Food safety risks, animal abuse, and illegal working conditions are rampant on factory farms, and the corporate agriculture lobby is attempting to pass so-called "ag gag" laws—laws which would make it illegal to photograph or videotape at agricultural facilities, or to possess or distribute such evidence.
Their goal is insidious: to prevent consumers from ever seeing the animal abuse, contaminated crops, illegal working conditions, and risky food safety practices—the sort that result in massive food safety recalls and all too frequently lead to outbreaks of food-borne illness—that are common practice behind factory farm gates.
Ag gag legislation:
- hides animal abuse
- threatens public health and safety
- threatens enforcement of environmental laws
- harms farm workers and whistleblowers
- obstructs law enforcement
- undermines freedom of speech and freedom of the press
You can prevent the mega-corporations that control most of our food production from passing laws that make citizen investigations a crime. Tell your state legislators to support ALDF's Protect Your Food Act and prevent factory farmers from hiding what goes on behind closed doors.
Suffolk County Sponsor of Nation’s First Animal Abuser Registry Is Named One of America’s “Top Ten Animal Defenders”
San Francisco—Suffolk County, New York Majority Leader Jon Cooper is joining the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in sponsoring National Justice for Animals Week 2011, February 20 – 26. Named one of America’s “Top Ten Animal Defenders” by ALDF, Cooper has a long history of fielding animal-friendly legislation, including the historic “Justin’s Law,” passed last October, which creates the nation’s first mandatory public registry for criminals convicted of animal abuse. The week is an annual event dedicated to raising awareness nationwide about how citizens can work within their communities to achieve real justice for animal victims—and honoring law enforcement, prosecutors, and legislators who give real teeth to laws protecting animals.
The inspiration behind Cooper’s “Justin’s Law” is a 2-year-old Doberman mix who was locked inside a bedroom in a foreclosed home last May. Weighing just 19 pounds and covered in feces and urine when he was discovered, the dog was not expected to survive the night. Renamed because he was rescued “just in time,” the now-55 pound pup was adopted by Suffolk County SPCA Officer Regina Benfante and is the mascot for National Justice for Animals Week 2011.
Among the other top animal defenders being recognized this year by the Animal Legal Defense Fund are:
- Deschutes County, Oregon’s Sheriff Larry Blanton and Lieutenant Shane Nelson , who in an unprecedented move created a 23-acre livestock rescue and shelter to care for neglected, abused, and abandoned large animals seized in criminal cruelty cases—setting a gold standard model for county sheriffs when it comes to seeking justice for abused farmed animals;
- Tannaz Kouhpainezhad, a Los Angeles prosecutor who went after an abuser who tortured two Schnauzers to death and was caught by police when neighbors reported hearing whimpering from inside his home. The conviction of the abuser was upheld on appeal in the first case of its kind in the nation, when the Court agreed with Tannaz’s argument that law enforcement can legally enter a residence without a warrant to aid an animal;
- Joshua Crain, who sought felony charges in a jury trial in Tennessee against a man who beat his 2-year-old Siberian Husky after the dog chewed on some wiring in his home and then used a metal file to grind down the dog’s teeth;
- Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Susan Dannelly, who, while known for taking on high-profile murder and rape cases, fought hard to see to it that a dogfighting kingpin who organized a fight in which at least seven pit bulls died was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The United States Supreme Court today issued its decision in the case of United States v. Stevens, a constitutional challenge to 18 U.S.C. § 48 (“Section 48”), the federal law that criminalized the sale of depictions of animal cruelty. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, an expert on animal cruelty laws, submitted an amicus curiae brief urging the Court to uphold the law and recognize that the prevention of cruelty to animals is a compelling government interest.
Unfortunately, by a vote of 8 to 1, the Court held that the law violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment and is therefore unenforceable. The decision throws out the criminal conviction of Robert Stevens, who was sentenced to prison for making and selling videos of dogfights.
Justice Samuel Alito, the lone dissenting vote, said the harm animals suffer in dogfights is enough to sustain the law, and that the ruling will probably spur new “crush” videos, because it has “the practical effect of legalizing the sale of such videos.” Crush videos depict women in high heels crushing small animals to death for the sake of gratifying a sexual fetish.
ALDF’s attorneys are analyzing the decision carefully to evaluate how to respond to the overturning of Section 48. We will provide a more detailed summary of the opinion on the ALDF blog in the coming days.
Because the Supreme Court is the country’s highest court, it has the final say on the law’s constitutionality, and no further appeals are possible. However, the Court’s opinion leaves open the possibility of introducing to Congress a new, narrower law "limited to crush videos or other depictions of extreme animal cruelty." We will let our members know as soon as possible how they can help. In the meantime, please visit ALDF’s Action Alerts page to see how you can fight cruelty now.
Not sure what the Court's decision means for animals? Read "Clarifying the Supreme Court’s United States v. Stevens Opinion."
The Animal Legal Defense Fund today launched an effort to help states establish public registries of anyone convicted of animal abuse. Such registries would protect animals, pet guardians and communities by preventing repeat offenses from anyone with a known history of abusing animals. This could include violence (torture, mutilation, intentional killings, etc.), sexual abuse, and animal fighting as well as neglect (such as hoarding).
Please visit ExposeAnimalAbusers.org and urge your state lawmakers to propose legislation for an animal abuser registry in your state. You can also watch this short video explaining why an animal abuser registry is the best solution to preventing new cases of animal abuse and to create safer communities.
Through our Expose Animal Abusers campaign, we are promoting model legislation that could be enacted in state legislatures. Such bills have been introduced in the past by elected officials in Rhode Island, Colorado, and Tennessee.
Today, the first-ever bill for a statewide registry in California was announced by its sponsor, State Senator Dean Florez. “We operate shelters in the hopes of giving abandoned pets a second chance at a loving home, not subjecting them to lives of continued abuse and neglect,” Florez said. “A registry of abusers would help ensure animals are not being adopted out to convicted abusers, end the cycle of abuse and increase the likelihood of finding these pets the forever home they deserve.”
At 10:30 a.m. Pacific today, Sen. Florez will live stream his press conference from the “press room” of the website, where it will also be available for viewing following the event.
Visit ExposeAnimalAbusers.org now to send your state lawmakers an email and demand an animal abuser registry in your state!