This Just In…
The Animal Legal Defense Fund had a great week in our fight to protect the lives and advance the interest of animals!
- On April 24, 2013 the National Marine Fisheries Service found that ALDF & PETA have presented a worthy case in our joint petition to win Lolita protections under the Endangered Species Act like the rest of her pod. Our petition for Lolita, who is confined to the smallest orca tank in North America at the Miami Seaquarium, will now move forward.
- On April 25, 2013 the Louisiana Court of Appeal ruled in our favor by upholding a lower court ruling in our battle to free Tony the Tiger from a Louisiana truck stop. Read more about our case. It is a victory that brings Tony one step closer to life at a sanctuary, like he deserves.
Great wins for animals this week. Thanks for your support!
The Bad News
Last week, amidst the tragedy in Boston, the country was keeping a keen eye on two states: California and Tennessee. These states were considering "ag gag" laws that could have a disastrous impact on animals, our environment, our workers, the safety of our food, and the ability of law enforcement to do its job.
What is ag gag? In the simplest terms, ag gag bills aim to hide conditions on factory farms by making it illegal to effectively gather information, photos, and video at these facilities. Proponents push these anti-whistleblower laws forward to avoid exposure and potential prosecution or lawsuits. Make no mistake: these corporate-backed laws prevent the prosecution of criminal animal abuse. Instead, they criminalize people who report animal abuse or public health and safety concerns on factory farms. It's a good deal for corporate factory farms, but a bad deal for everyone else, especially the animals.
Who is behind these ag gag bills? As we discussed in our interview with Will Potter, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a corporate-funded organization that drafts pro-corporate and anti-consumer model bills for legislators- this secretive group is also behind ag gag bills. On the other hand, groups like the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the National District Attorneys Association oppose ag gag laws. They know undercover investigations are absolutely crucial to law enforcement in criminal prosecution. Undercover investigations have exposed serious food safety violations and led to the largest beef recall in US history when 143 million pounds of tainted beef was revealed to be poisoning our children's lunches in the National School Lunch Program. This would not have been discovered without horrifying undercover video that publically exposed the abuse of cows at the plant—just what ag gag laws hope to prevent.
Thankfully, California's bill was removed, though it may return soon. California's bill was aimed at destroying the collection of evidence over time that demonstrates a pattern of abuse or generally abusive conditions.
Unfortunately, Tennessee's legislature voted to pass an ag gag bill that would allow agricultural facilities to get away with animal abuse—like the horrifying "soring" of Tennessee horses—which is currently illegal under the U.S. Horse Protection Act. Although corporate lobbyists managed to push the bill through the legislature, the public is becoming increasingly outraged.
Many are blasting Tennessee's bill as unconstitutional and a violation of the Tennessee Shield Law § 24-1-208, a whistleblower protection law. A chorus of public interest groups, from ALDF to the ACLU and groups like the National Press Photographers Association are calling for Tennessee's Governor Haslam to veto the bill. It's truly a question of corporate influence versus public interest. Stay tuned.
These bills "gag" information from reaching the public and plant the seed of terror in those who witness illegal activity—a strategy known legally as "the chilling effect." Factory farms are already protected by criminal trespass and fraud laws. So what do they have to hide?
Please join us to fight ag gag legislation! You can sign the petition—and learn more about these issues—at our site: ProtectYourFood.org
Yesterday the Louisiana Court of Appeal issued its long-awaited opinion in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. State of Louisiana, holding that Michael Sandlin is ineligible for a permit to confine Tony the Tiger in a cage at the Tiger Truck Stop.
Although the court held that ALDF lacked standing to be a plaintiff in the case, it nevertheless confirmed that our clients—Louisiana residents and taxpayers—do have standing to challenge illegal actions by the government, in this case the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
In ruling on the merits, the court agreed with ALDF’s argument that Michael Sandlin cannot receive a grandfather permit to continue to keep Tony because Sandlin does not meet the legal requirements for such a permit. As the court put it:
The record establishes that on August 15, 2006, Tony was not owned by Michael Sandlin; rather, he was owned by Tiger Truck Stop. Additionally, on August 15, 2006, the ownership and possession of Tony by Tiger Truck Stop and the possession by Michael Sandlin in Iberville Parish was in violation of a local ordinance, and thus, illegal. Although that local ordinance was amended in 2009 retroactive to August 15, 2006, the amendment to the ordinance did not change the fact that on August 15, 2006, neither Tiger Truck Stop nor Michael Sandlin legally possessed or legally owned Tony. Only an individual who legally possessed an exotic cat (such as a tiger) and who could prove legal ownership of that exotic cat is entitled to a permit for that cat. Accordingly, that part of the judgment of the trial court granting a final/permanent injunction against DWF, enjoining it from issuing any new permits to Michael Sandlin and/or Tiger Truck Stop for the tiger ("Tony" microchip #477E201A4C) now located at Tiger Truck Stop in Iberville Parish is affirmed.
The decision marks a significant step towards Tony’s freedom, as the second-highest court in Louisiana has confirmed that the Department erred when it issued Sandlin a permit. Sandlin’s lawyer has said she intends to seek rehearing of the Court of Appeal’s decision, as well as review by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Sandlin also has his own lawsuit to invalidate the state’s big cat ban. But rest assured ALDF will fight every step of the way to make sure Tony ends up in a reputable sanctuary. We still have a long road ahead, but we’ve cleared a major hurdle and have earned this moment of celebration.
At midnight on June 16th, I will lace up my shoes and brave the hilliest city in the U.S.—San Francisco—to run the San Francisco Marathon…twice. According to The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Marathon is a race that even marathoners fear! I’ll run the first marathon in reverse—starting at the finish line and ending at the starting line. As soon as I cross the finish line—well, the starting line—I will then run the San Francisco Marathon…again. I had to do something extraordinary to call attention to the millions of animals who suffer and die as a result of animal testing, on factory farms, and for roadside entertainment.
William training hard before the big run
Every day, the Animal Legal Defense Fund works to protect animals by:
- Filing groundbreaking lawsuits to stop animal abuse and expand the boundaries of animal law.
- Providing free legal assistance to prosecutors handling cruelty cases.
- Working to strengthen state anti-cruelty statutes.
- Encouraging the federal government to enforce existing animal protection laws.
- Nurturing the future of animal law through Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapters and our Animal Law Program.
- Providing public education through seminars, workshops and other outreach efforts.
Lasting change can only come when the law reflects what most of us already believe to be true—that abusing an animal is wrong.
Please help me raise $10,000. A tax deductible donation of any size - $10, $20 or even $100—will help me get closer to my $10,000 goal and will make a big difference in the lives of animals.
June 16th will be the toughest day (and night) I’ve ever experienced. It will be about 11 hours of running, numerous blisters, extremely sore muscles, black toenails, and chafing in some rather painful areas. But my run is nothing in comparison to the plight of animals.
I know I can do it with your support. I also know that working together we can be the legal voice for animal victims of cruelty and demand that society hold abusers accountable for their crimes.
I urge you to please make as generous a donation as you can. Your support is vital to everything we do.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your generous support!
Working to protect animals is emotionally draining and people often ask us how we continue to do this work without burning out. The fact is: some of us do burn out, and that’s sad because the animals end up losing a valuable advocate.
Over the years, I’ve developed several techniques to avoid burn-out. I strive to keep a sense of balance in my life, stay close to friends and family, read good books and create quiet time to appreciate the present moment. I also spend many hours with my companion animal family members and take note of other animals who are doing just fine and enjoying their lives.
Recently, I was in Brussels, Belgium to participate in a panel on the use of animals in toxicology, a subject that often makes me feel angry and depressed. After the panel was done and the work was complete, I found myself walking around the lovely cities of Brussels and Bruges. Of course, I noticed the dogs.
In fact, if you and I were walking down the street in Washington, D.C, and you saw the White House, I would notice the cute dog walking in front of the White House. Story of my life…
So, here I was in beautiful Belgium and while the architecture is gorgeous, I kept noticing well cared for dogs on one end of the leash. These lucky canines were obviously part of the family. I noted that there were Jack Russell terriers and English Bulldogs, as well as other great looking dogs, some who were pure bred and others who were mutts like me.
As I stood waiting for a bus, a tram stopped nearby, the door opened and there stood a beautiful Bull Terrier, on his way home with the human who held his leash. I tried to grab my phone and take a photo, but I was too slow. None-the-less, the seed was planted: I wanted to capture the happy faces of these Belgian dogs.
As I walked down the streets and saw dogs, I stopped their guardians and asked if I might snap a photo of their animal companions. You would think this was an everyday occurrence, because their humans didn’t look at all surprised and were only too willing to indulge the odd little American woman.
I was delighted and the photo sessions opened up conversations about their relationships with their dogs. One man even announced to his dog, “Vous êtes arrives!” (You have arrived!) And so, for those of you, like me, who always to see the dogs first, I offer these pictures of Les Chiens de Belgique (the dogs of Belgium).
On March 29, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission responded to ALDF's complaint against Tyson Foods, Inc., assuring ALDF that it will give the concerns expressed in the complaint "full consideration and appropriate attention" and noting that policing the truthfulness of environmental claims like those made by Tyson is an agency "enforcement priority."
Lodged over two months earlier, ALDF's complaint to the FTC called on the agency to investigate and enforce against false and misleading advertising by meat processing giant Tyson. Namely, ALDF pointed out Tyson's deceptive marketing tactic of broadly advertising a quotation by Tyson Chairman and CEO John Tyson, claiming that the meat processor is "leading the industry pursuit . . . to further enhance animal well-being."
This flies in the face of Tyson's actual reliance upon inhumane factory farming practices.
Tyson uses gestation crates, in which pregnant sows are unable to turn around, lie down comfortably, or take more than a step forward or backward. Many U.S. states ban gestation crates and numerous animal experts consider the crates inhumane. Yet across its promotional materials, Tyson claims to provide environments "favorable" to pigs. Tyson has simply renamed its gestation crates as "individual housing"—changing the name, rather than the practice, in a deceptive move to appeal to ethically conscious consumers.
Similarly, Tyson says it provides a "comfortable environment" for chickens. Tyson's methods fit no definition of comfortable. Reviewing Tyson's strict policies on chicken housing density, housing lighting, and weight gain, animal welfare groups have found that Tyson produces no humanely raised chicken products. Animal advocates routinely expose animal cruelty in slaughterhouses connected to Tyson.
Recently, five employees of a Tyson pig supplier were found guilty of criminal animal cruelty based on an HSUS undercover investigation of conditions at a Wyoming pig facility. The undercover video footage shows abhorrent living conditions for mother pigs in gestation crates, as well as workers kicking and punching pigs, highlighting the absurdity of Tyson's "animal well-being" claims. But as the New York Times has reported, states under pressure from big agribusiness are attempting to eliminate any peek into the internal operations of factory farms through ag gag—or "anti-whistleblower"—laws. With the public increasingly unable to see into the meat production jungle, the FTC must step up its enforcement against deceptive advertising.
Tyson also claims to be environmentally sound, yet multiple courts have held Tyson responsible for environmental hazards. And as recently as this April 4, Tyson settled with the EPA for nearly $4 million with regard to the company's release of dangerously high levels of ammonia, critically injuring and killing employees.
ALDF urges the FTC to correct Tyson's attempts to reel in ethical consumers with deception.