Why I Sued the USDA

Delcianna J. Winders, Academic Fellow, Animal Law & Policy Program, Harvard Law School

 
This piece originally appeared in The Hill.

 

As a longtime animal law practitioner, I’ve represented various parties in lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). But I’d never sued the agency—or anyone else—myself. Until this past Monday.

Like many, I was stunned when the USDA deleted thousands of Animal Welfare Act-related records from its website. The same day that the blackout occurred, law reviews opened up their submission season and I was gearing up to submit two pieces scrutinizing the USDA’s implementation of the Animal Welfare Act through close analysis of the now-deleted records. If the agency’s goal had been to stymie my work, it couldn’t have timed things better.

Of course, the records weren’t wiped from the website because of me. But why were Continue reading

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.

 

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.”

Continue reading

A Companion Animal for Your Pet

Sarah Kelland 

            Have you ever questioned the emotional state of your pet? Perhaps you have thought your pet was happy or sad at one time or another. According to the money column in the New York Times Magazine, guinea pigs are predisposed to loneliness. To solve this animal welfare issue, Switzerland passed a law making it illegal to own only one guinea pig. This might force a pet owner to buy a new guinea pig every time one passes away. Fortunately, guinea pigs are now available to rent in a town outside of Zurich for the small one time fee of $30. This is clearly an economic opportunity that was seized. Continue reading

Civil Penalties Assessed Against Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros.)

Sarah Markham

A strong message of against animal cruelty has been delivered to the public, especially those who exhibit animals for profit, with the assessment of civil penalties against the Ringling Brothers.   On November 28, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Field Entertainment, Inc., paid $270,000 in fines for violations of Animal Welfare Act pursuant to an agreement that have been reached with USDA.

The Animal Welfare Act requires that minimum standards of care be provided for animals exhibited to the public.  PETA repeatedly urged the USDA to take action against Ringling Brothers for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  In 2009, PETA led an undercover investigation to reveal “the saddest show on earth,” which included the exhibited animals being struck with bull hooks.  In August of this year, an elephant ‘stumbled’ according to Ringling Brothers, but an eyewitness believed the elephant collapsed when the handlers were moving her. Continue reading

The Real Cruella de Vils: The Little-Known Back Story of the Animal Welfare Act of 1966

Ally Bernstein

What would you do if one day, after letting your beloved Husky, Niko, play outside for two hours, you went to get him from the backyard but he wasn’t there? First, you would probably search the neighborhood, followed by checking the local pounds and posting signs in hopes that all of these efforts would bring your lost Niko home. Thinking to yourself “how bizarre”, after letting Niko play outside in your fenced in backyard for 6 years, “why now would he decide to run away?” As you go down the list of possibilities; “did he chase a squirrel, did I leave the gate open, did he jump the fence”, what happened to Niko?

Two days go by and you see a “LOST DOG” sign near the local post office, but its not for Niko, its for Bishop, another Husky in the neighborhood. “Well that’s weird,” you think to yourself about the coincidence that two Huskies would go missing from the same neighborhood within the same week. What about the next few days when your friend at the grocery store tells you that her sister’s Husky, Layla, went missing the night before after being let out for her nightly exercise. Is this still a coincidence? Continue reading

U.S. v. Stevens, The Post-Mortem

David Cassuto

There’s little good here.  In Stevens, the Supreme Court struck down a law that aimed at and succeeded in curbing the market for crush videos and other animal mutilation.  To be fair, the law was seriously flawed.  But the Court’s analysis is worse.  However, the holding could have been worse still, so I am at least a little relieved as well as disappointed.

18 U.S.C. s. 48 banned depictions of cruelty “in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed” if that conduct violates federal or state law “where the creation, sale, or possession takes place.”  It exempted depictions possessing “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value.” 

Mr. Stevens operated a website called “Dogs of Velvet and Steel.”   He marketed videos of dog fighting, of dogs attacking pigs, and other similar works.  One would be hard pressed to find any redeeming social value to his wares and the Court makes no attempt to do so.  In fact it spends very little time analyzing the law as it relates to Mr. Stevens.   It instead focuses on the law’s potential applications to other cases not currently before it.  As a result, the opinion runs far into the weeds.   Continue reading