U of Maryland Clinic Wins Important Procedural Victory in Lawsuit Against Perdue

David Cassuto

A while back, I blogged on the attempt by members of the Maryland legislature to strip funding for the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic because of the clinic’s lawsuit (representing numerous plaintiffs) against Perdue and some local chicken producers.  The suit arose from the chicken operation’s  runoff  (allegedly) befouling the Chesapeake Bay.  Perdue spun the suit as an assault against family farming.  Members of the legislature flew into a tizzy and excoriated the clinic for helping its clients pursue their rights under the Clean Water Act.   Thankfully, rational minds prevailed and the threat to kill the clinic’s funding was itself killedContinue reading

Some Further Thoughts on Ohio

David Cassuto

I’m back in the northern hemisphere, missing the tropical juices and proximity to the beach but enjoying my family (human and non), my friends, and my deck with its accompanying martinis.  I’ve also been pondering the Ohio deal I blogged about before getting on the plane last week.  As you may recall, the ballot initiative in Ohio containing important agricultural reforms has been indefinitely postponed in exchange for a number of concessions.    Continue reading

Some Measurable Poultry-Related Success in the U.K.

David Cassuto

A while back, I relayed some info about the `Quash the Squash´ campaign by the RSPCA in the UK aimed at improving the lot of chickens.  Apparently, the campaign was/is very successful.  Despite the recession, British consumers are increasingly willing to spend more money on `higher welfare´chickens.  And, more importantly, they are buying less chicken in general.  Excellent trends, both.  Particularly the latter.  Read more about it and take a brief poll here.

Announcing “Our Hen House”

David Cassuto

Mariann Sullivan & Jasmin Singer

Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer are two of the jewels in the crown of the animal advocacy movement.  Both women have labored tirelessly on behalf of the voiceless for many years and in many ways.  Now they have a new way.  Their new project is called Our Hen House and is much more than blog.  It is, in their words, “a central clearinghouse for all kinds of ideas on how individuals can make change for animals.”  Below is some skinny from an email blast inviting people to the site.  It is a great thing they’re doing.  But don’t take my word for it.  Go and see.  And then stay and help.

Dear Friends,

You might be wondering why you got this email. If you’d like, please click “unsubscribe” below, and please pardon the intrusion. But if you’re interested in learning about Our Hen House — a new project that we’ve gleefully begun — then read on… Continue reading

On Animals, Death & the Media

chickens-734793A Cal-Maine industrial egg facility in Texas caught fire last Thursday.  The facility was damaged but fortunately, no one was hurt.  Oh yeah, and 800,000 hens died.

Stephanie, over at Animal Rights – Change.Org, lays bare the media’s indifference to animals.

–David Cassuto

Large Eggs, Small Eggs, No Eggs

David Cassuto

This article about how the British Free Range Egg Producers Association encourages consumers to eat smaller eggs has been getting a fair amount of play (including this post at Feminist Law Professors).  The producers note that (for obvious biological reasons) it is harder and more painful for a hen to lay a large egg than a small or medium sized one.

One could hardly quibble with the notion that laying large eggs causes more stress to the hen.  It bears emphasizing, however, that this recommendation comes from the British Free Range Egg Producers Association.  Whatever one thinks of the efficacy of free range (some varying views, here, here and here), both in the US and abroad, the practice has at its goal a less stressful environment for the hens (though it still involves the mass killing of male chicks).  If one is consuming factory farmed eggs, the size of the eggs doesn’t matter a whit.  The hens that lay the eggs live in battery cage hell for as long as it takes for them to become utterly spent, following which they get discarded like garbage (except that there are so many of them it has created a disposal problem).  Worrying about egg size when the animals endure conditions whose cruelty defies the imagination is like worrying about a blood blister on a sucking chest wound.

Blogging from the Animal Moot

I blog from Cambridge, MA, where tomorrow the National Animal Law Moot Court Competition begins.  I have the honor of participating as a judge – something I have done for each of the last 5 years.  This year’s competition is sponsored by Lewis & Clark Law School’s Center for Animal Law Studies in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).  It is hosted (as it has been since its inception) by Harvard Law School’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF).  Law schools from all over the country will participate – a testament to the growing recognition of animal law as a legal discipline as well as to student interest in the field.  For the final round, Judges D. Brooks Smith of the 3rd Circuit, Susan P. Graber of the 9th Circuit and Lee H. Rosenthal of the Southern District of Texas will preside.

I’m delighted to report that Pace Law School will field teams in both the moot court and the closing argument competition for the second consecutive year.  Go teams!  My rooting interest aside (and, of course, I will not judge any rounds in which Pace is involved), this competition routinely features some of the best student advocacy it has ever been my privilege to witness.  This year will no doubt produce more of the same.

The moot problem involves the applicability of the federal 28 Hour Law (requiring that no animal be transported for more than 28 hours without food, water or rest) to chickens.  This is a live issue; a number of federal laws, including the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Animal Welfare Act exclude birds from their coverage and the legislative history of the 28 Hour Law offers little clarity on the matter.  Another issue centers on whether the 28 Hour Law preempts state anti-cruelty statutes for animals involved in interstate transport.  It’s an interesting set of issues that require advocates to grapple both with the stark, unlovely reality of the animal transport industry and with the law’s apparent indifference to same.

dnc

Diet & Climate Change

This post over at Prettier than Napoleon (cool name for a blog, no?) about the carbon footprint of various dietary regimes bears noting.  Commendably, it cites the high carbon footprint of meat-based diets.  It then claims, however, that since the carbon footprint of eating chicken is lower than that of eating beef, the data put environmentalists and animal rights folk at odds.  This reasoning is mistaken for a number of reasons.

First, the world’s carbon crisis demands drastic changes in lifestyle — changes of a scale that simply eating more chicken will not address.  Few if any knowledgeable environmentalists would advocate shifting to chicken from beef as an effective way to mitigate climate change.

Second, the idea that animal advocates’ wish to see fewer animals (including chickens) killed and environmentalists’ desire to reduce the world’s carbon footprint generates a fundamental conflict between the two camps (such as they are) is simply illogical.  Putting aside the fact that many environmentalists (including your blogger) are also animal advocates, it is impossible to escape the fact that the ideals of eating less meat (of whatever sort) and saving the planet are not at variance.

Just a few thoughts for a Friday afternoon.

dnc

Egg Production in a Post Proposition 2 World

Will the passage of California’s Proposition 2 lead to an increase or decrease in egg production? The answer is not obvious. Some animal advocates contend that egg consumption will increase because the public will feel better about the way that egg-laying hens are treated in the post Prop 2 world. If this turns out to be the case, Proposition 2 will not meaningfully reduce animal suffering.  On the other hand, the spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) recently stated that “[t]he impact of Prop. 2 is pretty obvious…[w]ithin a few years, it will be impossible to find California eggs in stores.” If the CFBF is right, Proposition 2 will not only improve the conditions of confinement of egg-laying hens but also significantly reduce the amount of hens raised for egg production.  For the reasons that I fleshed out in my reply to Francione, I’m inclined to believe that egg consumption will not change significantly as a result of the passage of Proposition 2.  Who’s right? Only time will tell.

Luis Chiesa

Sherry Colb Responds to My Post on Proposition 2

I received an e-mail from Sherry Colb (Cornell Law School) in response to my recent post disagreeing with Professor Francione’s views regarding California’s Proposition 2. She kindly gave me permission to post it on our blog. As usual, Professor Colb’s comments are thoughtful and informative. Here’s her e-mail:

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Hi Luis.

We have not met, [but] I was delighted to see your new animal blog. The more attention the issue of animal concerns gets, the better. I respect your disagreement with Gary Francione on the California proposition issue, though I think my inclination is to agree with Gary because of the opportunity costs – in lost chances to foster and encourage veganism – associated with large movements to make relatively modest changes in what is a shockingly inhumane world of animal agriculture. I have so often heard people say – when they go to an outstanding vegan restaurant – “if I could eat like this every meal, I would consider becoming a vegan.”

If the Humane Society invested in vegan restaurants and education, more people who find the prospect of veganism frightening or impractical (but ethically attractive) might consider changing. [This is important] because the cruelty that produces eggs and milk is really not better (and can often be even worse) than the cruelty that produces meat. It is not the egg or milk itself that suffered, obviously, but the hens and dairy cows that produce the eggs and milk (and who are kept in horrendous conditions even on “organic” farms and who are killed for meat when their production levels drop) and – perhaps more significantly – the male offspring of hens and dairy cows (the male chicks who are buried alive, gassed and otherwise cruelly killed as babies and the male dairy cows who are robbed of their mother’s milk and then killed as youngsters for veal). Milk simply cannot be produced without impregnating cows, and their male offspring are considered a waste of resources to be quickly slaughtered. I recently had the privilege of visiting Farm Sanctuary, and even though they do press these legislative propositions, their core message is to encourage veganism. The tour guide there had a very compelling line about dairy products – in every glass of milk, there’s a little veal. [Although] we do not know each other, I was eager to reach out because there are so few friends of animals among legal academics.

Good luck on the blog.

Best,

Sherry

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Why We Should Support California’s Proposition 2: A (Brief) Reply to Professor Francione

Several weeks ago, Professor Gary Francione urged people not to vote for California’s Proposition 2 next Tuesday (for a discussion of Proposition 2, see Suzanne McMillan’s post here). He grounded his view on the following arguments: (1) that Proposition 2 will do nothing to alleviate animal suffering in the short or long term, as it will not come into effect until 2015, and once it becomes operative it will seldom be enforced because it is riddled with exceptions, (2) that its adoption will result in increased animal exploitation because it will make the public feel better about the way that factory farmed animals are being treated, and (3) “it is important for animal advocates to send a clear message to the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other groups to stop promoting measures like Proposition 2”.

I respectfully disagree for three reasons. First – contrary to what Francione contends – it is impossible to know ex ante whether the adoption of Proposition 2 will result in a decrease of animal suffering in the short term. While it is true that the measure will not come into effect until January 1, 2015, it is unliklely that factory farms will wait until New Year’s Eve 2014 to change their practices to conform to the new law. Some will surely begin confining their animals in a way that allows them to fully extend their limbs or wings and turn around freely well before the 2015 deadline. As a result, we should expect to see animal suffering in California increasingly diminish during the next several years, even if some of the suffering that the measure is designed to prevent won’t be eliminated until after 2014. Furthermore, even if it turns out that animal suffering is not reduced meaninfully until Proposition 2 comes into effect, that is no reason to vote against it. A law that requires farm owners to confine their animals in spaces that allow them to move more freely is better than what we have now, even if it will not become operative for several years. Professor Francione’s contention that the law will not significantly reduce animal suffering in the long term because it is riddled with exceptions is difficult to understand. As was pointed out in an Editorial of the San Francisco Chronicle that urged voters to reject Proposition 2 because it could destroy California’s egg producing industry, “more than 90 percent of [the State’s] 20 million egg-laying hens are kept in the battery cages that would be outlawed under Proposition 2.” This seems to be an accurate estimate, as the measure provides exceptions for scientific or agricultural research, veterinary practices, transportation, state and county fair exhibitions and during the act of slaugthering the animal. While these exceptions certainly allow for the confinement of a significant number of animals in crates and cages that do not allow them to move freely, they do not reach a majority of the 20 million egg-laying hens that are kept in battery cages in California. Therefore, it is odd to claim that Proposition 2 will not substantially decrease animal suffering because of these exceptions. Even if we conservatively predict that only half of California’s egg laying hens will be confined in a larger space due to the new law, we will be able to reduce the suffering of about 10 million animals. While not a perfect outcome, this would surely be a welcome development.

Francione’s claim that the adoption of Proposition 2 will lead to increased animal exploitation because it will “make the consumption of animals more acceptable” is akin to claiming that laws banning restaurants from using trans fat will meaningfully increase the demand for french fries and fried chicken because they make their consumption more healthy. The hard truth is that a great majority of people will continue to eat factory farmed products (and french fries and fried chicken) regardless of whether measures banning battery cages (or trans fat) are enacted. Others – like me – will continue to be vegetarians and avoid french fries even if such laws are adopted. Ultimately, laws like this one don’t exert much influence over people’s eating habits. Therefore, I believe that the fear that Proposition 2 will result in increased animal exploitation is overblown.

Finally, Francione’s claim that rejecting Proposition 2 is important because it sends a message to animal advocacy groups to stop promoting such measures is not really an argument against voting against the law, unless one believes that these types of laws do not significantly reduce animal suffering. For the reasons discussed in the preceding paragraphs, I strongly believe that the enactment of Proposition 2 will meaningfully diminish the suffering of animals. Therefore, I hope that Californians support it and commend the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary for promoting its adoption.

Luis Chiesa