The New York State’s new bill: end of pet sale for good?

Chloe Kim

On February 3, 2020, the New York State Senate’s Domestic Animal Welfare Committee approved the bill (S.4234/A.6298) that has been introduced by Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. The bill would prohibit retail pet stores and commercial pet shops from selling any dog, cat, or rabbit. It then also would prevent retail pet stores from buying dog, cat, or rabbit from a commercial puppy mill or pet breeders. To this date, California (2017) and Maryland (2018) are only two states that have enacted similar bills. If this bill passes, it will make New York the third state confirming its position against the puppy mill pipeline.

Cruel and inhumane conditions of puppy mills are known to some, but not widely and publicly enough to stop them from continuously exploiting puppies on demand. Commercial dog breeders are not afraid to treating and placing breeding dogs as profitable as possible, which include tiny overcrowded cages, unsanitary and dangerous facilities, little to none veterinary care, and merciless separation between mothers and babies and cage mates. The breeding dogs spend their entire lives in confinement, and they are bred at every possible opportunity, sometimes even when they are sick and exhausted, all for the profit. The puppies are then sold to pet brokers and transported to pet shops and retail stores for sale. These puppy mills, brokers, dealers, transporters, and retail shops complete the puppy mill pipeline, and individual customers who purchase the puppies at retail stores, whether they know or not, fuel the puppy mill pipeline to continue in business. This pet mill pipeline is not just limited to dogs. Daunting realities also exist for cats, as found in kitten mills, where their conditions are no better than those of puppy mills – if not worse. The kittens are placed in crowded wire cages to reduce labor cost for waste clean-up, with almost no veterinary care, and adult cats are repetitively bred until they are too sick to produce; once the breeding cats reach that point of sickness, we do not want to know what happens to them next. The new bill would deter this pipeline operation by prohibiting the selling and buying process between puppy (kitten) mills and retail stores.

Despite tremendous work of organizations, activists, scholars, and legislators to stop the pet mill operation, the results have been shown on only two states so far: California and Maryland. The federal government has also tried to regulate puppy mills but failed to do so successfully. It has been reported that the standard for breeder licenses is inadequate; enforcement power is weak, and penalties are light.

It should also be noted that the general target (including the new bill) of the pet mill bans so far only focuses on the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Although we are generally aware of dogs, cats, and rabbits being somewhat the most popular demands at retail pet stores, we also know that retail pet stores also sell so many other species, which include but not limited to birds, hamsters, ferrets, fish, and turtles; the list goes on. No laws are regulating a sale of other animals, nor are there any laws at least ensuring their condition at retail pet stores. No law yet cares about whether they are well fed and watered. The New York State’s new bill also does not mention anything else about the sale and purchase of pets other than dogs, cats, and rabbits. Retail pet stores could continuously sell and purchase hamsters, birds, gerbils, fish, and frogs, as many as they want, regardless of where and how these animals are bred and treated before they are sold to the customers. There is nothing that can stop retail pet stores to even operate hamster mills on their own, no matter how unethically and inhumanely they do so – as long as they do not buy or sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and pet mills. How ethical and humane is that? We may rejoice New York’s great news on this bill. It will shut down, or lead to shut down, lots of puppy and kitten mill pipeline in New York pet sale market. It will also encourage retail pet stores to connect with local animal rescue organizations and animal adoption shelters that could help to guide the public towards adopting their companions from shelters, rather than purchasing them. However, the efforts should not stop there. New York is only the third state to ban on retail puppy sale (only if the bill passes), and we have lots of other animals that are still popular in demand without any regulation to ensure their safety. The new bill also does not ban an individual from purchasing dogs, cats, and rabbits from commercial breeders and mills directly. A small improvement should not blindfold us; the factories are still up and running unless we stop them all for good. 

Animal Mistreatment Causes Environmental Damage

Gabriela Tavarez

Pollution impacts animals just as much as it affects humans.  Human activity (factory farming, waste disposal, etc.) impacts wildlife’s habitat.  In addition, erratic and long-lasting wildfires in California have caused over a billion animals to die.  According to the National Audubon Society, even though pollution affects humans, it severely impacts birds since birds spend more time in the open air as opposed to humans.  Birds become vulnerable to catching diseases when they inhale the air.  Nonetheless, pollution affects aquatic animals when waste is disposed into waterways.  Specifically, water pollution infects the water, along with aquatic animals, which can ultimately be toxic for human consumption.

Furthermore, human activity such as factory farming lead to devastating environmental effects.  Factory farming focuses on increasing productivity and economic efficiency.  As a result, farmers are exempted from animal welfare regulation.  Such devastating effects include the deterioration of topsoil and water quality and quantity.  Meanwhile, factory animals such as pigs and cattle are confined to small spaces where they are prevented from roaming free.  Also, factory animals are forced to undergo unnatural diets.  For example, cattle are fed corn due to its low cost, in order for them to grow faster.  However, their stomachs were not designed to digest corn, so they are given antibiotics to prevent illnesses when they eat corn.  Also, factory farming releases carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere.  Particularly, livestock releases methane, which increases temperature. 

Additionally, the quality and quantity of water is dwindling as factory farming increases production.  Factory farming removes trees to create more space to raise livestock and removes other natural wildlife from their habitat.  Factory farms also demolish topsoil.  Humans rely on soil to provide nutrients for food, but factory farms dilute the soil since farmers clear the fields in order to grow crops.  Specifically, they clear fields to grow corn and soy to feed their cattle.  Many animal activists call for stricter regulations on factory farming to decrease production.  This can reduce pollution and its harmful effects on animals.  However, that is not without opposition.  Factory farmers call for minimal regulation since prohibition would lessen economic efficiency and increase the cost in meat production since grass-fed cattle is costly.  Nonetheless, people would be willing to eat grass-fed meat since it is a healthier option.  When an animal is in distress, it causes the meat to darken and becomes unsuitable for consumption.     

Factory animals are confined within lagoons where their waste can trickle into open water and affect aquatic animals.  Aquatic animals are not able to sustain these environmental changes.  The unfavorable tides and changes in water temperature expose them to new predators.  Humans also become vulnerable to diseases from drinking or swimming in the toxic water.  However, humans can choose not to swim or drink the water.  Humans can also change their habits to reduce environmental damage.  Nevertheless, aquatic animals do not have such privilege because they are forced to stay in the water.  The toxic chemicals also lead to an increase in nitrogen and phosphorus, which increases the growth of toxic algae.  Animals die from consuming toxic algae.  Factory farming demonstrates an endless cycle where one effect on a certain species can trickle down to other species.  Furthermore, high levels of mercury found in water causes behavioral and reproductive changes in aquatic animals.  It is important that humans take imperative steps to reduce the damage to wildlife.  For example, humans can stop littering on beaches, seas, lakes, rivers, etc.  When garbage is thrown into the water, it can entrap marine animals.  Most water-dwelling animals such as sea otters, become trapped in the debris and can drown from being trapped.  Water pollution even affects the soil, which humans need to grow crops for food. 

Pollution is caused by overpopulation.  Due to overpopulation, humans continue to consume resources that it forces the animal population to diminish at a rapid rate.  The human population is substantial that it exceeds the resources available to sustain it.  The environment cannot replenish itself before it is conquered by human consumption.  As the population increases, it leads to more factory farming, which increases food production and deforestation.  It also leads to waste thrown into waterways and causes an imbalance within the ecosystem.  When it comes to maximizing production and minimizing costs, the government seems to disregard the suffering of non-human species.  It is important that there are stricter government regulations that would reduce pollution.  That is why it is important that states have the freedom to regulate or prohibit certain conduct pertaining to animal welfare that the federal government disregards.       

How the 2018 Midterm Election Resulted in Animal Law Victories

Caitlin Ens

The U.S. 2018 midterm election did more than just change the majority party in the House of Representatives. Some local voters brought about significant changes in their state’s animal welfare laws. In California and Florida, two animal rights amendments were passed that, respectively, prohibit dog racing and establish minimum space requirements for calves raised for veal, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. These laws create standards for other states to follow in future elections.

Florida passed Amendment 13 and became the 41st state to ban commercial dog racing. Amendment 13 states that by the end of 2020, commercial dog racing will be completely outlawed. In states that still allow dog racing, thousands of greyhounds are bred annually to
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“Envisioning an Animal Anti-Cruelty Agency

David Cassuto

The Shameless Self-Promotion Desk is back in business:  Herewith an article about an article by me and a former student of mine calling for the creation of federal animal protection agencies in the United States and Brazil.  You can find the original piece here.

The AWA at 50 — Call for Papers

David Cassuto

From the email: 

The Animal Welfare Act at Fifty Conference

 
Harvard Law School
1585 Massachusetts Ave – Cambridge

Date/Time
Date(s) – Thursday, September 22, 2016 – Sunday, September 25, 2016
All Day

Location
Harvard Law School

Overview

The Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School is pleased to announce The Animal Welfare Act at Fifty, a conference that will bring experts together to assess the first fifty years of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and consider recommendations for the future. The event will include conference presentations as well as a separate academic workshop component.

We welcome submissions on both broad and specific law and policy issues. In an effort to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue, we encourage submissions from legal scholars and lawyers; government officials and staff; academics in disciplines outside of law, such as sociology, anthropology, political science, and economics; international scholars and regulators; veterinarians and animal behaviorists; and others with perspectives on the AWA. We also encourage submissions from experts in other areas of legislation and regulation who can bring a comparative approach to the study of the AWA. We encourage submissions from advocacy organizations, industry representatives, think tanks, and others outside academia, but emphasize that this is a scholarly conference and abstracts will be judged by academic standards.

Individuals can submit proposals for both conference presentations and the workshop if desired.

Conference Presentations

Those interested in presenting at the conference are invited to submit an abstract of up to 400 words describing their proposed presentation along with a CV. All abstracts and CVs should be submitted together to ALPP@law.harvard.edu with “AWA Conference Presentation Proposal” in the subject line no later than April 5, 2016. Conference presentations will be approximately 20 minutes in length.

Workshop Papers

Those interested in participating in the academic workshop are invited to submit an abstract of up to 400 words describing their proposed paper along with a CV. All abstracts and CVs should be submitted together to ALPP@law.harvard.edu with “AWA Workshop Proposal” in the subject line no later than April 5, 2016.

Those selected as workshop participants must submit their final papers by August 15, 2016, so that they can be circulated and read by the other workshop participants in advance of the workshop. The final workshop papers should be approximately 10,000 words (including footnotes). Each paper should be an unpublished work in progress. We will consider papers that have been accepted for publication, as long as they have not yet been published and the author will still have an opportunity to incorporate feedback from the workshop.

Potential Topics

We welcome submissions on both broad and specific law and policy issues. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

Agency compliance strategies

Efficacy of different types of standards, such as engineering vs. performance, general vs. species-specific, etc.

Which categories of animals are/should be afforded legal protections

Agency licensing practices

Agency restructuring proposals

Agency culture

Differential treatment of research facilities and other regulated entities

Education vs. enforcement

Regulatory vs non-regulatory approaches

AWA intersections with other laws

Agency inspections

Agency administrative hearing practices and due process

Agency collaboration with the Department of Justice

Settlements and discounting administrative penalties

Agency use of warnings

Assessing the adequacy of veterinary care

Judicial review of agency action

Citizen suit provision proposals

Impact of public opinion on the law and its implementation, media narratives, and social movement advocacy

Animal confiscation under the AWA

Transparency in implementation

Alternatives to use of animals in research

The role and efficacy of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees

The role of undercover investigations at regulated facilities

Comparative analyses of the AWA and other animal protection regimes

Contact

For additional information, please contact alpp@law.harvard.edu.

 

The Inside Story of Bullfighting

Jaime Rubio

Pablo hermoso de mendozaDefenders’ Arguments:

Disclaimer: First of all, as they will be treated certain thorny issues, I want to make clear that the views, arguments and reasons that are going to be exposed on this post are not the opinions of this blog or the ones of the author.

The reason that has made me move to deliver this issues is because they make an interesting (and original) approach of how the animal welfare can be understood, that I had never thought about. However, I am not trying to protect bullfighting but I want to introduce you these ideas, that might make us think about whether what we had for terrible, is as bad as we thought. Needless to say that I will try to deliver them in the most objective manner possible.

The arguments that I will be writing about are from a source that might be the speaker of the world of bullfighting in general: Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza, a very famous former Spanish Rejoneador (a kind of bullfighter that jumps into the arena on horseback).

(All the following arguments and statements are taken from this video: Argumentos a favor de los toros del rejoneador Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza.)

Bullfighters understand people who are not in favor of bullfighting, they understand 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

NY SALDF Symposium

Andrea Rodricks

2015NYSymposiumJoin us for the 2015 SALDF New York Animal Law Symposium! The symposium is presented by the SALDF chapters of Pace Law School, CUNY School of Law, Columbia Law School, Yale Law School, Brooklyn Law School, and NYU School of Law, and is sponsored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). Register at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1364349.

When: Saturday, April 18th, 2015 from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Where: Pace Law School
78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603

Please join us for the first regional symposium of the New York area SALDF chapters. The symposium’s main topic is ag gag laws and factory farming, with a bonus “Hot Topics in New York” panel, which will include issues relating to carriage horses and captive exotics.

Featuring many ALDF speakers, including Director of Legislative Affairs Chris Green, Litigation Fellow Jeff Pierce, Of Counsel Justin Marceau, and Manager of Investigations T.J. Tumasse, Professor David Cassuto, and many more esteemed speakers from animal law related fields. For a complete list of speakers and the most up to date panel information, please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/343435589190374/.

Ringling Bros. Retires Circus Elephants

Seth Victor

As many of you may have already heard, Ringling Bros. is retiring elephants from its act and focusing on caring for elephants in a conservation center. Wayne Pacelles of HSUS described this move as a “Berlin Wall moment for animal protection,” and attributed the change to the evolving public opinion surrounding animal welfare, including the outcry that came on the heels of Blackfish and the treatment of orcas at Sea World. The termination of elephant performances has been long-sought by PETA.Photography-Elephant-Wallpapers

The media reaction, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a bit divided regarding Ringling Bros’s decision. An op-ed in the New York Post believes that the circus’s “craven capitulation to PETA will only embolden zealots to agitate for elimination of all circus animals — if not eventually to bestow upon all living creatures the same “inalienable rights” as humans,” and goes on to state that without exposure to animals via a circus, most people will not form a connection with the animals, and will thus not care to save them in the wild. The L.A. Times also notes that many people feel the elephants are an iconic part of the joy of the circus. Meanwhile op-eds in the New York Times range from echoing the Post to refuting the sentiments of the circus sympathizers. Continue reading

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.”

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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

Compassionate Killers

Nicole Miraglia

The idea of going back to the basics for self-sufficient living is hardly new, but many people are choosing to do just wackikiwabbit_5598that for a variety of reasons and in various levels of commitment. In 2011, Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg, pledged to  eat only animals that he killed himself. Although his personal challenge lasted just one year, it sparked an interest of living off the land for many. The Eat What You Kill Movement has supporters from survival, nutritional, and ethical standpoints. Survivalists argue that self-sufficient living allows one to rely and live off of the land, completely independent from societal norms such as trips to the local supermarkets. Those following the trend for nutritional purposes, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Joe Rogan, are attempting to avoid antibiotics and hormones commonly found in store bought meats. Ethical supporters of the movement believe that they are being compassionate to the animals they are eating. Continue reading

When Can an Animal be Seized as Evidence?

horses in pasture

Seth Victor

A provocative case came out of the Oregon Supreme Court two weeks ago addressing a warrantless seizure of a horse that was used to convict the defendants of animal abuse. As Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) reports, in the consolidated cases of State v. Fessenden and State v. Dicke, the court held that an officer was acting in accordance with the exceptions to the warrant requirements when he observed a starving horse on defendants’ property and took the horse to a veterinarian for emergency medical attention. The defendants were later charged with animal abuse, but they contended that the seizure of the horse was in violation of their right to privacy, and as it was a warrantless seizure, the evidence (the horse) had to be suppressed.

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On Eating Your Pets

Seth Victor

dog sandwich

An article caught my eye this morning about a man in New Mexico who was charged with a felony for extreme cruelty against a dog. The man allegedly stabbed his girlfriend’s dog in the heart, and then marinated the remains of the animal in preparation to cook it. While animal cruelty is a crime in New Mexico, eating dogs or cats is not, and if the defendant is successful in showing he did not act cruelly, there is no consequence for killing a companion animal for food.

These types of cases crop up every once in a while, often accompanied by outrage from some segments of the population over the wanton nature of the act. As always, since the law codifies our social voice, some states have put laws in place to discourage this kind of behavior. In New York, for example, one may not ” slaughter or butcher domesticated dog or domesticated cat  to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption.”

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5th Circuit Upholds Ban on Crush Videos

Seth Victor

Four years ago the US Supreme Court overruled Congress’s attempt to regulate “crush videos,” stating that the law was an impermissible, over-broad regulation of free speech. For more analysis of the decision, see here. Though the decision was distressing, it did not herald an end of attempts to regulate that particular form of animal cruelty; Congress quickly passed an amended version of the law, one that has yet to be tested before the Supreme Court.

Last week the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated criminal charges in the case of US v. Richards for video of animals being tortured to death by a suggestively dressed woman, holding that images of animals killed for sexual gratification are not protected forms of speech, and are in fact “obscene.” Obscenity is the key to the law; obscene speech does not have the same protections as common speech, and can be regulated. Additionally, the 5th Circuit rejected an argument that the law is unconstitutional because it unfairly targets a narrow type of obscenity (here, animal cruelty), holding that particular categories of obscenity may be targeted based on their socially harmful secondary effects.

This is the first legal test of the amended law, and animal advocates have to be happy with the direction the case took at the appellate level. The court held that the law does serve a “significant interest” of preventing violence against animals, and is “reasonably tailored” to meet that interest. The 2010 version does not apply to the slaughter of animals for food, hunting, or agricultural husbandry practices, which helped it survive the “over-broad” challenge. If the Supreme Court ends up granting certiorari (it’s unclear at this point if the defendants will push it that far), it will be very interesting to see how the 5th Circuit decision holds up against US v. Stevens.

 

 

 

 

Launching Legal Action to Help Angel and Other Dolphins

Sarah Lucas

I was in Taiji, Japan – the dolphin hunting capital of the world – when I read Kathleen Stachowski’s wonderful Animal Blawg on the ubiquity of speciesism. Kathleen observes: “speciesism is everywhere and so thoroughly normalized that it’s invisible in plain sight”. I nodded my head when I read this, as I’ve thought it many times as I stood on the shore of Taiji’s cove helplessly watching dolphins being herded to their deaths – the cruelty is so extreme and horrifying, yet it seems to be hidden in plain sight to those inflicting it.

ANGEL 16In Taiji, such hunts take place nearly every day for half the year, annually capturing around 2,000 small whales (dolphins, porpoises and pilot whales). As the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling does not apply to small whales – or at least, is argued not to by pro-whaling countries – small whales are sadly afforded no international legal protection. Thus, despite the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, which is enforced to a degree in relation to large whales, tens of thousands of small whales continue to be killed every year in commercial hunts in Japan, Peru and other countries.

These hunts are not only conservationally damaging, but unspeakably Continue reading

Voiceless Grants for 2014

David Cassuto

From the email:

Do you have a project that will help animals but need a hand to get started? Applications for the 2014 Voiceless Grants Program are now open.

Now in its eleventh year, the Grants Program has awarded a combined total of almost $1.4 million in funding to universities, local councils, and non-profit organisations for projects with a focus on improving the lives of animals in Australia. You can take a look at all of our past projects including major national campaigns, ground-breaking research reports and funding for animal sanctuaries.

Voiceless is once again looking for projects that challenge institutionalised cruelty to animals, with a view to making animal protection the next great social justice movement. Voiceless will consider applications for projects which fall into one of the following categories:

  • Factory farming;
  • The commercial kangaroo industry; or
  • Building animal protection as a social justice movement.

In addition, all projects must be relevant to animals in Australia and either change attitudes or build awareness about animal suffering, encourage the public to take action for animals in their personal lives, or work to modify or create new laws or policies to further animal protection in Australia.  

Not sure if your project fits the criteria? Please read the ‘Grant Applications that will not be considered’ section on our website, before preparing your submission.

Applications for the 2014 Voiceless Grants Program can be submitted on our website and are due by 5:00pm Tuesday 1 July.  

For more information about the application process, visit the Voiceless website or contact our Administrator and Web Officer, Zoe Robertson. 

Looking forward to receiving your application,

The Voiceless team

 

 

Can California regulate egg production under the Commerce Clause?

New standard for chickens

New standard for chickens

Seth Victor

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District Court of California, asking the federal court to overturn a 2010 California law requiring the same standards for in-state chickens be applied to out-of-state chickens. In 2008, California passed Proposition 2, a ballot measure that increased the standards for egg-layers, providing that such chickens must have enough space to spread their wings without touching another chicken, and be able to stand up and lay down. Animal producers in California, however, complained that because they couldn’t stuff as many birds into the same space, they are at an economic disadvantage when competing with out-of-state producers selling in California. In response the state legislature passed a law requiring that all eggs sold in California be held to the same standards required under Proposition 2. The law will take effect in 2015. While California maintains that the additional law was enacted for health safety given the atrocious conditions of battery cages, Missouri counters that the law is an unlawful attempt to regulate conduct outside of California’s boarders, and an impermissible protection against out-of-state competition, both of which are in violation of the Commerce Clause. Continue reading

Legislation Proposed in NYS to Ban Exotic Animals in Circuses

David Cassuto

Over the last several years, a number of different constituencies have worked hard to advance legislation to ban exotic animals (elephants, tigers, lions, etc.) from circuses.  There is now a bill pending in committee in the New York state legislature.   Below follows a press release from one of the groups working on this issue:elephant foot

Proposed NYS Legislation To Ban “Wild & Exotic Animals” in Entertainment.

 

This is to inform all residents of New York State that 2 bills (Assembly A5407 and Senate S5971) have been introduced which would ban the use of wild and exotic animals (elephants, lions, tigers, etc) in entertainment, including circuses.

THERE WILL BE NO ACTION TAKEN on these bills unless there is public support for them. It is crucial that voters call or email their New York State representatives to urge support of these bills (do a search online if you do not know who your representatives are). Supporters should also use social media to further publicize this very important legislation. Continue reading

Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”

 

Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.

 

 

 

The “Necessity” of Cosmetic Animal Testing

Andrea Rodricks

            Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) does not require cosmetic testing on animals, it does allow a company to take whatever steps necessary to prove product safety. This includes animal testing. Even though the FDA does advocate for alternative methods of testing, it seems to be an all too common perception that animal testing is necessary for the development of safe products. This is evidenced by the hundreds of companies that still test on animals. I have never understood why it is seen as the best way to test cosmetics. Does testing mascara on a rabbit really prove that it is safe for human use? There are plenty of alternatives to testing on animals, so it is any wonder why companies continue this horrific practice. rabbits-cosmetic-test

The United States is significantly behind in banning animal testing of cosmetics. In 2004, the European Union(EU) banned domestic cosmetic testing on animals. In 2009, the EU went even further by banning animal testing of the ingredients used in cosmetics. Additionally, they banned the sale of products that have been tested on animals. Finally, in early 2013, the EU’s final deadline of prohibiting marketing of products that are tested on animals was complete. On January 1, 2013, Israel’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics went into effect prohibiting the importation and marketing of products that test on animals. Similar to the EU, this was the second step in a process that started in 2007 with the banning of domestic animal testing. Finally, in July of this year, India joined the EU and Israel, by prohibiting animal testing on cosmetics and ingredients.          Continue reading

Connecticut’s ‘Puppy Mill Task Force’

Olivia Marotta

puppymill copyConnecticut is one step closer to banning puppy mills. Legislation was recently introduced to prohibit the operation of animal mills in Connecticut and to ban the sale of dogs and cats that were obtained from animal mills. The bill, H.B. 5027, entitled, “An Act ­Prohibiting the Sale of Dogs and Cats Obtained from Substandard Domestic Animal Mills and Requiring a Standard of Care Applicable to Animal Importers,” is notable for publicly acknowledging the horrid, cruel conditions from where many pets come and is the first major step in bringing reform for the animals who are forced to suffer lifelong abuse and neglect.  Continue reading

Moving Animal Cruelty Crimes to the Penal Law?

Nicole Geraci

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi has proposed a bill to move animal abuse crimes from the Agriculture Markets Law into BLOG 1 picture[1] copythe Penal Law, a change which he and CNY SPCA note is long overdue.  According to Brindisi, “Many animal abuse laws were written 50 years ago. And most judges and lawyers are just not familiar with agriculture market laws as they are with the penal law . . . When you have a case of animal cruelty, the courts and lawyers may not consider them “real crimes” with animal abuse, even when they are in fact severe crimes.”  Unfortunately, I think this mindset probably exists amongst the general public as well, and this bill proposal is a means of addressing the problem.  Recent cases of animal abuse across Central New York, as disturbing as they are, may be just the momentum needed to enforcing harsher punishments for violators of animal cruelty.  Continue reading

Equine freedom, but at what cost?

Seth Victor

The blawg has previously discussed the controversy surrounding horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Now there is the potential that those idealized tours around Central Park might be coming to an end. According to the New York Daily News, both major mayoral candidates poised to run the Big Apple support a city council bill to ban horse-drawn rides. There is a concern, however, that if the practice is ended, the 200 or so horses that are impressed to pull these carriages will be sent to their deaths, not to some bucolic retirement field further upstate. The article summarizes the issue.

My question to you, dear reader, is what is the best result for the animals? Place the economic concerns regarding the proposed electric replacement carriages aside. Assuming that no home can be found for these horses, if you believe that the horses who march around the streets of New York City are suffering and are not being properly cared for, is it better to end their suffering through ending their lives, or is life so precious that between a life of hard work and death, life should prevail?

We’ve touched on this question before, and it is a divisive one between different camps of animal rights. Please vote below with your opinion. I recognize that there are many answers to this question, but given the choice between the two (and if being forced to pick the lesser of two evils isn’t American, what is?), where do you stand?

Order of Protection for Your Pet

Kendall Shea

 In New York State, both the Criminal Procedure Law and Family law include provisions for including “companion animals” in an order of protection (See NY CPL Law 530.13 and NY FCT Law 842).  The laws allow a judge to include language in the order that the defendant (or respondent) must “refrain from intentionally injuring or killing, without justification, any companion animal the respondent knows to be owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by the petitioner or a minor child residing in the household.”  I don’t know if this provision is regularly utilized or only included when it is likely that the protected party’s pet will become a target of the person against whom the order is issued (there is no such restriction in the statutes).  However, about two years ago, I saw a judge include such a provision in a criminal order of protection.

 The situation involved a veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse issues relating to an injury sustained while Continue reading

Organized Crime and Dogfighting

Rafael WolffFirst Post Animal Law Image

How can anyone hurt this little, cute puppy?

That was my only thought when I realized that this little guy was found in the scorching sun, with a chain around his neck, during a police raid last month, due to an investigation about dog fighting, according to CNN. But when organized crime and money are involved, there is little room for compassion, so, I shouldn’t be surprised. What should have surprised me is the fact that dogfighting can bring as much as $200,000 to criminals. I also should have been surprised by the fact that there are a lot of costumers for that “product”, similarly to drugs and other illegal goods.  Continue reading

New Jersey Animals Get More Protection, But Are Still Property

Seth Victor

Last month New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed laws creating two new felonies for animal abuse. The first, “Patrick’s Law,” increases neglect of a dog from a disorderly persons offense, a misdemeanor, to a fourth degree felony, or in some cases, a third degree felony. The fines associated with these crimes were also increased. Additionally, overworking an animal is now a misdemeanor offense. The law was inspired by Patrick, a malnourished pit bull who was thrown down a garbage patrickchute in a trash bag by his owner. Patrick survived and was rescued, but owner Kisha Curtis is not expected to face harsh penalties for her actions. Under the new law, even failing to provide a dog like Patrick with adequate food and water could land a similar offender in custody. The bill was passed by the NJ Assembly last spring.

Christie also signed “Dano’s Law,” aka “Dano’s and Vader’s Law.” Under this addition, it is now a fourth degree felony to threaten the life of a law enforcement animal. This measure primarily includes K-9 units, but also horses for mounted police. NJ Sen. Christopher Bateman commented, “Cowardly criminals who threaten the life of a law enforcement animal will now receive the punishment they deserve.”

Continue reading

Why the King Amendment is Hypocritical

Seth Victor

Recently Angelique Rivard explained some of the dangers inherent in Rep. Steve King’s amendment to H.R. 6083, the Farm Bill. What makes this amendment maddening is that Mr. King has cited law to support this measure that he would decry as the product of an overreaching government in almost any other circumstance. There is no doubt that Mr. King’s proposal is intended to end state protection for farmed animals; his website proudly declares that he hopes to terminate the efforts of animal rights groups, ensuring “that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.”

King has hardly been the darling of animal rights before this foray, as Stephen Colbert nicely summarizes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund both gave him a 0% rating in 2012. This came after a 2010 statement at a National 4-H Conference that “the HSUS is run by vegetarians with an agenda whose goal is to take meat off everyone’s table in America.” King has also previously voted against broadening the definitions of the Endangered Species Act in 2005 which would have enabled better listing criteria.

Continue reading

Newsday’s Filler Lacks Substance

Ed Pekarek

A member of Long Island’s Newsday editorial board, Lane Filler, authored an attempt at a troll droll column recently, which effectively endorsed the slaughter of American horses as food. The aptly-named columnist posits in absolutist and seemingly libertarian terms his Fillerosophy, chock full of crass cracks about the slaughter of sentient horses.  According to Filler, only those who oppose all consumption of animals as food may ever morally oppose the destruction of any animal. Anything short of that, at least according to Filler, is mere hypocrisy.

2horsesThe Fillerosophy is stated as follows: “when the subject of eating the animals we deem too charming to chew comes up – around the grill, among people who happily consume some animals but not others – the hypocrisy can be harder to stomach than a poodle-and-potato pie when the poodle hasn’t been marinated right.” Filler’s sophomoric hyperbole is telling; many horses are raised closely with humans, often perceived as part of a family and loved. He glibly notes he does not “want to eat dog. I’m pretty sure if I did, Rosie, my Boston terrier, would find out about it, and give me the look. I don’t want to eat cat, although they give me the look regardless, nor monkeys nor dolphins nor any fish species that’s ever had a featured role in an animated film.” However, he detours before taking a position whether it is inappropriate in this nation (or any other) to serve dogs and cats as entrees.

Sure, some horses in the U.S. are raised to perform work, whether to plow, or herd, race or jump, or even dance in dressage. However, the idea that highly-intelligent species so closely connected to humans may be slaughtered (and abundant evidence exists, including through the USDA, that the killing of horses is done in a manner often causing substantial suffering, with some reportedly remaining conscious in the abbatoir as they are strung up by one leg and their throat is slit) poses a grisly threat to the opposition of killing any sentient creature for human purposes. Continue reading

Keeping Pets out of the Market

Seth Victor

Though there is a growing dialogue about how to classify domestic animals, the norm in America is, and will likely remain for a great while longer, that animals are property that can be bought and sold, like a chair or the computer on which you are reading this blawg.

puppies in window

Of course animals are not just property, and millions of people believe that their furry friends are essential members of their families, member who should be afforded certain protections against cruelty. Most of you are aware that we do consider some types of domestic animal abuse as felonies (unless you are from the Dakotas). Clearly we care about domestic animals (I emphasize domestic; I’ll refrain from discussing the hypocrisy of our nation’s CAFO situation), but we remain entrenched in a legal framework that considers them to be chattel. No matter how egalitarian the owner, there is inherent inequality and lack of agency in such a system.To draw a common and controversial comparison, no matter how magnanimous the slave owner, it’s still slavery.

Continue reading

The Ag-Gag World — Where Victimizers are the Victims

David Cassuto

We’ve spent considerable blawgwidth here on Ag-Gag laws, with more doubtlessly to come.  Recently, I’ve been asked to speak and blog about the issue a fair bit and from that emerged the following post.  It is or will be posted in some places where people are less familiar with the issue.  (I’ll update with links)

ag-gag-factory-farming-1Agricultural animals are not covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act.  Many states also exclude them from their anti-cruelty laws.  As a result, they have virtually no legal protections and spend their short lives in horrific misery before being turned into salable flesh (or, in the case of laying hens, into compost).  However, there are a few federal regulations that still apply and some states do not exempt them from cruelty protections. The most powerful force for animal protection, though, is public outrage.  Most people do not know how animals are treated in agriculture and are outraged when they learn.  Consequently, activists sometimes chronicle some of the more egregious abuses in undercover videos.  The videos themselves document everything from standard procedures in factory farms to deliberate, conscience-shocking acts of sadism.

Faced with these abuses, how have state legislatures reacted?  By turning the videographers into criminals.  People who expose the animal abuses now face draconian penalties and felony status.  So-called “Ag-Gag” bills have become law in a dozen states with several more poised to make the leap.  Under one proposed law, named the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act  (you can’t make this stuff up), those convicted of documenting animal abuse at agricultural facilities would potentially face felony charges and have their name added to a “terrorist registry.”  Continue reading

Scientists See Cruelty in Killing Method Used in Japan’s Dolphin Roundup

ANDREW C. REVKIN

A still image from video shot of the dolphin roundup and slaughter near Taiji, Japan, by the dolphin-protection group Atlanticblue.de.
(x-post from Dot Earth)

In a new peer-reviewed study, scientists assess the killing method employed by the dolphin hunters of Taiji, Japan, by watching video recorded surreptitiously in 2011 by a German dolphin-protection group, AtlanticBlue. The still image at right is from the video, which can be seen here (but be forewarned; this is not suitable for children — or many adults, for that matter).

Here’s the researchers’ not-so-surprising prime conclusion:

This killing method does not conform to the recognized requirement for “immediate insensibility” [some background is here] and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.

Of course given that these are wild, big-brained animals rounded up with methods made infamous in the crusading and Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” even if a slaughterhouse standard were met, the controversy would hardly fade. (Watch my 2010 interview with the film’s director, Louis Psihoyos.)

Here’s the abstract of the paper, followed by a brief interview with one author, Diana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist at Hunter College who was an adviser on the documentary and has made no secret of her campaign to end cruelty to this species:

A Veterinary and Behavioral Analysis of Dolphin Killing Methods Currently Used in the ‘Drive Hunt’ in Taiji, Japan

Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, Volume 16Issue 2, 2013 (DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2013.768925)

Andrew ButterworthPhilippa BrakesCourtney S. Vail & Diana Reiss

Annually in Japanese waters, small cetaceans are killed in “drive hunts” with quotas set by the government of Japan. The Taiji Fishing Cooperative in Japan has published the details of a new killing method that involves cutting (transecting) the spinal cord and purports to reduce time to death. The method involves the repeated insertion of a metal rod followed by the plugging of the wound to prevent blood loss into the water. To date, a paucity of data exists regarding these methods utilized in the drive hunts. Our veterinary and behavioral analysis of video documentation of this method indicates that it does not immediately lead to death and that the time to death data provided in the description of the method, based on termination of breathing and movement, is not supported by the available video data. The method employed causes damage to the vertebral blood vessels and the vascular rete from insertion of the rod that will lead to significant hemorrhage, but this alone would not produce a rapid death in a large mammal of this type. The method induces paraplegia (paralysis of the body) and death through trauma and gradual blood loss. This killing method does not conform to the recognized requirement for “immediate insensibility” and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.

Here are my questions and Reiss’s responses:

Q.

Can you tell me in a few words what this analysis means to you in the larger context of human/animal relations?

A.

. Dolphins are a cognitively and socially complex species that exist in their own societies in the seas. To see any animal treated in this way is shocking. Given what we know scientifically about the awareness, sensitively, cognitive and social prowess of dolphins, this treatment is unjustifiable and unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately. In the larger context of human and non-human animal relations, the methods used to herd dolphins and then kill them is off-the chart in terms of any concern for animal welfare. At a time when most countries are concerned for the conservation and welfare of dolphins and whales it is strange and disturbing to see a modern country like Japan continue to ignore scientific knowledge and concern for these species.

In most modern countries these mammals are protected but sadly we see these exceptions. Our scientific knowledge needs to transcend cultural and geographic boundaries and these species need global protection.

Q.

One of the standard replies from Japan on this issue (whether with whales or dolphins) is that we, for example, cherish bison but eat bison burgers. Is there a distinction?

A.

You cannot compare bison to dolphins in the cognitive domain. However, bison are not killed in this inhumane manner. Nor are lab rats. In cases in which animals are domesticated for food, most modern countries are striving for better animal welfare practices that minimize pain and suffering during the killing process with the goal to render an animal unconscious quickly before it is killed. This is not the case in the dolphin drive hunts. These are not domesticated animals; they are wild dolphins that are captured within their social groups, mother and young, and slaughtered using a technique that actually prolongs death, pain and suffering. The herding procedures themselves are inhumane and may include forced submersion as the dolphins are dragged by their tails to shore to be killed.

This is not to say that dolphins should be killed. They should not.

For more on Reiss’s views, I encourage you to read Claudia Dreifus’s 2010 interview with her for Science Times and watch Reiss’s recent TEDx talk on dolphin intelligence.

In an interview last month with the journalist David Kirby, Mark Palmer, the associate director of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project, estimated that the dolphin hunters of Taiji killed nearly 900 dolphins and pilot whales this season and kept nearly 250 to sell for alive to the aquarium trade (which is booming in the Middle East and Asia).

| Related | In dolphin research, as in climate change science, a move from research to a mix of science and activism can create complex dynamics. To explore, read Erik Vance’s 2011 Discover Magazine feature, “It’s Complicated: The Lives of Dolphins & Scientists,” which chronicled how Reiss’s shift played out.

New Jersey Takes Steps Towards Stronger Animal Laws

Seth Victor

In a move to join Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill 60-5 last Thursday to ban gestation crates for pigs. A similar bill already having passed in the state senate 35-1, the measure now awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature. Though a progressive step forward for animal protection, the bill, while giving a thorough definition of the kinds of confinement banned, still allows for the common exceptions. Gestating pigs can still be confined for “(1) medical research, (2) veterinary examination, testing, individual treatment, or an operation, (3) transportation of the animal, (4) an exhibition or educational program, (5) animal husbandry purposes, provided the confinement is temporary and for no more than six hours in any 24-hour period, (6) humanely slaughtering of the animal in accordance with the laws, and rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto, concerning the slaughter of animals, and (7) proper care during the seven-day period prior to the expected date of the gestating sow giving birth.” While there is a rational basis for all of these exceptions, broad ones such as “veterinary examination” seem ripe for abuse (or at least a defense), and animal testing gets its typical pass with the “medical research” caveat. Still, there is a disorderly persons misdemeanor where once there was none, and groundwork to phase out a particularly thorny issue in CAFOs. Continue reading

Can Farming Rhinos Save the Species?

Seth Victor

Rhino-horn-tradeKevin Charles Redmon poses an interesting thought: can farming the horns of African rhinoceroses save the species? The horns of the rhinos are used throughout the world, from dagger handles to medicine. Though the animals are endangered, and protected under CITES, there is a lucrative black market business in poaching, especially when the horns fetch $65,000 a kilo; “demand for horn is inelastic and growing, so a trade ban (which restricts supply) only drives up prices, making the illicit good more valuable—and giving poachers greater incentive to slaughter the animal.” Poachers aren’t overly concerned with the long-term extinction risks of their prey. The focus is on the immediate value. Because the activity is illegal, timing is of the essence, and it’s apparently easier to kill and harvest the rhinos versus tranquilizing and waiting for them to go down. What if, Redmon wonders, we were to harvest the horns (they re-grow over time) by placing rhinos in captivity, guarding them well, and introducing a sustainable horn supply that doesn’t kill the rhinos? Continue reading

Animals Are Biggest Losers in Sequestration

Seth Victor

As reported by Mother Jones, there is a lovely outcome to the government’s sequestering: “The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s budget would be slashed by $51 million. This would result in a furlough of as much as 15 days for all employees, including 8,400 meat inspectors, as well as a loss of 2 billion pounds of meat, between 2.8 and 3.3 billion pounds of poultry, and over 200 million pounds of egg products. Meat shortages may also lead to price increases, leading to a domino effect on restaurants, grocers, and small businesses. There are also concerns that food safety ‘could be compromised by the illegal selling and distribution of uninspected meat, poultry, and egg products.'”

Or, as author Lemony Snicket might phrase it, “The news reported that there was going to be a loss, a word that here means ’13 million cows and over a billion chickens were killed for no use at all, because a bunch of people were busy fighting over other things, like how much money they could spend on themselves.'”

Why horse meat tacos are the least of our worries

Seth Victor

Taco Bell moved to pull beef off its UK menus this past Friday because of traces of horse meat found in the product. A spokesperson for the company commented: “We apologize to our customers and take this matter very seriously as food quality is our highest priority.” The problem with this statement is that it calls into question just what Taco Bell considers to be “food quality.” Obviously phenylbutazone isn’t something Taco Bell wants in its products. This is a company that is trying to brand itself as something more than fast food, from the “Think Outside the Box” campaign, to the recent artesian kitchen look with chef Lorena Garcia and her supposed quest for the “highest quality ingredients.” Not convinced? You can go to the Taco Bell website and learn more (or in keeping with the company slogan, Learn Más!). Here, at last, you can rest easy knowing that Taco Bell uses 88% premium ground beef, and 12% signature recipe. What? 12% of its product is. . . a recipe? The assurance I should get by hearing this supposed break down of ingredients is undermined when I haven’t a clue what that means. The ad tells me to go to the website learn what the recipe is, but it’s buried. Hunt it down though, and it comes out to water and a bunch of seasoning. So no worries there, I guess. How about this premium beef? Continue reading

Legal Issues with California’s Foie Gras Ban

Seth Victor

Late last month PETA filed a suit against Hot’s Restaurant Group in Los Angeles County, CA, alleging that the defendant violated the California state law that went into effect earlier this year prohibiting the sale of foie gras. The essence of the hots-kitchencomplaint is that Hot’s Kitchen, the specific restaurant in question, has skirted the law by selling a hamburger for an increased price and including with the hamburger a “complimentary side of foie gras.” Being that foie gras is sold legally at gourmet restaurants around the country for a pretty penny, on its face Hot’s seems to be blatantly rebelling against California’s ban, taking a position common among many restaurant owners. Taking the ethical debate over foie gras (ahem) off the table for a moment, is what Hot’s Kitchen doing illegal? Continue reading

Michigan dog fighting penalty increases

Seth Victor

As reported by the Detroit News, the Michigan legislature recently voted to increase the penalty for dog fighting. By finding dog fighting to be an organized criminal enterprise, the legislature has made it possible for dog fighting violators to be charged with racketeering, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, the property (real and personal) in question could also be confiscated as a nuisance if the House approves the bill. The racketeering classification amendment to the law is expected to be signed by Gov. Snyder soon. As the bill analysis reads:

Under the code, racketeering is defined as committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or aiding or abetting, soliciting, coercing, or intimidating a person to commit an offense for financial gain that includes any of the listed criminal acts. The bill would amend this list to include a violation of Section 49, concerning animal fighting.

 The bill proposal puts it bluntly; “Simply put, animal fighting is animal abuse on steroids.” By moving this crime into the same category as other criminal enterprises, Michigan is recognizing the vast infrastructure behind animal fighting rings. The amendment to the law will also allow prosecutors to go after repeat offenders in a more meaningful manner, rather than having to separately prosecute individual cases that carry less significant penalties. There is a concern that property seizure based simply on an allegation of such abuse might be extreme, and that is an aspect that certainlyshould  be  carefully considered in each case. Overall, this bill marks a considerable step towards greater penalties for animal abuse, and one that isn’t as particularly tailored as last year’s Schultz’s Law.

North Dakota Votes Against Animals

Seth Victor

In what must be a move of Dakotan solidarity, the people of North Dakota voted last week against Proposition 5, which would have  made it a class C felony, punishable by incarceration, “to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse.” There would have been the typical exceptions for veterinarians, hunters, scientists, and, of course, agriculture workers. This is a measure aimed at domestic pets, which would have enforced against instances akin to Michael Vick’s dog torture. Nevertheless, 65.4% of voters opted to have North Dakota remain with South Dakota as the only two states in the nation without animal cruelty felonies.

Interestingly, this comes in the same election when three states approved same-sex marriage, a measure in nearby Minnesota to outlaw same-sex marriage was voted down, and recreational marijuana was legalized in two states. Additionally, within North Dakota, voters opted to ban indoor smoking in the workplace by a 2-1 majority, but also voted 2-1 for a measure that bans any law that would abridge farmers and ranchers from employing their own industry practices. It seems that while we as a nation are in a piecemeal fashion expanding the liberties of our own species, animals are clearly still an “other” that do not receive the same considerations. The vote on the smoking measure in a state that is traditionally wary of government intervention shows that individuals do not have an absolute right to do what they want to the detriment of others, but efforts to extend that same logic to establish animals as something more than property remain trapped in our legal schizophrenia. I can grasp the reasoning behind the farmed animal vote; established industry, I expect, advertised, lobbied, and campaigned more effectively to keep the status quo. Why anyone in 2012 would want to keep torture to companion animals punishable only by a slap on the wrist, however, is beyond me.