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.       

ANIMALS USED FOR AGRICULTURE: WHAT IS THERE TO HIDE?

Christine Murphy

In some states, the act of entering onto another’s property and recording undercover videos revealing animal cruelty on farms is illegal. At first glance, this is understandable as everyone has an interest in their own property rights. But there’s a catch. What happens when the activities carried out Image for first blog poston that land are not only illegal, but affect on society as a whole? Farm animals are slaughtered everyday and used for food, cosmetics, and even clothing products which enter the economy and are then provided to us for our use and consumption. The treatment of these animals before slaughter is horrifying, and yet this industry seems to be protected from revealing this information from the public.

In seven states today, ag-gag laws exist. These laws prohibit individuals from entering an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner.

In Animal Legal Defense Fund et. al. v. Otter et. al., the Plaintiffs challenged Idaho’s ag-gag law Continue reading

Environment, Ethics, & the Factory Farm

David Cassuto

PigletBitingCagelgOnce again, the Shameless Self-Promotion Desk whirs into action.  This new piece, forthcoming in the South Texas Law Review, is a transcription of a lecture I gave there last spring.  Here is the abstract:

What are the ethics behind factory farming? What are the ethical implications? This essay (transcribed from a lecture given at the South Texas College of Law) focuses on the environmental implications while defining those environmental implications through the lens of animal law and ethics.

Farms have become factories, and the animals raised in those factories are simply commodities. That is why we cannot have a discussion about 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

Hot, Crowded & Legal

David Cassuto
Here’s a teaser from my forthcoming piece, “Hot, Crowded & Legal: A look at Industrial Agriculture in the United States and Brazil.”  The article is co authored with the fabulous Sarah Saville (Pace JD 2012) and will appear in the Animal Law Review.  The article is based on a talk I gave at the Review’s Inaugural Symposium in Fall 2011.

This essay examines the impact of industrial animal agriculture in the United States and Brazil.  It surveys the respective regulatory environments in the two countries and discusses how their regulatory regimes have enabled the spread of factory farming while taking little heed of its pernicious effects.  We focus on the United States and Brazil for several reasons.  First, they are the first and eight largest economies in the world, respectively.  Second, both countries have very large agricultural sectors and play significant roles internationally.  In addition, both countries have begun to address the issues raised by factory farming while yet having much work yet to do.  

Continue reading

The Troubling Path from Pig to Pork Chop

By ANDREW C. REVKIN (x-post from Dot Earth Blog)

In a Mother Jones post, Tom Philpott has aptly summarized the issues raised by a new Humane Society of the United States investigation and video report on the conditions in which pigs are propagated by two big Oklahoma pork suppliers:

The remarkable thing…is how banal it is. No illegal acts like “downer” animals being forced down the kill line with fork lifts, or getting their brains bashed in with a pickax. What we have here is the everyday reality of pigs’ lives on a factory farm, without regulations flouted or spectacular violence committed. It is abuse routinized and regimented, honed into a profitable business model. [Read the rest.]

The Humane Society findings focus on the practice of keeping pregnant sows for months in cages barely bigger than the animal. The group’s Web site notes that laws banning gestation crates have been passed in eight states – Ohio,ArizonaCaliforniaColoradoFloridaMaineMichigan, and Oregon – with bills pending in Delaware, Rhode IslandNew Hampshire, Connecticut,MassachusettsVermont, New Jersey and New York.

The group credits many retailers — including Burger KingWendy’s,Subway and Safeway – for moving away from producers that use gestation crates.

6:33 p.m. | Updated below | The Oklahoma Pork Council told the state’s KTOK radio station: Continue reading

Environmentalism & Factory Farming

David Cassuto

Good article in GOOD Magazine on environmentalism and industrial agriculture featuring an interview w/me.

Brasilia and Now Ghent (Belgium) — Still Talking Climate Change & Agriculture

David Cassuto

So here I am on a plane again – this time to Belgium on my way to the Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, which is taking place in Ghent.  I’m back in steerage this time; no business class for our hero.  I swore I would never go back but here I am.

Amidst all the hubbub, I need to recap my time in Brasilia even as I head for Europe.  Brasilia was a very interesting time and I once more want to reiterate my gratitude to the U.S. State Department for making my time in Brazil so rich and rewarding and for taking such good care of me.  This was my first time in Brazil’s capital and I enjoyed it – from the stunning architecture to the fact that the city is laid out like an airplane.  In addition to speaking at private university (entirely successful and well-attended), I lectured also to a government think tank called IPEA.  There, I encountered probing questions from a very informed audience.  When I mentioned the idea of treating meat consumption as a luxury for purposes of regulating and taxing carbon emissions, one of my hosts asked what I thought of the idea of a “meat cap.”  Not only is it an intriguing notion about which I need to think more, but so much do I love the term that even if it were a completely wacky idea, I would probably support it anyway.                    Continue reading

Powerful Final Day at the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights

Elizabeth Bennett

The last day of the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights began with a heartfelt lecture by conference organizer Heron Santana on climate change and animal rights. Professor Santana spoke about the fact that citizens of Brazil are beginning to eat more meat and the country exports an increasing amount of live animals, as they used to do with slaves.

He also discussed the health risks associated with eating meat and our ability to decrease meat production by decreasing consumption.  He explained that there is a wall of prejudice against other species that we must break down in order to abolish animal slavery.  Professor Santana concluded by stressing the importance of speaking out for animals and making changes in our daily lives to work toward an end to these violations against nonhuman animals.    Continue reading

Brazil Anew– The Animal Law Tour

David Cassuto

Our hero heads back to Brazil next week.  First I’ll speak at the International Animal Law Conference in Salvador.   The conference also features a student forum where, I’m delighted to report, Pace 3L, Elizabeth Bennett, will present a paper on factory farming.          Continue reading

Come 2011, Some More Regulation for CAFOs

David Cassuto

From the Correcting Inane Regulations Desk:

One could say that EPA has regulated CAFOs under the Clean Water Act for years.  Big Ag operations are required to obtain NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits for their discharges and consequently, the Agency has monitored such discharges and protected the public from the environmental hazards these operations create.  Of course, if one said all that, one would be wrong

That´s how the story might read if we lived in a rational world.  Instead, Industrial Ag operations can claim — without having to provide verification — that its facilities do not discharge into the waters of the U.S.  Consequently, many CAFOs do not obtain permits, which means their discharges are not regulated.    Continue reading

Talking Animals, Climate Change and Agriculture in Sao Paulo

David Cassuto

Today, I gave a talk on industrial agriculture and climate change at the Planeta Verde Conference, the largest environmental law conference in South America and maybe the world.  Instituto O Direito Por Um Planeta Verde (Law for a Green Planet Institute) is a Brazilian NGO founded (I believe) by Antonio Benjamin, a major figure in Brazilian environmental law.  Benjamin is now a Justice on the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice (this court has no direct analogue in the U.S.; it resides somewhere between the courts of appeals  and the Supreme Court).  He also manages to be a professor at several law schools both in Brazil and Texas.

I have a few things to report.  First, on a personal note, I currently dwell in a limbic space between 3 languages.  My Portuguese is improving but still not fully conversational while my Spanish suffers from its proximity to Portuguese.  This leaves me unable to speak either one.  Meanwhile, my English worsens by the day.  The upshot: I spent much of today and yesterday stammering in no recognizable language, but with a New York accent.           Continue reading

Food Fight at McDonald’s

David Cassuto

So a woman throws a tantrum and destroys some property when her McDonald’s meal is prepared wrong (apparently, she was “unhappy with her cheeseburger”).  Some foundational questions: how does one prepare such a thing “right?”  And how would one know?

No Humane Slaughter? No Problem (because) No Standing

David Cassuto

The 9th Circuit recently decided Levine v. Vilsack, a case challenging the  ongoing failure of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include birds under the auspices of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA).  The case was brought by a group of plaintiffs in 2005, claiming that “inhumane methods” of poultry slaughter increased their risks of food-borne illnesses and health and safety dangers and caused “aesthetic injury” to the plaintiff poultry workers.   They sought an order declaring that (1) “USDA’s decision to exclude chickens, turkeys, and other poultry species from the protections provided by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 . . . to be . . . not in accordance with the HMSA of 1958 and the APA;” (2) “declaring unlawful and setting aside USDA’s September 28, 2005 Federal Register Notice containing the agency’s policy statement . . . that the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 . . . does not require ‘humane handling and slaughter’ for poultry;” and (3) “enjoining USDA from excluding chickens, turkeys, and other poultry species from the protections provided by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 . . . .”

The district court granted summary judgment to the USDA.  On appeal, the 9th Circuit reversed.  That might seem like good news (Michael Markarian thinks so)  but to my mind … not so much.  The court reversed because of that age-old bugaboo of environmental and animal law: lack of standing.  The court found that of the 3 prong test for standing to sue in federal court (injury-in-fact, causation, & redressability), plaintiffs failed to meet the third prong.  Continue reading

Industrial Agriculture and What NOT to Read During Summer Vacation

Washington State University assigned Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma to all incoming freshmen as required summer reading.  The idea: to spur a debate about industrial agriculture and its impact on American society.  Great idea, right?  I guess not.  Citing “budget constraints,” the university has withdrawn the book.

According to this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (pay site, but you can get a cheap day pass…), not everyone buys the administration’s explanation for this turnabout, especially since the university had already purchased 4,000 copies of the book.

The article notes:

“What we were told is that when the committee picked The Omnivore’s Dilemma, because of the politics of the agriculture industry, we would not be having a common reading, and that President Floyd decided that this was not a battle he wanted to wage,” said one person who had knowledge of the program and asked not to be named because of fear of job loss.

Jeff Sellen, an instructor at the university who sat on a committee in charge of implementing the reading program, says members of that panel were told “we could not call it a ‘common reading.'”

“I think that was important because it would be less official and would maybe fly underneath the radar,” he says. “It was obvious that it was political.”

I don’t know what the reason(s) were; I only know what I read.  But I sure wish those Washington State freshmen were reading this book…

–David Cassuto