Legally Brief: Legal Victories for Animals in 2014
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on December 19, 2014
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has helped to achieve victories in some tough legal battles for animals this year, which wouldn’t have been possible without our members and supporters. For example, South Dakota became the 50th state to make the most egregious acts of animal cruelty a felony—as ALDF’s just-released 2014 State Rankings Report demonstrates. ALDF also submitted “friend of the court” briefs in support of West Hollywood’s first-in-the-nation ban on the sale of products made from animal fur and the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law for meat and poultry products. We received thousands of hours of pro bono legal assistance from top law firms and we added our 201st student ALDF chapter at the University of Mississippi School of Law, and co-hosted another sold-out Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark Law School, in Portland, Oregon. In other great news for animals:
Animals Used as Food
- ALDF’s pending lawsuits challenging existing ag gag laws have taken positive turns as they move through the courts in Utah and Idaho. These groundbreaking lawsuits challenge the formidable animal agriculture industry’s attempts to criminalize whistle-blowers who document animal cruelty on factory farms. Making landmark progress, ALDF and a broad coalition are challenging these statutes for violating the U.S. Constitution, and things are looking good in both cases.
- The Supreme Court allowed the California foie gras ban to stand, leaving intact the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling that states have the right to enact stricter animal welfare protections and product bans, even if those prohibitions impact interstate commerce.
- ALDF won a victory for hens and consumers by settling with Bay Area egg producer Judy’s Family Farm Organic Eggs. As a result of the settlement, the producer had to change its advertising and pay $44,000 (split equally between the Sonoma Humane Society, Public Justice Foundation, and Consumer Action). More information about the settlement can be found here.
- After ALDF documented worker safety violations, showing trainers in the water with a captive orca named Lolita, OSHA fined the Miami Seaquarium $7,000 as a result of an ALDF complaint.
Wildlife & Killing Contests
- California’s Fish & Game Commission approved a ban on prizes for killing contests. These contests allow the reckless slaughter of wildlife, in particular coyotes, for cash prizes. Banning the prizes essentially nullifies the contests themselves. In Oregon this year, ALDF successfully shut down a Harney County coyote killing contest.
- A lawsuit from ALDF and conservation groups led Caltrans to agree to remove bird-killing nets at a local highway project, and vowed to use safer construction methods.
Animals in Shelters
- North Carolina agreed to stop gassing dogs and cats in shelters in the wake of an ALDF rulemaking petition. This controversial method of destroying animals is already outlawed in numerous states, because animals are often crammed in small enclosures in which they sense the coming gas, panic together, and take an unnecessarily long time to die.
Animals & Transportation
- NYC proposed a ban on the city’s horse-drawn carriage industry. With the court’s backing, ALDF also successfully gained access to records from the New York Police Department pertaining to the treatment of the city’s carriage horses. Salt Lake City banned horse-drawn carriages in November. ALDF is asking St. Louis to regulate its carriage industry.
Throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season, we reflect on our shared commitment to not only the animals we’ve saved, but also to those we have yet to save. As long as there are animals suffering, they need ALDF as their legal advocate, and that’s where you come in. As a proud supporter and member of ALDF, you make our work for animals possible. Right now you can double your impact for animals with a tax-deductible year-end contribution to our fight to win the case against animal cruelty. Please help us make ALDF even stronger in 2015!
Thank you all, and happy holidays!
Love & Ordinary Creatures: a Novel by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on December 18, 2014
Gwyn Hyman Rubio is a bestselling author known for her novel Icy Sparks, an Oprah’s Book Club pick in 2001 and one of the New York Times’ Notable Books in 1998. Her new book Love & Ordinary Creatures from Ashland Creek Press is about a cockatoo named Caruso who is in love with his human companion, Clarissa, whom he tries to protect from the world. Like a young human in love, Caruso is both charming and destructive because he realizes the impermanence of love and fears his feelings will never be returned in full measure.
Parrots are extremely bright, and research indicates they have some understanding of human language. “Due to their intelligence and curiosity, cockatoos are always getting into comic situations,” Gwyn says. She says they are known as “the clowns of the parrot world.” They form deep bonds with their human companions, and “if they feel neglected they will pluck out their feathers. All birds, in fact are thinking and feeling creatures.”
That’s why an intense imaginative bond isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary for cockatoos, who tend to bond with one person. Gwyn got the idea for Love & Ordinary Creatures on a trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with her husband. The couple noticed a young woman on a bike with a sulfur-crested cockatoo. When the woman puckered her lip, the bird reached out for a kiss—a tender gesture recognized easily by those who live with companion animals. “I turned to my husband and said, ‘That’s one bird in love,'” Gwyn recalls. And thus, Caruso was born, a romantic hero in the form of a parrot. Clarissa’s boyfriend becomes for Caruso a romantic rival. And so with this worry in his breast, Caruso begins the hero’s journey, driving the plot forward, to make sure Clarissa is safe from harm.
In many ways, Gwyn notes, cockatoos are like humans—“in the wild, they are social creatures, flying in flocks and speaking their own special language. Highly intelligent and long-lived, they mate for life. They raise their young together and will sacrifice their own lives in order to save their chicks from predators.” And that’s very much like Caruso, the hero.
The novel also gives insight into the life of a caged bird. Captive animals behave, and suffer, in such different ways than wild animals. “When caged, they can become neurotic,” Gwyn explains. And that’s what Gwyn is capturing here in Love & Ordinary Creatures. “They will bond with one person in a family and will feel and express jealousy if they view another as a rival. Should the relationship with their human companion be threatened, they will resort to highly dysfunctional behaviors, such as feather plucking or gouging their flesh with their beaks, in order to relieve emotional distress, not unlike self-abuse among humans. In their desperation to adapt, caged cockatoos can become confused and lose their identity or their birdness.”
“Most of us have experienced, at one point in our lives, the anguish of unrequited love, and so I reasoned that readers would be able to identify with Caruso’s struggle, even though he is a fictional character and a bird, playing the role of a romantic hero.” Gwyn also believed doing so might challenge readers who think of animals as mere “property.” She firmly believes that “the only way we will save the animals who share this planet with us is if we learn to understand and value their lives.”
As many of ALDF’s cases try to show, Gwyn states, “animals are not pieces of machinery, but are living, intelligent creatures that deserve our consideration.” This is why, she says, “as compassionate citizens it is important that we reflect upon new ideas concerning the animal companions in our lives, the quality of life for [farmed] animals, and the threatened habitats of wild creatures. A measure of a culture is the empathy shown not only for the members of its own species but for other species as well.”
Gwyn’s work has been nominated for a Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award and has appeared in literary magazines around the country. She is a winner of the Cecil Hackney Literary Award as well as a recipient of grants from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Gwyn lives in Versailles, Kentucky, with her husband, Angel, and their rescue dog, Fritz. Purchase Love & Ordinary Creatures here.
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund 2014 Chapter of the Year: Florida State University
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on December 12, 2014
Each year, ALDF celebrates our student chapters—Student Animal Legal Defense Fund or “SALDF” chapters—with a SALDF Chapter of the Year Award. For 2014, that chapter is Florida State University College of Law’s SALDF. This chapter has shown amazing efforts in advancing the field of animal law and advocating for animals through original projects and initiatives both on and off campus. SALDF chapters engage in important activities to support the development of animal law, including submitting comments on federal regulations, holding networking and fundraising events, and writing academic articles. They also partake in tabling, leafleting, organizing conferences and guest speakers, building coalitions with other law school student organizations, and screening films.
FSU’s SALDF chapter was chosen as the Chapter of the Year for their wide range of events, variety of issues focused on, and because their work had a legal base. In 2014, FSU SALDF co-hosted the Southeastern Animal Law Symposium, the first animal law conference held in Florida. Speakers included living property expert David Favre, dog fighting law expert Eric Abrahamsen, dangerous dog law expert Fred Kray, and Florida Bar Animal Law Committee Chair and CEO of Pets Ad Litem Ralph DeMeo.
What else stands out about Florida State University’s SALDF chapter? These law students spoke at Florida Senate committee meetings to support greyhound welfare legislation; attended City of Tallahassee commission meetings to request increased animal shelter funding; and hosted two representatives and a Grey2K lobbyist supporting greyhound welfare bills to speak at a lunchtime lecture at the law school. They also wrote an article in the Pets Ad Litem newsletter about greyhound welfare legislation, hosted a lunchtime lecture with courthouse therapy dogs and their handlers, sent their president to the Global Animal Law Conference in Spain, and hosted an Animal Law Writing Competition, accepting essays from law schools across Florida. Wow!
Our 2014 Chapter of the Year Award was presented at this year’s Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. Christine Clolinger, chapter president, explained her favorite things about this outstanding chapter.
- FSU SALDF creates an opportunity for students and the Tallahassee community to learn about a developing and meaningful area of law.
- FSU SALDF connects lawyers, lobbyists, state representatives and senators, and law students from a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints, promoting an engaging exchange of ideas.
- FSU SALDF members are highly involved in their communities, volunteering and hosting fun events to raise money for local animal shelters.
- FSU SALDF ensures its members are exposed to the newest ideas in animal law by sending them to both national and international conferences.
- FSU SALDF promotes legal change at the state and local level by advocating both in city hall and in Florida’s Senate chambers.
But most of all, Christine notes, FSU SALDF celebrates our furry, scale-y, and hooved companions! SALDF chapters play an important role in shaping the animal law attorneys of tomorrow and raising awareness of animal law. From all of us at ALDF, and our members and supporters, congratulations FSU SALDF!
Killing Rhinos In Order to Save Them
Posted by Jeff Pierce, ALDF Litigation Fellow on December 10, 2014
The winning bidder, Corey Knowlton of North Texas, promised $350,000 to the Namibian government. That money would buy him the right to kill the animal, but under international and federal law Knowlton needs U.S. permission before he can haul the dead rhino’s carcass home with him.
In November, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) invited public comment on Knowlton’s import permit application. In its comments (PDF), ALDF argued that the law and policy of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) require FWS to deny the permit.
In his application, Knowlton alleged that Namibia is depending on his contribution to conserve rhinos. At the same time, Knowlton announced his intention to keep his money if FWS denies him permission to bring the dead animal home. By holding the auction proceeds hostage, Knowlton fails to submit his application “in good faith,” the first of three requirements under the ESA.
It also shows that Knowlton is not committed to conservation. To the contrary, Knowlton told local television in January, “I’m a hunter . . . I want to experience a black rhino. I want to be intimately involved with a black rhino.” The Club’s executive director Ben Carter said, “Most people that have an animal mounted, it’s their memory of their experience . . . When they look at it, they remember everything. That’s what [Knowlton] bid the money on, that opportunity.”
Meanwhile, poachers killed 1,020 rhinos in South Africa this year alone. Rhino poaching has tripled since 2011. Traffickers feed the inexhaustible appetite for trinkets and ineffectual “traditional” remedies in China and Vietnam, where rhino horn costs more than gold or cocaine. Despite this surge in poaching, nearly all the materials Knowlton submitted were from 2009 or prior. He therefore failed to demonstrate that his importing a dead rhino would help—instead of harm—black rhinos in the wild, the second requirement under the ESA.
Finally, not just illegally poached rhinos, but dead and mounted rhinos in the United States fuel the illegal trade that threatens the survival of the species. FWS has already acknowledged that the many pro-hunting groups and taxidermy auction houses in Texas make Knowlton’s home state ground zero for the illicit trade in rhino horn. FWS has even created a special task force—Operation Crash—consisting of 150 law enforcement officers who work undercover to catch would-be smugglers of rhino horn in Texas and elsewhere. Under the third and final requirement of the ESA, FWS cannot grant the permit if doing so would violate the purposes and policy of the ESA. It would indeed violate the ESA’s purposes and policy for FWS to invest in Operation Crash while simultaneously granting permission for more rhinos to die and new rhino parts to enter Texas.
ALDF urges Texas, which is known for its so-called “compassionate conservatives,” to adopt “compassionate conservation.”
Legally Brief: NYC Considers Ban on Carriage Horse Industry
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on December 8, 2014
In his first year in office, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is making good on his campaign promise to ban NYC’s horse-drawn carriages––as animal advocates, including ALDF, and thousands of New Yorkers urged him to do. On Monday, NY City Councilmember Daniel Dromm introduced a bill to phase out the carriage horse industry to loud cheers in Council Chambers. Earlier in the day, supporters of the measure braved 25 degree weather to rally on the steps of City Hall, where ALDF’s Erika Mathews addressed the crowd and media.
Here are some highlights of the bill, known as Int 0573-2014:
- Banning horse-drawn carriage rides as of June 1, 2016. Current licenses to operate horse-drawn carriages expire on May 31st, 2016, and would not be renewed under the bill.
- Humane disposition of carriage horses. The mayor’s bill would prohibit carriage horses from being sent to slaughter and require documentation to ensure that does not happen. It also would require licensed horse owners to notify the Dept. of Health 10 days prior to any transfer, and provide names and phone numbers for any potential buyers or transferee of licensed horses.
- Increased penalties for violations. The maximum fine for violating any law regulating the horse drawn carriage industry would be raised from $500 to $25,000 (50 times the current level).
- Displaced worker training for carriage drivers, owners and stable workers. Individuals who held these positions as of June 1, 2014 would be offered training similar to other displaced workers to transition into a different industry or industries.
- “Green cab” licenses at no cost to eligible carriage drivers and owners. The City of New York would pay the initial fee to obtain “HAIL” green-cab licenses for any carriage drivers and owners otherwise eligible for such a license.
Due to regulatory clearances that have to be assessed, the City Council is not expected to vote on the proposed ban until late spring or early summer of 2015. And the ban is not without controversy, thanks to a massive misinformation campaign spread by carriage industry advocates in the media. So on behalf of the animals and their advocates, here are some facts about the horse carriage industry:
The Carriage Industry is Inhumane
Is the industry bad for horses? Let’s look at some facts:
- Carriage horses are overworked (even to the point of death).
- Carriage horses are forced to work in severe weather.
- Carriage horses experience danger and terror daily.
- Carriage horses live in inhumane stables.
- Carriage horses live abnormally short lives.
The Industry Puts Horses and People in Danger
As the result of a court order won by ALDF, the NYPD recently released two batches of horse-drawn carriage accident reports. Those NYPD records allege that New York carriage drivers have committed more than a dozen “hit-and-runs” during the past five years, by fleeing the scene of traffic accidents. The NYPD records also recount another 25 previously unreported horse accidents––including a child that was rushed to the hospital after falling out of a horse carriage and being run over by its wheel.
In addition to harms suffered by the horses themselves, the NYPD records document that children, cyclists, pedestrians, carriage drivers, carriage passengers, and even NYPD officers all have been physically injured by accidents involving New York’s horse carriages.
Horse Labor Deserves Protection Too
It is hypocritical that the Teamsters Union would defend an industry that profits off of the forced labor of other living beings. Exploitation of labor is exploitation, even if it is extracted from another species. It would be considered a severe human rights violation if workers were forced against their will to pull tourists around in pedicabs for no compensation, in extreme weather conditions, through a noisy, dangerous, and congested urban environment. Making horses do the same with Central Park carriages is no different. Regulation has repeatedly failed to address the myriad problems of the carriage industry, and nothing short of a ban will protect horses from forced labor in unnatural and inhumane conditions.
Inhumane Industries Impede American Progress
As we create more humane industries, we look back on industries that exploited animals with shame. Inhumane practices reflect badly upon us all. We have banned dogfighting and cockfighting nationwide, and most states now outlaw commercial dog-racing. We don’t need to exploit animals, and there are other ways to enjoy the beauty of New York’s Central Park. Humane industries will take us into a new century of compassionate choices. That’s why we must phase out this archaic industry now.
Sign the pledge to boycott this industry in any urban environment.
Spread the Word
— ALDF (@ALDF) December 9, 2014
Founder’s Blog: A Chicken in Every Pot…
Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on December 5, 2014
During the 1928 presidential campaign, the Republican Party published an ad stating that if Herbert Hoover was elected, Americans would experience such prosperity that there would be “a chicken in every pot…” Well; we certainly have achieved and exceeded that goal. Industrial agriculture raises and kills nine billion chickens each year. As of 2000, Americans were eating an average of 53 pounds of chicken annually (PDF), according to the USDA. It would surprise most Americans to learn that there is a significant downside to this abundance: a torrent of animal suffering. Meat production is also a serious contributor to climate change, the pollution of our waterways and air, and negatively impacts human health from such practices as the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed.
I thought of the “chicken in every pot” quote as I read Nicholas Kristof’s excellent op-ed in the New York Times, “Abusing Chickens We Eat,” By the 1950s in the U.S., the agriculture industry had a new way of raising the chickens who are eaten (industry calls them “broilers”). On today’s factory farm, 20,000 chicks are placed into each massive barn, where they live until they are large enough to go to slaughter. The industry has selectively bred them to grow to market weight in just seven weeks. That is 300 times faster than chickens grew just 50 years ago, and it takes a toll: the chickens’ skeletons have difficulty supporting their weight; they have deformities, and trouble walking. Oftentimes, their hearts and lungs can’t work effectively to circulate oxygen through their bodies. Add to that the fact that, as they grow larger, the barn becomes very crowded. The litter they sit in and live in is loaded with feces and urine, burning their skin and making it hard for them to breathe.
It’s one thing to read about these conditions; it’s another to actually see them. Thanks to Leah Garces, USA director of Compassion in World Farming, and a brave poultry farmer named Craig Watts, we now have that visual.
Most Americans have no idea how farmed animals are raised; they honestly don’t know. You can change that. If you eat chicken, cook chicken, feed it to your children and to your friends, I think you’ll want to see this video. If you’re like me, you’ll see that this is just not right.
What You Can Do
The strongest influence on the agricultural industry is the consumer, so please take the next steps:
- Learn more about the reality of how factory farmed chickens are raised and killed in the U.S. here. Check the ALDF website for updates on our lawsuits to protect chickens and other farmed animals.
- The best thing you can do for chickens is to stop eating them. Boycott the abuse.
- Spread the word; teach others by showing them this video, and others like it.
- Contact Perdue, Tyson, Foster Farms, and other companies that advertise about how much they care about the chickens, while keeping them in terrible, abusive conditions. Tell these companies that their treatment of these sentient creatures is not acceptable.
California Fish & Game Prohibits Prizes for Killing Contests
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on December 3, 2014
Great news for California’s coyotes and other wildlife! We are thrilled to announce that early this morning the California Fish and Game Commission approved a motion to prohibit the financial rewards that encourage “killing contests.” The message was clear: no cash prizes for slaughtering animals. Today’s motion passed 4-1, making California the first state to deal a lethal blow to these horrific contests—and we hope other states will soon follow.
In killing contests, coyotes, bobcats, foxes and other wildlife are indiscriminately killed over weekend-long “derbies” for substantial cash prizes that go to the team who kills the most animals, or the largest. Hundreds of animals may be killed; others are wounded and left to suffer for days until they die. At today’s meeting in Van Nuys, more than 30 people gave public testimony on the measure, the vast majority of whom spoke in favor of the ban. The testimony was passionate and speakers nearly universally condemned wildlife killing contests as out of step with California’s progressive identity and commitment to science-based, ecosystem-aware wildlife management. Tens of thousands of people had signed a Project Coyote petition in support of cracking down on these contests.
Fish and Game Commission Vice President Jack Baylis said he hopes today’s decision will be the first step in the Commission’s exploration of new comprehensive predator management policies. He spoke about introducing bag limits for coyotes and other non-game mammals so that we can “stop the senseless slaughter of predators.” The regulations will now read:
465. Methods General Provisions for Taking Furbearers … (2) Pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 2003, it is unlawful to offer any prize or other inducement as a reward for the taking of furbearers in an individual contest, tournament, or derby.
In July, ALDF and Project Coyote shut down a predator killing contest in Harney County, Oregon. Just last week, the federal Bureau of Land Management finally listened to public outcry and rescinded permits for a predator killing contest on 3 million acres of public lands in Idaho. In fact, in today’s decision Commissioner Michael Sutton, president of the California Fish & Game Commission, cited the recent Bureau of Land Management decision to cancel the Idaho contest and called predator killing contests an “anachronism” necessitating state-wide action.
Unfortunately, coyotes can still be killed in unlimited numbers all year long. And other states are holding killing contests—like the Coyote Calling Contest Triple Crown (in Kansas, Wyoming, and Arizona). Just last month, a Bakersfield, California killing contest led to public outrage and in today’s meeting, ALDF attorney Kelsey Eberly pointed to the Bakersfield contests as illustration of the urgent need for stricter regulations.
California has stepped up today as a leader in humane laws and its citizens can be proud of this ban. There is more work to be done, but the tide is turning, and California is done with killing contests. These bloodbaths don’t reflect the values of our civil society or effective wildlife management. Sign ALDF’s pledge to boycott all killing contests.
Celebrate With Us!
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— ALDF (@ALDF) December 3, 2014
Victory for Wildlife! Idaho Predator-Killing Contest Cancelled
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on November 25, 2014
Great news today for wolves, coyotes, foxes, and other predators! The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is canceling a permit that would have allowed a killing contest on 3 million acres of public lands in Idaho.
Earlier this year, we asked you to help shut down this killing spree by submitting public comments to the BLM. Of the 90,000 public comments submitted to the BLM, more than 11,000 comments came from ALDF supporters. Although the BLM initially approved the permit, they soon changed their minds. As a result of a lawsuit filed by our colleagues at leading conservation groups that incorporated the science submitted in some of the public comments, the BLM were finally convinced that the public does not want our wild lands used to massacre wildlife.
In this killing derby, an anti-wolf organization deceptively calling itself “Idaho for Wildlife” would have been allowed to encourage hunters to kill as many wild animals as possible every year for five years, starting in January 2015. Attorneys for the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Project Coyote, and Defenders of Wildlife were preparing an injunction to stop the upcoming contest, and with this pressure and the science demonstrated in public comments, the BLM withdrew its approval for the permit.
Killing contests—where participants kill animals for “fun” and cash prizes—are inhumane, unethical, and reckless wildlife management. ALDF is working hard to use the legal system to protect wild animals from those who mean to do them harm. In July, ALDF and Project Coyote shut down a coyote killing contest in Oregon.
As ALDF’s executive director has pointed out time and again, building coalitions between animal protection and conservation movements is vital to the success of each. Just today, ALDF and a coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit against Mendocino County in northern California for its contract with Wildlife Services, a rogue predator killing program. Because the indiscriminate killing of wild animals destroys fragile ecosystems and the biodiversity of species, but it is also inhumane.
These causes unite our movements, and victories like today’s point the way for greater advocacy. And next week, the California Fish and Game Commission will vote on whether to ban wildlife killing contests statewide. ALDF will be in attendance, and we hope to bring you good news from California. Stay tuned!
Today’s victory wouldn’t have been possible without the support of concerned animal advocates. It is a testimony to the power of taking action for animals. Together, we can make a difference.
Just Ridiculous: Big Mayo Bullies Humane, Eco-friendly “Just Mayo”
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on November 24, 2014
Like a school bully taking away your lunch, Unilever, the corporation dominating the mayonnaise market (it owns Best Foods and Hellmann’s), is suing the celebrated company Hampton Creek over their cruelty-free alternative, “Just Mayo.” This highly successful plant-based product is animal and eco-friendly, healthy, delicious, convenient, and cheap—it’s even sold at the Dollar Tree (and is widely available in grocery stores). That’s great news for people, animals, and the planet.
But it’s a threat to corporations who profit from animal abuse. Unilever says since Just Mayo doesn’t contain eggs, consumers are deceived by the label “Just Mayo,” and that hurts Unilever’s sales. But with more than a little egg on its face, Hellmann’s recently tweaked product descriptions on its website—because some of its own mayonnaise didn’t qualify as mayonnaise. That’s just awkward.
Real false-advertising lawsuits hold powerful corporations accountable to the law. That’s why groups like the Animal Legal Defense Fund file false-advertising lawsuits against animal-abusing corporations. For example, Tyson Foods, the largest producer of chicken and second-largest producer of beef and pork products in the nation, uses cruel “broiler-houses” for chickens and “gestation crates” for pregnant pigs, yet called themselves a leader in animal welfare. California egg producers used misleading packaging that falsely implied their eggs came from hens who roamed free outdoors. The nation’s largest force-fed foie gras producer called themselves “humane,” while force-feeding young ducks, until we stopped them. That’s what we do.
Because pretending to be eco-friendly and humane—while destroying the planet and harming animals—is “greenwashing.” It’s deceptive, but effective. Studies show that 85% of consumers will spend more on products they think are safer for animals and the environment. That’s why courts should intervene when consumers are unfairly deceived; that’s false-advertising, and that’s illegal.
But that’s not even close to what’s happening in Unilever’s lawsuit. The Wall Street Journal called this lawsuit “the latest battle between established food companies and the emerging natural and organic-food producers that are luring skeptical consumers away from traditional packaged foods.” Public health attorney Michele Simon writes in her food policy blog that the lawsuit is “just a desperate attempt to get the courts to intervene in marketplace competition.” Not only is Unilever clogging people’s arteries with egg-laden products, now they are clogging the courts with frivolous lawsuits too.
Conscientious consumers are not colorblind; they can tell eco-green from the brown of baloney. If it looks like mayo and tastes like mayo, but lacks cholesterol and cruelty, it’s Just Mayo. If it’s harming sales, tastes better, costs less, and is cruelty-free, that’s just smart.
With products like Just Mayo, Hampton Creek is doing the right thing. Their products–the company also makes cookie dough you can eat without the risk of Salmonella—are legitimately cruelty-free and better for the environment. So this lawsuit against innovative makers of a truly “green” product may be the worst greenwashing of all. Companies like Hampton Creek are shaping the future of food, according to Bill Gates, one of their investors. One day, plant-based products may sustain our planet, and that’s just amazing.
Legally Brief: Traffic Reports Finally Released in Horse Carriage Accidents
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on November 20, 2014
ALDF has acquired shocking new records about horse-drawn carriage accidents documented by the New York Police Department (NYPD). In April 2014, the New York Supreme Court validated ALDF’s concern about the mistreatment of horses in the carriage industry and ordered the NYPD to produce the public documents ALDF had requested more than a year and a half previously under New York’s Freedom of Information Law. Those NYPD records show that keeping carriage horses on the streets of New York isn’t safe for anybody.
One of the most alarming revelations in the NYPD reports are allegations that New York carriage drivers have committed more than a dozen “hit-and-runs” during the past five years, fleeing the scene of traffic accidents. Further, the NYPD records recount 25 previously unreported horse carriage accidents—including one in which a child was run over by the wheel of a horse carriage after falling from the carriage itself. That child “suffered injuries to stomach, chest and head” and had to be rushed to New York’s Presbyterian Hospital. Another incident describes a horse carriage colliding with another vehicle, causing the carriage driver to be thrown from the carriage and found by police, “laying in street, not moving.” After the collision, the carriage horse broke free and “kept running downtown toward 59th Street,” colliding with at least two parked taxicabs, and reported as “hitting cars,” kicking, and suffering a “possible broken leg.” Even NYPD police officers are listed as being injured during these incidents.
Yet it is the carriage horses themselves who remain the most vulnerable of all. Just a few weeks ago, a carriage horse named Barney got loose and charged the wrong way down 10th Avenue, caught on camera being chased through traffic by police cars with blaring sirens and flashing lights. Two years ago, a terrified horse named Oreo bolted after a collision and dragged his broken carriage down several city streets. Three years ago, a horse named Charlie collapsed and died in front of NYPD officers. The stories of Barney, Oreo, and Charlie underscore the urban chaos and suffering inflicted upon carriage horses. Their experiences are not exceptions and NYPD’s incident reports are just a small piece of the larger story. Those records, and others from the Departments of Health and Consumer Affairs, are part of a comprehensive report ALDF is preparing that reveals grim truths about this dangerous industry.
New Yorkers are famous for their common sense, and the variety of accidents in these police reports makes clear that a ban is the only rational solution that can prevent New York’s citizens and horses from suffering future harm. ALDF is urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove carriage horses from the streets of Manhattan, as he promised to do upon taking office. ALDF and a coalition of other animal protection organizations have procured the records that clearly document the dangers. Now, it is up to the Mayor and the New York City Council to introduce and pass such a ban to make New York’s streets safe for all.
The Miserable Life of a Mother Pig
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Staff Attorney on November 19, 2014
Gestation crates are inhumane because pregnant pigs suffer severe mental and physical abuse when confined to them. Gestation crates are banned for their cruelty in some states, and a ban has just passed in New Jersey and awaits the Governor’s signature.
What is a Gestation Crate?
Gestation crates are metal crates that are only slightly larger than the pregnant pig’s body. They are so small that she cannot turn around or lie down comfortably. Most pigs raised in intensive confinement are kept in gestation crates for most of their pregnancy, which lasts almost four months. A few days before the pig gives birth, she is moved into a farrowing crate, which has a separate area for her piglets, and is slightly wider so she can lie down on her side to nurse. After the piglets are weaned, the pig is artificially inseminated again, and returned to the gestation crate. Pigs that are bred spend almost their whole lives confined to these crates, completely denied of unrestricted movement.
Pigs Suffer in Gestation Crates
Pigs are sensitive, intelligent, and social animals who can feel pain and suffer, similar to humans and other animals like dogs and cats. Pigs confined to crates suffer mentally from severe frustration because they are restricted from performing basically all natural behaviors such as foraging, exploring their surroundings, and socializing with other pigs. Pigs in crates spend 70-80% of their time forced to lie inactive, compared to typical pigs who spend only 6% of their time resting during daylight hours! Pigs deal with this unrelenting frustration by performing stereotypic behaviors, which are repetitive behaviors that serve no function, such as biting the bars of the crate.
Pigs also suffer physically when confined in crates. They endure sores, scratches, cuts, and other wounds from rubbing against the crate that is barely bigger than their own body. They suffer from muscle weakness, foot injuries, joint damage, and lameness. Their eyes and respiratory tracts are irritated from the high level of ammonia released from the pit of urine and feces below the concrete slatted floor.
What You Can Do
Tell Governor Christie, who vetoed the ban when it previously passed, to sign S. 998, which outlaws gestation crates in New Jersey by signing the Change.org petition or giving him a call at 609-292-6000.
Don’t economically support the pork industry that intensively confines mother pigs by opting for a plant-based diet. Educate family and friends about the issue.
Room to Roam: The Importance of Sanctuary
Posted by Ariana Huemer, ALDF Guest Blogger on November 15, 2014
Hen Harbor was conceived of as a place for hens rescued from the egg industry to live out their remaining days in safety and sanctuary. These are the stories of how Hen Harbor’s residents found sanctuary.
Hen Harbor’s founding member is Cinnamon, a hen rescued from a factory egg-farm in Turlock, California in 2012, where she had been left with 50,000 other hens to starve to death inside cages. Cinnamon was one of 4,000 hens still alive when rescuers came for them.
Three years later, owing to chronic health issues, Cinnamon spends much of her time as a house hen, but she also enjoys the company of Hen Harbor’s nearly 100 other rescued birds—chickens, ducks, and geese—who roam the sanctuary’s three acres.
Egg Farm Escapees
Like Cinnamon, most of Hen Harbor’s residents are refugees from factory egg-farms. Before arriving at Hen Harbor, they spent their whole lives locked inside barren wire cages, unable to spread their wings or even take more than a step in any direction. Had they not been rescued by Hen Harbor, they would have been gassed, composted, or even ground up alive—as are all egg-industry birds—when they were only 18 months old.
At Hen Harbor, these rescued hens spend their days roaming the sanctuary, dust-bathing, and hunting for worms, watched over by a cadre of rescued roosters, many of whom were seized from cockfighting operations. At night, they perch in their spacious, warm, predator-proof barn.
Egg Industry Aftermath
But even after their rescue, the nightmares of the egg industry continue to haunt these birds. Because they were bred to lay so excessively (over 300 eggs per year, versus 12 per year for a wild hen), their reproductive tracts age 20 times faster than the rest of their bodies.
Ovarian cancer kills many of the hens, but just as many fall victim to impacted oviducts—which, in short, is a condition in which eggs get stuck inside the hen. Without surgery to remove the eggs, the hen will die slowly and painfully. Many, if not most, animal sanctuaries euthanize hens once they reach this stage. But Hen Harbor does not believe in euthanizing animals who can otherwise be saved with treatment. Consequently, 90% of our operating expenses go directly to veterinary care.
Roosters, Ducks, and Geese Galore
In the last year, Hen Harbor has rescued close to 80 ducks and geese. While most have been re-homed at a larger sanctuary with a lake, there are three ducks and three geese—all dumped Easter pets—who are permanent residents. We are in the process of constructing a pond for them that will be replenished year-round by the natural spring that runs through the property.
Finally, Ian Puffypants, Small Steven, and Carter are three special roosters who were brought to Hen Harbor by ALDF rescuers, after they were abandoned at a park. Although three of their brothers were killed by predators before they could be saved, these three survivors—who were unwanted artifacts of the current backyard chicken fad—are forever safe at Hen Harbor.
A Voice for the Voiceless: Interview with Dana Campbell
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on November 13, 2014
Last month, ALDF sat down with Dana Campbell at the 2014 Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark Law School, where she is an adjunct professor of animal law and teaches classes about the link between human and nonhuman animal violence. Previously, Dana served as the first CEO of Voiceless, the Australian national “think-tank” on animal law. Before that, Dana was a senior attorney with ALDF for more than a decade, an adjunct professor at Cornell Law, and formerly served as a deputy district attorney in Oregon and Hawaii.
What changes for animals in the U.S. has she seen in that time? “We’ve gone from a handful of states that have felony sanctions against animal abusers to all 50 states that now punish aggravated animal abuse as a felony.” That’s a step in the right direction for animal law, Dana says. But animal law still remains a bit “schizophrenic” in the protection it provides animals. “We have a number of laws in place that protect the animals that are warm and fuzzy and cute, that we share our homes with—and almost no laws that protect the animals that we eat or that we wear or that entertain us.”
Yet, she remains optimistic, she says, and sees a major change in the way people view animals—and the way our laws protect animals. Our attitudes are changing, our awareness is growing, our laws are adapting, and she has great hope for the future of animal law. See more of our interview with Professor Campbell.
Legally Brief: Ban Coyote Killing Contests
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on November 7, 2014
Is it really any wonder that our planet has lost nearly 50% of its wildlife in just the last 45 years? Not when you consider that last year, on the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, a misleadingly-named group, “Idaho for Wildlife,” held a killing contest that gives prizes for killing wildlife (including wolves and coyotes) across millions of acres of public lands in eastern Idaho. This year, on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, that same group applied to hold the contest for five more years. More than 56,000 public comments opposing this killing derby were submitted to the Bureau of Land Management. A similar killing contest, the “Coyote Calling Contest Triple Crown,” begins today:
- The National Coyote Calling Championship is held in Wyoming’s Red Desert, Nov. 6-8. Their photo gallery displays gruesome images of the coyotes slaughtered en masse in recent years.
- The World Championship Coyote Calling Contest will be held Dec. 11-13 in Williams, Arizona. Their gruesome photos can be found here.
- The Midwest Coyote Calling Contest will be Jan. 3-4 in St. Francis, Kansas. Their “cool pictures” include piles of coyotes killed and a close-up of a coyote shot in the face.
In these “contest” massacres, participants compete to shoot as many animals, usually native predators like wolves or coyotes, as they can. Money or other prizes are awarded based on greatest number killed, largest individual killed, etc. Hundreds of animals may be killed and many others wounded. These killing contests treat sentient beings like vermin to be killed for fun. But wolves, coyotes and other native wild predators are essential to the health of entire ecosystems—by keeping other animal populations in check and keeping them healthy.
Some participants claim to be protecting the animals raised by ranchers (to be slaughtered for their meat), but these contests do nothing to protect “livestock.” Scientific studies show that the haphazard slaughter of coyotes actually increases coyote populations, and that when packs are splintered, many more coyotes breed, thus increasing the number of pups dramatically. Killing contests are ethically inconsistent with the proper management of wildlife, and even hunters frown on these killing sprees. Nonlethal predator control and more effective ways of protecting farmed animals abound. Killing contests don’t come from a love of the outdoors, a respect for nature, or wildlife management.
That’s why ALDF and Project Coyote recently successfully sued to shut down an Oregon outfit that hosted coyote killing contests for being a nuisance to its community. And we’ve teamed up again to lend support to the California Fish and Game Commission’s consideration of a state-wide ban on killing contests and predator derbies. Human beings need to learn to peacefully coexist with wildlife and ensure the humane survival of species in the natural world.
Learn more about ALDF’s work to protect coyotes here.
ALDF’s Animal Law Institute Looks Back Across Four Years of Strategic Efforts
Posted by Jeff Pierce, ALDF Litigation Fellow on November 5, 2014
Thurgood Marshall, who would become the nation’s first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, founded the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1940. Steering the first and most prominent strategic impact litigation firm in the country, Marshall and his colleagues pioneered the use of test cases to expand substantive and procedural protections for those to whom the states and feds alike had denied equality and due process. Today, virtually every public interest legal organization uses Marshall’s strategy in striving to achieve a vision of human rights, civil rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental justice, or animal protection.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund entered that stream 35 years ago. Joyce Tischler and those she gathered around her modeled the emerging Animal Legal Defense Fund after Marshall’s Legal Defense Fund, litigating strategically for a different under-protected clientele, the nonhuman animals with whom we share our lives and our planet. In the intervening years ALDF has expanded its legal capacity and refined its legal strategy, growing its ranks and articulating outcomes-based criteria that inform the organization’s efforts.
In the fall of 2010, in keeping with ALDF’s simultaneous expansion and refinement, an anonymous donor committed generous and ongoing support for ALDF to embark on a new strategic venture entitled the Animal Law Institute. The Institute advances dual goals. It pursues a civil litigation and regulatory docket that develops—rather than merely applies—the law to improve animal welfare, increase animal autonomy, secure legal recognition of animals as interest-bearing entities who impose duties on humans, and eliminate particular practices that cause animals to suffer.
In doing so, the Institute likewise cultivates the strategic and practical—the substantive and procedural—abilities of newly emerging animal attorneys, aiming to grow the ranks of advocates capable of leveraging the law for animals. The anonymous support enables ALDF to hire newly minted attorneys to work as paid fellows in its litigation department, and to hire law students to work as paid full-time interns during the summer or as paid part-time interns during the academic year.
The Institute also partners with hundreds of attorneys working in private practice, many at the most esteemed law firms in the country. These attorneys bring their considerable legal expertise and institutional resources to bear on behalf of animals. Some 1600 private practice attorneys now volunteer for ALDF, having contributed more than 5,300 hours of pro bono lawyering in 2013 alone, totaling some $1.7 million in donated legal services.
Since its founding roughly four years ago, the Institute has filed dozens of civil lawsuits and regulatory petitions that strategically target institutionalized forms of animal abuse and exploitation. This report details the Institute’s efforts to expand the universe of protections the law affords to farmed animals, companion animals, research animals, and wildlife both captive and free. Through the Institute, the Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue its efforts to align our legal system with cognitive science, evolutionary biology, a robust environmental ethos, a deep expression of human compassion, and a vindication of human intuition.