the Safari Club International, who has now revoked Palmer’s membership), including a rhino, a lion previous to Cecil, a cougar, a leopard, a polar bear, and an illegally killed black bear (for which Palmer was convicted). Damage to Cecil’s collar suggests Continue reading

Lawsuit to Stop Kaporos Torture

David Cassuto

I could not be more proud of my former  student and research assistant, Jessica Astrof, for leading the legal battle on this!

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos along with 20 additional plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court New York to issue an injunction against Hasidic rabbis and synagogues in Brooklyn from participating in “Kaporos,” a highly controversial religious custom which involves the confinement, torture and barbaric slaughter of kaporosmore than 50,000 chickens on public streets every year during the week preceding the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. The case also names the NYPD, NYC Department of Health and the City of New York for failing to enforce city health laws and animal cruelty laws, among others. The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos was formed in New York City in 2010 as a project of, and under the umbrella of, United Poultry Concerns, founded by Karen Davis, Ph.D. Kaporos using live chickens is also practiced in other cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Los Angeles. See 2014 Brooklyn Kaporos video here:


The 21 plaintiffs are a group of individuals and residents of the subject locations who have endured the inconvenience, nuisance, filth, stench, public health risk and emotional trauma involved in Kaporos for years. Each plaintiff is gravely concerned about the health risks in their community, the contaminants on the streets and sidewalks and the emotional trauma caused by the bloody animal violence they are forced to witness. 


Kaporos is allegedly a ritual of atonement practiced by Hasidic Jews as part of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The ritual involves practitioners grasping live chickens by their wings and swinging them above the practitioners’ heads. The purpose of this act, followed by the slaughter, is allegedly to transfer the practitioners’ sins and punishment to the birds, allegedly absolving the participants of their sins. In order to conduct the slaughter of the birds, Kaporos involves the erection of make-shift slaughterhouses on the public streets and sidewalks of the City of New York.  Dead chickens, half dead chickens, chicken blood, chicken feathers, chicken urine, chicken feces, other toxins and garbage such as used latex gloves and filthy tarps consume the public streets.  There is no oversight and no remedy for cleanup.  Plaintiffs maintain that operating such illegal public slaughterhouses causes and creates a public nuisance, a public health risk, a public health hazard and a dangerous condition.   Continue reading

Corporate Moves Create Tipping Point in Animal Welfare?

Carrie A. Scrufari, Esq.

“Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”  -Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping PointDay_old_chick_black_backgroundIn May, Walmart announced that its food suppliers should adhere to greater animal welfare standards.  This announcement received wide support from animal rights groups, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) endorsed Walmart’s move.  Following suit, General Mills announced yesterday that it would commit to sourcing 100% of its eggs from cage-free facilities. General Mills released a statement proclaiming that it would “commit to working toward 100 percent cage free eggs for our U.S. operations.”  Although Walmart and General Mills’ announcements signal a significant turning of the tide with respect to animal welfare and a tipping point in terms of the market power that can be wielded to encourage stronger animal welfare standards, they fall short of what is necessary to implement timely, lasting, and meaningful reforms.

Walmart’s plan relies on voluntary compliance from its suppliers and does not contain any hard deadlines or timelines specifying when suppliers should meet these new animal welfare standards.  Walmart could – and likely will – receive positive press for its decision to prioritize animal welfare without actually ensuring its suppliers are complying with the new policy (which involve limiting prophylactic antibiotic use and eliminating the use of gestation crates for pigs and battery cages for egg-laying hens).  Similarly, General Mills has not committed to a time line for achieving its 100% cage free egg supply, Continue reading

Quite the Trophy: The Truth Behind Trophy Hunting and Conservation


Lena Cavallo

This past March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the request to import “trophies” of two American hunters  These “trophies” will be the remains of two dead black rhinos after a scheduled hunt in Namibia.  Black rhinos are listed as critically endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Therefore, approving such a request requires that the import will enhance the species’ survival.  Since 2003, Namibia has enforced the Black Rhino Conservation Strategy which authorizes the killing of five male rhinos annually to stimulate population growth.  When considering the request, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experienced an “unprecedented” level of public involvement.


Rhinos are not the only animals targeted in these trophy hunts. All megafauna of the African ecosystem are available for the hunt. The African lion population has been in a serious decline, prompting individuals and organizations to demand that the species be listed as endangered under the kendall-jones-huntingESA. Studies have shown that trophy hunting is a direct cause to this decline, albeit not the only cause.

Trophy hunting has come under severe criticism by environmentalists, animal rights activists, and the general public.  Trophy hunters, like those involved in Continue reading

The Community Impact of CAFOs

Stop the Wysocki Factory-CAFO Farm

Seth Victor

Saratoga, WI is a small town in central Wisconsin. Set on the banks of the Wisconsin River, this community of a few thousand people is likely not a major destination for tourists roaming through the state, but by all appearances it seems a typical mid-western settlement from the 19th century that evolved into a small town befitting a Prairie Home Companion yarn. It is also the setting of an ongoing fight between the community and a proposed CAFO, one that has drawn intense public ire. Continue reading

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.



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