Here’s the dilemma that some folks I know faced recently, and it’s not the first time that this issue has arisen while I’ve worked for ALDF:
Say a county has seized a bunch of neglected or abused farm animals, or an exotic animal dealer or roadside animal exhibit has shut down, leading to an auction of the animals by either the owners or the county. We can all agree that selling off the animals this way is a bad idea, especially if there are no protections in place to assure they are going to good homes instead of with questionable exhibitors, or back into the hands of their abusers or the abusers’ friends and relatives. A better practice would be to have the county or local humane society take charge of screening potential applicants and investigating their ties to the abuser, if any, and then making thoughtful placements into each new home.
Nevertheless, assume efforts to halt or restructure the auction have failed—do you and your friends or rescue group get organized to go in and buy the animals yourselves and then find them homes so you can assure them a safe, non-exploitative future? Or do you refrain from doing so to prevent enriching the sellers so they cannot then just turn around and use the money to acquire more animals, thus enabling them to stay in the animal business? [In the case of a county or court-ordered auction, the proceeds would go first to reimburse the county’s costs of sale, and then to the abuser.]
In the cases that have crossed my desk, the rescuers, though diverse, have consistently decided to do what they could to buy and save the animals they knew were in jeopardy today, and declined to speculate on how the sellers would respond tomorrow.
What would you do? Why? Let us know in the Comments below.
The day after a truly historic election, the Animal Legal Defense Fund launched a new website where you can sign on your support for animals and tell lawmakers that animals deserve basic rights!
Through the Animal Bill of Rights, ALDF is working to show Congress a groundswell of support for legislation that protects animals and recognizes that, like all sentient beings, animals are entitled to basic legal rights in our society.
More than a quarter-million Americans have already signed the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animal Bill of Rights.
Visit www.AnimalBillofRights.com to sign on your support and speak out to your lawmakers today!
Historic Election Day victory for millions of animals!
The citizens have spoken! On November 4, Californians voted to pass the Standards for Confining Farm Animals Act (Prop 2), which will put a stop to the practice of cramming veal calves, breeding pigs and laying hens into cages and crates so small that the animals cannot turn around. Prop 2 combats some of the worst abuses in factory farming, and abides by the principle that all animals deserve humane treatment, including those raised for food.
Here's what the historic YES! on Prop 2 means:
Preventing cruelty to animals.
Calves are tethered by the neck and can barely move, pigs in severe confinement bite the metal bars of their crates, and hens get trapped and even impaled in their wire cages. We wouldn't force our pets to live in filthy, cramped cages for their whole lives, and we shouldn't force farmed animals to endure such misery.
Improving our health and food safety.
We all witnessed the cruel treatment of sick and crippled cows exposed by a Chino slaughter plant investigation this year, prompting authorities to pull meat off school menus and initiate a nationwide recall. Factory farmers have put our health at risk by allowing these terrible abuses, and now are recklessly telling us it's okay to keep animals in overcrowded, inhumane conditions.
Supporting family farmers.
California family farmers support Prop 2 because they believe food quality and safety are enhanced by more humane farming practices. The agribusiness interests opposing Proposition 2--masquerading as the deceptively named "Californians for Safe Food"--have a record of duping the public, harming animals, and polluting the environment.
Protecting air and water and safeguarding the environment.
The American Public Health Association has called for a moratorium on new factory farms because of the devastating effects these operations can have on surrounding communities. Factory farms often spread waste on the ground untreated--contaminating our waterways, lakes, groundwater, soil, and air. Environmental leaders like Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club support Prop 2.
A reasonable and common-sense reform.
Prop 2 provides ample time--until 2015--for factory farmers using these severe confinement methods to shift to more humane practices. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Oregon have passed similar laws.
Prop 2 is supported by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, the California Veterinary Medical Association and hundreds of California veterinarians; California family farmers; the Center for Food Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, the United Farm Workers Union, the ASPCA, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Farm Sanctuary; Republican and Democratic elected officials, including U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and state schools chief Jack O'Connell; Episcopal and Methodist church leaders and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference; and many others.
Thanks to all Californians who helped to pass this critical initiative!
Calling all California citizens! Today is the day we have the opportunity to make a historic leap forward for farmed animals and affect 20 million lives. The Standards for Confining Farm Animals Act (Prop 2) will put a stop to the practice of cramming veal calves, breeding pigs and laying hens into cages and crates so small that the animals cannot turn around. If you haven't already, vote YES! on Prop 2!
With costumes and cupcakes, of course!
Here are a few photo highlights of our Halloween festivities.
Horses and livestock haven’t had an easy year. Last year, as gas prices soared to record level highs, reports of animals starving because their owners could no longer afford high hay prices flooded humane agencies. This year, with the economy in the state it’s in, neglect and abandonment cases continue to rise.
As feed prices continue to skyrocket, humane agents predict additional cases of animal neglect. ALDF urges everyone to be especially aware of horses and other farmed animals this winter - animal neglect is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Here are three ways you can help:
- Connect with a local humane agency now and see what their reporting process is so that you know who to contact should you witness neglected animals. They will likely be able to supply you with information/brochures on how to recognize animal neglect.
- Contact law enforcement. It is crucial that the various law enforcement agencies work together toward meaningful resolutions, so be sure that all of them are informed of any situation you witness.
- File all reports via formal written complaint, clearly communicating dates and locations.
Just like doctors, lawyers, accountants and architects, Thoroughbred horse trainers have to be licensed to practice their profession. The licensing agency in Kentucky, is the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC). When licensed Thoroughbred horse trainer Joseph D. “J.D.” Crescini pleaded guilty to 16 counts of animal cruelty in Nelson County Circuit Court (for conduct that resulted in the deaths of two horses and the profound suffering of 12 other horses) this fall, I fully expected Mr. Crescini’s days as a licensed Thoroughbred trainer to be over, permanently. So, I did a bit of research before I wrote to the KHRC encouraging them to approve the maximum sanction. I was disappointed to learn that KHRC lacks the authority to permanently revoke a trainer’s license. Rather, the maximum duration of a revocation the KHRC can impose is five years. 810 KAR 1:28. That needs to be changed for future cases.
However, in the meantime, Mr. Crescini had his administrative hearing and the KHRC Stewards found Mr. Crescini in violation of 810 KAR 1:008 (breach of obligation to provide proper care) and 810 KAR 1:025(3)(15& 19) (animal cruelty & acting in a manner inconsistent with the best interests of horse racing).Their sanction: a two-year revocation of his license to train Thoroughbred horses. Wow, that’s a very generous outcome, to say the least. Is Mr. Crescini satisfied? Apparently not, because he’s served notice of his intent to appeal to the full commission.
Given the degree of suffering, the number of animals involved and the aggravated nature of these violations, to say nothing of the obvious breach of his duties as a licensed trainer, the maximum revocation term is more than warranted, even if it is only five years. As the court noted in Deaton v. KHRA, 172 SW 3rd 803 (2005), the KHRA has great latitude in setting sanctions.
It’s one thing for a trainer to be held strictly liable for an owner drugging a racehorse, where a 150-day suspension was upheld (as was the case in Deaton), but it is quite another for a licensed Thoroughbred trainer to kill two horses by starvation, while another 12 horses suffered profound neglect that is tantamount to torture via neglect by starvation. Additionally, one would hope that the full commission would opt to not allow Mr. Crescini to buy his way out of a revocation under 810 KAR 1:28(9) (authorizing a $5,000 fine in lieu of a suspension or revocation).
Say what you will about the status of the animal protection laws of Kentucky, but the legislative policy statement codified in KRS § 230.215 is unambiguous—the KHRC possesses not just the discretion, but the duty to “exclude undesirables” from this industry. Based on his admitted conduct, Mr. Crescini is one such undesirable who has no place in this industry.
Here’s hoping that the full commission agrees.
I was fortunate to attend the 16th-annual animal law conference at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, last weekend. The three-day event brought together attorneys, law students, academics and animal advocates from around the world.
The field of animal law didn’t even exist 30 or so years ago, yet today it is one of the most popular fields for law students eager to make a difference for animals. Interestingly, the conference attracted activists who will likely never see the inside of a courtroom ― they simply want to learn how the law can be used to advance the interests of animals. Oh, and the food was all vegan, which means I put on about three pounds eating baked goods. I felt like Homer Simpson at a Dunkin’ Donuts buffet.
Conference speakers included Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary, Paul Waldau of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, Joyce Tischler of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Zak Smith of the Natural Resources Defense Council and many, many more outstanding advocates.
The panel that made the biggest impression on me had to do with the state of animal law in China, which is to say none at all. Presented by Paul Littlefair of RSPCA International and Amanda Whitfort, who teaches law at the University of Hong Kong, the session covered the legal and cultural hurdles animal advocates must overcome in Asia. In mainland China, no laws exist to protect animals other than animals living in the wild. Paul Littlefair offered one example of a 22-year-old student named Liu Haiyang, who in 2002 brutally attacked bears at the Beijing Zoo with acid. Chinese officials could not charge him with cruelty to animals (since no such legislation exists in China); instead, they charged him with destruction of public property.
As Paul pointed out, a number of factors hamper the advance of animal-protection laws in China. The Chinese, first of all, regard “animal welfare” as a foreign concept incompatible with Chinese culture. They also see it as anti-human; that is, they’re reluctant to grant rights to animals when human rights are so often violated (sound familiar?). The Chinese also point out the hypocrisy inherent in working to help animals when billions of animals are slaughtered for food each year.
None of this means that animal activists should give up fighting for animals in China, of course. In fact, one bright spot Paul mentioned is that the Chinese are becoming more accustomed to having companion animals, which means they are beginning to see animals are more than simply commodities. If they can see that their dog or cat has feelings, perhaps there’s hope. That may seem like a very small advance, but it is a start.
The One Earth: Globalism & Animal Law conference was hosted by the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) of Lewis & Clark Law School.
This November 4, please vote YES! on Proposition 2.
The Standards for Confining Farm Animals Act (Prop 2) will put a stop to the practice of cramming veal calves, breeding pigs and laying hens into cages and crates so small that the animals cannot turn around. Prop 2 combats some of the worst abuses in factory farming, and abides by the principle that all animals deserve humane treatment, including those raised for food.
Here's what voting YES! on Prop 2 means:
Preventing cruelty to animals.
Calves are tethered by the neck and can barely move, pigs in severe confinement bite the metal bars of their crates, and hens get trapped and even impaled in their wire cages. We wouldn't force our pets to live in filthy, cramped cages for their whole lives, and we shouldn't force farmed animals to endure such misery.
Improving our health and food safety.
We all witnessed the cruel treatment of sick and crippled cows exposed by a Chino slaughter plant investigation this year, prompting authorities to pull meat off school menus and initiate a nationwide recall. Factory farmers have put our health at risk by allowing these terrible abuses, and now are recklessly telling us it's okay to keep animals in overcrowded, inhumane conditions.
Supporting family farmers.
California family farmers support Prop 2 because they believe food quality and safety are enhanced by more humane farming practices. The agribusiness interests opposing Proposition 2--masquerading as the deceptively named "Californians for Safe Food"--have a record of duping the public, harming animals, and polluting the environment.
Protecting air and water and safeguarding the environment.
The American Public Health Association has called for a moratorium on new factory farms because of the devastating effects these operations can have on surrounding communities. Factory farms often spread waste on the ground untreated--contaminating our waterways, lakes, groundwater, soil, and air. Environmental leaders like Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club support Prop 2.
A reasonable and common-sense reform.
Prop 2 provides ample time--until 2015--for factory farmers using these severe confinement methods to shift to more humane practices. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Oregon have passed similar laws.
Prop 2 is supported by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, the California Veterinary Medical Association and hundreds of California veterinarians; California family farmers; the Center for Food Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, the United Farm Workers Union, the ASPCA, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Farm Sanctuary; Republican and Democratic elected officials, including U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and state schools chief Jack O'Connell; Episcopal and Methodist church leaders and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference; and many others.
Join the broad coalition supporting Prop 2. Vote YES! on Prop 2 and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
Those words, written by Wendell Berry, summarize my feelings about the 16th Annual Animal Law Conference held at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, this past weekend.
I had the opportunity to spend time with two dear friends, Steve Wise and David Favre, both of whom I first met in 1981, both of whom have served on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s board of directors and both of whom have distinguished themselves as giants in the field of animal law through their law review articles and books. I also spent time with some of the second generation stars of the animal law movement: Professor Paul Waldau, Professor Rebecca Huss, who served as the Special Master in the Michael Vick case, Kathy Hessler, Nancy Perry of HSUS, and attorney/author Bruce Wagman, among others. And, I met many eager and committed law students who are attending law school in order to practice animal law in the future. Three generations of animal law enthusiasts met at the beautiful wooded campus of Lewis & Clark Law School to share our ideas, discuss the latest issues and form the bonds that will enable us to work together to protect the interests of animals.
It was an excellent conference, by any standard, with sophisticated topics and top of the line speakers. Soon, you will be able to download podcasts of the conference panels at the Center for Animal Law Studies website. (Stay tuned for details!) Lewis & Clark Law School has been a leader in animal law education since 1992, when Nancy Perry, then a law student at the school, founded the first student chapter of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Nancy and her classmates quickly followed that accomplishment with the founding of an animal law class and finally the creation of the first scholarly journal devoted to animal law issues. Each of those groundbreaking programs is still thriving and growing at Lewis & Clark. ALDF has proudly supported these efforts from the start, providing funding to print and mail the law journal and working with the students to assure a high quality conference. Pam Frasch, who was part of ALDF’s senior management staff, has taught the animal law class at Lewis & Clark for ten years.
This conference heralded an exciting new collaboration between Animal Legal Defense Fund and Lewis & Clark Law School and a new era in the field of animal law: the establishment of the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark. The center will expand the teaching of animal law far beyond what presently exists today. It will provide clinical opportunities in litigation and legislative drafting, fellowships and visiting scholar programs. Pam Frasch has transitioned from her role at ALDF to serve as the Center’s executive director, and Professor Kathy Hessler, former associate director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Conflict and Dispute Resolution at Case Western Reserve School of Law and a former board member of ALDF, will serve as the Center’s clinical director. Laura Handsel will round out the staff of the center, providing administrative support. Robert Klonoff, the dean of Lewis & Clark Law School has committed himself to help build the Center, so that Lewis & Clark will be the preferred destination for all law students who wish to study animal law. Frankly, if I were starting law school today, Lewis & Clark would be my first choice!
It has been a very special weekend. My voice is hoarse from talking to so many people in the last two days and my body is tired, but my mind is racing through “to do” lists of the many activities we are planning. I can’t wait to share with you all that the Center for Animal Law Studies, Lewis & Clark and ALDF will achieve over the next few years. Stay tuned, because we will be reporting on some very exciting developments in the near future!
Have you checked out ALDF's new merchandise designs yet? If not, now is a good time to do so! Our merchandise partner, Cafe Press, is offering FREE SHIPPING on all orders $50 or more, now until Sunday, October 19th. Use coupon code: WEEKEND50
You can choose from our classic designs like our logowear or Innocent Clients, or get tatted-up with our new tattoo inspired ALDF Sparrow, Lover Not A Fighter, and Innocent Puppy designs. Our Innocent Puppy design is also available on childrens apparel.
Whatever your flavor, take advantage of this special offer and show your support for animals with these ALDF designs.
Jamie returned to the water spigot and I prepared for my third consecutive dousing. She delights in getting a rise out of visitors by taking mouthfuls of water and spitting on them. I decided to take it as a sign of affection.
Watch this video of Jamie delighting in her water games.
Jamie is one of seven chimpanzees recently arrived at the brand new Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest (CSNW). Jamie and her six companions will live out the rest of their lives in this safe, caring and comfortable home. In August, I was visiting my good friend and colleague Sarah Baeckler, who is now the executive director of the sanctuary, and had an opportunity to visit with the chimps as well. In keeping with the desire of the sanctuary to let the chimps be chimps with limited human interference, I sat just outside the chimps’ indoor pen. I watched them play with toys, including a fire truck sent by a caring donor from Ireland, and chase each other around, reveling in their newfound space and companionship.
Also new is the chimps’ diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains -- quite a change from the monotonous “monkey chow” biscuits they were fed daily in captivity. I volunteered to prepare dinner for the seven chimps and was told to be creative. So I made them some pasta noodles with fresh coconut chunks, tomatoes and peanut butter. This was accompanied by fresh vegetables and fruit. I was informed later by the staff that the chimps loved their dinner, and that Burrito, the only male of the group, took a second bowl while making noises of delight.
The CSNW staff--Sarah; J.B. Mulcahy, director of operations; Diana Goodrich, director of outreach, and Keith LaChappelle, founding director--are among the most caring and dedicated people you could possibly meet. I left realizing the magnitude of their commitment and of the need to provide a home to the hundreds of chimps who languish in abusive or neglectful situations in cages barely big enough for them to take a step in.
ALDF is committed to working with CSNW and other sanctuaries to make sure that every chimpanzee who needs safe haven finds one.
The horror is finally over. This summer, the Animal Legal Defense Fund helped rescue hundreds of dogs and cats, who for years were hoarded, abused, and neglected at All Creatures Great and Small "shelter" in Henderson, North Carolina.
Help us continue saving animals' lives and double the impact of your support for animal protection through the Animal Legal Defense Fund's 2008 Matching Gift Challenge! Between now and November 1, every contribution ALDF receives up to $30,000 will be matched, dollar-for-dollar.
Your gift will help us to continue to systematically fight animal abuse and neglect for the animals who are so desperately in need of our protection.
After months of relentless advocacy and with the threat of an ALDF lawsuit, All Creatures Great and Small was finally shut down earlier this year and will be demolished. Hundreds of dogs and cats have been freed from the filthy "shelter" that once held them thanks to ALDF's unique expertise and exceptional team of attorneys.
Your support enables us to put all of our legal muscle into the fight to help animals like the dogs and cats abused at All Creatures Great and Small. With additional resources, we can help even more animals - and that's what makes this matching gift opportunity so exciting.
Please don't let this matching gift opportunity slip by - double the impact of your support today!
In late August, the time of year I can conjure nights spent outside as a teenager shouting with friends and feeling the steam creep off of Manhattan sidewalks, The New York Times published a story about an unexpected breed of New York denizens. “Heaven’s Angels” told the tale of a gang of animal-loving, tattooed bikers who go by the name Rescue Ink and put their substantial muscle and, presumably, their not-insubstantial powers of intimidation into protecting the city’s animals from abuse. It’s such a heartwarming feature, and even if you don’t have time to read it, I really suggest you at least check out the corresponding slideshow “Tough Guys with Puppies” where you’ll see, among other “awww” inducing sights, a 74-year old biker named Batso with a tattooed face, snuggling with a pit bull puppy.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is also getting in on the ink-for-animals act this month, with some fun new designs available at our online Café Press store. The three new designs were hand drawn by local tattoo artist Lewis Gold, and include our “Lover, Not a Fighter” rooster, a lovely sparrow holding up the “Animal Legal Defense Fund” banner, and, for the kids (human and canine), an “Always Innocent” puppy making mischief in a Radio Flyer wagon.
Whether you’re a tatted-up animal advocate yourself, or just looking for a satisfyingly subversive gift for your nieces and nephews, check out our new designs—and let us know what you think!
After a lifetime of suffering in horrific conditions on the property of convicted animal abusers in the small town of Sanford, North Carolina, a Jack Russell Terrier named Ben who was rescued by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in a groundbreaking lawsuit cruised with his Annapolis-based adoptive family in a gala fundraiser for the animal organization. Michelle and Larry Kownacki, owners of Paws pet boutique, host Ben's Cruise for Compassion fundraiser "to show their appreciation to ALDF." “We thought what better way to raise money and awareness for this worthy cause than to rent a boat and cruise around Annapolis with other animal-lovers and their dogs” explains Michelle. It was a reunion of sorts when two other dogs rescued by ALDF from the same case joined as guests on this year's cruise.
The three hour cruise on Watermark’s Harbor Queen left the Annapolis city dock on September 12th with over one hundred people aboard, and nearly as many dogs. With live entertainment by the Dan Haas Trio Band and food donated by many local businesses, all aboard enjoyed a night to remember. Prizes donated by generous merchants for the silent auction kept a good number of guests glued to the prize table on the lower level of the boat. “This year, with the help of my friend Madeline Davis, we added a pre-cruise raffle with two round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines as the grand prize. Many Annapolis visitors and those who were not able to make the cruise appreciated the opportunity to participate in the ALDF fundraiser,” states Michelle.
As a result of these fundraising efforts, a donation of over $10,500 was made to ALDF to help stop animal abuse and neglect. “Ben inspires us and makes us smile every day. His life is priceless, so it’s the least we can do to thank ALDF for all their efforts as they continue to fight for animals so they have a chance live a life they deserve,” concludes Michelle.
ALDF sends a huge thank you to Michelle, Larry, Madeline, and all who supported Ben's Third Annual Cruise for Compassion fundraiser!
The Court of Appeals for the State of Washington just released a published opinion in an important case brought by ALDF member and animal lawyer Adam Karp, and in which ALDF attorneys filed an amicus brief. The case, Sherman v. Kissinger, No. 60137-7-1 (Wash. Ct. App. Sept. 29, 2008), stemmed from the death of Ruby, a toy poodle, following an unauthorized procedure by her veterinarian. Represented by Karp, Ruby’s guardian Arlene Sherman sued the vet and the hospital, bringing claims for professional negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, conversion, trespass to chattels, breach of bailment contract, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
At issue in the appeal was whether Washington’s medical malpractice statute, chapter 7.70 RCW, applied to lawsuits involving allegations of malpractice by veterinarians. Although one might assume that applying a human health statute to veterinarians would be a good thing for animals and their guardians, in fact, the opposite is true. Chapter 7.70 establishes a number of impediments to malpractice suits, including mandatory mediation, a shorter statute of limitations, and the elimination of alternative causes of action, many of which are relied on by animal law practitioners to enhance claims on behalf of animal guardians. The Court of Appeals agreed with Sherman’s position, holding that the medical malpractice statute did not apply to veterinary malpractice suits, and that Sherman was entitled to pursue the alternative causes of action that the trial court had thrown out.
The second issue, the one on which ALDF submitted an amicus brief, was how to put a value on Ruby to compensate Sherman for her loss. ALDF argued that Ruby was a unique individual who was irreplaceable; the only way to even approach adequately compensating Sherman was to give her the special value that she placed on the dog, also known as “intrinsic value.” The defendants position, which was supported by an amicus brief from pet industry organizations including the American Kennel Club, was that Sherman was only entitled to the market value of Ruby, an amount of $100-$200. Under Washington law, an individual is entitled to the intrinsic value of her companion if she can show the animal has no market value. The court held, importantly, that the question of whether an animal has any market value is one left to the jury to decide. All the plaintiff must do is present evidence that the animal lacks a market value and a replacement value (perhaps because of her age, mixed breed status, or health), and the question goes to the jury on the animal’s value. Because juries are often sympathetic to the real value people place on their animal companions, this is a major victory for guardians.
ALDF send its hearty congratulations to Adam Karp and Arlene Sherman for this significant victory, and to Claire Davis at the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, who assisted with ALDF’s amicus brief.
While many in this country like to exalt with nationalist zeal how “advanced” our systems of government are, the sad truth is we remain far behind the curve when it comes to enshrining the protection of nature and animals in our legal system. In order to gain standing to sue in American courts, attorneys are forced to convert every assault against the Earth and its nonhuman inhabitants into an offense against human beings. This anthropocentric narcissism prevents us from addressing the injuries suffered by the Earth and animals unless these injuries happen to impinge on the interests of some human being. When we do succeed in getting standing to sue, it is premised on the aesthetic interests of the humans who view suffering animals or the tourists who enjoy recreating in wild places; the independent interests of the animals and the Earth count for nothing.
Yet while our legal system languishes in this myopic speciesism, the people of Ecuador just last week approved a sweeping new constitution that makes that country the first in the world to give legally enforceable constitutional rights to nature. The new consititutional provision states:
“Nature or Pachamama [an indigenous term for Mother Earth], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies.”
There are a few things that are especially remarkable about the Ecuadorian constitutional provision.
First, it explicitly recognizes nature in terms of indigenous worldviews, using the term “Pachamama” as well as “nature.” By invoking the indigenous term, the constitution acknowledges alternative conceptions of the Earth and our place in it. Dr. Martin Melo, an environmental attorney, stated his belief that “the new constitution reflects the traditions of indigenous peoples living in Ecuador, who see nature as a mother and call her by a proper name, Pachamama,” in contrast to the purely instrumental worldview that dominates American environmental law.
Second, the constitution not only recognizes the rights of nature, it also seems to provide a cause of action to enforce those rights, permitting “[e]very person, people, community or nationality . . . to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies.” Animal law attorneys are acutely aware of the frequency with which our animal protection laws are violated, yet we are often unable to enforce those laws. This provision seems to permit anyone to go into court to “demand” enforcement of nature’s constitutional rights.
Finally, it is very interesting to note that this provision was drafted with input from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a public interest law organization based in the U.S. When it was founded in 1995, CELDF spearheaded a domestic initiative to encourage municipalities to grant rights to nature, and now it has gone international. Several other countries have also reportedly contacted CELDF to ask for its assistance in drafting constitutional provisions for ecosystem rights. This gives hope that other U.S. non-profits, including those in the animal law realm, can work with local and indigenous activists to encourage governments to recognize the rights of nonhumans. (It should go without saying that these indigenous and local peoples must be recognized as the leaders of these reforms.)
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to be cynical. Some critics have argued that the provision will be subservient to the will of Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, who has favored extractive economic development and overridden some forms of indigenous control of the land base. And like any legal provision, the devil is in the interpretive details and the degree of respect accorded to the constitution by those in power. It remains to be seen how seriously the rights of nature will be taken by the Ecuadorian government. After all, the rights provided by the U.S. Constitution have not thus far prevented the U.S. government from denying basic decency to the people in its control.
Cyril Mychalejko’s article sums it up well: “Despite any shortcomings, the eyes of the world should stay on Ecuador . . . . If history is any indicator, Ecuadorians will fight for the Rights of Nature, with or without President Correa.”
As reported by CNN and other sources, United States District Court Judge Paul Friedman ruled yesterday that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“Fish and Wildlife Service”) may have improperly removed the Great Lakes Gray Wolves from the endangered species list. The court found that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to address critical statutory ambiguities in the Endangered Species Act in promulgating a final rule that had delisted the Great Lakes Gray Wolves. Importantly, the court not only disagreed with the agency’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, it also exercised its discretion to vacate the rule they promulgated before remanding. This means the Great Lakes Gray Wolf will remain protected while the agency reconsiders its position. A PDF copy of Judge Friedman’s opinion can be found here, and the case is entitled The Humane Society of the United States v. Kempthorne, Case No. 07-0677 (D.D.C. 2008).
The court’s decision in Kempthorne is the second recent victory for the gray wolf. Last month, the Fish and Wildlife Service was allowed to voluntarily return the Rocky Mountain gray Wolf to the endangered species list after the judge in that case had enjoined wolf hunts in several Rocky Mountain states in response to a challenge by animal rights groups to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to delist the Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf.
These are important victories not only for the gray wolf, but for endangered species more generally. In recent years the Fish and Wildlife Service had been more aggressive in delisting endangered species. According to CNN, an attorney from the Center for Biological Diversity pointed out that “[t]he Bush administration's repeated attempts to push the limits of the Endangered Species Act [toward delisting] have been decidedly rejected by the courts,” including this most recent ruling by Judge Friedman.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority to list endangered or threaten “species,” and the term “species” is defined to include a “distinct population segment” or DPS. (Op. at 1-2.) Accordingly, courts have held that the Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority to recognize that a specific DPS is endangered or threatened, and to list only that DPS as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. (Id. at 7.)
In Kempthorne, however, the issue was whether the Fish and Wildlife Service could do the opposite: create a specific DPS of an otherwise endangered species, and then enter a rule finding that such DPS should be delisted even though the “species” in general remained endangered. (Id. at 1-2, 6-7.) Specifically, in Kempthorne, the gray wolf was a listed “species.” The Fish and Wildlife Service then decided to designate a specific cluster of the gray wolf, the Great Lakes Gray Wolf, as a DPS. The Fish and Wildlife Service then found that this DPS of the gray wolf was no longer endangered or threatened and delisted it. (Id.)
The plaintiffs in Kempthorne raised several arguments as to why the Fish and Wildlife Service’s action in this regard was in error, including the argument that a DPS could not be created in order to delist that DPS under the Endangered Species Act. (Id. at 10-11.) The court found this argument dispositive because it disagreed with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination that the use of the DPS as a delisting tool was unambiguously supported by the text of the Endangered Species Act. The court rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service’s reading of the Endangered Species Act, and remanded the issue to the agency because the Endangered Species Act was, at best, ambiguous on this point. (Id. at 13-24 (discussing the text and legislative history of the Endangered Species Act with regard to this issue).) Accordingly, the court ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to “at a minimum . . . explain how its interpretation of the statue conforms to the text, structure and legislative history of the Endangered Species Act; how its interpretation is consistent with judicial interpretations of the Endangered Species Act (if there are any on point); and how its interpretation serves the Endangered Species Act’s myriad policy objectives. It must also address any legitimate concerns that its interpretation could undermine those policy objectives.” (Id. at 24.)
Thus, the next step lies with the Fish and Wildlife Service to justify its interpretation of the Endangered Species Act. But in light of the court’s decision, it will be difficult for the Fish and Wildlife Service to justify its policy of delisting subsets of endangered species under an act that was designed to protect species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Hopefully this time the Fish and Wildlife Service will actually consider that purpose before reaching a decision on the gray wolf.
I’ve decided that I’m going to be like Angelina Jolie. [If you’ve seen what I look like, you’re likely asking “how ya gonna pull that off?”] What I mean is, in terms of politics. Remember a few weeks ago when she responded to reporters’ requests to reveal which presidential candidate she would vote for, and she demurred, saying she was waiting to hear the candidates’ position on the issue closest to her heart--international refugees and orphans--before deciding? Now, I don’t believe Angelina is a single-issue voter, and neither am I, but let’s just say we are for today, in case the media comes clamoring to our doorstep again. My heartfelt issue? Animal welfare of course. Where do the candidates stand on protecting animals and their habitats?
Barak Obama’s position is basically outlined here, under the Issues section of his website in a subsection called Supporting the Rights and Traditions of Sportsmen:
Here you can see his take on gun control, hunting and conserving wildlife and fish, national forests, wetlands, and climate change. (PDF)
John McCain covers the same territory as Obama but in 2 separate sections of his website, one called Natural Heritage and one called Climate Change.
Perhaps the most helpful comparison may be found on the Humane USA website, which has a scorecard containing the above Senators’ votes on animal-related legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate during the past year. Humane USA bills itself as the nation’s largest animal protection political action committee.
However you vote, inform yourself with the facts that matter most to you, and vote. Now, I must touch up my lipstick in case the media comes calling, mistaking me for Angie.
Like so many of us, I opened my newspaper this weekend to read in shock about the suicide of noted author David Foster Wallace. I wouldn’t presume to comment on the life or the written achievements of a man widely considered one of the literary geniuses of his generation, other than to express my own sadness at the tragedy of his premature death. I’ll echo the sentiment of a radio commentator I heard memorializing him earlier this week, who suggested that when such a brilliant mind takes his own life, the rest of us are left to wonder, darkly—“what did he know that we don’t?”
Many in both culinary and animal protection circles will remember Wallace’s essay “Consider the Lobster,” in which he explored the moral issues raised by inflicting suffering on even the primitive lobster—“basically giant sea-insects”—for the sake of a palate preference. In 2003, Wallace had been sent by Gourmet magazine to cover the Maine Lobster Festival. However, instead of reporting back solely on the myriad ways of preparing lobster and serving it on Styrofoam trays to 80,000 tourists hopped up on melted butter, his essay treaded unapologetically into much deeper waters:
So then here is a question that’s all but unavoidable at the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker, and may arise in kitchens across the U.S.: Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure? A related set of concerns: Is the previous question irksomely PC or sentimental? What does “all right” even mean in this context? Is it all just a matter of individual choice?Wallace used his characteristic candor to pull-no-punches with his flawless prose, even as he recognized that his take on the subject was likely to unsettle the unsuspecting Gourmet reader:
The more important point here, though, is that the whole animal-cruelty-and-eating issue is not just complex, it’s also uncomfortable. It is, at any rate, uncomfortable for me, and for just about everyone I know who enjoys a variety of foods and yet does not want to see herself as cruel or unfeeling. As far as I can tell, my own main way of dealing with this conflict has been to avoid thinking about the whole unpleasant thing. I should add that it appears to me unlikely that many readers of gourmet wish to think hard about it, either, or to be queried about the morality of their eating habits in the pages of a culinary monthly. Since, however, the assigned subject of this article is what it was like to attend the 2003 MLF, and thus to spend several days in the midst of a great mass of Americans all eating lobster, and thus to be more or less impelled to think hard about lobster and the experience of buying and eating lobster, it turns out that there is no honest way to avoid certain moral questions.His voice will be missed by so many, including the many whose eyes were first opened to considering the ethical meaning of our interactions with even the maybe-not-so-simple-after-all lobster. You can read the full text of David Foster Wallace’s essay “Consider the Lobster” here.
Next month, Animal Legal Defense Fund staff will be meeting law students at the Equal Justice Works conference in Washington, DC. Equal Justice Works (EJW) is a pioneering organization founded by law students and dedicated to “creating a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice.” (That’s a mission ALDF can get behind!) But, until recently, that vision had not included the concept of justice for animals.
In 2001, when she was in law school, our own Pam Hart, now the director of ALDF’s Animal Law Program, had sought a fellowship through EJW to work to find ways to provide shelter to victims of domestic violence and their companion animals. At the time, the project was considered not focused enough on human beings.
Four years later, in 2005, Pam Hart and I attended the EJW conference and hosted a table for ALDF. It was the first time an animal protection group had attended. Our goal was to offer new opportunities to EJW for students whose own vision of justice included nonhuman animals. Our reception was a mix of enthusiasm from students at the event and some puzzlement from many of the other organizations in attendance.
One student, Tom Linney, had never heard of animal law before talking to us. What he heard made him very excited. So excited that he went back to his school, the University of Texas School of Law, formed a student chapter of ALDF and successfully petitioned the school to add an animal law class too.
With that kind of potential, it’s a given that ALDF will be back at EJW next month. Like EJW, ALDF is committed to mobilizing the next generation of lawyers to work for the cause of equal justice. For us, of course, that vision includes justice for nonhuman animals. Our hope is that we can provide opportunities -- eventually to include paid fellowships -- for those law students who share our vision.
With very little fanfare in the rest of the U.S., Puerto Rico has enacted a landmark animal protection law, based, in large part, directly on Animal Legal Defense Fund's Model Laws!
Included are felonies for neglect, abandonment, cruelty and fighting; statutory recognition of the link between cruelty to animals and violence toward humans through increased penalties for those with prior animal abuse, domestic violence, child/elder abuse, or who commit the acts in front of minors; "abuse" includes emotional harm; protective orders; duty to enforce -- and much more.
Also, an interesting aside -- this bill sailed through their legislature. It was introduced in May -- in the Governor's hands in early July -- signed into law and went in effect last month. That feat, in and of itself, is very remarkable.
Until we receive the officially-translated version, below is a draft overview of many of the new provisions. Still seemingly absent from the law, are mental health, better cost management/mitigation, possession bans and forfeiture provisions. That said, a very big advance for Puerto Rico.
Here's to Puerto Rico!
Overview of Act 154 (P S. 2552)
* = directly from (or closely based on) ALDF Model Laws
- Comprehensive definitions, including the establishment of minimum care standards*:
- Quantity and quality of food sufficient to allow the growth or maintenance of normal body weight
- Open access to adequate water of a safe temperate and in sufficient quantity to meet the needs of an animal
- Access to a barn, house or other structure that can protect the animal from inclement weather and a place to sleep that is protected from cold, excessive heat and humidity
- Veterinary care deemed necessary by a reasonably prudent person
- Continuous access to an area of adequate space necessary for the health of the animal, of a suitable temperature, adequate ventilation, regular cycles of light, an environment free and clear of excess waste or other pollutants that may affect the health of the animal
- Definition and use of "guardian" = a person who has control, custody, possession or title of an animal*
- Definitions for "physical injury" "serious physical injury" "torture" "physical trauma"*
- Definition of "abuse" includes any act or omission whereby a person, whether or not the guardian, puts an animal at risk of physical or emotional harm
- Duty to respond/enforce: Includes an order that municipalities must comply with the law and give "priority attention" to cases of abuse and neglect. Cities, in coordination with the territorial government, must respond to cases of abuse, and seize and care for abused. Joint planning services, public education and information, training of law enforcement are also all mandated.
- Duty on municipalities to respond to animals in emergency situations.
- Emergency planning: Municipalities shall, within one year's time, develop management plans to deal with animals in emergencies
- Coordination and cooperation with NGOs: Government and citizens at every level are encouraged to coordinate and cooperate with NGOs in planning, development and services related to reducing animal abuse and thwarting community violence.
- Animal abandonment is established as a crime* and is punishable as a 4th degree felony carrying a maximum sentence of 3 years imprisonment and fines -- and a 3rd degree felony with a maximum of 8 years imprisonment and fines if the animal suffers severe physical injury or death as a result.
- Confinement of animals without adequate space or with restriction of movement is an offense punishable by fines and a maximum of 90 days on a first offense and up to 6 months on any additional offenses
- Animal Neglect is established as a crime and means a failure to provide minimum care.* It is punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Animal Neglect also includes a duty of a motorist to assist and notify law enforcement when an animal is struck by their vehicle.*
- Aggravated Animal Neglect is established as a crime and means a failure to provide minimum care to an animal resulting in severe physical injury or death of the animal.* It is punishable by a maximum of three years imprisonment and fines.
- Animal Abuse II means to cause any physical injury or suffering to an animal.* It is punishable as a 4th degree felony with a maximum sentence of 3 years imprisonment and fines. Notwithstanding this sentence, if an offender has a prior record of animal abuse, domestic violence, child abuse or elder abuse, or commits the offense in the presence of a minor, the penalty is a 3rd degree felony with a maximum sentence of 8 years.*
- Animal Abuse I means causing severe physical injury or death of an animal.* It is punishable as a 3rd degree felony with a maximum sentence of 8 years imprisonment and fines. Notwithstanding this sentence, if an offender has a prior record of animal abuse, domestic violence, child abuse or elder abuse, or commits the offense in the presence of a minor, the penalty is a 2nd degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years.*
- Aggravated Animal Abuse means to torture an animal or kill it under circumstances demonstrating serious malice or willful disregard for life.* It is punishable as an aggravated 2nd degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and fines. Notwithstanding this sentence, if an offender has a prior record of animal abuse, domestic violence, child abuse or elder abuse, or commits the offense in the presence of a minor, the penalty is a 2nd degree felony without the possibility of parole.*
- Animal Fighting, including among other things, possession of fighting animals and equipment and spectatorship (but not including cock fighting) is a 2nd degree felony, however, if an offender has a prior record of animal abuse, domestic violence, child abuse or elder abuse, or commits the offense in the presence of a minor, or if as a result of the fight, an animal dies, the penalty is a 2nd degree felony without the possibility of parole.* In addition, all animals, equipment, material and/or money seized are confiscated. Seized fighting animals may be euthanized if deemed hazardous, or delivered to a shelter for the possibility of adoption.
- Inhumane Transport of Animals is an offense punishable by a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment and fines.
- Animal Abuse by Legal Entities is punishable with the same penalties as for individuals. In addition, the owner of a company convicted may not engage in any future management of animals.
- Animal Poisoning is a punishable as offense, 4th degree felony or 3rd degree felony depending upon the circumstances.
- Use of Traps or Devices to Capture Animals without taking necessary steps to prevent an injury or unnecessary suffering of an animal is an offense on first offense and a 4th degree felony on subsequent offenses. Notwithstanding, if an animal is severely injured or dies from the trap, the penalty is a 4th degree felony on first offense
- Euthanasia guidelines: AVMA guidelines and by a veterinarian or adequately trained staff; animal should be "cared for though out the process" and death must be certified by a vet. Violation of this is a 3rd degree felony.
- Protective Orders must be given by courts when requested by petitioner in domestic violence cases. They may also be issued to protect shelters holding animals seized pursuant to abuse charges.
- Seizure of Animals: Animals may be seized when a person is charged with animal abuse.
- Animal Breeder Regulation
- Reimbursement of Costs/Lien: Costs of care for a seized animals is a lien on the animal and must be satisfied before an animal is returned to an owner following an acquittal or dismissal of charges.* If such costs are not satisfied within 30 days following the resolution of the criminal case, the animal is forfeited. Costs may be still be collected in such cases, through a separate civil action.
- Experimentation on Live Animals: Restrictions on scientific research at universities -- "absolutely essential" criteria; experiments are prohibited for educational purposes at the elementary, intermediate and higher levels.
- Pay Fines or Go to Jail: If an offender cannot pay a fine imposed, they must go to jail and earn an offset of $50 per day served
As you may know from my biography on this blog (which features a picture of me with Dylan, a precocious one-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever), my girlfriend Kirsten and I are proud parents of one dog. But we always wanted Dylan to have another dog to play with, and Kirsten has always wanted a beagle, so we decided to find Dylan’s beagle-brother.
Kirsten and I were limiting our search for Dylan’s beagle-brother to rescue organizations. There are many beagles available for adoption at shelters--especially in light of flooding in the Midwest and current economic conditions in general--and we wanted to save one of those rather than creating more demand for breeder-raised beagles. We began our search on petfinder.com, a website that lists dogs (and other animals) that are available from many rescue organizations all over the country. We looked at pictures of potential puppies for weeks before finally deciding to get serious about adopting and contacting one specific organization when we saw an adorable picture of a beagle named Lil’ Lincoln.
Lincoln was being cared for by a great group of volunteers at BREW Beagles. BREW was founded in 1999 and is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to rescuing and re-homing beagles, primarily saving beagles from kill shelters. BREW’s volunteers provide foster homes to these beagles until they find their “forever family.” BREW also does an excellent job of supporting new and potential families by providing them with an adoption counselor that guides them through the adoption approval process, including answering questions. BREW also provides a supportive community to help adoptive families after they have adopted. Kirsten and I found this process to be smooth and painless, as well as very helpful.
We were approved by BREW, but we found yet another puppy that we fell in love with on petfinder.com. This beagle (or more likely beagle-mix) was available from a local rescue organization that saved him and his liter-mates from a kill shelter. The rescue group, named Animal House Shelter, Inc., did not know the background on this beagle, but that didn’t matter to us. We submitted an online application and were called back the next day and told to come out over the weekend and meet the puppy that we had been looking at. We all piled in the car on Saturday morning, including Mr. Dylan (who had the ultimate authority to approve or disprove of his beagle-brother to be).
Although Dylan was a bit tentative at first about the little guy that wanted to play with him, the two quickly hit it off and we decided to adopt the puppy that was to be named Watson. One of the volunteer vets at Animal House Shelter made sure that Dylan and Watson were compatible (and they passed with flying colors), and we were on our way to having a new member of the household. We brought Watson home that same day and he quickly adjusted to his new environment (including the quick realization that all toys, even the really little ones, were going to be Dylan’s toys until he got bored with them!).
In short, I wanted to write this post to share our experience in adopting a rescue puppy so that people would know how easy the process can be. As we quickly discovered, there are many great dogs (and other animals) looking to be rescued and to find their “forever family.”
The Third Circuit all but dares the Supreme Court to update First Amendment jurisprudence, but will the Feds petition for Cert?
Back in 1999, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, H.R. 1887 (now codified at 18 USC § 48) creating the federal crime of “Depiction of Animal Cruelty.” This law was originally intended to address the problems commonly associated with identifying and prosecuting the producers of “crush videos.” The “test case” as to the constitutionality of this law has finally worked its way up from the trenches and into an en banc opinion from the Third Circuit, United States v. Stevens. In light of the legislative history of H.R. 1887, the facts of this case are quite unfortunate, making the holding in Stevens anything but surprising. In short, Stevens was indicted for three counts of knowingly selling depictions of animal cruelty. In all three counts, the depictions were of pit bulls either fighting each other or in one case being trained for “hog-dog fighting” (the pit-on-pit fights were filmed back in the 1960s and 70s from within the United States, while the more recent footage was from dogfights held in Japan)—no crush videos involved. Stevens advertised these videos for sale in Sporting Dog Journal and was ultimately sentenced to 37 months of prison after a federal jury unanimously convicted him on each of the three counts. The defendant appealed the US District Court’s refusal to dismiss the indictment on defendant’s claim that 18 USC § 48 violated the First Amendment.
The majority opinion opens with this gem: “The Supreme Court has not recognized a new category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment in over twenty-five years. Nonetheless, in this case the Government invites this Court to take just such a step in order to uphold the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 48 and to affirm Robert Stevens’ conviction [footnotes omitted].” The majority opinion ultimately agreed with the defendant, striking 18 USC § 48 as a violation of the First Amendment.
If the facts in Stevens weren’t so weak, I would be the first to argue that the Government should file a petition for certiorari, but on these facts, and this record, despite the best efforts of the good people in the U.S. Attorney’s office (Western District, Pennsylvania) one must hold firm and wait for one or two more Circuits to rule, perhaps generating a split of opinion among the Circuits on a case with better facts than in Stevens. Otherwise, it’s time to go back to Congress for a redraft. The 90-day clock on the Government’s Petition for certiorari is running (Rule 41 of Federal Rules Appellate Procedure). Odds are, the Stevens opinion stands… For now.
In June, a team of New York and New Jersey authorities rescued 16 pit bulls and arrested seven men after raiding a Bronx neighborhood dogfighting ring allegedly run by defendant Alexander Estephane. For one embattled dog, rescue came to late despite veterinary intervention. The men face felony and misdemeanor charges of animal fighting as well as gambling.
If you are local resident or plan on being in the Bronx area, please show support your community and the prosecution by attending court proceedings on Monday, September 8th. The Court opens at 9:30am, however, no set start times are
scheduled for individual hearings. (Always contact the Court to confirm
court dates as they are subject to change.)
Bronx Supreme Court
12th Judicial District
265 East 161st Street
Bronx, NY 10451
718-618-3100 (choose 7)
Additional court information online at: http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/webcrim_attorney/Login
Docket Number #02688-2008
Criminal Case Numbers are #36620C-2008 through #36626C-2008
Thank you for all that you do for animals! Your efforts truly make a difference!
Please spread the word to others and let us know if you attend the hearing. We would love to know how many people attend and show their support. Thank you!
In June Andrew Brighten and I packed up our houses and our spouses and headed to Cotati, California for a summer litigation clerkship with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Andy traveled from Montreal, Canada; I flew from Portland, Oregon.
Throughout the summer we learned a great deal from attorneys Joyce Tischler and Matthew Liebman. Joyce lent us wonderful insight into where the animal protection law movement has been and where it is headed next. Matthew, a blue book king, ensured neither of us ever misplaced a comma when we cited cases, and exposed us to the way ALDF strategically builds cases against animal abusers.
Andy and I also taught each other quite a bit. We both ran our schools’ Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters last year. Soon after meeting, we discovered we had a lot to talk about regarding our SALDF chapters and our animal law courses. At the conference table during lunch, in the car on the way to hearings and in our sunny corner office, we shared our experiences and discussed the common challenges we face. The lesson we learned is that animal law students need to be connected and stay connected.
Andy and I go to very different law schools when it comes to animal law. McGill University’s Faculty of Law is one of the first Canadian law schools to offer an animal law course, and its SALDF chapter is relatively young. On the other hand, Lewis and Clark Law School has a well established animal law program. We have an animal law journal, a clinic, and the school offers a few animal law classes each semester. Nevertheless, our SALDF chapters face similar challenges. For example, both our chapters had internal debates about the role veganism should play in the group. Both chapters also struggled to find a balance between working with other student groups while also competing against them for students’ time and attention.
Another frequent topic of conversation related to what we should do for animals when we graduate. In Canada there are virtually no full-time animal lawyers and few obvious jobs waiting for students interested in animal law upon graduation. In the States the field is growing rapidly but there remain very few full time jobs for new attorneys in animal protection law. So, what should we do with our enthusiasm for animal protection and our education in animal protection law? For both of us, until graduation, this question will remain unanswered. Yet, I am sure we are not the only two animal law students holding our breath in anticipation. And, it is always encouraging to hash out ideas with another person in a similar situation.
In the meantime, our conversations did result in several concrete suggestions for meeting some of the challenges discussed over the summer. For instance, Andy showed me that internet social networking sites such as Facebook can be used to invite other students to SALDF events and to keep SALDF members connected over the summer and after graduation. I, in turn, suggested that members of McGill’s SALDF attend the Animal Law Conference at Lewis and Clark Law School, which will be Oct. 17-19 this year. The conference is the perfect time to meet other students, learn about a wide range of issues in animal protection law and hear from the leaders of the movement.
Andy and I learned how useful it can be to connect with another animal law student. We would like to encourage other students to reach out to each other. The animal law student experience is relatively new. Just seven years ago, there were only twelve SALDF chapters; now there are 125. To keep up the momentum that students before us created, we need to sustain a dialogue and support each others’ efforts to educate fellow students about animal protection issues, develop animal law programs at our schools and advance the interests of animals in the courts. Social networking sites and animal law conferences can help animal law students connect. Moreover they can encourage animal law students to stay connected. So, if you are a student, please consider going online to find other students interested in animal law, and come to the conference at Lewis and Clark this fall! We would love to meet you.
Despite the beautiful weather and the 72 languid hours spread out before us like a beckoning beach blanket on fine white sand…it’s a bittersweet holiday, Labor Day. I keep hearing talk about “the last weekend of summer.” Well people, I’m hearing it, but I’m not believing it. Isn’t one of the great joys of not being in school not having to deal with the crushing psychic blow of going back to school? It’s still 90 degrees, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and if I see Halloween decorations for sale at Walgreen’s any time in the next month, so help me I’m going to shred them to pieces right there in the shampoo aisle.
In addition to eating perfectly ripe tomatoes, sharpening your pencils, and watching football (so I’m told), a lot of people will also be hitting the movie theaters this holiday weekend. For me this will include a second viewing of Woody Allen’s new movie, which I am not being paid to promote here. (I just love Woody Allen, and you should too. If you don’t, please post a comment explaining your utter lack of any sense of humor or human poignancy. Really, I want to understand). But I’d also like to suggest another “movie” you should check out, if you haven’t had the chance to see it already—a little video about the work and history of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, featuring interviews with our Executive Director Stephen Wells, Founder and General Counsel Joyce Tischler, and Chief Outside Litigation Counsel Bruce Wagman.
Watch it on YouTube
It’s a mini-journey through the history and work of ALDF, and at about 5 minutes running time, it’s appropriate for even the least committal among you. It also won’t cost you $10 or ask you to purchase a $7 tub of popcorn (though if you’re so inclined, be our guest). I’ve watched it many times, and it still gives me that warm-all-over feeling. As a member of ALDF, you can take pride in knowing that your generous support makes all of our work for animals possible.
Now just keep the sunscreen off your keyboard, and enjoy.
When Leona Helmsley left a mission statement directing that the bulk of her $5-8 billion estate be used to help dogs, do you think she understood just how desperately that money is needed?
Last week, ALDF filed two lawsuits in Kentucky, where the situation for lost and stray dogs and cats is abysmal. Kentucky’s Humane Shelter Law mandates that the counties provide basic care for homeless animals, but our investigation shows that many of Kentucky’s counties are failing to provide even the most minimal care. Robertson County’s “shelter” is a primitive wooden shack, where dogs are forced to live in their own waste, in the extreme heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter, on dirt floors that flood during rainstorms.
And, here’s what one witness said of the “shelter” in Estill County: “As an animal lover involved with fostering and rescuing dogs from the Estill County facility, I’m sickened to see mother dogs struggling to keep fleas out of their eyes while nursing their pups on the facility’s filthy concrete floors. Bluntly, it is a holding tank until death or the rescuers arrive…whichever comes first. But, it is by no means a shelter of any kind.”
We’ve heard reports of other counties in Kentucky, in which there is no building, not even a shack, to house the animals and no staff to care for them. Lost or stray dogs are picked up, shot in the head and discarded. That’s it. End of discussion. Large dogs, small dogs, ugly dogs, cute dogs, dogs who would lick the face of any comers—it doesn’t matter; all of them come to the same abrupt end: a bullet to the skull.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Boom… dead; tossed into the pile. What does that say about our society?
This is not some far off third world country. It’s Kentucky and that’s just one state out of the fifty!
What if there was money to build fully functioning animal shelters in Kentucky and staff them with people who know how to humanely treat and care for stray and lost animals, how to provide them with appropriate medical care, spay and neuter them, and evaluate potential new homes? What if there was money to pay volunteer coordinators to organize people from the community to help clean, groom, walk and socialize these animals, so they would be ready for new homes? How would this impact the entire community, which could now take pride in how it treats its neediest members. It’s obvious how it would impact the dogs.
Do you think Leona knew? And if she did, will those who now control her fortune use it in a way that honors her wishes?
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is filing concurrent lawsuits in two Kentucky counties today, taking the counties to task for failing to provide basic, humane conditions for stray dogs and cats, as mandated by Kentucky’s Humane Shelter Law.
What should be places of refuge for homeless animals are more like filthy prisons. Robertson County’s Mt. Olivet “shelter” is a primitive wooden shack where dogs endure searing heat in summer and freezing temperatures in the winter and lie amidst their own excrement on dirt floors that flood during rainstorms.
Angelika Kasey, who brought her concerns about violations at the Estill County shelter to ALDF, describes seeing filth, flea and tick infestations, and contaminated drinking water left for the dogs, who are rounded up and euthanized every Thursday.
Stray and abandoned cats fare no better. In Robertson County, the county refuses to allow the dog warden to take in cats, and homeless cats are not provided for in any way. At the Estill County shelter, cats are euthanized regardless of whether they might be lost family pets or healthy strays who would be suitable candidates for adoption.
I have very sad news to share from the federal judiciary: we recently lost one of the most compassionate and just judges to ever grace the bench. The Honorable Warren J. Ferguson of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit passed away in late June at the age of 87.
I had the honor of clerking for Judge Ferguson during the 2006-2007 term, right before I started at ALDF. Although many clerks’ relationships with their judges are exceedingly formal, Judge Ferguson (or just “Judge” as he insisted we call him) treated everyone in his chambers as if we were not only colleagues, but family. We had lunch with Judge on a daily basis, discussing everything from politics to college football to stories of Judge’s childhood in the tiny town of Eureka, Nevada, including stories about his childhood companions Minnie (a cat) and Jiggs (a dog).
Judge Ferguson’s warmth and compassion were not restricted to those in his immediate presence. His opinions consistently and proudly championed the rights of oppressed groups, including the poor and working class, the disabled, racial and religious minorities, women, immigrants, Vietnam war veterans, children, indigent criminal defendants, and threatened wildlife. Although Judge Ferguson’s obituaries highlighted his monumental decisions in cases involving the National Basketball Association and Betamax, I suspect he took equal, if not greater, pride in the “smaller” cases that had life-altering effects for overlooked members of society: the amnesty cases, the child custody cases, the disability rights cases.
These cases defined Judge Ferguson as a jurist, but also as a person. His philosophy on judging was fairly straightforward: judges should do justice, not merely administer law as dispassionate bureaucrats. He was what animal rights lawyer Steven Wise refers to as a “Precedent (Principles) Judge.” Such judges “believe that precedents lay down not narrow rules, but broad principles, and that it is these broad principles, and not the narrow rules, that they should follow and apply directly to the facts of a case.” STEVEN M. WISE, RATTLING THE CAGE: TOWARD LEGAL RIGHTS FOR ANIMALS 97 (2000). Judge Ferguson never lost sight of the basic values that are supposed to animate the law: principles of equality, fairness, due process, and, yes, compassion.
This is the exact type of judge that we in the animal law movement need. We need judges who will consider our treatment of animals in light of these guiding principles, judges who are willing to ask fundamental questions about the injustice of denying the inherent worth of animals and the inequality in treating chimpanzees or dolphins differently than we do humans with identical capacities. Indeed, as Wise observes, unquestioned fidelity to the letter of the law at the expense of its spirit “blindly perpetuates the most pernicious and invidious biases of which we humans are capable.” Id. at 116.
Of course, I can’t speak for Judge Ferguson on any of these issues, and although he often asked me about animal rights issues, I wouldn’t presume to know his stance on any of the pressing questions in animal law. But I can say that he was the kind of judge who would have at least been open to these types of questions of fairness, equality, and justice as they relate to other animals.
So, as if the sadness of losing Judge Ferguson as a friend and mentor weren’t crushing enough on a personal level, losing him as a judge will be just as devastating to all those oppressed groups whose rights he upheld. Judge Ferguson will be sorely missed, but his legacy will continue to inspire.
This is it! The 3rd Annual Little Ben’s Big “Cruise for Compassion” Fundraiser to benefit Animal Legal Defense Fund
Who is Ben you ask? Ben is a little Jack Russell terrier, who was rescued along with over 325 other dogs from a puppy mill/hoarder that had them “living” in unthinkable circumstances. This is one of many court cases initiated by ALDF where they speak on behalf of the animals. Thanks to ALDF, Ben’s court case in Sanford, NC against the Woodleys was won so he and all his former fur friends now live in homes with love. My husband and I are the lucky ones to have this little guy in our lives. His soulful eyes and learned toy-tossing energy bursts with sound effects inspire us every day. My mother says he hit “heaven on earth”, as we own a pet boutique where he tests toys, treats and beds regularly now.
So back to the Cruise Fundraiser in Ben’s name. We (me, my husband Larry and our good friend and animal advocate Madeline Davis) host this fundraiser as our heartfelt thanks to Animal Legal Defense Fund for all they do improve the lives of animals. For those local to Annapolis, Maryland, consider joining us on the Harbor Queen with your dog for an evening of fun on Friday, September 12. Boarding begins at 7 PM and we depart the Annapolis City Dock around 8 PM. We’ll have you back by 10 PM to get a good night’s sleep. Tickets are only $49 and include a live band, complimentary finger foods, cash bar and one of the most amazing Silent Auctions! ALL proceeds go to Animal Legal Defense Fund.
For those of you not local or local to the Chesapeake Bay area, there’s also a “Go Cruising” Raffle that will provide the winner with 2 round-trip tickets to Cruise the Air with Southwest Airlines anywhere they fly! Tickets are good for a year and don’t have any blackout dates. We all know that everyone wins though, because the animals win when all the proceeds of this Raffle go to ALDF. Tickets are only $15 for 1 or 2 for $25 and can be easily purchased online when you visit www.pawspetboutique.com. Simply go to “for dogs”, “for cats” or “just for you” on the site and you’ll see a photo of Ben in his Annapolis bandana with a “Ben’s Raffle” headline. He’ll take you in to this secure site to buy tickets to help ALDF. You can also call in your raffle ticket request by calling our boutique at 410.263.8683.
Ben says thank YOU and thank you ALDF for helping the animals. We are all very, very grateful.
Make a tail wag, Michelle…AKA Ben’s Mom
I think I’ve just had a little taste of what mothers of juvenile delinquents must feel like.
While on a regular noontime walk with his doggie friend Eve, my canine “child,” Connor, became a little too exuberant with his herding dog behavior. Connor and Eve’s normal M.O. is the following: her dad throws a stick for her, and Connor herds Eve as she runs after it. This includes chasing her, getting up along side her and lightly nipping at her rear end. Occasionally, she has barked at him when he gets a little too rough, but as far as I can remember (although I do admit to living in a cloud of denial), there has never been any bloodshed.
That is, until last week. On this particular day, he was running at top speed, and nipped at her side as he flew past her. The problem this time? It seems his tooth caught on her skin, ripping a hole in her side as the force of his speed took part of her skin with him. Her injury required immediate veterinary attention, including four staples and antibiotics.
Talk about being mortified beyond belief. And oh, did I mention that Eve is our Executive Director’s companion animal? Oops.
Yes it was kind of a fluke, in a way. But I also think it was bound to happen. I have allowed, and sometimes even encouraged, Connor’s herding behavior for the last few years, thinking it was “cute.” The last couple weeks (or has it been even longer?) I noticed he seemed a lot rougher with Eve. And now, the guilt is pretty much eating me alive. I saw the warning signs and yet, I didn’t do anything.
I feel badly for Eve, first and foremost. She braved her veterinary treatment with only local anesthesia and reportedly handled it like a trooper (her dad didn’t want to risk putting her under general anesthesia, a wise choice). However, her first night was a rough one due to her discomfort. The next day, she chewed on one of the staples, so her dad had to take her back to the vet to have that fixed. Now she must wear an Elizabethan collar (E-collar for short, or as many people call it, a lampshade), so she won’t disturb the wound. She looks completely pathetic with it on, which only adds to my guilt.
I also feel terrible for her dad. Being his assistant, I know all about his incredibly tight and busy schedule, and I know he does not have even one minute to be running to the vet clinic or dealing with wound care. My guilt was somewhat assuaged when he let me pay for the first vet visit, and when he said I could bring her back to the vet to have her staples removed in a couple weeks. However, I know that his time is a precious commodity, and time spent worrying about her and keeping her from further injuring herself is unpleasant, to say the least.
Additionally, I feel I have done a huge disservice to my dog. Connor is an intense member of the canine community, and his intensity caused a lot of problems (too many to mention here) when we first adopted him. We took him to numerous dog training classes, had many behavior consultations at the shelter where we adopted him, and in general, worked very hard to help him become a relatively well-adjusted, (mostly) polite member of doggie society. He probably would have been returned to the shelter and euthanized if he had gone with most other people. The problem is, I took great pride in that fact, to the point where I became too relaxed. Now, Eve is suffering for it, and I also worry about how unfair I’ve been to Connor, encouraging an instinctual behavior that has now gotten him into trouble. This isn’t even a little bit his fault; it’s all on me.
A coworker said that these things sometimes happen, and I should look at it as a learning experience, make adjustments so it never happens again, and move on. The “moving on” part has proved to be a bit of a challenge, psychologically speaking, but I am trying to take her other advice. Connor and Eve will no longer play together off leash, as it is now crystal clear that his herding instinct is too ingrained in him when he is with her. (Interestingly, he doesn’t try to herd any other dogs, probably because he senses they’re not as tolerant as Eve.) We have also decided to sign Connor up for a refresher training class. Dogs like him become bored easily and will create a job for themselves if one isn’t provided for them. Training can help relieve some of that boredom and appropriately channel their busy energy, and has the added benefit of improving the human-canine relationship.
And most important of all, I will stop congratulating myself that I turned his life around, and instead focus on becoming more vigilant. He still has behavioral tendencies that must be closely managed, and it took this experience to wake me up out of my complacency. I’m only glad Eve’s injury isn’t worse, and that her guardian is an incredibly understanding and forgiving person.
So, here’s to our “juvenile delinquents” becoming good canine citizens…and to us parents, as we (painfully) learn from our mistakes.
For those of you who have been unlucky enough to have your dog seriously injure a human or animal and are now faced with civil or criminal action, ALDF’s website has some good advice; click on the following links:
What to Do if Your Dog is in Danger of Being Declared Vicious or If Your Dog Has Bitten Someone Who is Now Suing You
How to Find an Attorney to Help You With Your Animal-related Issues
Also, the following link provides an excellent summary of herding dog behavior and the unique challenges one potentially faces when living with such a dog: Herding Dog Heritage
Last week well-traveled New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof copped to being a hypocrite in a column about farm animals’ rights (or as I say “plights”) because he both enjoys eating animal products and desires to see animals treated humanely, including those eventually slaughtered for food. I know he’s certainly not alone in feeling guilty about this incongruity, and as I thought about this more I began to wonder about how I felt about this rarely admitted hypocrisy within those who are gaining awareness of animals’ suffering but stuck in old habits. I learned my feelings are mixed, flip-floppy, complicated.
Surely much good work has been done on behalf of animals by people who eat them, and yet aren’t these same folks adding to the problem by contributing to the market demand for meat? Does the fact that folks like Kristof, who openly admit to being inconsistent, mean we should discount or dismiss their work? Or should we acknowledge their honesty and human frailty in the face of ethical dilemmas and embrace their ability to help craft a better tomorrow for animals? How many thousands of people will read and be influenced by his column, maybe not today but over time, partly because they can relate to Kristof’s conundrum?
And what if those of us doing animal protection work call him out on his hypocrisy? Do we have an obligation to do so? Will we lose credibility and the chance to later convince others to adopt more ethical eating habits by castigating Kristoff--and by extension his like-minded conflicted readers--by attacking them at the beginning of their path to an eventual animal-free diet? If the answers are yes, yes, and yes, should we do so anyway? What is the risk and the net cost?
How ironic then that on the same day Kristof’s column ran came news from the New Jersey Supreme Court, who ruled that the standards of care for domestic livestock issued by the state’s Agriculture Department were not humane and failed to comply with a legislative mandate to create humane standards. The Ag Department basically tried to get by with having all “routine husbandry practices” suffice as legally sufficient standards.
This ruling is unprecedented in the U.S., and was about 8 years in the making. It was also unanimous, and while it was not a complete victory, specifically striking down tail-docking but not addressing downers and gestation crates, the court seemed to leave the door open to doing so later if presented with more evidence on these practices. Even those justices have drawn a line in the legal sand between what they find permissible and abhorrent. Can the greater public be far behind?
Working at ALDF, or any organization dedicated to protecting
animals, it is a hazard of the job that you hear a lot of stories about
the many horrible ways some people treat animals. From animal fighting
to factory farming the ways in which people can cause animals to suffer
can sometimes seem endless. But, there is a flip side to that. People
who care about animals like we and our wonderful supporters do,
exchange a lot of heartwarming stories about how people are doing their
best to make this world a safer and more compassionate place for
animals. These are the kinds of stories that can lift us all up to see
the potential that we humans have to make a difference.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a colleague with one such story. It involved six baby mallard ducks trapped in a sewer in England and the heroic efforts of average folks to save them. To be fair, the real hero in this story was a mother mallard duck, but her efforts would not have saved the day without human assistance. To learn the details of this heroic tale, check out the story.
With that story still in mind, I was delighted to hear a story that caught my ear on NPR. At first, I just caught something about a man saving baby ducks and thought it was going to be a re-telling of the English duck rescue. To my surprise and delight, this was another story of ordinary people interrupting their lives to make a difference for the more vulnerable among us. This time the lucky ducks were even closer to home, in Spokane, Washington. Here’s the scoop on this ducky tale.
I guess the moral of this, other than the value of applied morality, is that everyone can contribute to making this world a kinder, safer place for animals. Please, always look for ways to make a difference in their lives. It just might make a big difference in yours.
After receiving this picture of TomTom and Bootsy, we couldn't resist sharing it. Thank you Will and Liana for sending us your picture and story!
Glad you like our little friends...
Both are basically rescued animals. TomTom (the cat) showed up in the yard one day with his twin brother Huck. They were unusual due to their clipped looking ears. Our vet has never been able to determine if they were born that way (such as a Scottish Fold) or someone clipped their ears for some reason (possibly to make them appear to be Scottish Folds and bring more money?) Unfortunately Huck passed away a year ago due to congenital kidney failure. TomTom appears to be healthy and happy. He's very laid back, but he rules the roost of our 3 cats and one dog.
Bootsy (aka Boo Boo Bear) is the puppy. She is a 2 year old Golden Retreiver/Collie mix that Liana rescued as a tiny furball from a busy highway in rural Virginia. Her mother and siblings were later found in the neighborhood and the owner gave Bootsy to us. Growing up as the youngest housemate of the cats, she probably thinks she is a cat herself! She gets along well with her mates and shows obvious feline tendencies, such as copious grooming sessions. She is Liana's constant companion and she especially enjoys hiking and running in our nearby park and chasing deer and rabbits in our yard.
They are both joys and we couldn't imagine them not in our lives.
Will & Liana
The Fourth Amendment states that,
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The corollary clause found in Oregon State Constitution (Article I, Section 9), states that,
"No law shall violate the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search, or seizure; and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath, or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or thing to be seized."
The common edict in both Constitutions is quite obvious: we citizens are to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Notwithstanding State v. Davis, 295 Or 227 (1983)1, the basic concept—i.e., the application of the simple rule of reason in analyzing the propriety of the government’s acquisition of evidence against a suspect—has clung to life despite having endured years of steady erosion to the remaining shreds of integrity in our justice system. Sadly, we just lost another big chunk of ground when the Oregon Court of Appeals issued its opinion in State v. Luman.
The defendant owned a restaurant. His employees turn on the TV in the
kitchen to watch the news while working (this was done contrary to
prior instruction from their boss, the defendant, to not use the TV).
When they turned on the TV, the attached VCR started playing a tape
with footage of women using the restroom at the restaurant owned by the
defendant--the tape was graphic in nature and depicted unknowing and
non-consenting female patrons using the toilet and in various states of
The employees investigated further and discovered that the defendant
had installed a hidden camera in the bathroom and that he had not just
videotaped women using the facilities, but that he had also edited the
raw footage to create a "highlights" or "best of" reel for his
perverted pleasure. The employees turned over all of the evidence they
found, including the videotapes, to the police. The investigating
officer viewed the tapes to confirm the witnesses’ statements and to
attempt to identify the victims the defendant taped using the bathroom.
The defendant was convicted of his crimes.
On appeal, he challenged the trial court’s refusal to suppress the videotapes, claiming the officer needed a warrant to review the tapes supplied to him by the defendant’s employees. The Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant, reversed his conviction and held that in cases where the police lawfully possess evidence (meaning that the seizure of the evidence is valid), before they can examine the evidence lawfully in their possession with anything other than their naked eye, they have to secure a formal search warrant. Really? Is it honestly unreasonable for a cop to review the evidence supplied to him by citizens before going to the next stage of the investigation? Three judges on the Oregon Court of Appeals seem to think so. Never mind that one could just as well argue that it is unreasonable for a cop to not review the lawfully seized evidence before moving on with the case. Keep in mind the language of both the state and federal Constitutions—we are to be protected against unreasonable searches.
This holding is profoundly out of touch and demonstrates a wholesale abandonment of the rule of reason contemplated when the constructs of search and seizure were originally articulated in our Constitutions.
Under the strained logic of this opinion, the subsequent testing of lawfully seized drugs will now require a warrant; the subsequent analysis of one’s lawfully seized blood or urine for evidence of impairment will require a warrant; DNA testing of lawfully seized crime scene trace evidence will now require a warrant. Heck, what if this was a photo album (rather than a videotape)—by the court’s logic, the officer would need a warrant just to open the book to look at the pictures. Moreover, one simply cannot reconcile the many other cases in Oregon that have yielded a practical result directly opposite to that rendered by the Luman court. See, State v. Langevin, 84 Or App 376, (1987), aff’d 304 Or 674 (1988); State v. Owens, 302 Or 196 (1986); State v. Westlund, 302 Or 225 (1986); State v. Herbert, 302 Or 237 (1986); State v. Plummer, 134 Or App 438 (1995).3
There can be no doubt that Luman will meet the same fate as did State v. Lowry, 295 Or 337 (1983), which was rejected in State v. Owens, 302 Or 196 (1986) three years later. However, until that happens, the defense will have a heyday exploiting this wrongly decided, poorly reasoned and profoundly out-of-touch opinion to its fullest, yielding plenty of unreasonable results.
1 Holding that, despite more than 125 years of Oregon jurisprudence, state offenders will forevermore enjoy even more new and exciting opportunities to escape accountability for their conduct by the court’s sua sponte alteration of the application of the state exclusionary rule, to the profound benefit of Oregon’s criminals.
2The crime at issue here is call "Invasion of Personal Privacy," ORS 163.700, and the substantive offense has nothing to do with animal law, but the implications of this case’s holding most certainly do.
3 Admittedly, the reasoning of many of these opinions is unduly strained and the holdings appear to be, at least in part, driven by the severity of the underlying conduct. Nevertheless, the court in these cited opinions reached the correct result, albeit oftentimes for the wrong reason in most cases. Justice Rossman once wisely noted that, "[W]henever the police lawfully seize and have in their possession a container that they have probable cause to believe contains evidence of a crime, they have a right to open it, examine the contents and to subject the contents to confirmatory testing without a warrant." State v. Langevin, 84 Or App at 384. Sadly, the Court of Appeals is not yet ready to apply this sage bit of wisdom.
I had the pleasure of attending a friend's barbecue the other day, and as I stood around chatting with others at the party, I noticed a fellow guest searching for a spatula or tongs to flip the veggie burgers on the grill. Another guest commented, "Those vegans, they don't grill much." Without hesitation, I blurted out, "That’s so not true!" Grilling is certainly not reserved for carnivores alone. In fact, grilling happens to be one of my favorite summertime activities. There’s nothing like homemade grilled veggie pizza, or simply a good ol’ grilled Tofurkey Frank topped with all the fixings.
If you too enjoy summertime grilling vegan-style, be sure to try some of these favorites from FatFreeVegan.com:
Barbecued Seitan Ribz
Grilled Skewered Vegetables with Quick Polenta
Barbecued Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Red Pepper Dip
For more great grilling recipes, check out FatFreeVegan.com. And if you have a favorite recipe, post it in our comments section!
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is excited to be joining the SFGate.com Bay Area Pets blogosphere! Be sure to check out this fun new network of pet lovers. You can post your pictures, write a blog, find useful tips and more.
While you’re there, be sure to check out ALDF’s inaugural Bay Area Pets blog and interview with Joyce Tischler, ALDF's founder about pet wills and trusts.
Check Bay Area Pets often, or subscribe to their RSS feed, for additional blogs by ALDF about legal issues affecting companion animals and their families.
Everybody loves Shadow. They can’t help themselves. He’s a big ole’ bear of a dog and sweet as can be. Unless, of course, you’re a Chihuahua, or Chew Wow!Wow!, as Shadow would call them, but that’s another story.
Shadow is a lot smarter than he looks and he has a wicked sense of humor. Even though his favorite place is the living room couch, he likes to go into the bedrooms, knock over trash pails and spread the contents around, eat all the cats’ food, visit their litter… you get the picture. Fed up with cleaning trash off the floor and cats who couldn’t get to their food, I put a gate into the hallway to keep Shadow out of the bedrooms. It was difficult for people to open the gate, but, Shadow could open it easily: he would grab the bottom cross beam with his jaw, pull it up and out. He could open that gate in less than five seconds, much quicker than I could undo the latch at hand level.
So, I called Fred. Fred is well known around our town. He’s the local handy man; who looks sort of like "Mr. Clean" and drives around in a brightly painted van that includes the words: "Ooh, Papa Do." Just about everything that’s been fixed at my house has been fixed by Fred. I showed Fred the gate and explained the problem to him. He jiggled a few things, squinted and said, "You’re telling me that Shadow opens this gate?" "Yup." I suggested to Fred that we walk out the front door, as if we were leaving the house. As he followed me out, Fred announced very loudly, "we’re leaving the house, Shadow. We’ll probably be gone for the whole afternoon." I interrupted him to say, "Fred; we can go back in now." As we entered, there was Shadow, walking through the gate.
I suggested putting a Dutch door in the hallway, but Fred thought that would be out of keeping with my décor. Fred is also my interior design consultant. We opted for another gate that works with a foot peddle. Shadow and I left for the office and when we returned, Fred had clearly risen to the challenge. That gate was bolted in like Fort Knox. That thing was set to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. Shadow examined the new gate and had it open in about one minute. He was able to maneuver the foot peddle, so that it jumped off. I called Fred.
This time, when I suggested
we walk out the front door, he didn’t say anything. A few seconds
later, we re-entered, giving us a birds-eye view of Shadow at work. He
was through the new gate in about ten seconds. Fred said, "I’ve heard
about animals like this, but I’ve never actually met one." He squatted
in front of the gate and jiggled things around, as we discussed our
options. Then, he announced, "We’re not cooked yet." Shadow lay on the
rug, listening intently to our conversation and Fred suggested that
perhaps, we ought not to talk in front of him. He got his tools out of
the van and placed bolts on either side of the foot peddle, and within
a few minutes, he had altered it so that it would no longer jump out of
place. We shook hands, hoping that our reputedly superior human
intellect had finally prevailed. As he walked toward his van, Fred
waived and warned, "Now, don’t teach that dog how to use a Phillips
ALDF's "Ask Joyce" column appears in each issue of The Animals' Advocate, ALDF's quarterly publication.
I saw an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show about puppy mills and cried my eyes out. Why aren’t these places outlawed, and what can I do to help?
We should all thank Oprah for helping to expose the long-term suffering of hundreds of thousands of dogs who are held prisoner in U.S. puppy mills. But, here’s the kicker: puppy mills are legal, and the wealthy industry that profits from them lobbies hard to keep it that way. While there are both federal and state laws that could potentially help, they are full of loopholes and under-enforced.
Puppy mills are commercial "factories" where the "product" is puppies and dogs are treated as machines. The "breeding" dogs are kept in overcrowded wire cages for their entire lives with little, if any, human contact or veterinary care. If the puppy mill is outdoors, the dogs are unprotected from the cold of winter and the heat of summer. They live with the stench of their own urine and feces and, if the cages are stacked on top of each other, the dogs on the lower level are hit with excrement from above as well. When the puppies are eight weeks old, they are cleaned up and shipped off for sale. Some die; many arrive sick.
The simplest way to assure that you are not supporting puppy mills is: don’t buy puppies. Puppy mill puppies are sold in pet stores, on the internet, and in newspaper classified ads. Don’t be fooled by ads telling you that the puppies were lovingly raised by a family. A good rule of thumb is that people who profit from keeping animals in a state of misery will often be willing to lie about how they treat those animals. Adopt from your local humane society or shelter. If you are interested in a particular breed, ask the shelter to notify you when a dog of that breed has arrived. Also, check with rescue groups of the breed you are interested in. And don’t forget the mixed breeds; they make wonderful, healthy companions. If you want to actively oppose puppy mills, get online and educate yourself about the issue. Forward that information to family members and friends who are thinking about buying a puppy, and write letters to the editor of your local newspaper.
Puppy mills exist because the American public unwittingly supports them with the almighty dollar. They will disappear only when the economic incentive is gone.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund would never be able to use the law to
advance the interests of animals without the support of legal
professionals nationwide. In this first of a series of spotlights,
ALDF’s Animal Law Program salutes attorney Gabriela Sandoval.
For Gabriela Sandoval, nothing is more important than helping those in need. And as part of ALDF’s volunteer attorney network, she is putting her skills to work. This Denver-based attorney recently helped draft an amicus curiae brief ALDF filed on a companion animal custody case, for example.
Even in her teens, Gabriela knew that her life would involve fighting on behalf of the exploited. Deep in Maine’s North Woods as part of an Outward Bound wilderness program, she realized that the flora and fauna around her deserved protection, and her career path was set soon afterward as a Colorado State University freshman. Attending environmental ethics, philosophy, and politics courses, Gabriela knew she would become a legal advocate representing the interests of non-human animals and the environment. "I’m still not exactly sure how I didn’t feel it or see it before, but when I finally came to face the reality of the exploitation and abusive practices in which we as humans were engaging with regard to animals, I was filled with motivation to help protect them," she says. "Not necessarily because I loved this animal or that animal – that wasn’t the point. The point was that I felt there was an opportunity to protect those who needed the most protection and who endured the greatest suffering."
For Gabriela, helping to alleviate this suffering meant making more humane, conscientious choices – and studying law. "My drive to enforce the animal protection laws, push for new progressive animal legislation, and engage in animal advocacy is the reason I went to law school," she says. "During law school, what I already knew had been reconfirmed. I wanted to pursue a career working toward progressive legal rights for animals."
Children, too, benefit from Gabriela’s legal expertise, and she sees a distinct parallel between children’s rights and animal rights. "Historically, children were viewed as property, without any rights of their own," she explains, noting that the same is true of non-human animals. "Animals have individual needs. They too have interests. By virtue of the fact that they can suffer, they too deserve protection and representation. Like children, animals are easily victims of abuse and exploitation. Too often the abuse goes unnoticed because of the simple fact that they can’t call out for help. Abuse goes unnoticed because people are misled and misinformed."
"ALDF is very fortunate to have the support of and opportunity to work with legal professionals like Gabriela," says Pamela Hart, director of the Animal Law Program. "The time and expertise she and hundreds of volunteer attorney members contribute make it possible for ALDF to further our mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interest of animals through the legal system. Their efforts have a direct impact on animals, whose lives we are diligently trying to protect."
Gabriela regards her contributions as essential to who she is. "The way I see it, if I feel strongly about something, I need to try to do something about it," she says. "If I don’t, I fear that I only become part of the problem. While the work I do with children and on behalf animals may be the most difficult and often emotionally draining, it’s also, interesting, complicated, and most rewarding."
You can learn more about Gabriela Sandoval and her practice, the Rocky Mountain Legal Center for Child & Animal Welfare, by visiting www.childandanimalaw.com.
To become a member of ALDF’s Animal Law Program and assist animals as part of our pro bono network, please complete and return our Attorney Membership Application.
Despite all that ALDF’s hometown of Cotati, California, has to offer, I have opted to live in Berkeley, where I have ready access to the Bay Area’s best vegan donuts, best vegan brunch, best produce, best vegan horror movie potluck, and best vegan soul food. (OK, admittedly, some of those are in Oakland, but that’s next door to Berkeley...).
One of the downsides of living in Berkeley, however, is that I have a very long daily commute. I spend at least two hours of the day in my car (it’s a hybrid, so the gas consumption isn’t as bad as it could be). As a result, I end up listening to a lot of music and a lot of podcasts to keep myself from driving off the Richmond Bridge in a fit of road rage.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite animal-themed podcasts. Each of these podcasts is available for free through iTunes. For the less technically-inclined readers, more info about podcasts and how to download them are available here: Mac or Windows.
I know that there are other great vegan and animal protection podcasts out there that aren’t listed below, so please use the comment feature if you’d like to recommend a good podcast that I’ve missed.
As much as I enjoy all the podcasts listed here, my favorite is Animal Voices. With almost 250 shows archived online, Animal Voices has covered just about every animal topic imaginable. What I love most about the show are the incredibly sophisticated and in-depth interviews that the show’s host, Lauren Corman, conducts. Lauren is a doctoral student in Environmental Studies, and her interests lie in cultural studies and critical theory. Those interests are reflected in fascinating shows such as: Literature and the Postcolonial Animal; Feminism, Animals, and Science; Animal Liberation, Critical Theory, and the Left; New Media and Animal Life; Cows, Colonialism, and Capitalism; When Species Meet; and Animal Rites.
In addition to these theoretical topics, Animal Voices also covers practical and strategic questions of animal activism, including activist burnout, direct action, and legal reform. The pair of shows entitled Animal Rights in the Courtroom and the Classroom (Part 1; Part 2), featuring Tamie Bryant, Gary Francione, and Bob Barker, will be of particular interest to ALDF members.
(On a side note, Animal Voices has also interviewed several of the other podcasters I recommend in this blog, including Erik Marcus and Bob and Jenna Torres. I told you they were thorough!)
Veg Talk is an interview-based podcast hosted by longtime vegan activist and author Erik Marcus. Prior to starting Veg Talk at the beginning of this year, Erik hosted the long-running Erik’s Diner podcast, one of the very first vegan-themed podcasts (maybe the first), featuring news items, Erik’s commentary, and interviews with members of the animal protection movement. Veg Talk has featured interviews with Bizarro artist and vegan advocate Dan Piraro, farmed animal activists Paul Shapiro and Nathan Runkle, and vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, among others.
For those interested in making the transition to veganism, I highly recommend the series of shows that Erik recorded to coincide with Oprah’s 21-day vegan cleanse experiment. Over the course of those three weeks, Veg Talk covered every topic of concern to new vegans in an easy and accessible way, from cookbooks, to supplements, to grocery shopping, to ethics.
Vegetarian Food for Thought
Vegetarian Food for Thought is hosted by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, founder of Compassionate Cooks and author of The Joy of Vegan Baking (the cinnamon rolls are awesome). Colleen has covered a variety of topics, including how to cook without eggs, why vegans need to be conscientious about getting enough B12, and what ten nutritious vegan foods you should be eating (Part 1 and Part 2).
Colleen has also done many shows responding to common questions people ask about veganism, from "Where do you get your protein?" to "What’s wrong with free-range eggs and 'humane' meat?" Perhaps these are questions you yourself have, or maybe you just aren’t sure how to respond to them when they are asked of you. In either case, Colleen’s podcasts are a great resource for thinking about these issues.
One unique feature of Vegetarian Food for Thought is Colleen’s reading of animal-themed short stories and essays in their entirety. Among my favorites are The Anarchist: His Dog by Pulitzer Prize winner Susan Glaspell, Beyond Lies the Wub, by brilliant sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, and Pig by famous British author Roald Dahl.
Vegan Freak Radio
The Vegan Freak Radio podcast is hosted by Bob and Jenna Torres, authors of the popular book Vegan Freak, which offers lots of practical advice to new vegans, while celebrating the virtues of being a "freak" in a society that exploits animals so ruthlessly. (As the Dalai Lama put it, "It is no sign of mental health to be well-adjusted to an insane world." Or in the words of the punk band Propagandhi, "I consider it a measure of my humanity to be written off by the living graves of a billion murdered lives."). Bob is also the author of Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights.
Vegan Freak Radio features conversations between Bob and Jenna, commentary on news stories, the occasional interview, and phoned in questions and comments from listeners. Bob and Jenna are avowed abolitionists in the vein of Gary Francione (hear their recent interview with him here), so Vegan Freak Radio is often highly critical of animal welfare reforms that operate within the traditional paradigm of animals as property. I can’t say I agree with everything they say (I can’t say that for any of these podcasts), but the show is always entertaining, funny, informative, and challenging. And thoroughly laced with profanity.
Rural Route Radio
While the four previous podcasts approach animal issues from a decidedly liberationist (or at least welfarist) perspective, Rural Route Radio comes at the issues from the perspective of agriculturalists. Host Trent Loos is a sixth-generation rancher from Nebraska. Rural Route Radio doesn’t focus solely on animal agriculture, but several of its shows have dealt with animal issues, including the episodes Let’s Talk About Meat, Let’s Talk About Arkansas Poultry, The Purpose of Animals, and Caring for our Animals. Without a doubt, the show is in favor of raising and slaughtering animals for their flesh; it defends abhorrent confinement practices as "humane" and maligns animal rights and animal welfare groups. But, to its credit, the show often interviews animal protection advocates and gives them a (more or less) fair opportunity to present their side of the story. I highly recommend the episode featuring Nathan Runkle of Mercy for Animals. Rural Route Radio offers an important perspective that animal advocates ignore at their peril. Listening to voices from within the industry can ensure our outreach efforts are effective, accurate, and well-informed. Of course, we should never take industry at its word, but knowing how its constituents think and what they say can only work to our benefit.
I hope you’ll consider subscribing to these podcasts and listening to them on the way to work or school, or while you do chores around the house or brainless tasks at work. Doing so is a great way to dedicate a small portion of each day to thinking about, and ultimately acting on, issues and questions related to animal liberation.
As was widely reported, the Spanish Parliament became what is believed to be the first national legislative body to adopt the principles of the Great Ape Project, which includes the right to life, protection of individual liberty, and a prohibition on torture.
Although as the reports note, Spain is an odd first nation to have passed such legislation, given it has next to no great apes within its borders. But this is still a very significant step towards broader recognition of the principles of the Great Ape Project, and animal rights more generally, within the international legal community.
Animal shelters and other animal protection organizations may gain
temporary custody of animals who have been rescued and evacuated from
the fires sweeping through California.
Shelters without the resources to house large numbers of animals can
adapt and use foster care forms developed by the Animal Legal Defense
Fund’s Criminal Justice Program as part of a foster care program to
establish temporary foster homes for the animals.
Instructions for using ALDF’s foster care agreement and application forms
Sample foster agreement
Sample foster care application
One day several years ago, a committed animal activist who I very
much respect proclaimed that all animal advocates should periodically
force themselves to watch videos depicting animal cruelty and
suffering, in order to remain inspired to help animals. With a mental
image of a scene from the film "A Clockwork Orange"
(in which the main character is forced to watch violent images as a
type of aversion therapy), I asked my friend if people who have already
seen these types of videos and have changed their lives accordingly
need to continue watching such footage. The answer was a firm,
At the time, I stayed silent, for fear of looking like a "bad animal activist." You see, I am someone who has a very difficult time viewing pictures of (or even reading about) abuse and cruelty. For quite some time after our discussion, I started feeling secretly ashamed when I would feel the need to avert my eyes, stop reading or click "stop" to take a break from particularly gruesome online footage. Unfortunately, I was feeling that guilt quite often, working at ALDF where photos, video and written accounts of horrific abuse are forwarded to our staff on a regular basis.
My guilt about finding it difficult to watch or read about such vicious acts continued until one day several years later, when I was on a break with some of my ALDF coworkers. Somehow the subject came up, and I was both surprised and relieved to discover that I am not the only animal advocate who has an especially hard time viewing such video or pictures, and I’m also not the only one who avoids exposing myself to such things during my "off" time, away from my ALDF job. I appear to be in very good company.
Certainly, there would be something terribly wrong with us if we enjoyed watching such graphic suffering. And if we were apathetic or desensitized to such violence, that would be a concern as well. But the question is, if we have a difficult time watching videos documenting monstrous acts of animal abuse, does that mean that we are "soft" on animal protection issues? Does it mean we are not committed animal activists? That we don’t care about the animals and what they experience? Are we (gulp) "wimps"?
To watch, or not to watch?
The coworkers I spoke to that day are committed activists and, like me, have seen (and continue to see) their fair share of videos containing animal cruelty, from vivisection to abuse of factory farm animals to dog fighting. Because they once viewed these videos, today they are 100% committed to ending the suffering of animals. Except when they need to view such footage to effectively do their jobs at ALDF, they remain committed without repeatedly and deliberately subjecting themselves to the visual horror that has already been burned into their minds forever. After all, are we truly effective advocates for the animals if we haven’t slept for days or weeks due to insomnia and nightmares? Do we really need to keep viewing animal cruelty over and over to remain committed?
On the other hand, my friend who made the original statement believes that one cannot stay motivated and committed to the cause without viewing such misery on a regular basis, and that if the animals have to suffer through such horrific pain, the least we can do is partially share in that horror by viewing it. If they have to go through something so atrocious – whether they’re being cut open and experimented on in a lab with no anesthesia, or torn limb from limb while still conscious in a slaughterhouse, or fought to the bloody death in a dog fighting pit – don’t we owe it to them to at least be a witness to their torment, to hear their cries of pain? Even though that particular animal in that particular footage may be free from pain (either rescued or now deceased), somewhere another one, or hundred, or million are suffering a similar fate, alone and voiceless. Shouldn’t we watch their suffering, to motivate ourselves to be their voice?
The late Gretchen Wyler summed it up quite eloquently: "We must not refuse to see with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies."
Ms. Wyler’s words have haunted me, and they have come to me with stabs of guilt when I have felt so sickened (and sometimes, almost panic-stricken) by what I am viewing, to the point of turning it off. But after many years of thought about this subject, and after talking with many different people who have made such strides for animals over the years, the conclusion I’ve come to is this: what deeply inspires one person can cause another to mentally, emotionally and even physically shut down. I’ve also learned that those of us who must watch such footage, or even see the results of animal cruelty first-hand - animal control officers, shelter workers, district attorneys, animal rights activists - may need to counteract such experiences with more positive motivators, away from the job.
A great example of an inspirational motivator is visiting a farm animal sanctuary. There we can see how good life is for the ones who escaped a fate worse than death, and how good life could be for others who are still suffering that terrible fate. Speaking from experience, when one leaves such a sanctuary, it is with positive mental images of those rescued animals, animals who now have actual names instead of being tagged and numbered in a feed lot, waiting for slaughter. Theirs are the names and faces that keep me going, after being pummeled with and sickened by the very worst that humans are capable of doing to animals.
There are a huge number of people who haven’t yet made significant changes in their lives to help animals. The animals desperately need them to see pictures depicting cruelty and abuse, to shock them out of their complacency. And I have the utmost respect and admiration for activists like my friend, who stay inspired to help animals by forcing themselves to view footage of inhumane acts toward animals, and then channel their anger into action. But for the rest of us, especially those who are all too familiar with the horror of animal cruelty, perhaps forcibly and repeatedly subjecting ourselves to such horror can be a one-way ticket to paralyzation if we don’t also experience any significant relief or uplifting experiences to counteract the effects of watching such brutality. The animals need each of us to be their witness, but what good will we be to them if we are so sleep-deprived, shell-shocked and depressed that we can’t get out of bed in the morning? The animals also need us to be strong, both physically and mentally, so we can continue to fight for their right to exist without being exploited, tortured and terrorized.
It may just be the Libra in me, but I think that maybe, as with most things in life, balance is the key.
months ago, my rescued German shepherd, Alec, suddenly suffered a
severe herniated disc that left him paralyzed. Two surgeries and
thousands of dollars later, he is still unable to walk. However, he
uses a doggie wheelchair and we do physical therapy everyday. He has
made so many improvements since the first darks days following those
emergency surgeries. I am amazed by him and will give him every chance
to recover. In the meantime he is in no discomfort and is enjoying life
despite his new limitations. I have blogged about our experiences and the following is a recent entry from my blog:
I love this dog so much.
It’s crazy to me to think that many people would have euthanized him either before surgery or after, when he could neither walk nor go to the bathroom on his own. Basically when he was at his lowest, and I was at my most frightened, wondering: how can I possibly manage his condition all by myself? Yet, I never considered not trying. That thought only would have crossed my mind if he were suffering, which he was not, despite his new limitations. There were countless challenges with taking care of him in those early days and weeks - sometimes when I think about it now it seems like a dream - and I'm not sure how I did it.
But it’s amazing to me how far he has come in just over three months. I know he will walk again someday. I will never give up on him! And even if he never walks again, so be it. He is not in pain and remains the same happy, playful, goofy, sweet Ali he always was.
Sure, there are things he can’t do anymore, but that’s true of people who are disabled too. And while dogs are not able to conceptualize or think about their disability the way people can, this actually seems to serve them quite well in terms of adjustment; dogs don’t dwell on their disability in the least. It’s the human caretakers who are most inconvenienced, of course: financially, physically, emotionally, socially…there are many lifestyle sacrifices that come along with taking care of a disabled dog. As far as I’m concerned this is what we all sign up for when we invite a helpless being into our lives with the tacit promise to take care of them (not to degrade Ali and his brethren by calling them helpless, but dogs have been [over]bred to be utterly dependent on humans and, in our anthropocentric society, they are, indeed, "helpless").
At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, I really wish other people valued their companion animals half as much. Yes, I have worked in animal shelters and have seen firsthand just how easily people discard their pets. Even with the magnitude of his injury and the massive cost of treatment, it never crossed my mind not to do everything I could for Ali. So, I have to go into debt. People are in debt for way worse and far more frivolous reasons than saving a life or helping out a friend in need – regardless of species. It just kills me to think of the comment one of Courtney’s friends made when she told him what was going on when Ali was still in the hospital: "a bullet would be cheaper." All I can say is, I’m glad I don’t know that guy. Okay, end of random rumination. I have to go hug my amazing dog now.
To read more about Alec’s story, go to http://www.alec-story.blogspot.com.
Well, nearly a year has gone by since I wrote about the federal authorities
charging now-former NFL Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick with
conspiracy for his Virginia dogfighting ring operated under the name
Bad Newz Kennels. As you may recall, the federal authorities (feds)
had to step in and take over the investigation from Surry County
Virginia Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Poindexter, who could have taken
action much earlier against the dog fighting on a state level by
bringing charges of animal cruelty and fighting, but failed to do so.
What’s happened in the meantime? Not much legally, and lots
To recap, in April 2007, police went to a home in Virginia owned by Vick with a search warrant related to a drug investigation involving Vick's cousin. While there, they found evidence of dog fighting and hauled away 66 pit bulls. In late May 2007, Poindexter refused to execute a dog fight search warrant prepared by local investigators based on the prior drug search, stating he didn’t like the wording of the warrant. He also refused to act on offers of assistance and entreaties to take action from ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program, HSUS, Virginia’s Animal Control Association President and dog fight expert Mark Kumpf, and others.
On June 6th and again in early July 2007, the feds conducted land and air searches of Vick’s estate under a federal search warrant, and on July 17th charged Vick and 3 others with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce to aid in dog fighting. Also in July 2007 Robin Starr, the head of the Richmond Virginia SPCA, alleged in a guest column in the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper that "The local prosecutor, Gerald Poindexter, may have dragged his feet on executing search warrants in an apparent effort to protect the county's local star, and has suggested that the interest of the federal authorities was in persecuting an African-American celebrity." He was quoted as saying that ‘this case, in terms of its priority, if it were not for the celebrity status of Vick, it wouldn't mean much to me.’ Poindexter continued to contradict himself in media interviews for the next several months, alternately stating that the evidence was insufficient, or that the feds were keeping evidence from him, despite having had the case for months before the feds stepped in.
In August 2007 the 4 men entered guilty pleas in federal court accompanied by detailed fact summaries of their criminal activities. Either shamed or goaded into taking action and perhaps realizing he had an election coming up, Poindexter finally announced in September that he had obtained a grand jury indictment of 1 count each of cruelty and fighting, both as felonies. Curiously, 8 other counts based on the federal court admissions to killing at least 8 dogs were rejected by the grand jury. Given that grand juries usually approve indictments presented by prosecutors, and those 8 counts were based on sworn written documents filed in federal court, one must wonder what the heck kind of case was presented by Poindexter to the grand jurors.
Incredibly, Surry County Sheriff Harold Brown, as well as Poindexter, were both re-elected in November 2007. Bill Brinkman, the case’s chief investigator at the sheriff’s office who assisted the feds and complained about Poindexter’s mishandling of the case and of his troubling statements concerning race, was "released from his position" in December after 9 years on the job. Brown admitted in a recent news report that part of the reason Brinkman was let go had to do with the Vick case. Brinkman stated that Brown told him a week into the investigation that Poindexter wanted him fired. Poindexter denies it.
Vick reported early to prison in November and was sentenced to 23 months in prison in December, but not before violating the terms of his pretrial release by using drugs and getting caught by the court. In January 2008 he was moved to a prison in Leavenworth Kansas known for having a drug treatment program that would greatly shorten his sentence, but neither Vick nor the prison ever confirmed he was in it.
So is it any surprise at all that last week Poindexter again moved to continue the defendants’ trials until some vague future date after which the defendants have been released from federal prison, stating that it would cost the state too much to round them up and transport them back for trial? After all, this isn’t the first continuance requested by Poindexter. Late last March he was in court requesting continuances of the trials then set for April. He was joined in that request by the defense, and Vick’s trial was pushed to June 27th. (Why that date? Was he secretly to be released by then due to the drug program and good behavior? If not, why wouldn’t Poindexter have asked then for the date to be set post-release, instead of waiting until now and having to apply again for a continuance?)
Of even more concern, however, is that in court last week, there was no mention that Vick had joined in the motion to push the trial to "a date uncertain" (in lawyer talk). Perhaps news reports simply omitted mentioning whether the defense agreed to the delay. If not, I’m just waiting for Vick to make his claim that his constitutional right to a speedy trial-- which would be waived if he agreed to the delay as he did in March—was violated. Then Poindexter would be off the hook from ever having to try this case; but at least by now his reelection campaign is long over. My guess is he’ll retire before he has to account for himself when his current 6-year term of office is over.
Kick off the weekend with a good laugh! Check out Dan Piraro's animal rights cartoons on Bizarro.com. It's hard to pick a favorite, but this one comes close.
veg•an [vee-guh n]
A vegetarian who omits all animal products from the diet.
It’s a word that many people are familiar with, especially animal advocates, and one that has been popping up in the media much more these days.
You may recall that Oprah recently embarked on a "21-day cleanse" inspired by Kathy Freston’s book, Quantum Wellness. As part of Oprah’s cleanse and becoming a "conscious eater," she has omitted all animal products from her diet and talks about her experience on her blog (along with offering some fabulous recipes!)
But Oprah isn’t the only one touting a vegan diet. During an interview with CNN’s "American Morning," hip hop mogul Russell Simmons sings the praises of a vegan diet stating, "the consumption of animals causes more harm to the environment than all the forms of transportation put together," and, "I don't think when they said dominion over the animals they meant the abuse of 10 billion farm animals every year, which is what we do here in America." Sing it, Russell!
So there’s the environment, the cruelty, and oh, let’s not forget our health.
On the front page of The Cleveland Dealer yesterday, the article, "Ex-surgeon Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. espouses a noninvasive cure for heart disease," talks about making yourself "heart attack proof" by omitting meat, fish, dairy or oils of any kind from your diet. The article reads, "Drug companies are in fierce competition to find a cholesterol drug that does what Esselstyn argues can be done better through diet. The call to attack artery-clogging plaque naturally is a challenge to the medical profession and an unspoken threat to the bottom line of the medical industry."
So what's everyone waiting for? Here’s to our health, the environment, and most of all, to the end of 10 billion farm animals suffering each year.
Thanks to Dawn Watch for circulating these articles!
Why is it that humans are the only animal species granted legal
rights? The answer is as complex as it is simple: Because we’re humans.
A case currently headed to the European Court of Human Rights will
cause us all to ponder what exactly that means and the answer is not as
simple as you might expect.
I wrote about the case of Matthew Hiasl Pan in the last issue of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s print newsletter, The Animals’ Advocate (PDF). Matthew is a 26 year-old chimpanzee living in a sanctuary in Vienna, Austria. His fate is now uncertain as the sanctuary is facing bankruptcy. An update and more background on his case can be found here.
Matthew’s case is important because the distinction the law makes between humans and all other animals has enormous ramifications. Humans are the only living "legal persons" (which can include, for various purposes, inanimate entities like corporations and ships) -- and you must be a legal person to be able to sue to protect your interests or to have someone sue on your behalf. This lies at the heart of the difficulty animal advocates, like ALDF, face when trying to file lawsuits to stop animal abuse.
So, what does it mean to be human? What is the characteristic that distinguishes us so absolutely from all other animal species? There is currently no scientific consensus. And the more we learn about other animals, the more blurry any such distinction becomes. The absolute differences relied on in the past have fallen one by one to scientific research and observation. Tool use; tool making; abstract thought; self awareness; compassion, have all been found to exist in nonhumans. Intelligence? We now know that some animals are more intelligent (even by our own species-biased tests) than some humans such as young children, the mentally disabled, etc. which does not deny the latter their rights. So what is it?
In the case of Matthew Hiasl Pan, the chimpanzee, it may very well be human beings who are on trial. We’ll keep you posted.
Animal Legal Defense Fund founder and general council, Joyce
Tischler, talks with Pat Lynch of Women’s Radio about the evolution of
animal law, cases ALDF is involved with and how the public can help
make the world a better place for animals.
Listen online now.
back to November of 2007, to Hillsville, Virginia, where Carroll County
officials had to declare a state of emergency to deal with the more
than 1,000 dogs seized from Lanzie Horton, Jr. (d/b/a Horton’s Pups)
and commonly know as "Junior," due to allegations of neglect during the
administration of what was one of the largest puppy mill busts in the
United States. Recall that while the case was pending, a Horton’s Pups agent (Junior’s father) told local media
that if his son’s puppy mill license was revoked, they (the Horton
family) had plenty of other family members that would secure a
breeder’s license and that there was no way that the Humane Society was
going to shut them down. Junior’s dad even told the local media that
they were going to "rub the Humane Society’s nose in it."
Now, fast forward to May 16, 2008, where Junior Horton had his first trial in the Virginian General District Court (Virginia’s General District Courts are limited jurisdiction courts—no official record or transcript of the proceedings is kept and unsuccessful defendants have the right, upon conviction, to appeal de novo to the circuit court for a second, "real" trial, on the record). After learning of his conviction on all 40 counts (14 cruelty charges, 25 neglect charges and one licensing violation) Junior announced at the conclusion of his bench trial before judge Edward Turner, that he would appeal his case. However, in assessing the sentence imposed by Judge Turner, one has to ask Junior why?
To the uninitiated, the sentence might sound rather harsh. After all, there is mention of 12 years of prison and fines of up to $2,500 per count (totally more than $47,000). However, Judge Turner suspended the entire 12-year jail term—meaning Junior does not have serve a single day of jail. Moreover, of the more than $47,000 in pronounced fines, all but $4,750 was suspended—meaning Junior pays $4,750 in fines, NOT $47,000 in fines. And the final straw: Judge Turner made a judicial finding that, in Judge Turner’s view, Junior isn’t a cruel man and promptly refused to shut down Horton’s operation. To his credit, the court did cap the number of dogs Junior could possess to 250.
The sentence in this case is yet another classic example of how out of touch trial judges can be when it comes to animal cruelty cases. Change the subject matter of this case from exploited, live victims with the capacity to suffer and substitute oh, I don’t know, say guns or controlled substances and assume that Junior had a license to sell said guns or controlled substances. Would the judge allow Junior to continue to sell the regulated item in the wake of these types of abuses of the license? I doubt it. Would the court suspend the entire term of incarceration? I doubt that as well. Would the court make a character finding in favor of the offender? Not likely. This sentence out of Hillsville, Virginia, coupled with the November, 2007, re-election of Gerald Poindexter, the Surry County prosecutor who completely botched the State’s dogfighting case against Michael Vick (recall that the Feds had to step in) and one has to wonder what the voters of Virginia are thinking.
To be fair to the voters of Virginia, I must concede that the General Assembly did pass a reasonably good anti-puppy mill bill (H.B. 538) in March of this year, which the governor not only signed but also accelerated the effective date by moving it up from July 2009 to January of 2009 (the Governor even struck the language making the bill unenforceable unless the state put public money behind it during the 2008 session—which would have likely rendered it a hollow act given the tanking economy)... This fact is redeeming for the people of Virginia, but only further underscores the poor decision making of Judge Turner in sentencing Junior to what amounts to a slap on the wrist.
Exactly one year ago I was the head of a volunteer summer camp program for youth. Every morning, 15 teens and I piled into a van and set out for a new Sonoma County destination. We did everything from working at a camp for differently abled youth to helping restore Bodega Bay’s coastline. Their lively spirits were untouched by cynicism and apathy. They truly thought they could change the world, and with that confidence they did.
Currently a different group, Youth in Action, is helping to change the world for animals. Youth in Action is a leadership and community service organization at Haddam-Killingworth High School in Higganum, Connecticut. Recently they held a dodgeball tournament to benefit the Animal Legal Defense Fund. On the court the players displayed their talent in the five D's of dodgeball, dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge! Friends and family showed their support by donating $118.13! Everyone here at the Animal Legal Defense Fund was impressed by their awesome choice of sport, but even more so with their dedication to helping animals.
Thank you Youth in Action!
Trend watchers take note: Veg is the new black.
Given that most of us live in an Oprah-saturated universe (I say that like it’s a good thing), you’ve likely already heard the news that Oprah has just begun a 21-day experiment in what she’s calling "conscious eating"--and that consciousness includes excluding all animal products from her diet. In other words (as I spammed all of my relatives last Tuesday afternoon): "Oprah’s going vegan!"
Oprah writes in her blog:
How can you say you're trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?
I’ll leave the wielding of words like
"gluttony" (ouch) to the Big O. It’s enough for me to remind people
that in this country, there is not a single federal law protecting the
tens of millions of animals raised for the ultimate destiny of becoming
deep-fried nuggets or hot dogs. That’s why ALDF attorneys have to spend
countless hours with their legal thinking caps screwed on tight,
attempting to get courts to provide even the most minimal protections
for pigs, cows, birds,
and whatever other sentient beings have been forced into intensive
confinement on modern facilities that more closely resemble factories
than Old MacDonald’s farm.
Call it zeitgeist. Several days before Oprah’s big announcement, one of my best friends--whose favorite foods heretofore have been mayonnaise and--gulp--chorizo*--confessed to me that he’d been partaking in an experiment he was calling "Meatless May." His new diet is clearly supporting the fine muscle tone developed by spending hours playing "The Legend of Zelda" on his Wii and the svelte form required by his European tailored trousers.
It seems that Oprah is having similar success. "Wow, wow, wow! I never imagined meatless meals could be so satisfying," she blogs. Has Oprah found the Diet to End All Diets? Will Meatless May morph into a Vegan Summer of Love? Stay tuned. And in the meantime, ALDF will be working to make sure that the justice system keeps apace with Ms. Winfrey.
*Even the most die-hard chorizo fan in your life will go loco for the wonder that is Soyrizo.
As I noted in my introductory post, my participation with ALDF began with an amicus brief
that ALDF filed in support of the City of Chicago’s Foie Gras ordinance
in the Seventh Circuit. As you may have heard, the City of Chicago
recently repealed that ordinance. This was an unfortunate turn of
events, which will moot the litigation. Despite the repeal, however, I
thought it would still be worthwhile to briefly discuss the litigation
that had occurred because of the likelihood that similar litigation
will ensue when other cities or states pass foie gras bans like the one
that had been in effect in Chicago.
The Chicago Foie Gras Ordinance prohibited the sale of foie gras by restaurants within the City of Chicago. On August 22, 2006, the effective day of the ordinance, the Illinois Restaurant Association, along with one of its member-restaurants, filed a one-count Complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois against the City of Chicago, alleging the ordinance violated the Illinois Constitution. The Plaintiffs later amended their complaint to add a count for a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The City removed the case to federal court and filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint on December 26, 2006.
On June 12, 2007, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that the City of Chicago did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution or the Illinois State Constitution when it enacted the Foie Gras Ordinance. See Ill. Rest. Ass’n v. City of Chicago, 492 F. Supp. 2d 891 (N.D. Ill. June 12, 2007) (Manning, J.). The Plaintiffs have appealed that decision in part solely on the dormant Commerce Clause issue.
The thrust of Plaintiffs’ argument to the Seventh Circuit was two-fold. First, that the Chicago Foie Gras Ordinance was protectionist in that it only placed restrictions on the sale of a product that was produced outside Chicago (and, in fact, the State of Illinois). Second, Plaintiffs argued that there was no legitimate local public interest in passing the Chicago Foie Gras Ordinance. In support of this second point the Plaintiffs argued that the humane treatment of animals was not a legitimate local public interest. It was on this second point that the ALDF filed its amicus brief.
Plaintiffs’ appellate brief is based upon the flawed premise that the dormant Commerce Clause elevates free trade above all other values, and therefore an ordinance codifying a community value regarding the humane treatment of animals does not constitute a legitimate local public interest under the dormant Commerce Clause. As we noted in our brief, both the United States Supreme Court and the Seventh Circuit have rejected that premise. To the contrary, the regulation of moral values related to animals has particular providence within the sphere of local and state government, a point the Seventh Circuit recognized recently when it upheld the Illinois Horse Meat Act. Cavel Int’l, Inc. v. Madigan, 500 F.3d 551, 557 (7th Cir. 2007) ("[A] state is permitted, within reason, to express disgust at what people do with the dead, whether dead human beings or dead animals.").
Thus, our argument to the Seventh Circuit was that just as the State of Illinois is allowed to pass a statute expressing disgust at the particular treatment of dead horses, so too is the City of Chicago allowed to express disgust with the treatment of living geese for the production of foie gras. Thus, it is inherently within the power of the City of Chicago to pass an ordinance that prohibits the sale of an offensive product, namely foie gras, within the jurisdictional borders of the City.
It is my hope that the legal analysis contained in our brief, and the City of Chicago’s brief, will allow future localities to defend their foie gras (or other animal protective legislation) from similar dormant Commerce Clause challenges.
Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and the media reported that this
victory earned him(?) $1.4 million. I hope he doesn’t spend it all in
one place. Just a few days later, Big Brown went on to win the
Preakness and all of America was smitten. We love a winner, whatever
the sport, and when it comes to race horses, we glorify those who make
it to the top of the heap. Rarely do we question the exploitation
involved when an industry makes large amounts of money from the use of
But, in this year’s Derby, there was a large shadow cast on Big Brown’s victory. Eight Belles, a three year old filly broke both front ankles after crossing the finish line and was "euthanized" on the track. For once, the media stopped marching in lock step with the racing industry and began to raise questions such as whether races should be run on a synthetic surface instead of dirt, given the evidence that fewer fatal accidents happen on the former. Some columnists criticized the fact that the horses are raced at 3 years of age instead of starting at 4; others raised the concern that American horses are less "durable" than they used to be and less "durable" than race horses in other countries. A major reason for this is that in America, drug use is legal for race horses. Horses can be given Butazolidin and corticosteriods to numb pain and they can be given the diuretic, Lasix. With the drugs, they can run more often and make more money for the people who own them. But, they also break down more often. No one, other than animal rights protesters, raised the question: should horse racing be stopped altogether? Of course not! This is the U.S.A., land of the free, home of the brave and it would be un-American to suggest that it is morally and ethically wrong to exploit animals for profit. It was refreshing to see the racing industry taken to task, but they need not worry, the furor will die down and it will be back to business as usual… until the next fatal breakdown.
Down the road apiece, where the television cameras don’t roam, Kentucky horses face a different kind of race: the race to survive in the grip of owners who don’t bother to feed or care for them. In a recent case in Jessamine County, 74 horses were found starving and in extremely poor condition. They were seized by animal control and the Jessamine Humane Society is working to bring them back to health. The Humane Society bemoaned the fact that it has only been able to raise $5,000 from donations, and it will take about $9,000 per month to care for these horses. I wonder if Big Brown could dip into his $1.4 mil and loan them some hay.
In another horse neglect case, in Rockcastle County, police found 5 dead horses and 21 others still alive, but in very poor condition. The Rockcastle County Animal Shelter is caring for and feeding the surviving horses and the owners have been charged with cruelty.
But, here’s the most egregious recent report from Kentucky: in Harrison County, 30 abused horses, 3 of whom were tattooed thoroughbreds were found. Sixteen of the horses were already dead. Where were the television cameras for those horses? Did anyone watch as they slowly and painfully died? Did anyone care? Apparently not. County Attorney Charles W. (Bill) Kuster refused to remove the horses from the property and ignored ALDF’s offers of assistance. The defendants were given a slap-on-the wrist plea agreement and the horses remain with the very people who neglected them. Yes; those are the facts; no; I’m not kidding.
Those of us who work at ALDF carry a vision of a day when stories like these will be a thing of the past, when animals will not be abused or exploited to serve the human ego or human greed. That’s what keeps us going. But, there are times when the present day realities seem overwhelming and hope seems naïve. By the way, in November 2007, we released a report in which we ranked all of the states’ animal protection laws. Kentucky came in dead last. Is anyone surprised?
This spotlight was submitted by Deborah Press, president of the Cornell University Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Since its creation in Fall 2006, Cornell University’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) has focused on bringing together graduate students across the university to stimulate cross-disciplinary dialogue on issues of animal protection. At the intersection of strong programs in law, veterinary medicine, and animal agriculture, Cornell is just the place for students from diverse perspectives to tackle vital issues of animal treatment.
Last weekend I had the privilege of going to Farm Sanctuary’s Country Hoe Down at its Orland, California sanctuary. The Hoe Down is an annual event at which participants have the opportunity to hear talks by animal protection advocates, eat lots of good vegan food, learn how to folk dance, and, best of all, meet the sanctuary’s rescued residents.
I’ve already blogged at length about my experiences meeting animals at sanctuaries, so I won’t repeat that.
Instead, I’d like to share some of the important insights from the speakers at the event.
Farm Sanctuary’s Julie Janovsky and the Humane Society’s Jennifer Hillman discussed the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, a landmark ballot initiative that, because of the hard work of volunteer signature gatherers, was recently certified for the November ballot by the state of California. If voters pass this proposition, some of the cruelest forms of intensive confinement of farmed animals will be abolished. No longer will it be legal for agribusiness corporations to confine hens in battery cages, calves in veal crates, or pigs in gestation crates. As Julie and Jennifer noted, although we’ve already succeeded in placing the initiative on the ballot, volunteers are still needed for the push to November.
The next talk was by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, co-founder of Compassionate Cooks and author of the Joy of Vegan Baking, who spoke on the topic of "Being a Joyful Vegan in a Non-Vegan World." Colleen’s talk stressed the importance of joy in our dealings with others, not only for our own mental well-being, but also in order to be more effective for the animals. The stereotype of the dour vegan, grumbling bitterly over a plate of wilted salad has haunted us all, regardless of how inaccurate it is. Who wants to join a movement they perceive as one of self-denial and endless sacrifice? I certainly understand how easy it is to get defeatist about the world’s lack of readiness to accommodate us vegans, but every time we complain about our sacrifices, we make it that much less likely that those who hear us will consider veganism for themselves. This certainly does not mean we should not be vocal about who we are, why we eat the way we do, and how much we abhor the cruelty inherent in the animal exploitation industries. But as Colleen explained, we do much more good for the animals as joyful vegans than we do as dietary martyrs.
Colleen was followed by Mark Hawthorne, author of Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism. Mark gave concrete advice on how to get involved in the animal protection movement as an activist, and how to avoid "burn-out," the dreaded consequence of fighting the seemingly ever-present abuse of animals. Mark used the mnemonic "A.C.T.I.V.E." to remind us how to stay effective in our animal activism. Here, in Mark’s own words, are crucial tips for maintaining balance in our lives while working on behalf of animals:
- Allow yourself to be human -- take a real vacation, spend time with friends, etc.
- Create something tangible to remind you of your victories -- could be a scrapbook, a collection of your letters to the editor, etc.
- Talk to someone you trust -- open up to others; speak with a therapist if needed.
- Ignore upsetting text and images, at least until you're feeling stronger.
- Visit (or volunteer at) an animal sanctuary -- get some face time with the faces you're working so hard to protect.
- Exercise -- run, walk, hike, bike, yoga ... whatever. Just get out there and sweat.
Finally, Gene Baur, co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, discussed the origins of the organization, including their first rescue, Hilda, a sheep left for dead in a pile of discarded bodies at a stockyard. This story and others are the subject of Gene’s new book on the history of Farm Sanctuary. Gene also talked about some of the failings of the animal cruelty laws and the need to strengthen and enforce the laws that supposedly protect animals.
After Gene’s talk, the real hoe down began, with a live band, contra dancing, vegan sundaes, and plenty of opportunities to get to know other activists. I had a terrific time, and I can’t wait until next year’s Hoe Down.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Lyons.
Suffering from insomnia a few nights ago, I chanced upon the VH-1 Classic music video channel. Yep, such a channel does indeed exist, specifically for old people like me.
At no risk of suffering embarrassment, being in the privacy of my own home with the curtains drawn (and only my even-older-than-me husband present), I was delighted to see that the "Classic 120 Minutes" program was on. "Now we’re talkin’!" I thought, since this was, after all, some of the music I grew up with and loved. With any hope of sleep now completely vanished, I settled in for a trip down memory lane.
As I relived one (sometimes scary) 80’s moment after another, a video came on that I hadn’t seen in quite some time, a song by Talk Talk called "It’s My Life." I literally sat up in bed, as memories of this video and how it affected me as a teenager came flooding back. The words, "It’s my life…don’t you forget," sung over and over, and the colorful wildlife footage in the video juxtaposed with the bleak images of zoo animals (animals whose lives are obviously not their own), spoke volumes to me at the time, whether or not that was the band’s intention. It’s tame in comparison to other videos, but there was just something about it…
I’ve since heard that this song ironically was not about the environment or animal rights. But in 1984, I didn’t know that, and as an impressionable 14-year-old, I remember the video got me a bit emotional, as it was doing on this night, all these years later. It made me long to see those wild animals, and indeed all animals, free to live their lives without human intrusion, exploitation and abuse.
Seeing this video got me thinking about other songs that, way back when, influenced me in the direction of animal rights: certainly the Smiths’ "Meat is Murder," "The Hanging Garden" by the Cure, "Testure" by Skinny Puppy, MDC’s "Chicken Squawk," and even "Nellie the Elephant" by the Toy Dolls. I’d love to hear from others about their musical influences!
And now, for your viewing pleasure, "It’s My Life." Even if some can’t stomach the music, I think most will probably appreciate the message it seems to convey:
This week marks a major victory for farm animals. After an independent, 2 1/2 -year analysis, experts released a report Wednesday calling for major changes in the way corporate agriculture produces meat, milk and eggs.
The report, "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Production in America," concludes that "concentrated animal feeding operations," or CAFOs, not only fail to provide the humane treatment of livestock, but also have an impact on human health and the environment, and undermine rural America's economic stability.
Sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the report finds that the “"economies of scale" used to justify factory farming practices are largely an illusion, perpetuated by a failure to account for associated costs.”
Read the Washington Post article here.
Download the full report here: "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Production in America." (6MB PDF)
On the eve of the Kentucky Derby, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is calling for sweeping reforms to the bluegrass states laws protecting horses and other animals. According to a 2007 report released by ALDF, Kentucky ranks dead last in the nation in its laws protecting animals.
A recent horse neglect case in Harrison County highlights the stark contrast between the thoroughbred treatment of Kentucky’s prized Derby racers and the countless horses suffering in rural counties without adequate legal protection.
Of the over 30 neglected horses--three of whom were tattooed thoroughbreds who had been "run out"--16 were discovered dead on the property of defendants Haskell and Dinah Risner of Cynthiana by the time state police finally executed a search warrant in early November 2007. County Attorney Charles W. (Bill) Kuster would only authorize an "on-site" seizure--meaning that the suffering horses were left in the defendants’ care after their arrest and release, after which an additional horse died due to an untreated parasitic infestation.
Despite ALDF’s offers of assistance throughout the case, the horses were never seized from the defendants, who ultimately were given a slap-on-the-wrist plea agreement.
In addition to the Harrison County case, an epidemic of horse cruelty cases across the state have highlighted the weaknesses in Kentucky’s animal protection laws, including recent cases in Rockcastle County, Rowan County, and Jessamine County.
"It’s a sad irony that while Kentucky promotes--and profits from--its world-renowned horse race, horses are literally starving to death throughout the state, often in plain sight of local law enforcement," says Scott Heiser, director of ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program. "Until the legislature and local sheriffs and prosecutors begin to take animal protection seriously, the home of the Derby will continue to hold the dubious title of ‘best state in the nation to be an animal abuser.’"
Read more about the animal protection law reforms ALDF is actively seeking in Kentucky…
A Sierra Club representative contacted me on Earth Day last week about possibly working on a future project together with ALDF, and it reminded me that our work overlaps in many ways—that protection of the environment is good for the animals, and vice versa.
I’m lucky enough to live in upstate New York, a place where deer, rabbits, and squirrels cross through my yard, and I have even seen the neighborhood’s elusive fox emerge from the nearby woods to trot up my street. Recently I discovered that if I take a certain road to the store, I might see a flock of 8 magnificent wild turkeys who must reside in a forest that borders a field where they rather recklessly hang out endlessly in full view from the road, if they are not in fact IN the road.
Seeing wildlife out in the open has absolutely thrilled me in an indescribable way ever since I was a child, and it still does. In those moments I truly feel like nature has chosen me to have a glimpse of a special, beautiful secret, and I hold my breath and watch as long as I can, until the animal returns to its normal place hidden out of view of humans (except for the turkeys).
All of which is a long way of saying, don’t forget the wildlife. I know that with all the work we do at ALDF on companion animal cases and farm animal issues, it’s easy to forget about the wildlife--who are usually exempt from most animal protection laws, hunted when out in the open, and whose habitat around the world is diminishing daily.
I’m teaching my 6-year-old son to appreciate these specially revealed moments in nature, to respect all animals, and to do what we can to ensure their habitat is preserved before it’s all gone. He thinks the deer are "awesome" and can identify as many bird species as I’ve been able to teach him (note to self: bone up on learning more bird species). Despite his mother’s extreme phobia about snakes, my son has embraced them. Literally. So we do what we can to remember the wildlife, and their environment, and hope others will too.
There’s a reason a song named, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" was written – because, as so many of us know, breaking up is indeed really hard to do! If going through the emotional part of a break up wasn’t hard enough, so many times "the stuff" accumulated during the relationship must be divvied up between the parting parties – sometimes taking the form of an overflowing box of "stuff" owned by one of the parties, tossed out haphazardly onto the front lawn. C'est la vie – such is life.
However, things can become more complicated when companion animals are involved. A story published by Reuters yesterday reports that an increasing number of couples who split up are less concerned about who gets the cutlery and more concerned about custody of Cuddles, the cat.
An excerpt from the article:
"With pets being treated more as one of the family than just an animal, the fate of Fido or Cuddles is becoming a growing problem which lawyers are taking on board, drafting "petimony" contracts and sparking a new focus on animal law issues." Read more…
If you’re involved in a custody dispute, or if such a dispute is likely, be sure to check out ALDF’s pet custody resource page for helpful tips.
If you are an attorney handling a pet custody case, ALDF may be able to file an amicus curiae brief in your case, arguing that the best interests of the animal involved be considered in determining custody. Email us if you are an attorney requesting this type of assistance.
If you’re not involved in a custody dispute but are going though a breakup, well, ALDF can’t be of much help there. But I can say, Purely Decadent Peanut Butter Zig Zag soy ice cream has always helped me get through life’s rough spots...
Mending fences and scratching pig bellies were just a couple of the activities University of Florida law students participated in at Rooterville, a pot-bellied pig sanctuary in Florida.
Members of the University of Florida’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter recently took part in a large-scale volunteer event at Rooterville where they spent the day working with others from different organizations and colleges doing facility maintenance, assisting with inoculations, and the favorite chore of the students and the pigs, petting and brushing.
As a part of ALDF’s Animal Law Program, Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapters share ALDF’s mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. Currently, there are 119 SALDF chapters at accredited law schools throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Read on for more inspiring stories about how the University of Florida’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter and other SALDF chapters across the country are making the world a better place for animals.
How can I write about my 11 years with Phantom without sounding cliché? Stories of unconditional love, devotion, trust and companionship are part of the fabric of life for those who choose to live our life with a dog. And I love every single one of the stories I’ve heard from people, strangers or loved ones, who have been thus blessed. Every story has so much in common. Yet every one is unique.
It’s that uniqueness I struggle to capture. Not necessarily for anyone else because no one will ever know the bond we shared, Phantom and me -- though those who were closest to us have a pretty good idea. I tell our story to keep it alive and because, for all he gave me, I feel a sense of gratitude and debt that compels me. So, I sat at my computer, just hours after I made the decision to let him go and end his suffering, and I reopened a video project I had started months before. And I went through hundreds of photos and video clips on my computer. And I cried and I laughed (Phantom and I shared a goofy sense of humor that I think only he and I completely got). As the memories came flooding back I added and deleted until I felt like our story was adequately told.
So here it is. For those of you who know the joy and pain of sharing your home and your heart with a dog, a cat or any other animal, you will understand much of what is between the lines here. It was beautiful. And, for me, I will watch and laugh and cry and know that I am forever changed by it.
Thanks Phantom! This is for you, and all the animals who offer us so much.
Tony Eliseuson is one of ALDF's volunteer attorney members. He is a litigator in Chicago at the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP. Tony actively follows animal law litigation and legislation around the country.
I am very
excited and honored to have the opportunity to join the current group
of authors on Animal Legal Defense Fund’s blog! Given that this is my
first post here, I wanted to briefly introduce myself and talk about
how I came to be involved with ALDF.
I have always been an animal-friendly person, but I am a fairly recent convert to the animal welfare cause. My first real exposure to animal law and animal welfare issues was through another associate at my law firm, who is active in animal welfare causes. As we were working on another case, we would periodically discuss animal law issues. She would also send me information and articles on animal welfare issues, in particular on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) and related issues.
Her passion for this subject rubbed off on me, and I began reading more and more about animal law issues. This ultimately led to my decision to seek out pro bono work, including joining ALDF’s excellent volunteer attorney network. In case you are not familiar with this program, the ALDF volunteer attorney network includes a membership component and also provides a large variety of resources to attorneys who are interested in animal law. You can find more information about the program here.
Through ALDF’s volunteer attorney network, I was put in contact with Pam Hart, the director of that program, who provided me with a great deal of information and insights on these topics. For example, I was interested in starting an animal law class at a local law school in Chicago, and Pam quickly provided me with an excellent case book and other materials to help me start that process.
Additionally, I had co-written two articles for the American Bar Association’s (ABA) animal law section’s newsletter regarding the litigation relating to the Chicago Foie Gras Ordinance, which bans the sale of foie gras in Chicago restaurants. The Ordinance was challenged by a Chicago restaurant and a restaurant industry association on dormant Commerce Clause grounds (and other grounds). The City successfully moved to dismiss the complaint, and the plaintiffs appealed that decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. (I will discuss the litigation in more detail in a post in the near future).
I reached out to Pam Hart to see if ALDF would be interested in attempting to file an amicus brief in support of the City of Chicago with the Seventh Circuit. Pam put me in contact with Joyce Tischler and the two of them agreed that the ALDF should try to file such a brief. I therefore had the opportunity to draft an amicus brief for ALDF. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) the plaintiffs opposed our amicus brief, and the Seventh Circuit, which disfavors such briefs, refused to allow us leave to file the brief. A copy of the brief that was submitted to the Court and served on the litigants can be found here. (PDF)
I am still very proud of that brief, even though it is not an official part of the record in the case. One of the attorneys for the City of Chicago was kind enough to reach out to me and indicate that he thought it was an excellent brief, and that he enjoyed reading it. So hopefully it will provide the City with some fodder for oral argument (if the Seventh Circuit orders oral argument).
Drafting the brief also had other positive effects. For example, many of the attorneys and staff members at my law firm have reached out to me to offer their assistance on future work for ALDF after seeing this matter in our daily new matter list. In fact, I received a very kind note from two of our attorneys in our Charlotte office who had done work for ALDF at a prior firm investigating puppy mills for potential litigation under a state statute that allowed private citizens to bring suit to enforce animal welfare laws.
So I am very hopeful that my work for ALDF on this amicus brief will not only benefit the City in the Chicago Foie Gras Ordinance litigation, but will also serve as a catalyst for my colleagues to perform more pro bono work for ALDF in the future. For any other attorneys would like to know more about ALDF’s pro bono activities, I would highly recommend becoming an ALDF volunteer attorney member, it only takes a few minutes to fill out the form to join, which can be found here.
I look forward to sharing more posts with everyone soon, should anyone wish to contact me they should feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When news of a fistfight between two lawyers (not their clients mind you, but the attorneys—the ones who had the discipline, foresight and maturity to knuckle down and earn not just a college degree, but also a law degree) was recently reported in the local news, I got to thinking about the role that the trial bench plays in establishing the level of professionalism in the local bar. In the case noted above, the judge hearing the matter declined to hold either (or both) combatants in contempt of court for their conduct. Moreover, the judge is apparently unwilling to report either attorney to the state bar disciplinary board. I can’t help but wonder if the judge would have opted to pursue the same "head in the sand" strategy if the fight had been between the two clients rather than the opposing attorneys. If not, how can this judge’s choices be characterized as anything other than an enabling double standard?
Weak judges beget poor performance by the attorneys who practice before them. From an animal law practitioner’s perspective, even more troubling is the fact that weak judges often fail to follow the law, look for corners to cut and seek ways to appease both sides of a case in an effort to avoid controversy or scrutiny from an appellate court. For the creative professionals working within the justice system to improve the plight of a vulnerable class of beings, such a dynamic is just one more (unnecessary) hurdle to clear before the merits of the case are ever squarely addressed.
Ironically, judicial elections tend to generate very little voter interest despite the fact that these men and women adorned in black robes wield an immense amount of power capable of impacting the lives of many an apathetic voter. Perhaps even more significant, yet obscure, is the role each governor plays in all of this. Most trial judges first ascend to the bench via gubernatorial appointment and then are, later, formally elected into office as the incumbent. This reality makes a governor’s judicial selection criteria a highly relevant aspect of his or her own campaign platform. It is quite rare, however, for a candidate’s judicial selection methods to become a central issue in a gubernatorial race. The point to this is simply to urge you to pay close attention to the selection of your trial judges and encourage the skilled attorneys in your community to take what often amounts to a substantial pay cut and give something back to their community by becoming a trial court judge. The quality of the trial bench has a profound impact on our ability to advance the interests of our clients, the animals.
The Michigan Law Review’s companion journal First Impressions this week published an online symposium on agriculture animals and agriculture law. Be sure to check out this insightful debate and read what the experts say about the laws that protect farm animals.
Here's a summary of what you'll find:
The Humane Society of the United States’ Vice President of Government Relations Nancy Perry and Senior Attorney Peter Brandt decry the inadequacy of USDA regulations in protecting animals from abuse. Highlighting the recent media coverage of abuse at the Hallmark Meat Packing plant in California, they argue that states should enforce their animal cruelty laws against the agricultural animal industry, and that protecting animals requires a new and robust federal framework.
University of Michigan Harry Burns Hutchins Professor of Law Joseph Vining identifies a particular advantage of criminal sanctions: that a corporation will regulate agricultural practices if it is liable as an entity itself. Corporations have methods and resources that public agencies lack, which will lead to better protections for farmed animals.
Angela J. Geiman, Senior Lawyer for Cargill Meat Solutions Corp, supports applying science-based regulations to the animal agriculture industry. She agrees with approaches that allow academic and industry experts to decide what the definition of a “humane” practice is.
Animal rights attorney and President of the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights Steven M. Wise likens current agricultural animal practices to human slavery, arguing that economic interests that perpetuated the institution of slavery resemble the contemporary industry opposition to animal rights. He argues that animals have fundamental rights based on the practical autonomy that they possess as beings, rather than as things.
Professor Neil D. Hamilton, Director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake Law School, suggests that litigation cannot address concerns about animal cruelty in agricultural settings. The divide between animal rights and animal welfare is a broader cultural phenomenon that a judicial decision cannot decide.
Colorado State University Professor of Philosophy, Animal Sciences and Biomedical Sciences Bernard Rollin catalogs five factors that demonstrate the necessity of shifting to a framework that recognizes animal rights. People now think of animals as having rights as a result of these five changes.
University of Michigan J.D. candidate Kyle H. Landis-Marinello demonstrates the severe harm that current agricultural animal practices cause the environment. He argues that enforcing animal cruelty laws in the agricultural animal industry will therefore yield significant environmental benefits.
We want to thank the many of you who made donations to support the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s campaign for dairy farm reform. As always, we’re moved by your generosity.
As we wrote last week, Animal Legal Defense Fund is at a crucial turning point in its campaign for dairy farm reform as we take the Free Baby Mendes campaign to the Supreme Court of California.
Country music icon Willie Nelson has joined our campaign to stop the cramped, inhumane conditions calves at Mendes Calf Ranch are force to endure. Such intense confinement violates state anti-cruelty laws, which require that animals be provided with adequate exercise area.
We need your financial support to continue this fight against the factory farm industry’s cruel and illegal forced confinement of thousands of innocent animals.
On June 19, 2006, ALDF first filed a complaint in Tulare County Superior Court against Mendes Calf Ranch for isolating and confining newborn calves in crates.
Located in Tipton, California, Mendes houses calves for approximately 80 different dairy producers. After birth, baby calves are almost immediately taken away from their mothers and shipped to the facility, which houses as many as 12,000 calves at one time.
Country music icon Willie Nelson last month joined over 22,000 supporters who are pushing for dairy farm reform by signing on to ALDF’s Free Baby Mendes campaign. Willie Nelson has written letters to Land O’Lakes and Challenge Dairy, two of the major corporations that use milk from calves raised at California’s Mendes Calf Ranch.
We are now appealing this lawsuit in the Supreme Court of California and we urgently need your help to continue to push forward on this landmark court case!
Your support and generosity will help make a difference for these baby calves! Thank you for your efforts to help Free Baby Mendes.
Cotati: what the heck is it?
"Cotati" is not a contagious disease, an exotic fish, or (to my knowledge) a Japanese epithet. Rather, it’s the answer to the question, "Where exactly are you guys?," one I’m often asked when chatting about the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Yup, we’re a national organization with more than 110,000 members, student chapters in more than 100 law schools, and a one-of-a-kind network of attorneys reaching across the nation--and our headquarters office is in a town no one’s ever heard of, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. It’s a nice little town, with its very own farmers market, dive bar, and cops who will nail you for going 27 in a 25 zone.
In addition to our Cotati headquarters, we also have a very lovely office in Portland, Oregon, which requires far less geographical explanation. Like lots of city-dwellers, we started out many years ago closer to the San Francisco action and, as property prices rose, gradually migrated north. In terms of animal law, of course the action is now right here, in Cotati. Mark your map!
Yes, we are a dog-friendly office. Yes, we have vegan donuts at our staff meetings (they’ve proved to be much more popular than sliced fruit). If you were a law student fantasizing about dedicating your career to the animals, it might be exactly what you’d picture. If you are a laws student thinking "sign me up!" I encourage you to get involved with your Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter, start one if your school does not have one already, and give us a holler in a few years. It’s lovely here in April--everything is green, there’s wild fennel and blackberry bushes all over the place, and it’s about 65 degrees outside. Just delightful. Golden Gate Bridge--bah! Who needs it!
Beware the Ides of March! That was the warning given to Julius Caesar by the blind man. It was good advice, too. If Caesar had stayed home that day, he might well have foiled the plot to assassinate him. Each year, as I say good-bye to the third month of the year, I remember those fateful words, with a certain sense of awe and amusement. Whew; made it through once again.
How often do we avoid good advice, to our own detriment? How often do we simply not want to hear hard truths? I can think of several occasions, when, if I had just listened to the truth, I might have saved myself a ton of grief.
The truth is: global warming is an established scientific fact, regardless of whether or not you wish to acknowledge it. And, if you smoke cigarettes long enough, your health will be damaged. Not to mention, the “E” word: exercise. Everything I read tells me how important it is to good health and yet, most Americans fight it like the plague.
Have you noticed that more and more medical experts are advising us to cut down on the consumption of meat? If they were really honest, they would tell us to avoid it altogether, along with dairy. The consumption of animals is just not very good for human health. Not good for the animals’ health either. So, why is it that when the subject comes up, it is so loaded with emotion? When I am asked if I eat meat and I respond that I am a vegan, you would think that I had just stripped off all of my clothing and was running around the room naked. Whoa; let’s not go there!
I enjoy meeting with people who tell me that they love animals and want to change the world, so that the animals are protected from harm. They often tell me that they support what we are doing in our programs, and I appreciate their support. Without it, we couldn’t do what we do. But, if the subject happens to turn to meat eating, these same, kind and compassionate people often swear that they will never give it up. They like the taste of meat too much and it’s too hard to change.
The sad truth is that factory farming constitutes the greatest abuse to the largest number of animals in the U.S. For the sows imprisoned in gestation and farrowing crates, the dairy calves in intensive confinement and the chickens in battery cages, life is hell. There are many ways in which we can commit ourselves to protecting these animals, but on a personal level, we need to get off their backs, literally.
Here’s a piece of advice: If you want to change the world; change yourself. For the animals, for your own health, and for the good of this overworked planet, start by choosing one day each week and on that one day, don’t eat meat and dairy. Try it. Let me know how it goes. Oh, and if you see any Romans wearing togas, cross over to the other side of the street.
There have been some very exciting updates in the Free Baby Mendes campaign - Willie Nelson has decided that as a cowboy he must stand up for cows and has signed on to our campaign! He has already written letters to Land O' Lakes and Challenge Dairy urging them to stop using milk products that come from the confined calves at Mendes Calf Ranch.
Check out the awesome coverage Animal Legal Defense Fund and Willie received on the celeb news site - www.TMZ.com!
Since Willie signed on to the campaign, our signature counter on the Free Baby Mendes site has been non-stop! Each and every minute more concerned individuals are signing the petition and helping ALDF to put an end to the cruelty at Mendes Calf Ranch. Please urge your friends and family to sign the petition today!
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and Willie Nelson thank you for all you do for animals!
As we reported earlier this month, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, East Bay Animal Advocates, and three Bay Area consumers recently dismissed their lawsuit against a cruel and inhumane pig breeding facility in Corcoran, California operated by Corcpork, Inc. We dismissed the suit after learning that Corcpork and its parent company Hormel Foods are eliminating their breeding operation at the Corcoran facility.
Corcpork’s breeding operation confined approximately 9,000 pigs in crates so small they could not turn around, scratch, or stretch their limbs. Like all factory farm breeding programs, Corcpork’s operation in essence commandeered female pigs’ reproductive systems, exploiting their maternal biology to produce an endless supply of piglets whose bodies were then fattened, slaughtered, and butchered for pork. Each one of these female breeding pigs was trapped in a cycle of reproduction, placed in one cramped stall after another. While she was pregnant, Corcpork confined her in a gestation crate like these ones, which are only two feet wide (less than half the length of the desk on which I’m typing). She was kept in that cramped pen for almost four months, until she gave birth. Afterwards, Corcpork moved her into a farrowing crate like this one, which was only slightly larger than the gestation crate from which she had been removed. In the farrowing crate, she was immobilized in a way that prevented her piglets from having any access to their mother aside from their ability to nurse. Once the piglets were weaned, Corcpork had her re-impregnated, then put her right back in the gestation crate to start over again. This cycle continued until she was worn out, at which point she was shipped off for slaughter.
This disgraceful appropriation of maternity for profit will thankfully come to an end at the Corcoran facility. Corcpork has stated, in a binding legal document, that it will end "its breeding operations entirely and [will] not, therefore, house breeding sows in gestation stalls... The purpose of this change is to eliminate breeding operations at the Corcoran [factory] farm, and the breeding operations that previously existed at the Corcoran [factory] farm have not been relocated to another operation."
Corcpork’s announcement is more evidence that the tide is turning against exploitative animal agriculture. Voters in Florida and Arizona have already rejected the cruelty inherent in gestation crates, and California voters will get the opportunity to do so this November. The Oregon legislature has banned gestation crates, and Colorado lawmakers are looking at doing the same. Smithfield Foods and Maple Leaf Foods, the largest pork producers in the United States and Canada, respectively, have committed to phasing out gestation crates.
Corcpork and Clougherty’s parent company is Hormel Foods, one of the largest pork producers in North America. When Hormel acquired Clougherty in 2004, it more than doubled the number of sows it uses in its operations. On its website, Hormel claims, "We take our zero tolerance policy for the inhumane treatment of animals very seriously." If that’s true, Hormel should follow Smithfield and Maple Leaf’s lead and ban cruel gestation and farrowing crates in its breeding operations throughout the country, not just in California.
Of course, even in the absence of cruel intensive confinement, animals raised for food suffer immensely, be it through husbandry, transportation, or slaughter. The best thing each of us can do to respect and protect animals is to refuse to dine on their bodies.
Animal Legal Defense Fund member, Daina, took this picture of her rescued cat, "The Cookie Man," perched in his favorite spot next to their ALDF sticker.
"His name is "The Cookie Man." He came into our emergency hospital after a brief run in with the police at a 24 hour Stop & Shop super market. The authorities were called, for a feral cat had made his way into the store and was tearing the place apart desperately trying to not get caught. He sought refuge in the cookie aisle among the "Nilla Wafers" where they were finally able to apprehend and arrest him. Due to this valiant stand against the man -the pads of his feet were terribly abraded- the officer brought him directly to us for treatment. Being about 9 months old and feral, we were unsure if he would let us even touch him. After 2 days he came to the realization that we meant to help and care for him, giving us his trust and affection. After 3 days I came to my own realization: any cat that gives people a run for their money and escapes into cookies, shouldn't go home with anyone but me. Plus a shelter is no place for a renegade!"
Do you have a photo of your companion animal next to an ALDF sticker, wearing ALDF merchandise or showing their ALDF spirit another way? How about a story? Send them to us at email@example.com for a chance to be featured on our website and eNewsletter.
Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppin’ Easter’s on its way
― Steve Nelson & Jack Rollins
Yes, Easter is just around the corner, bringing with it all the colors and pomp that thousands of years bestow upon cultural traditions. I enjoy Easter as much as the next guy: I appreciate its religious significance (both pagan and Christian), I’m particularly fond of vegan chocolate and jelly beans, and just try to find a lily I won’t admire. What I do not abide is animal cruelty, and that is sadly associated with this otherwise joyous holiday.
This month, countless parents across the country will decide, usually with little thought or research, that a baby rabbit is a wonderful way to help their child celebrate Easter. "Oh, aren’t bunnies adorable?" they’ll sigh. "Won’t little Dylan and Dakota be thrilled?" they’ll muse. "Isn’t a bunny the perfect pet for any child?" they’ll reason. My response: "Yes," "Probably at first," and "Absolutely not."
It is true that rabbits are enormously appealing in many ways. Humans who live with them are usually amazed by the rabbit’s intelligence, beguiled by their gentle natures, and captivated by their lively personalities. Rabbits make wonderful companions who bond for life with their guardians, know their names, and play with toys. I share my home with five rabbits, and they never fail to delight me, no matter how rough a day I’ve had.
But all too often people give little thought before bringing home a rabbit, impulsively buying them at pet stores and then, when the novelty has worn off, discarding the bunnies at already crowded shelters, where they may never find a real home -- rabbits are the third most euthanized animals in the country. Other disenchanted parents will dump an unwanted rabbit in the park, where the helpless domestic bunny will quickly be eaten by predators, get run over by a car, become ill, or starve.
Keenly aware of the Easter Bunny’s popularity in song and myth, some pet stores will be actively promoting rabbits as wonderful starter animals. This is simply not true. To begin with, while children want an animal they can hold, most rabbits detest being picked up, much to the bewilderment and disappointment of uninformed rabbit guardians. Remember, rabbits are prey animals -- to them, being lifted off the ground means they’re becoming someone’s dinner. Rabbits are social and do love attention, but gingerly and on terra firma. They are also very sensitive animals who don’t tolerate the lively natures of young children.
Moreover, rabbits are not low-maintenance companions; they require unlimited hay, fresh greens, daily water changes, weekly combing, monthly nail trimming, and annual exams with a bunny-savvy vet. They should also be spayed or neutered, which will benefit their health, reduce territory marking, and of course prevent the creation of more rabbits (it’s not by accident they are symbols of fertility). Rabbits will also use a litterbox, which needs frequent cleaning. Oh, and did I mention the chewing? Any rooms the rabbit will have access to need to be bunny-proofed, since rabbits, who are burrowing animals, have a strong biting instinct and will chew on your baseboard or nip through telephone cords.
Although many people still believe rabbits are fine in an outdoor hutch, consigning them to the backyard constrains their natural behaviors, subjects them to the danger of predators and inclement weather, and denies you the pleasure of their company. Rabbits flourish indoors, where they can run, dance, and play in safety.
If, after doing some homework, you decide a rabbit is right for your family, please do not buy from a pet store. "I encourage all parents to teach their kids the lesson of love and compassion by adopting from their local shelter or rescue group, or even volunteering," says Marcy Schaaf, founder of SaveABunny, a nonprofit rabbit-rescue organization. Marcy reminds potential guardians that keeping a rabbit means making a seven- to 10-year emotional, financial, and physical commitment.
Unless you are truly prepared to take in a rabbit this Easter, please give your child a stuffed animal or animal book instead. You might also consider sponsoring a rabbit at organizations like SaveABunny, Animal Place, or the House Rabbit Society. In the long run, you’ll be making a happier holiday for everyone.
Mark Hawthorne is the author of Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism.
The other day, my mother called me in need of some advice. Some friends of hers had just adopted a 3-year old dog named Toby from their local animal shelter, and they were having some problems with him urinating in the house. I told her they should call their veterinarian in case there was a medical problem, and also call the shelter where they adopted him for some housetraining tips. I also said I would email her some links to dog behavior handouts that she could give them. (The Denver Dumb Friends League has a great resource on their website that many animal shelters around the country use for canine behavior issues, from house soiling to barking to aggression.)
My mom then got off the phone so she could bring them a dog crate to try. A few days later, she emailed me, despondent. Apparently, her friends didn’t want to put forth the effort to housetrain him, so they gave poor Toby back to the shelter.
I must admit that I wasn’t surprised. This scenario is all too familiar to me, having once worked in the animal sheltering world and having had too many encounters with people who want a ready-made, perfect animal. The sad fact is that there are people out there who aren’t willing to take a little bit of extra time to work with a common, minor issue such as housetraining.
What is especially disheartening about this selfish desire for perfection is that it is in sharp contrast to the extreme self-sacrifice that one of my coworkers is demonstrating with her dog’s much more serious situation. My coworker Nicole is the proud mom of a 7-year-old rescued German Shepherd named Alec (aka Ali). One day over a month ago, Ali came home limping after a trip to the park. By the time she got him to the vet (within an hour), he was no longer able to use his back legs. Nicole did everything the vet recommended, including surgery, to fix a ruptured disk. Just a few days after the first surgery, the same disk ruptured a second time, so it was back to the operating room again. He came through the second surgery okay and is now out of the vet hospital and with Nicole. He has not yet regained feeling in his back legs, and she faces the possibility that this may be a permanent situation.
Now he has several weeks of cage rest ahead of him. He cannot go up any stairs, so she has dramatically rearranged her living situation and found temporary housing on the ground floor. She also must express his bladder several times a day. This is a difficult procedure to learn, to say the least. In the beginning, she had to pay a vet tech to come by every day and make sure the bladder was getting completely emptied so he didn't develop an infection. Due to her determination, however, in a very short amount of time she has become very good at it, and she has the vet come by every few days to check his bladder.
She has to be very careful so that the disk won’t rupture again, and he mostly must rest and stay calm, but she can sometimes take him outside in a wagon for some fresh air. At her veterinarian’s recommendation, she is already doing some physical therapy with Ali while he is recovering, and she will schedule sessions with a physical therapist after his recovery. After his healing period, she will spend even more money to buy him a cart (doggie wheelchair). Dogs like him do well with the carts, and we all look forward to the day when Ali can once again join our staff dogs on a dog walk. I have a sneaking suspicion that he’ll love being the fastest one with his new set of wheels.
I am happy to report that his spirits are up, he quietly plays with his toys and he is eating just fine. He especially enjoys kongs filled with peanut butter.
I am deeply humbled by Nicole’s dedication and intense drive to do anything for Ali, no matter what sacrifices she has to make. And there are many sacrifices that this situation is asking of her. If he doesn’t regain the use of his back legs, she will have to express his bladder every day for the rest of his life. She plans to permanently move from her upstairs apartment in a city that she loves, away from many of her friends, so that Ali can live in a ground floor dwelling. She won’t be able to leave him with just anyone when she travels for work.
The amazing thing is that Nicole doesn’t dwell on these negatives, but instead is overwhelmed with gratitude that Ali is still alive and with her, and doing so well.
Many people would not do what Nicole is doing, even if they had the financial and physical means to do so. Her self-denial and sheer determination to make Ali’s life comfortable, healthy and happy is truly awe-inspiring. If she can do all this with little help or resources, and with a smile on her face, it should give us all pause.
So maybe my mom’s friends didn't work out for Toby, but maybe there is someone out there with even 10% of Nicole's love and dedication, who will gladly take him and his extremely minor, fixable housetraining issue. I sure hope so.
My wish is that all of the Toby’s in the world will someday have devoted parents like Nicole to love and care for them. I think Ali would wholeheartedly agree.
Georgia senators unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would make it illegal to attend a dog fight or breed dogs for fighting. In addition, the Senate added a provision to the bill passed by the House that mandates dogs seized in fighting cases be spayed or neutered. Before this bill becomes a law, the House must approve that change and Governor Sonny Perdue must sign it.
Last August, in the wake of the Michael Vick dogfighting case, ALDF approached Georgia legislators and asked them to back a proposed law that, if in place, could send dogfighters to jail for up to 20 years on a first conviction. Virginia recently passed a similar bill authored by ALDF, giving prosecutors increased power to go after dogfighting operations as organized criminal enterprises.
On March 4, Wyoming was the last state to sign legislation making dogfighting a felony. This new legislation makes this gruesome crime a felony in all 50 states.
With these recent victories, it is abundantly clear that America is finally taking a strong, very necessary, stand against dogfighting. Let's keep the good momentum going!
Walk with me while we go peek over the edge of a new frontier. (For purposes of this walk, let’s save the objections to studying animals in captivity for another day.)
Using science and anecdotes, and accompanied by stunning photographs that capture each subject’s soul, National Geographic Magazine’s March cover story explores what we know today about animals’ intelligence. The article covers the usual suspects—dogs, primates, birds—and unusual ones as well: octopus, marmoset, cichlid. That most animal species have intelligence, are sociable, playful, and certainly much more than robots running on instinct is of no surprise to anyone who reads this blog. To be sure, there remain plenty of skeptical naysayers, both within and outside the scientific communities, folks who’ve obviously never spent time with my canines Jozie and Kula.
What’s so exciting is the subtext of this article and the possibilities it renders: that we are already able to really communicate with some species, and are on the brink of understanding others. For now the communication is one directional, with humans teaching primates, birds, dolphins, and dogs our verbal or sign language and gestures. Still on the far, far horizon lies the day when we humans are smart enough to understand animals’ languages, whether silent or audible.
When my eye caught the magazine on the newsstand at the airport, I sprinted across the concourse to buy it and eagerly took it out to read on the plane. Not surprising, given what I do all day. But strangers on the plane had done the same, and once we saw each other’s copies in hand, we all began animatedly talking, in awe about the amazing capabilities of the animals described.
I’m not sure what excited me more, the actual advances being made in interspecies communication, the excitement the article is generating among "civilians" (the non-animal lawyer public), or what it all means. Okay, it’s the latter: the optimistic, maybe naïve possibility that we may finally be on the cusp of definitively dismantling the dubious arguments supporting the use and exploitation of animals by having animals, in our language or theirs, tell us just what they think and feel.
As one guy on the plane said "we may be ashamed at what they have to say about us." I, for one, am ready to take the heat and listen up, and am already walking out toward that far horizon on the animal intelligence frontier.
Walk with me.
ALDF just reached 100 Facebook "fans" – hooray! A big thanks to our inaugural fans for their support of ALDF and dedication to winning the case against animal cruelty! Great progress is being made for animals and it is each of our actions that makes all the difference. Thank you!
And more good news…
On Wednesday, the dogfighting bill that ALDF drafted for the Virginia legislature passed the Assembly and is on its way to the Governor! The new law will criminalize organized dogfighting, allowing prosecutors to charge abusers under RICO ("Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act") laws – sending dogfighters to prison for up to 40 years. Read the full story here.
The Dallas Morning News published a story yesterday after Florida's St. Peterburg Times screened two dozen pet toys and products for lead content. While the tests found that most of the products had minimal or no amounts of lead, two products contained high levels of lead and could be dangerous to companion animals and children.
Read the full story here.
On February 1, a group of ALDF staffers including me joined Bruce Wagman, ALDF’s Chief Outside Litigation Counsel, for a trip to California’s Ano Nuevo State Reserve. Between December and March, Ano Nuevo is host to thousands of Northern Elephant Seals who haul out on the Reserve’s pristine beaches to mate and give birth. We were among the fortunate to bear witness to this incredible natural wonder. The experience is impossible to describe adequately but as I enjoyed the wonder of it all, I also found myself reflecting on the irony of these giants’ fragile vulnerability.
The Elephant seal commands superlatives. Adult males can weigh up to 5000 pounds, they can dive to depths nearing 5000 feet and hold their breath underwater for as long as 90 minutes. During breeding season, adult males are so busy guarding their "harems" of females that they won’t eat for three months. These adaptations have served the Elephant Seal for millennia and have made them one of the largest carnivorous animals on earth feeding on fish, squid and even sharks. They are a formidable creature to see up close and our guide reminded us that they can move as quickly as a running human being across the dunes they call home. Recognizing the Elephant Seals’ tremendous power added to the drama and mystique of the experience. We were humbled in their presence.
But despite their enormous size and exquisitely adapted life cycle, the seals are remarkably vulnerable. Defenses and life cycles that have evolved over millions of years are no match for the changes wrought by humankind in a mere 200 years. Elephant seals were nearly hunted to extinction in the 1800s for the value of the oil that could be rendered from their blubber. By 1892, only an estimated 50 – 100 Northern Elephant seals remained out of a population estimated to have been more than 300,000. Today, the seals are making a comeback due to protection from hunting and protection of the remaining habitats the seals need to mate and breed. While the outlook for the time being is good, threats remain due to global climate change and over fishing which impact the seals food supply and the very web of life in the oceans.
Visiting Ano Nuevo left me awestruck at the power and resilience of these magnificent creatures. But it also left me with a profound sense of moral responsibility. At this point in history, human beings have unequivocally "conquered" nature. It is we who will dictate through our action or inaction which species survive and which do not; which habitats will continue to offer refuge to our fellow earthlings and which will be converted to serve humankind as cropland, oil fields, housing tracts or strip malls. How we choose will certainly determine the fate of countless numbers of other animals and may very well determine our own fate.
Watch my home movie of a bull Elephant Seal. (Windows Media Player required.)
A decade ago, the state of Oregon banned the use of Compound 1080, known chemically as sodium fluoroacetate, for good reason. Considered to have the highest degree of acute toxicity, 1080 had been banned nationally during the Nixon administration along with other poisons aimed at predatory animals, but was legalized by the EPA in 1986 to aid the USDA’s control over wildlife. Now, Representative Peter Defazio (D-Ore.) and Predator Defense, a Eugene-based non-profit group, have teamed up to halt the use of 1080 and equally lethal M-44 sodium cyanide ejectors nationwide. H.R. 4775, the Compound 1080 and M-44 Elimination Act, deserves our support and needs our help.
So what’s the big deal? Besides being tasteless, odorless, colorless and highly concentrated, 1080 has no antidote. Wildlife Services, a branch of the USDA that traps, shoots and poisons over 1.7 million animals a year at taxpayer expense, began using the poison in the 1940’s as a way to kill rodents and other mammals. Today it’s still being used clandestinely to exterminate animals inconvenient to livestock and hobby ranchers, while leaving other animals – including humans – at risk. Wildlife Services – previously known as Animal Damage Control – supplies 1080 in the form of collars attached to livestock to kill predators such as coyotes, foxes and wolves. But the victims’ tainted carcasses may be eaten, up to months later, by scavengers like bald eagles that also may suffer similar effects. Ironically, research has shown that killing coyotes actually increases coyote populations and even the USDA admits that only a small percentage of livestock deaths are actually caused by predators. More die from disease or exposure.
Manufactured solely at Tull Chemical Company in Oxford, Ala., much of 1080 is exported to New Zealand where it is dropped aerially and, according to a growing anti-1080 lobby there, "kills everything that consumes it and goes on killing." And kill it does, but very, very slowly. Victims start to experience symptoms – extreme pain, violent vomiting, involuntary hyperextension of limbs, hallucinations, terror, convulsions and collapse – about a half hour or more following exposure, but the agony may go on for several days.
If all this sounds like an indiscriminate war on wildlife, wait, there’s more: the FBI has listed Compound 1080 – which easily dissolves in water and is so toxic, according to scientists, that a teaspoonful can kill a hundred people – as a potential tool for terrorists. According to DeFazio, the U.S. Air Force has called it a biological agent, fueling fears of bio-terrorism risks to water supplies from pre-1972 stockpiles that were never collected. 1080 has also been classified by the EPA as a male reproductive toxin.
Another poison H.R. 4775 would ban is the M-44 sodium cyanide device, packaged in a dispenser designed to eject sodium cyanide into victims’ mouths when activated and cause a relatively quick but painful death. Placed on public and private lands by government agents, these veritable land mines often inadvertently kill threatened and endangered species as well as companion dogs and cats and, because signage is often inadequate or nonexistent, have caused humans to become hapless victims as well. When several injured people sought help from federal authorities following exposure to M-44s, they were met with denial and defensiveness and found themselves nearly as voiceless as non-human victims. It took four years and nudges from Predator Defense and DeFazio for the EPA to decide to initiate a formal investigation into the poisoning of a Utah man who mistook a lethal contraption for a survey marker.
H.R. 4775 would prohibit the manufacture, processing and distribution of 1080 and M-44 capsules by requiring that the Secretary of Agriculture catalog, collect and destroy existing stockpiles during the 18 months following enactment. The bill would prohibit all use of 1080 and the use of M-44s by federal agents on federal or private lands. Following the 18-month period, possession of 1080 would be punishable criminally.
Tens of thousands of defenseless wild and companion animals die deplorable deaths every year because the U.S. ranching lobby is louder and wealthier than animal advocates. Although non-lethal livestock protection is available and more effective than extermination, we continue to pay for a pointless, futile slaughter. Shining a bright light on Wildlife Services’ secret land mines and the grave dangers they pose to all beings that come near them is long overdue. H.R. 4775, now in the hands of the Committees on Energy and Commerce, Agriculture, and Judiciary, is a crucial and prudent step in the right direction. But with strong opposition from the agriculture lobby, Predator Defense is seeking another 20 co-sponsors to add to the ten who have already signed on.
What can you do to help ensure this bill passes? Call or write your representative to ask him/her to co-sponsor the bill, and ask others to do the same. For contact info and current status of the bill, visit www.opencongress.org.
A few talking points:
- Compound 1080 and M-44s are extremely inhumane and indiscriminate, often killing or harming endangered species, companion animals and humans.
- Compound 1080 is one of the deadliest poisons on Earth and has no antidote.
- Compound 1080 is a potential terrorist threat to water and food supplies.
- Killing coyotes causes their populations to boom. See this letter by wildlife ecologist Robert Crabtree, PhD.
- Ranchers should use non-lethal husbandry practices – such as guard animals, proper fencing and night penning – rather than predator extermination.
For more detailed information, visit www.predatordefense.org.
Photos courtesy of Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense.
Eileen Stark, a former staff member of ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program, is a conservationist, free lance writer and landscape designer. She also volunteers with Predator Defense.
As the Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program, Scott Heiser has been busy fielding calls about pets left behind after families abandon their foreclosed homes. Often left trapped in the family home without food or water, the abandoned pets have little or no chance of survival. Although animal abandonment is a criminal offense, these cases often go uninvestigated. Scott give us his take on this epidemic and its silent victims.
We Americans like to "live large." For less than admirable reasons, we continue to buy vehicles that get terrible mileage, we supersize our meals and we use our houses as ATMs to temporally ease the load of consumer debt we incur while unsuccessfully attempting to satiate our lust for overconsumption. Given the underlying moral code embodied by these behaviors, it should come as no surprised that when the interest rates on our "subprime" mortgages for our oversized homes reset and we decide that we can no longer afford our houses, many of us simply choose to just walk way… Walking away from a contract to repay a debt is one thing, but there is a special place in whatever form of the afterlife you choose to believe in for those who leave their pets behind when they blow off their mortgages.
This profoundly irresponsible behavior has been widely reported on and it reminds me of a line from a pretty decent Train song from a few years back: "In a world that what we want is only what we want until it’s ours…" We want the big house, the big car and the cute adoring dog/fluffy cat. However, when the going gets tough, we just move on. Endurance, sacrifice? Not for the humans, but certainly for the animals left in the wake. The fact that animal abandonment is a criminal offense seems a token societal gesture given that most of these cases go uninvestigated, let alone prosecuted.
Take the case of Monty for example. Monty, his wife and kids moved into a house that this truck driving, law school dropout, could barely afford under the best of circumstances. They lived there for a few years—the yelling wasn’t too loud so the neighbors minded their own business. Soon enough, the inevitable became the reality and it was foreclosure time. The marriage ended—Monty moved into an apartment, his ex-wife and kids settled in at a family member’s place.
As Monty was packing the last of his personal items, a somewhat nosey neighbor asked Monty about the family cat, Roo, who was still in the yard. Monty replied that he would be back the next day to get Roo. You know the rest. Several days passed and it became fully apparent that Monty had left Roo to rot.
The somewhat nosey neighbor knew that the local police would, if they had time to take the call at all, simply deliver Roo to the animal shelter where the odds of avoiding over-population induced euthanasia were less than favorable—no meaningful investigation would ever be conducted. So, she borrowed a cat trap (despite repeated feedings by the neighbor, Roo was less than well socialized by this phase of his life given the lack of care Monty had dispensed over the years) and took him to the vet.
Roo was infested with parasites, substantially under weight and suffering from a scratched cornea. The somewhat nosey neighbor already had three cats and was not able to assume responsibility for a fourth. The vet, however, had a son who would come to the office from time to time after school. Just by luck, the vet’s son was in the same day as Roo and for no apparent reason, Roo took an immediately interest in the vet’s son—they just made an instant connection. This was completely out of character for Roo, who had to be tricked into a cage just to get him to the vet. Roo now lives with the vet’s son and this story, unlike so many others, actually has a happy ending.
The point to all this? Honestly, I’m not really sure. Perhaps it’s a reminder to appreciate what you already have and stop wishing for more—geez, I just know I’d be truly happy if I only had… Or, maybe it is a simple nudge to be the somewhat nosey neighbor when the circumstances dictate.
A couple of news stories caught my attention today that I thought were worth sharing. Good news for animals is always a great way to end a Friday!
New animal fighting law put to test
The Honolulu Advertiser, February 22, 2008
A 39-year-old Louisiana man arrested at Honolulu Airport for allegedly smuggling cockfighting gaffs into the United States from the Philippines will be one of the first people in the nation to be prosecuted under a new federal law, U.S. attorney for Hawai'i Ed Kubo said yesterday.
Safeway's animal welfare standards making industry waves
East Bay Business Times, February 21, 2008
A few weeks after Safeway Inc. announced plans to expand its animal welfare standards for suppliers, another major grocery chain has followed suit.
Harris Teeter, an upscale supermarket chain based in Charlotte, N.C., with nearly 200 stores throughout the Southeast, has announced a new animal welfare plan.
There has been a lot of coverage in the international press this week about a series of in-depth, undercover investigations into the practice of transporting farmed animals great distances (generally under hideous conditions) from the farms where they were raised to the blades that will ultimately slit their throats. On February 13, the UK’s Indpendent ran a very in-depth feature, including, on their website, investigative video footage provided by "Handle with Care," a coalition of international animal protection organizations, exposing the fact that "Millions of animals are suffering unnecessarily at the hands of meat traders by enduring cruel, drawn-out journeys across the world to be slaughtered on arrival."
It seems nonsensical. After a lifetime on a factory farm, why this final indignity--during which "thousands of animals die en route from disease, heat exhaustion, hunger and stress," only to be butchered in a foreign land? The Independent explains:
Many live exports are undertaken to make the fraudulent claim that the animals are home-reared. In Spain, thousands of horses are illegally crammed into lorries for a sweltering 46-hour journey to Italy. Canadian pigs, in conditions just as obscene, are condemned to a 4,500-mile journey by land and sea to Hawaii, so that, when slaughtered, their carcasses can be sold as "Island Produced Pork". For nine days, hundreds of pigs are crammed together in the dark, standing in their own excrement. Exhausted and hungry, they become ill, vomiting from motion sickness and waiting for long periods without food.
An article in Canada’s Globe and Mail went into further detail about the Canadian pigs’ ill-fated journey. I learned that each year, about 15,000 pigs are crammed into containers and are trucked and shipped from Alberta to the Aloha State via Oakland, California.
Oakland?? On my commute to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s headquarters office here in the Bay Area, I drive past the Port of Oakland every day, watching the massive cranes that loom along the skyline like enormous giraffes lifting giant containers that I have always assumed contained things like Hyundais and plasma screen televisions. They look almost peaceful. Never once has it occurred to me (and as a longtime animal activist, these things do tend to occur to me) that there were living animals, hidden from sight, on the massive ships that I see each day on their way out to sea.
Folks, I have been lucky enough to make the trip from Oakland to Hawaii of my own volition, and despite the small fortune it cost for the privilege of a creaky, half-reclining seat on a sub-par airline, I endured leg cramping, inadequate food provision, and the wails of despair of a number of my economy-class travel companions, many of whom (primarily babies, but still) were in fact traveling in their own excrement. It was bad enough, is what I’m saying, and at least there was a mai tai waiting for me at the end of it. What these pigs must endure is to me, quite simply, unimaginable.
"Buying local" has become a hot-button term recently in the discourse around food politics. All of these new entries into the cultural (and, you’d better believe, marketing) lexicon--"sustainably grown," "locally produced," "ecologically friendly"--does anyone know what all of this is supposed to mean, exactly?
To me, this week’s exposé on the horrors of long-distance transport also offers a warning to be wary when considering vague food labels like "Island Produced Pork." It sounds so very idyllic, and it’s intended to. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of and concerned about the lives of animals raised for food, and that’s a good thing. Meanwhile, marketers are becoming more and more savvy about selling an image of local and, implicitly, "humane" meat production that may bear no resemblance to reality.
*Thanks to DawnWatch.com for keeping a keen eye out for animal-related news coverage like this from around the globe.
This past December, ALDF invited our members to honor special animals in their lives by sending an "In Honor of" or "In Memory of" certificate that we would hang on our "Wall of Love." So many wonderful tributes arrived, we decided some were just too precious not to share.
Like the tribute to Ariana from Jani D.:
"My raccoon – she loved me completely and I loved her back – the sweetest kisses I ever got. I miss her understanding and her love more than I can say. A week after my husband had died, I had no choice but to return to work. I came home after a tough day, the house was so empty and quiet. I was sitting on the couch, so lonely, and Ari came and jumped on my lap and reached her paw up to touch my cheek. I have never before or since felt such complete understanding and love."
Or the tribute to Bailey from Roseann M.:
"Bailey is more than a special pet. He’s not just intuitive, adorable and sensitive to everyone’s needs, he seems to talk with his eyes and understands so much. (We have to spell around him – too smart for his own good!) When he was 3 ½ months old, he would pull his leash off the hook on the wall and bring it to me. He would then go up to the third step so I wouldn’t have to bend down to hook his leash. When he was 2 ½ years old, he saved us from a slow, persistent gas leak. Bailey pulled me off the couch after bringing me his leash and kept barking to go out. It was bitter cold out but he pulled me so I would go back in. He’s my hero. Last October, Bailey was given 3-6 months to live. We take it one day at a time and make each day the best for our Bailey."
Read the other beautiful tributes to special companion animals on ALDF’s Wall of Love.
Years ago, a very wise woman said to me: God is a noun, but it is also a verb. It took me awhile to understand that way of thinking, but today, I see it as a way of living; it guides the choices that I make on a daily basis. God is whatever I do that brings out the best in me, that draws me closer to growing into the person that I truly want to be. God is active, not passive. God is more about doing than about merely believing. When I choose to be compassionate, patient, ethical, creative, or giving, I grow closer to God. And, sometimes I fail, which helps me to be more humble.
My career, the work that we do at ALDF is a reflection of my understanding of God. We use our legal skills to protect animals from harm and suffering. Sometimes, I’m asked: if you care about protecting others, why don’t you eliminate human suffering first? My answer is that I am working at the roots. I work for animals precisely because most people choose to ignore their suffering.
If God is a verb, then my place in the world is to help human beings open their hearts and their minds to the widespread suffering that my colleagues and I deal with on a daily basis, and to support an end to that unnecessary suffering.
Certain religions teach that human beings are very different from and far superior to all other species. I disagree, and believe that, in the ways that really matter, we share a great deal in common. Humans are not alone in their ability to feel pain and have a sense of their own life force. We know that dogs, cats, pigs, cows, chimpanzees, in fact, all of the more complex life forms have a central nervous system much like our own. They feel pain and pleasure and form close familial relationships with members of their own species. They show that they have emotions and preferences; they communicate their needs and sometimes, even show a sense of humor. I’ve talked with so many people who have close emotional relationships with dogs and cats and what I’ve just written is quite obvious to them. They consider animals to be members of their families specifically because animals give us so much on an emotional level. We don’t form deep emotional ties with our toaster ovens, because they can’t give anything back. A dog can, and does.
I think it’s a miracle that individuals from different species are able to communicate with each other and form a close emotional bond. My veterinarian, Dr. Diane Ritchie calls this: "when two souls connect," a subject that I covered in another blog.
But, we humans have a rather schizophrenic relationship with animals. We love them, spend billions of dollars on pet food, toys, bedding, veterinary care, and yet, too often, we abuse and exploit them. On a daily basis, we at ALDF deal with the very worst things that humans do to animals: the Michael Vick case was an eye-opener for many Americans, but we have dealt with the horror of dog fighting for many years. We have a database that, sadly, lists categories such as: beating, burning, dragging, drowning, shooting and microwaving. We refer to those horrible actions as "intentional cruelty," but much greater long term suffering happens in the area of a more benign, institutional abuse.
Each year, billions of animals are raised for food, and most of these farmed animals live in intensive confinement – they can barely move, or turn around; they can’t socialize with others of their own kind as they normally would, or do anything that is natural to them. They live out their lives in a persistent state of physical pain, suffering, and frustration because their most basic needs are ignored. All of this suffering happens because for most people, those animals don’t matter, they are not important enough for us to be concerned about their pain.
I believe that suffering matters to the individual who experiences it and therefore, it matters to me. Harriet Beecher Stowe once wrote that: "It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done."
If God is a verb, then I grow closer to God when I work to end the suffering of those who cannot speak for themselves.
Some stories are far too wonderful not to share...
The following is an email from Bruce Wagman, ALDF's chief outside litigation counsel, to ALDF staff in response to an email he received from Tina, the adopter of Lucy, a dog rescued from the Woodleys. As Bruce says, this is why we do it!
From: Bruce Wagman
Subject: This is why we do it
What a great way to start a day -- tears of joy after all those tears of pain while ALDF worked to rescue the Woodley dogs. And what a great way to spend a life. What a gift of a group you all are. Thank you again, today, for the opportunity to work with you and accomplish this kind of miracle success. Most lawyers spend their lives fighting for money for their clients, big expensive disputes far more costly than Woodley, and the end result is either money won or money not lost. No lives saved. All that money won and lost could not pay for the lives of Lucy, and Joyce's Edgar, and hundreds of others (in Sanford and elsewhere) that you are responsible for saving. My presence in this work is a gift I will always cherish, as are the emails that we get from wonderful humans like Tina.
Subject: Re: Celebrate Over 300 Freed!
Dear Bruce, Leann and all ALDF staff,
I just wanted to thank you for all your work on behalf of my little Lucy (N53) and all the others like her. I wanted to let you know what your work has meant in the life of one precious little dog. After being rescued from the horrific conditions at the Woodley's, Lucy lived for a little over a year with the wonderful people at Cole Park Veterinary Hospital. No one would adopt her, probably because she tried to bite anyone who came too close and would not "warm up" to repeat visitors. When I first met Lucy, she bit me too. Even after repeated visits, she would sit frozen on my lap and seemed relieved to return to her cage. When I first took her home, she was afraid to go to sleep. She would sit there with her little eyes closing and then jerking open as she tried to remain vigilant. She would jump backward if I took a deep breath, and heaven forbid I should cough or sneeze! She kept her eyes on me at all times, and was quite adept at running backward. Every sound or shadow frightened her. I have never seen an animal so terrified of absolutely everything. It broke my heart. I soon realized that her vision is not very good, and I'm sure that this added to her insecurities.
Now, 2 years later, Lucy is a fiesty, curious, yappy, bossy, loving, little girl. She is funny and fun-loving and into everything. She loves to play with her toys, go for walks and rides in the car and have family and friends come over to visit. She is still shy in new situations or with new people and continues to enjoy eating an occasional "turd," but she is the love of my life. The little dog who was afraid to be petted, now sits on my lap or snuggled beside me whenever I am sitting. She sleeps curled in the crook of my arm at night. She loves to wake me up in the morning by pouncing on my chest, sticking her tiny nose in my face and wagging her whole body. She is a happy girl! I am so grateful for the opportunity to have her in my life! I cannot thank you all enough for all of your work. Lucy thanks you too!!!
Today, February 4th, is my birthday, which I’m lucky enough to share with the filmmaker George Romero, the father of the modern zombie movie. "Wait, zombies?," you ask. "Isn’t this blog supposed to be about animals?" I know, I’m getting there.
A few of us from ALDF got together recently to watch Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, two of the finest zombie movies ever made. More than just blood and guts (but certainly those too), these films are also incredibly poignant social commentaries. Night of the Living Dead, released in 1968, has strong racial undertones, raising serious questions about how interpersonal racism can undermine solidarity in the face of a collective threat (such as that posed by the undead). Dawn of the Dead, released in 1978, uses mindless zombies to satirize American consumerism and alienation. The film takes place, of course, in a mall.
Watching these films, I was struck with how easily they can be translated into the context of animal ethics (though this may not have been Romero’s intent). Of course, the most defining characteristic of the cinematic zombie is his or her insatiable drive to feast on flesh, regardless of the terror this hunger inflicts on the victims. Zombies stagger mindlessly after their prey, utterly oblivious to the screams, the fear, and ultimately the gore involved in their meals. The suffering of their food simply does not register. Remind anyone of the meat industry?
Not unlike zombies, many people think nothing of tearing flesh from bone, despite the fact that the leg they hold in their hand once belonged to someone. Someone with a family, a life, a story, a desire to live. When watching zombie movies, most of us root for the food! We want the human prey to get away, to survive, to return to her family or friends. We cringe at the blood and the gore. Are we mindful enough to do the same when it comes time to sit down for our own meals? Or will we be as mindless as the zombies, deaf to the ethical dimension of who we eat? Even some zombies are (ahem…) waking up to the possibilities of foregoing flesh!
The brilliance of Romero’s movies, and what makes them so provocative when it comes to their social insights, is the metaphoric potential of zombies, their ability to represent all sorts of mindless behaviors we humans have. Whether it’s racism, consumerism, speciesism, or some other –ism, the automation of the zombie calls attention to the daily ways in which we are all capable of either shuffling on or choosing otherwise.
So, happy birthday, George. Here’s hoping for a little less mindlessness in this world.
Great news! Virginia is one step closer to tougher animal fighting laws.
On a 40-0 vote, SB 26, a bill drafted by ALDF to combat animal fighting, was passed by the Virginia Senate late Tuesday and is now heading to the Virginia House for approval.
Last August, ALDF approached Virginia legislators asking them to back a proposed law that, if in place, could send dogfighters like Michael Vick to jail for up to 40 years on a first conviction. ALDF drafted a recommended amendment to Virginia state law that would enable prosecutors to charge dogfighters under the state RICO ("Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act") statute. RICO—a very powerful tool that prosecutors can use to combat organized criminal operations—is commonly used to address a wide variety of organized criminal efforts, including drug dealing, gambling, and trading in child pornography.
Read more about how lawmakers are standing up to protect animals.
Recently, while reading the local newspaper, a well-written letter to the editor regarding an environmental issue caught my attention. The author’s name seemed familiar, and since she resides in the same small town as one of my coworkers, I asked him if he knew her. Thinking he probably did and that she must be a like-minded person, I was surprised when he said, "I don’t know her personally, but she’s an environmentalist/progressive-type. However, she is vehemently against animal rights."
Now I must confess to being (and probably looking) confused at first, since the words "progressive" and "against animal rights" seem like a contradiction in terms. But when he explained by saying, "You know, THAT kind of progressive," I unfortunately knew exactly what kind of person he meant.
There is a very vocal group of self-proclaimed "progressives" and "environmentalists" who, for reasons I can only guess, are not supportive of most animal protection efforts. I will try my best to describe this group and its overlapping subgroups, as follows:
- The "progressives" who believe that it’s all about the quantity of animals, not the quality of life for an individual animal. The people in this group are typically located within the larger environmental or conservation groups, and often proudly wear the "environmentalist" badge. The quality of an animal’s life is not important to them, as long as there are still plenty of that species. Apparently, it’s of no consequence that the "one deer" killed by a hunter had a life of his or her own before coming within range of a high powered rifle. This mentality is also found in some established environmental/conservation organizations; an example is the World Wildlife Fund’s "no opposition" stance regarding the bludgeoning of baby seals.
- The "progressives" who conveniently ignore the devastation that the animal agricultural industry has wrought on the environment. Let’s be honest - these are the people who are terrified you will rip that juicy steak (organic or not) from their dinner plate, so they choose to ignore the blatant animal suffering that takes place within the industry. The irony of it is that by doing so, they don’t even adhere to their own environmental standards. They ignore the fact that it takes far more resources to raise livestock (yes, even organically raised livestock) than it would to use the same land to grow crops for people. Even the United Nations gets it; in a 2006 report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states, "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." The report goes on to say that regarding climate change, "The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport."
- The "progressives" who believe that a person cannot care about human rights while simultaneously caring about animal rights. People from this group will criticize any attempt to help animals with comments such as, "You care more about animals than people!" This one really perplexes me. It doesn’t take advanced multi-tasking skills to support human-focused rights groups while still supporting animal-focused rights groups, and most animal advocates favor efforts to improve human rights. The difference is they don’t stop at humans; their hearts are big enough to feel compassion for everyone, whether two- or four-legged.
- The "progressives" who say that humans are predators just like wolves and bears and hawks – so therefore have the "right" to prey on other animals. This mentality completely ignores the fact that we 21st century humans can choose what we eat, in a way that a hawk or a bear or a wolf cannot. These people also love to point out how gruesome a death the prey animal suffers when killed by wild predators, to justify humans killing animals in brutal, inhumane ways. It’s the "Hey, it’s just nature" defense. My response: what on earth is natural about a factory farm, or a well-fed human who hunts with a scoped, long-range rifle?
- The "progressives" who say that since there is no way we can avoid killing bacteria and amoebas and insects with every step we take, we should therefore not help any animals at all. Besides being preposterous, this is the saddest justification of all. Talk about defeatism! The thinking is this: since we all end up doing some harm no matter how careful we are, we therefore shouldn’t try to alleviate suffering where we can. A dangerous idea indeed.
So why is this group truly not supportive of animal protection efforts, even efforts that so obviously benefit the environment? I think it all comes down to fear. First and foremost, they are afraid to change their lives. They cling to the "As long as it’s sustainable, I can buy/use/consume it" mentality so they don’t have to think about the suffering they’re supporting, and therefore won’t have to change their habits. I also think they’re afraid of that pesky "tree-hugging hippie" stereotype they’ve worked so hard to overcome. Perhaps they fear that if they show that they care about animals, this stereotype will be perpetuated. So, they go on the offensive and lash out at animal advocates, calling us "overly-sentimental Bambi lovers" (or worse).
I know that the thought of changing one’s personal habits can be daunting, but I and many other people are living proof that it can be done with a minimum of inconvenience. And one can easily combine the following two beliefs – the right of a species to not perish, and the right of an individual to exist free from harm. Many people support both tenets, quite easily - it truly doesn’t have to be either/or!
Our nation recently celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Dr. King once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." I commend what has been done so far to improve the lives of humans, endangered animals and the planet we all inhabit. But I also issue this challenge to progressives everywhere: we are all connected, so please, try expanding your compassion to include all living beings, not just humans and not just certain populations of wild animals.
After all, if compassion is absent, our progressive ideals become anything but.
For more information about the devastating environmental effects of meat production, read this recent NY Times article:
Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler
The New York Times, January 28, 2008
Today, the world had the opportunity to meet many of the dogs once owned by former Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick for the first time since they were seized from Vick's dogfighting operation last year. The rescued dogs made their debut back into the world by showing that all dogs, even pit bulls who have been used for dogfighting, are as much individuals as any other sentient being. Despite a life of neglect, torture and abuse while on Vick's property, and then months of confinement while in shelters as the case worked its way through the court system, many of these resilient dogs are now living in foster homes with other pets and some, with children.
Learn more about the evaluation process, their journey to new homes and how they are doing now...
The power to act for animals – to work for change on behalf of the voiceless – is within all of us. It does not require a vast amount of knowledge, although understanding the abuses animals suffer will make you more effective. Activism does not demand a lot of time, either: you can make a difference even if you limit your involvement to an hour a month. You needn’t be an extrovert or polished speaker – although such traits may come in handy and indeed may develop as you become more accustomed to addressing friends and the public about animal issues.
Animal activism only requires a desire to help and that you follow that desire with action.
You may wonder if animal activism itself is even worth it. Does it have an impact at all? Since 1950, worldwide meat consumption has increased more than fivefold. A rise in the Earth’s population can account for some of that expansion, but such a spike occurring concurrently with an increase in animal-rights activism and vegan outreach is troubling at the very least. Worldwide, an estimated fifty-five billion animals are now raised and killed for their flesh each year. How are we to account for this? Part of the answer lies in how animals have come to be mass produced, commodified and marketed in the last half century. Today’s industrialized farming practices mean that most of the pigs, cows, chickens, sheep, turkeys, goats and other animals raised and slaughtered for food are regarded as little more than units in a massive corporate enterprise designed to make meat, eggs and dairy as cheap and accessible to consumers as possible. Make no mistake: This is a multi-billion-dollar industry, giving the companies that exploit animals the deep pockets and political influence necessary to keep the killing machine moving forward at an ever-growing pace.
The same is true for businesses that use animals for their skin and fur, as well as for product testing, medical research and entertainment. Even the pet industry, which contributes to the constant cycle of breeding and selling, is responsible for making animals suffer.
Yet, animal activists do make a difference, and those who blatantly disregard animals are nervous. A recent editorial in Feedstuffs, the weekly agribusiness newspaper, reads: "Why are [animal activists] winning? It’s simple. They have their game together, while animal agriculture and its allies have a fragmented, hopelessly under-funded, ineffective, reactive approach. The activists are engaged and taking their campaign to chefs, foodservice managers, dairy and meat case managers and policymakers from city councils to the US Congress." (Feedstuffs, page 9, April 2, 2007.)
Animal activism is a struggle for change, and the reality is the human species is hard-wired to fear change. But we have two powerful weapons in this battle: the public’s innate sensitivity and a tremendous amount of animal abuse as evidence. Most people believe animal abuse is wrong; in fact, a 2003 Gallup poll found that ninety-six percent of people living in the US oppose cruelty to animals – I doubt you could find that level of unanimity on many other issues.
People are revolted by animal exploitation – once they learn about it. So, if we can educate people enough so that they can see that their daily choices are supporting practices that they actually oppose, then we can change them, one by one. And as more people change, eventually society will change.
Being an advocate for animals is not always a popular activity, but that should not dissuade you from doing what is right. Every social movement that had any impact – whether it’s the abolition of slavery, the suffrage movement, civil rights, the child-protection movement or reforms for farm workers – was initially backed by a person or a group thought to represent the minority opinion, and those opposed to them tried to provoke the fear that overturning the status quo would lead to chaos: the end of slavery would result in economic ruin, granting women the right to vote or banning child labor would weaken national strength, passing laws against child abuse would dissolve families and so on. Animal-rights activists are now hearing the same sort of nonsense from those who profit by abusing animals. According to them, the only way to feed the world, cure diseases or advance scientific knowledge is by using animals. To them, animals are not sentient individuals with their own interests, but commodities to be exploited for human profit, amusement, convenience or taste.
The time is ripe for change. More defenseless beings than ever before are suffering and in need of a voice. All we need are the passionate humans to turn these opportunities into dramatic improvements for billions of animals.
Remember: Reform simply does not occur when people stand idly by.
Mark's newly released book, "Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism," shows how anyone can put their compassion into action.
My husband doesn’t want to hear about my work at the end of the day. Oh sure, he is proud of the work we do here at ALDF, but he doesn’t want to--cannot bear to--hear about the heartbreak of animals suffering and dying due to illegal cruelty and neglect occurring in the cases we work on all across this country. On the occasions when he inadvertently steps into the room as I am reviewing photos of dogs with missing eyes or broken jaws sitting in unbelievable filth, or horses so thin you can count every bone on their skeleton while they chew on a wood fencepost for food, he turns tail and runs back out again and talks to me from the hallway. Sometimes I start telling him about a new legal strategy we are thinking of using and in the course of the discussion I slip into a description of the torture an animal has endured and he slaps his hands over his ears. Oops.
Animal cruelty is hard to hear about, even harder to witness in person or in photos, especially the first time you come across it. As a former prosecutor and now an animal advocate I’ve seen my share of gore and learned to deal with it in order to do my job. But it isn’t an easy thing to get to that point, and every once in a while a photograph of a hurt whiskered face or a written investigative report of an animal’s lengthy death process breaks through my crusty shell and breaks me down. Frequently when people find out what I do for a living, they say they don’t understand how I can do it, face all that horror every day. My response is always that it’s easier to face it and try to do something to help these poor creatures than to do nothing at all.
However, I certainly do understand that many folks want to help without having to endure seeing the things we see here, and we appreciate all of you who do so by either writing to us or to the officials listed in our Actionline cases, or by donating your legal expertise or dollars so we can be your eyes and ears in the field. So go ahead, avert your eyes if you must, just do something else constructive instead. The animals will thank you, and so will I.
ALDF’s headquarters is located north of San Francisco in Sonoma County, which is also where I live. As many of you probably saw on the news, this area was hammered by storms at the tail end of last week. As a result I have been without power since Thursday night with no estimate of when power will be restored. As I type this on my battery powered laptop, it’s Sunday afternoon and starting to get dark again. One of my dogs and my two cats are curled up with me on the couch and my other dog is asleep on the floor near the woodstove. Soon I’ll light the oil lamps for another night of quiet and calm such as only a retreat from our plugged-in existence can provide. I have about two hours left on my spare laptop battery and then I’ll pick up my book for the rest of the evening as I reheat my soup on the woodstove.
Aside from the beauty found in the stillness and dark outside, I am enjoying the sense of self-sufficiency from providing my own heat and light and the reminder this circumstance provides of how little we really "need." It seems no small coincidence that, as I sit in the gathering dark, the news this weekend is that oil futures had risen to a record $100 a barrel -- unimaginable just a couple of years ago when there was widespread consternation about the price hitting $30.
I’m not predicting doom by any means. On the contrary, sitting here with my animals around me, warm and safe and dry, I think we sometimes forget how adaptable we are. It’s easy to get comfortable with how things are and to forget how much and how quickly things have changed. Just two generations ago, there were many places not on the power grid at all (and not by choice!). When I started a business in the early 1980s hi-tech was an "electronic typewriter"which let you see a line of text before it whacked it out on the page. Was that really just 25 years ago?
I wish you all a very happy, rewarding and fulfilling new year. It’s time to shut down and light the oil lamps.
It is the end of the year—a time to reflect, review and resolve. A time when people find themselves contemplating questions like, "Why didn’t I lose those ten pounds?" and "What the heck did I do with my ThighMaster?" As I look back, I find myself contemplating many events from work, where I interact with a large number of law enforcement professionals—from animal control officers to judges, but mostly cops and prosecutors—on a daily basis. The majority of these folks recognize the value in doing top quality work in all animal cruelty cases. However, sadly, there is a significant minority of law enforcement "professionals" with a less than supportive view of this work. Having no desire to embarrass anybody, I am not going to name names. Nevertheless, I have decided to share just a couple of examples of some of the behavior I have encountered over this year. The goal is simply to give you a feeling for just how much more work there is for us to do before we can truly say that this country’s criminal justice system places a priority on cases involving all victims with the capacity to suffer.
In one case, involving a textbook hoarder with well over 100 animals living in hell, the prosecutor was making no effort to move the case through the system. In response to our repeated, yet polite, requests that the prosecutor promptly file the necessary pleadings to get the case tried, the assistant district attorney stated that he was too busy dealing with "real crime" to attend to this case. The assistant DA went on to say that because this hoarder didn’t pose much of a "threat" to the community, he would get to it when he could—it just wasn’t a priority case. Admittedly, this is an impressively myopic view of the situation, begging the question: is a case involving a stolen car really more important than a case involving over 100 dogs and cats forced to endure unspeakable conditions?
In another case, we were trying to get the prosecutor to simply review the facts of a case and make a formal charging decision. The prosecutor declined to review the information we delivered to him and directed us to send our file to the local sheriff. We did. Weeks later, still no charging decision despite repeated requests. Before we took the case to the media, we contacted the prosecutor to give him one more chance to do the right thing (i.e., review the facts and make a charging decision—also knows as "his job"). In response, the prosecutor actually took the time to write us a letter, wherein (and this is the amazing part) he threatened to sue ALDF for libel should we cause anything untruthful to be reported about him or his office. No worries there—the truth is more than ample cause to oust this guy from elected office.
Fortunately, these two cases are the exception. Like the majority of U.S. households, most cops and prosecutors go home to a house that they share with a pet. Moreover, law enforcement officials are slowly coming to realize that we Americans spend a heck of a lot of money on the care and feeding of our animals—over $30 billion a year (yes, that’s a "B" as in billion)—that is more than the GNP of over half of the world’s countries). A motivated constituency to be sure, and those sheriffs, police chiefs and district attorneys who fail to recognize this fact will enjoy short tenures in elected office.
ALDF recently had our office holiday party, and the standard warnings (don’t snag the Secret Santa gift your boss has her eye on; don’t keep hitting the eggnog ‘til you’re singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with that guy from the mailroom) didn’t apply. Rather than busting out our holiday finery this year, we instead suited up in our grubbiest boots on an early Saturday in December and headed out to Vacaville, California’s Animal Place--a nonprofit sanctuary for abused and discarded farmed animals.
Our very quotable founder, Joyce Tischler, was once famously noted to have said "I don’t eat my clients." As a matter of course, most of us office-dwellers don’t get to spend much time with our animal "clients," either. And while it was more than 17 years ago that I last ate a pig, I’d never had the opportunity to pet one until now. Animal Place’s wonderful Executive Director and co-founder Kim Sturla, who graciously led ALDF’s farm tour, explained that Susie the pig had once been used for experimentation at Loma Linda University. Rather than winding up in someone’s baloney sandwich, Susie had the great luck of ending up at Animal Place--and on that Saturday afternoon, she graciously--ok, eagerly--allowed me my first ever pig-pet, grunting in ecstasy as I scratched her wire-haired flank and (grunts getting louder!) the smoother skin of her enormous belly.
All of the animals surprised and delighted us. We hand-fed carrots to Lemonade and the other rabbits living in the straw-filled "Bunny Haven," and offered lettuce and grapes to the chickens and turkeys who gathered and eyed us, and our produce, with obvious interest. Sheep, goats, and cows moseyed over to our group when we called their names. Clients like these make it easy for all of us at the Animal Legal Defense Fund to stay inspired. The feathered and furry guys, and gals, at Animal Place--Lemonade, Susie, Sophie, and all the rest--are the lucky ones. Please take a moment as the year ends to think of the many millions of farmed animals who have no names, but who are not forgotten.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.
It’s the holiday season… again. I’ve always been rather cynical about those folks who mouth off about the true meaning of Christmas. Oddly, this year, I find that I may be one of them.
What bothers me about this time of year is that there are too many events and celebrations to go to, too many responsibilities to attend to, too many sugary songs telling me that I should feel oh, so jolly, when what I’ve been feeling is overloaded, rushed and stressed. And, I have found myself uttering: “Bah Humbug,” wishing that I didn’t have to go to a party that I knew I would enjoy.
A woman in my Weight Watcher’s class (yes; I’m living proof that vegans can get fat) said something that resonated with me: "We Americans suffer from an embarrassment of riches; too many gifts to buy, too many parties to go to. When you find yourself complaining about that, you should thank your lucky stars for such abundance and find ways to bring the balance back into your life." What a wise woman!
So, this holiday season, "Ebenezer" Tischler is trying to be more conscious of what Christmas is supposed to be about: it’s about caring for others, particularly those less fortunate than me. Another "support" group I belong to gave me the gift of a small cardboard box, which says: "Welcome a Guest at Your Table." Every time I eat a meal, I put some money in the box. It’s for those who cannot afford the wholesome food that I buy. I’ve decided to stay away from the mall (my natural habitat) and buy less for my relatives who, like me, have what they need to be comfortable. The money I save can go into the box. In January, the money from the box will go to people who need housing, clean water, basic medical care.
My canine family members, Shadow and Edgar (who, in their former lives, knew all too well what it is to be cold and hungry) and feline family members, George, Andy, Hamlet and Marley, also have everything they need. In honor of them, I’m putting out another box. This one is for the many, many animals who are still suffering this holiday season. The pigs, calves and chickens trapped in intensive confinement in factory "farms," the primates, dogs, cats, mice, and rats in cold, steel cages in research labs, the dogs and cats with clouded eyes and rotting teeth who are suffering at the mercy of hoarders, and the wildlife subjected to hunting, trapping and fur farming. As often as I can, I will sit quietly, close my eyes and hold them in my thoughts and in my heart. And, I’ll put some money in the box to support the wonderful groups doing all that they can to help them.
To you and yours,
As this is my first blog post, I thought I would start off by introducing myself. My name is Matthew Liebman, and I’m the new staff attorney at ALDF. As fate would have it, I started work on October 2, World Farm Animals Day. This seems appropriate, since it was the sad plight of animals slaughtered for food that piqued my interest in the animal rights movement and convinced me to go vegetarian (and later vegan) some thirteen years ago.
Right before I started at ALDF, I took a three-week-long cross-country tour of animal sanctuaries. My goal in doing the sanctuary tour was to meet my animal clients on their own terms, at least to the extent that’s possible outside of their natural habitats. Growing up in Texas, my exposure to animals was primarily at zoos, rodeos, and circuses, and on my dinner plate. As we all know, those are not environments in which animals can act and interact on their own terms. So in choosing where to visit, I tried to get exposure to as wide a range of animals as possible. At the sanctuaries, I saw all kinds of critters, from dogs and cats, to chickens and pigs, to lions and tigers, to tapirs and . . . whoever goes with tapirs. Alpacas, maybe?
Although these animals differed by species, they all shared an amazing resiliency in the face of callous indifference and downright cruelty by their former "owners." I met chimpanzees who had been exposed to infectious diseases in medical research, others who had been "pets" locked in basements, and still others who had been beaten into submission to perform for the entertainment of humans. I met pigs who had fallen off of transport trucks on the way to slaughter, chickens who had been debeaked and bred to grow at wildly unnatural rates, and cows who were destined for the veal industry before their rescues. I met wild cats who had been exhibited at dilapidated roadside zoos and kept as "pets." I met horses who had been left for dead by their “owners,” dogs and cats disabled by neglect and hoarding, and parrots abandoned when they got to be too much for their guardians.
And yet, in spite of all this misery, I saw living proof of the drive in all sentient beings to persevere. I saw animals rescued from death’s door and given a second shot at life. The integrity and indomitability I saw in these animals was nothing short of inspiring. When you come eye to eye with a once-imprisoned orangutan, you cannot help but respect the alterity of the beings with whom we share the earth. When you scratch a pig’s belly or hold a cooing chicken, you cannot help but understand that these beings are not simple commodities, no matter how much we try to pervert and suppress their animal natures.
In the two months since I started at ALDF, I’ve worked on a wide range of issues, all of which relate back to those animals I met at the sanctuaries. I have researched animal patenting, which involves rabbits and dogs like those I met on tour. I have worked on our cases against Farmer John and the Mendes Calf Ranch, which involve pigs and cows, like those I met at sanctuaries in New York and Texas. I have worked on ALDF’s animal hoarding cases against Janie Conyers and Barbara and Robert Woodley, which involve dogs and birds like the ones I met in Utah. The sanctuary animals gave me a profound gift. Their new lives of relative freedom motivate me through the often depressing facts of our cases.
I was privileged to have the opportunity to share some time with the sanctuary animals. Now I am proud to be able to work at ALDF on behalf of their imprisoned brothers and sisters who still yearn for liberation.
I just learned of a new island in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. Excited about a new vacation spot? Think again. It’s not an island with sandy shores, palm trees and cabanas. It’s an island of garbage and it even has a name; "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Why shouldn’t it? It’s two times the size of Texas.
Two times the size of Texas.
Undoubtedly it is an environmental hazard, as 80% of the island is plastic and weighs 3.5 million tons. There is no logical solution for clean up and experts say that the "island" is only going to get larger. That is, of course, unless us humans have a dramatic change of heart and stop producing so much plastic, make plastic that is biodegradable and substitute plastic products. But that’s an ambitious goal considering our "throw-away" society has become so dependant on plastic and big business continues to feed us catchy phases like, "plastics make it possible," while showing us images of premature babies in incubators.
So why am I, as an animal rights advocate, rambling on about plastic and our environment? Because this world is One and everything we humans do affects all other living creatures we share this planet with, right?
There is no good estimate of how many birds and marine life have suffered and died from our manmade continent of waste, but we can be sure that it has been far too many. To a sea turtle, a plastic bag floating in the water looks remarkably similar to a jelly fish. When plastic is ingested by sea birds and marine life, it fills up their system but doesn’t pass. The end result is starvation and death.
How can we do our part to not contribute to the "garbage sprawl?" Recycle more and use less. Rethink buying that case of bottled water and use a refillable water bottle. Bring your own carry-out container to restaurants when you dine out. When you go shopping, whether it be for groceries, clothes or holiday gifts, pack your goodies in your own reusable cloth bags. Yes, it takes forethought and a bit of planning, but be creative and think outside the Styrofoam box. Aren’t our world and the animals worth it?
Interested in planning your next vacation to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Watch this short video to see all the island has to offer: