Torture is (not) culture: An overview of Spanish popular festivities that include animal abuse.

Jaime Rubio Alfaro

Since the Middle Ages, in Spain there have been many popular celebrations held to mark the Day of the Virgin, of some saint or some other patron. Some of them are very known as la Tomatina and Las Fallas which don’t include any animal mistreatment, and some of them do, as the also internationally known, San Fermines.

Tortura no es culturaHowever, the Feast of San Fermin is included in a much broad concept of celebration called encierro (bull’s confination), which is widely celebrated all around the country in almost all the villages of Spain. While in the encierro there is not any physical harm to the bulls, later those bulls can be used in the corridas (Bullfighting event) of that village or, as some of the bravest (and most dangerous) bulls, can be used in other encierros of other villages, where the owners can be paid up to $20,000 per appearance.  Nevertheless, there are many Spanish festivities that include animal abuse and are not so known to people outside of Spain. And many of them are much more harrowing to animals, such as El Toro de la Vega.

So the purpose of this post is to explain why are socially and legally permitted such festivities in Spain.

First of all, it is important to understand that many of these festivals have been held for hundreds of years, so for people that Continue reading

The Vegetarian’s Dilemma: Is it Okay to Drink Milk?

Raghav Patel

For the past four years I have adopted a vegetarian diet, where I don’t eat the meat of any animal, and over the past few dairycowwwyears I have begun to see many other people, from friends and family to also acquaintances that tell me that they have become vegetarians as well. In the United States the rate of people adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle grows every year, showing that there is a increasing awareness to the issues that come with farming livestock. There are several reasons for why people turn to a vegetarian diet, and that may be for the health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet, or for the reasons that raising animals bring on a host of environmental issues, but I’d like to focus on the reason why I and many others choose to be a vegetarian, and that is the ethical issues of eating meat. For the people that abstain from eating meat because they do not want to promote the suffering or killing of any animal.

I understand people go even further than a vegetarian diet and adopt a vegan lifestyle where they won’t use any products derived form animals including leather, but there are those people that believe they are helping animals by simply not eating them. I don’t mean to diminish any good that comes from believing this, but I also want people to understand that the suffering of an animal only continues as it grows older on these livestock farms, either because a cow is pumping out milk for its whole life or because a chicken is popping out eggs continuously, which is just as cruel for its own reasons. Killing the animal is terrible by all means, but the continued exploitation and abuse that an animal suffers while it’s alive is just as bad, if not worse.

dairy-cow-giant-udder-I say it may be worse because dairy cows live their entire lives facing a host of issues, such as being pumped with hormones and antibiotics, living under horrible conditions, and from the psychological abuse they endure; just so we gain something from the cows that we don’t necessarily need. While killing an animal ends its life, it at least stops the immediate pain and suffering that the animal experiences while it is alive and being exploited for what it produces. For a dairy farm to be efficient it needs to continuously produce milk from all of its cows, and like humans, cows only produce milk once they are pregnant. This typically requires that the dairy farmer constantly impregnate the cow (using artificial insemination) so that it can constantly produce milk that it would have given its new born calf, except that the calf shortly after birth is taken away from its mother, and even worse is if the calf is male it is sold and then slaughtered to produce veal. To Continue reading

“Free Buddy”: Is it Hypocritical for Animal Advocates to Own Pets?

Tyson-Lord J. Gray

DogAnimal cruelty on factory farms, in zoos, and in amusement parks are all leading concerns by animal advocates and many have gone as far as to compare these industries to the human institution of slavery. Animal advocates who endorse such arguments often fight for the protection of these animals and make large donations to Friends of Animals, Mercy for Animals, and PETA supporting improvements in animal welfare. Yet, rarely does their concern extend to household pets.

However, many of these organizations are not only opposed to the inhumane treatment of animals, but to pet ownership as well. Each year approximately 7.6 million animals enter shelters, and of those 2.7 million are euthanized. Consequently, animal rights activists are vehemently against the breeding of animals for domestication and prefer that individuals adopt animals from pounds and animal shelters as oppose to purchasing them from pet stores or breeders.

Animal advocates who purchase pets from these businesses therefore, are merely cherry picking forms of 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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 12.14.46 AM

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

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

50 Millions Deaths is an Acceptable Cost of Business

Seth Victor

I’ll keep this short and sweet, because we’ve made this point on the blawg several dozen times. NPR reports that the recent outbreak of H5N2, or Avian Flu, has caused economic hardship for American farmers, to the point that the USDA is importing eggs from the Netherlands to meet demand.

Although it is mentioned in the lead paragraph, the fact that nearly 50 million chickens and turkey have been slaughtered to stem the virus is played off like any other economic number. As you read the article, look at the wording: these animals have been “destroyed,” not “killed” or “slaughtered.” The rest of the article is about the business model and bottomline consequences. It might as well be about how many iPhones had to be recalled for defective touch screens. These aren’t living things, remember; they’re just animals, cogs in the machine. Nowhere in the article is any suggestion that this outbreak could be avoided by not housing birds in CAFOs in the first place, save for one link that claims humans might be spreading the virus by entering CAFOs. Instead, the US government has taken the position that this virus is the fault of wild birds. Any guesses as to which lobbying group might have had a hand in that statement?

We. Can. Stop. This. H5N2 is not some mystery beyond comprehension. It is a result of the way we raise farmed birds. Stop purchasing eggs and meat from CAFOs, and they cannot exist without your dollars. It really is that simple.

NYS Bar Association Animal Law Writing Competition

David Cassuto

Attention Law Students:


The Committee on Animals and the Law of the New York State Bar Association is very pleased to announce the Seventh Annual Student Writing Competition.  The deadline for submission is July 1, 2015.

The Committee on Animals and the Law was established to provide information resources for the New York State Bar Association’s members and the public about non-human, animal related humane issues, which arise from and have an effect upon our legal system.  This competition seeks to foster legal scholarship among law students in the area of animals and the law.  This competition provides law students with an incentive and opportunity to learn more about this area of law.

Law students (which include J.D., L.L.M. Ph. D., and S.J.D. candidates) are invited to submit to the Committee on Animals and the Law an article concerning any area of Animal Law.  All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of attorneys and other professionals practicing or otherwise involved in animal law.  The winner will be chosen in accordance with the attached rules.  The first place winner will receive $1,000. and a certificate of achievement.  The second place winner will receive $500. and a certificate of achievement.


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