Commercialized Cruelty to Sled Dogs
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 2, 2015
Around this time of year, ALDF is often asked: “are the Iditarod and other commercialized dogsledding events cruel to animals?” Every March—this year beginning March 7—the Iditarod is held in Alaska, and is the most famous example of commercialized dogsledding.
The annual Alaskan Iditarod is a grueling race through 1000 miles of the roughest terrain on earth, in temperatures that drop well below zero. Teams of dogs run, sometimes up to 100 miles a day, for 7-10 days. The human mushers compete for substantial financial rewards—even at the cost of injuring dogs. ALDF Founder and General Counsel Joyce Tischler explains:
Under the laws of some states, commercial dog sledding practices would be considered criminally cruel. In California, for example, the state criminal anti-cruelty law makes it a crime to inflict needless suffering or unnecessary cruelty upon an animal—including by overworking an animal. Conveniently for the Iditarod backers, Alaska’s anti-cruelty law conveniently exempts standard dog sledding practices and lets the industry define what is acceptable.
Since the Iditarod began decades ago, more than 140 dogs have died from heart attacks, pneumonia, muscle deterioration, dehydration, diarrhea, and spinal injuries. Some have been impaled on sleds, drowned, or accidentally strangled. Injured dogs are left alone at checkpoints, according to the Sled Dog Action Coalition. And big game animals, like elk and moose, who get in the way of the race, may be killed. During the off-season, sled dogs are generally kept chained to their doghouse in an outdoor kennel. Often, when the dogs are no longer profitable, they are killed.
And it’s not just Alaska—last year, a Colorado sled dog operator was charged with eight counts of animal cruelty after an investigation revealed starving, sick, and constantly tethered dogs left out in the cold. From the 1990s through 2014, the operator of Krabloonik Sled Dog Center was accused of “culling” his dogs by gunshot, as well as neglect, punching and beating dogs, and providing inadequate shelter.
Another commercial sled dog enterprise in Colorado at the Pawsatrak Racing Sled Dog Kennel also got in hot water for cruelty to animals. Authorities found six dogs dead on the premise and the rest were seized. A veterinarian who performed necropsies attested that the neglect of these dogs was chronic. Both owners were convicted of criminal animal cruelty.
In fact, cruelty charges have been filed against operators at sled dog operations all over the country, from Maine to Montana to New York—the abuse and neglect of sled dogs is horrific, pervasive, and chronic. Any time animals are used as objects to produce profits, in under-regulated industries, their well-being is in danger. Please do not support this inherently cruel industry.
Protect Exotic Animals in Las Vegas!
Posted by Carney Anne Nasser, ALDF Legislative Counsel on February 27, 2015
Clark County Commissioners are meeting on Wednesday, March 4 to consider revoking the zoning permits for Keith Evans to house exotic animals. ALDF needs your help to make sure the interests of these and other animals are protected!
The Lion Habitat Ranch, aka “Lion Photo Studios,” is a roadside zoo in Clark County that breeds and exhibits over 40 lions who are kept in substandard cages and used for photos and other dangerous opportunities for unsafe public interactions. Because lions and other big cats may only lawfully be used for direct public contact until they are about 12 weeks old, exhibitors like Keith Evans of the Lion Habitat Ranch have to keep breeding lions in order to maintain a steady supply of cubs. Exotic cats who become too big for public handling frequently end up warehoused in cages, sent to other roadside zoos and other exploitative operators with histories of Animal Welfare Act violations, shuffled around through the lucrative exotics market, or even dumped at facilities that slaughter lions for their meat and parts. Evans has exceeded the number of lions he may lawfully house, but apparently keeps breeding them.
Keith Evans was recently cited by the USDA for unsafe handling practices involving interactions between lions and the public. Because the USDA only inspects about once a year, and Clark County has no ordinance regulating exotic animal ownership, Evans operates with virtually no oversight 364 days of the year. Unless Clark County stops the madness by revoking Evans’ zoning permit to keep dangerous wild animals, Evans will continue to breed lions, expand his operation, and contribute to the exploitation of other exotic animals. This situation also underscores the need for Clark County to finally pass an ordinance that provides meaningful oversight over exotic animal ownership.
Please speak up for lions and other exotic animals condemned to lives of abuse and deprivation by urging Clark County Commissioners to: 1) revoke Keith Evans’ conditional use permits, and 2) pass an ordinance that empowers the county to exercise greater oversight over owners of dangerous wild animals!
Action for Nevada Residents
If you are a Nevada resident, please call Clark County Commissioner Chair Steve Sisolak today at (702) 455-3500. All you have to do is politely say, “As a Nevada resident who cares about animal welfare and public safety, I wanted to voice support for your effort to revoke the conditional use permits for Lion Habitat Ranch, and ask you to pass an exotic animal ordinance that will prevent situations like this from happening in the future.”
After you call, please be sure to send a follow-up email to the Clark County Commissioners. If you are a resident of Clark County, be sure to note that in your email.
A Better World for Animals is at Your Fingertips!
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on February 27, 2015
Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is: Fight animal abuse online.
Fight animal abuse and honor animal victims online. Join the hundreds of thousands across the nation who have already taken action online to support critical ALDF campaigns, which are designed to have the maximum impact for animals. A better world for animals is at your fingertips!
Animal Bill of Rights
Help us reach one million signatures! Please join the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed the Animal Bill of Rights—take action now! Let Congress and all of our elected officials know that the law should protect the basic needs of all animals—and should provide justice for those who are abused and exploited.
Expose Animal Abusers
Communities have good reason to be concerned about the whereabouts of animal abusers. In story after heartbreaking story, abusers repeat their violent crimes against helpless animals, and often go on to victimize people as well. Animal abuser registries will help keep animals and families safe. New York City recently became the largest jurisdiction to pass a measure that will create a registry of convicted animal abusers in the city. If you would like to help pass a registry in your state, please contact your local legislators and ask for an animal abuser registry where you live! Take action at ExposeAnimalAbusers.org.
First Strike and You’re Out
Currently, most states have no mandatory requirements keeping those who are convicted of animal abuse crimes away from animals following their convictions. ALDF’s model “First Strike and You’re Out” law will help in the fight against animal neglect and cruelty by keeping offenders away from potential new animal victims and will also help reduce the huge economic toll which repeat offenders impose on their communities.
Contact your state legislators today and ask them to support a “First Strike and You’re Out” law for those who are convicted of animal neglect or cruelty.
Captive Elephants Need Better Protections
Posted by Carney Anne Nasser, ALDF Legislative Counsel on February 26, 2015
Any time elephants and humans share the same space, whether in a zoo, at a circus, or at a county fair, elephants are likely to suffer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, elephant handlers who utilize the “free contact” system of elephant management have the highest risk of fatal work injury for any profession. Free contact is characterized by the use of sharp bullhooks or other weapons intended to inflict pain and fear. Handlers use the bullhook to beat, jab, hook, poke, and prod elephants in the most sensitive areas of their bodies. When the public is present, the mere presence of the bullhook acts as a threat of pain the elephant will endure if she doesn’t perform as commanded. This barbaric conditioning process begins when the elephants are mere infants. Already in 2015:
- An investigation has been opened into UniverSoul Circus for alleged cruelty to an elephant at a show in Atlanta.
- The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium was cited by the USDA for using biting dogs to control elephant behavior.
- Asheville, North Carolina instituted an aggressive policy change to prohibit circuses from using exotic animals in the city-owned arena.
- San Francisco is considering an ordinance to ban the exhibition of exotic animals.
- Hawaii stands poised to pass the first state-wide legislation to ameliorate abuse of wild and exotic animals used in circuses.
- Just this week, Santa Monica, Calif. passed a ban on the exhibition of exotic animals.
In addition to abusive handling, elephants also endure premature maternal separation; lack of adequate enrichment, space, and socialization; and perpetual confinement in chains on unnatural surfaces during transport for traveling shows or while backstage at performance venues. These conditions are associated with lifelong physiological and psychological damage that make elephants unpredictable and prone to aggression:
- 9/10/2014: an elephant fatally crushed the founder of an elephant facility in Hope, Maine.
- 10/11/2013: an elephant fatally trampled a handler at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Mo. while he was coaxing the elephant from one part of the enclosure to another.
- 8/26/2013: an elephant attacked a visitor at a roadside zoo in Williston, Fla. whose resultant critical injuries required her to spend nearly two months in the hospital.
On the other hand, the “protected contact” method of handling elephants is characterized by positive reinforcement: handlers don’t use bullhooks or other weapons, never share unrestricted space with the elephant, and never force the elephant to submit to the handler’s demands. This method is employed by the only two reputable elephant sanctuaries in the United States (the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee) and by zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
ALDF is working toward the day when holding elephants captive will be a relic of the past—in the meantime we are fighting to ensure captive elephants aren’t subjected to additional abuse with cruel weapons of behavior modification. Los Angeles, Oakland, Miami Beach, and dozens of other localities across the U.S. have enacted ordinances to ban the use of bullhooks or the use of elephants and other exotic animals in entertainment all together. ALDF is working hard to ensure more jurisdictions pass laws to ban the cruel use of bullhooks and other weapons, to prohibit prolonged chaining and caging, and to eliminate the use of wild and exotic animals in entertainment altogether.
We hope you will join us by refusing to attend any entertainment events where animals are forced to perform, and by letting legislators know that you will not tolerate such cruelty in your community.
- Do not attend events that exploit animals.
- Urge your local legislators to pass similar ordinances that ban the use of exotic animals in entertainment.
Download LiveSafe for National Justice for Animals Week
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 25, 2015
One of the ways you can support National Justice for Animals Week 2015 is by downloading a free mobile reporting app—in case you encounter acts of animal cruelty or neglect. LiveSafe is designed to help animals by letting you report abuse and neglect right from your phone. Your animal abuse crime tips will immediately alert your local law enforcement when animals are in need of help—and justice. Join forces with ALDF in protecting animals and stopping animal abusers! Here’s how LiveSafe works:
With ALDF’s LiveSafe app you can help secure the legal justice animals deserve. Help the Animal Legal Defense Fund win the case against cruelty. Install LiveSafe today!
Arrest Made in Puppy-Burning Case!
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 24, 2015
On January 22, ALDF offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction after a Sacramento puppy was found burned to death on a North Sacramento street. The 8-9 month-old puppy had been locked in a dog crate and burned alive. Although this grim case sickens us, we are announcing some great forward movement: thanks to the dedicated work of the Sacramento SPCA, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department, and the Sacramento Metro Fire department, an arrest has been made.
According to media reports, the suspect, a 20-year old Oakland man named Willie Turner, has been arrested on suspicion of animal torture. Collaboration between the fire department and the sheriff’s department led to the warrant and arrest for the suspected perpetrator of this heinous crime.
On January 21, neighbors reported a trash fire outside the Oak Plains Masonic Lodge on 3010 Becerra Way—the fire turned out to be the burning dog, who may have been heard whimpering or howling before firefighters arrived on the scene and realized the fire was a burning dog.
Under California Penal Code 597(a), a person convicted of maliciously and intentionally maiming or killing an animal can be sentenced for up to three years and/or fined $20,000 for felony animal cruelty. In California, it is at the district attorney’s discretion whether animal cruelty is charged as a felony. We can only imagine the agonizing pain this puppy must have suffered. And studies show that persons who harm animals tend to be repeat offenders and are five times more likely to harm humans too.
And this terribly sad, outrageous act of animal cruelty reminds us why this week, National Justice for Animals Week 2015, is so important. Want to speak up for animals who can’t speak for themselves?
- When you witness animal cruelty: report it with ALDF’s LiveSafe app.
- Sign the Animal Bill of Rights to tell Congress you want animal cruelty taken seriously.
- Stay connected with ALDF’s work to protect animals: sign up for action alerts.
- Spread the news by following ALDF on social media and sharing these stories.
- Write letters to your local newspaper using ALDF’s easy tool, and speak up for animals.
Urge your local and state lawmakers to enforce stricter sentences for the most violent abusers.
Making News for Animals
Posted by Jennifer Molidor ALDF's Staff Writer on February 24, 2015
Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is to make news for animals!
Write a Letter to the Editor
Don’t just read the news—make it! If you don’t think the issue of animal abuse is getting enough coverage in your local paper, or if you want to applaud a particular reporter for going in-depth to cover a case of animal cruelty, a letter to the editor is a great way to take action for animals.
Let your own community members know how they can join the campaign to fight animal abuse with a clear, concise letter. “Letters to the Editor” are one of the most widely read sections of the newspaper and can reach a large audience. These letters allow community members to comment on the way animal issues are being addressed in the media and influence the topics covered by the local paper. Elected officials often monitor this section of the newspaper and take notice of public opinions.
If your letter is published, share it with us, and we’ll send you an ALDF prize pack including a reusable ALDF tote bag, bumper sticker, and other ALDF goodies! Email the link to the online newspaper to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail a hard copy to us at:
Animal Legal Defense Fund
c/o Megan Backus
170 East Cotati Ave
Cotati, CA 94931
Include your name, mailing address, and copy of your published letter. Letters must be received by March 31, 2015 and must relate to the theme of National Justice for Animals Week to be eligible to win.
We’ve made it easy for you to contact your local newspaper with your views, but editors want to hear from you in your own words. Take action and write a letter to the editor now!
National Justice for Animals Week 2015 Begins
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 23, 2015
ALDF’s National Justice for Animals Week gives everyone the tools to stop animal abuse, and urges law enforcement, prosecutors, and lawmakers to protect animals from abusers. From ALDF action alerts, adoption campaigns, spreading the message with social media, signing the Animal Bill of Rights, to downloading ALDF’s LiveSafe app—where you can report animal cruelty to law enforcement with just a few clicks on your smartphone—ALDF’s National Justice for Animals Week makes it easy for you to speak up for animals.
Every year, ALDF highlights our dedication to protecting animals from criminal acts of cruelty by telling the story of one special animal. This year, National Justice for Animals Week 2015 (February 22-28) celebrated animal hero Gracie the alpaca and drew attention to the plight she and 174 other alpacas suffered at the hands of an abuser—who is facing serious jail time for his crimes.
Gracie is one of 175 emaciated and starved alpacas seized by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office from “Jocelyn’s Alpaca Ranch” (near Portland, Oregon). The alpacas were so neglected, 50 animals perished from lack of nutrition. ALDF dedicated a $5,000 grant to help with the costs of care and the sheriff’s office kindly fed the remaining animals until they were safe to move. That’s when Shari Bond from Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue stepped in and provided a safe haven to rehabilitate the remaining alpacas.
Just two years old, Gracie weighed only 35lbs at the time she was rescued. She had been severely deprived of nutrition as a baby, and her growth was stunted as a result. 230 animals had been forced to share a mere three acres. “The trees were all the animals had to eat,” Shari explained.
“Gracie broke my heart from the moment I first laid eyes on her. She had ‘checked out and had the vacant stare animals get when they have given up. At one point she fell down and did not have the strength to stand again. I promised her I would do everything to get her out of there and protect her.”
Gracie has since made a full recovery, and is even making friends at Shari’s rescue. And she has doubled in weight, in just the last few months! Gracie palled around with her friend Iris, and later moved in with two small males, Puck and Dallas. You can see their adorable friendships and learn more about their story here!
National Justice for Animals Week also celebrates the human heroes who fight to better protect animals. Like Oregon deputy district attorney Jake Kamins, who—with ALDF’s support—has become the first-ever funded prosecutor totally dedicated to putting animal abusers behind bars, where they belong. Jake successfully prosecuted Gracie’s legal case and secured a criminal conviction of Robert Silver, co-owner of the ranch that starved the alpacas. Silver was charged with two felony counts and 16 misdemeanor counts of animal neglect, and he was sentenced to three years in prison.
National Justice for Animals Week 2015 also celebrates America’s “Top Ten Animal Defenders.” These heroes have gone above and beyond to protect animals, like Sgt. Lindsay Herron, an animal crimes investigator for the Minneapolis Police Department, who has made a huge dent in shutting down dogfighting rings in that area, in addition to educating schoolchildren about safety with animals, and in her spare time rescues dogs too.
Other heroes include former Illinois governor Pat Quinn, who repeatedly passed such strong animal protection laws he kept Illinois at the top spot of ALDF’s state rankings, year after year. Animal victims of abuse cannot speak for themselves, but these extraordinary people are taking a stand in seeking justice for abused and neglected animals. During National Justice for Animals Week 2015, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is delighted to announce America’s Top Ten Animal Defenders.
Save the Date for Speak Out for Farmed Animals Week!
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Staff Attorney on February 17, 2015
Mark your calendars! March 29 – April 4, 2015, is the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s first annual Speak Out for Farmed Animals Week, a yearly event dedicated to raising public awareness nationwide about the lack of meaningful laws that protect farmed animals from cruel treatment.
How can SALDF Chapters Get Involved?
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters are encouraged to host events to raise awareness about farmed animal protection issues.
Suggested Events & Projects
- Table during lunch or class breaks (ALDF can provide free materials!).
- Hold a film screening. We suggest Death on a Factory Farm about a case involving criminal anti-cruelty charges brought against a pig farmer. Or team up with the Environmental Law Society and show Cowspiracy, about the environmental impacts of factory farming.
- Visit or volunteer at a farmed animal sanctuary. Find one near you.
- Email or call your representative about pending local, state, or federal legislation impacting farmed animals, including ag gag bills. Check city and state government websites for current legislation.
- Organize an ALDF Benefit Day by contacting a local vegan/vegetarian restaurant or animal-friendly business to see if they would donate a percentage of their total daily sales to ALDF to help us in our groundbreaking legal work for animals.
- Host a guest speaker. Suggested topics include ag gag legislation, which criminalizes whistleblowing of egregious animal cruelty, and the exemption of standard abusive practices or farmed animals themselves from criminal anti-cruelty laws.
- Implement Meatless Mondays in your cafeteria, or table on Mondays to encourage students to eat a plant-based diet that day. Contact us for a petition template for collecting signatures.
- Find more project ideas here.
You can apply for a project grant to support your event. The project grant guidelines and application can be found here. If your chapter is interested in getting involved and receiving promotional materials, please contact Student Programs Coordinator Nicole Pallotta at email@example.com.
Legally Brief: L.A. Animal Law Symposium
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on February 5, 2015
Recently, we told you about the shocking results of an investigation of horrendous cruelty to animals used in taxpayer-funded, government-supported experiments. Farmed animals have so few legal protections, and industrial-scale agriculture or “factory farms” have such catastrophic impacts on animals, on us, and on our planet, that this topic is absolutely fundamental to contemporary discussions in the animal protection movement.
Law students and attorneys take note! Next month, ALDF is hosting the first symposium of our Los Angeles regional attorney network, on Saturday, March 28, 2015. This cutting-edge day-long conference on factory farms—and their impacts on animals, humans, and the environment—features top speakers in animal law, including yours truly, and:
- Ethan Brown, CEO and co-founder of “Beyond Meat”
- Will Potter, investigative journalist, TED fellow, and author of Green is the New Red
- David Simon, attorney and author of Meatonomics
- Leslie Brueckner, senior attorney at Public Justice
- Carter Dillard, ALDF Director of Litigation
- Kathy Hessler, animal law clinic director at Lewis & Clark Law School
- Paige Tomaselli, senior staff attorney for the Center for Food Safety
- Robert K. Rasmussen, Dean and Professor of Law and Political Science at USC Gould School of Law
- T.J. Tumasse, ALDF Manager of Investigations
These top experts, and many other incredibly talented leaders in legal advocacy for animals, will discuss the legal and grassroots strategies being used to challenge and change the harmful impacts of factory farms.
Why factory farms? Industrial agriculture accounts for the confinement and slaughter of 10 billion animals every year. These animals are subject to filthy, dark, incredibly inhumane conditions, and unimaginable suffering—and few laws protect them. As “livestock,” they are even exempted by the federal Animal Welfare Act (chickens and other birds, for example, are not protected by the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, even though they account for 90% of animals slaughtered in the U.S.).
We’ve all seen the egregious and horrific documentation of farmed animal abuse that comes from undercover investigations—animals who are not only confined in tight spaces and pumped full of hormones and their children taken away, but are also punched, kicked, thrown on the grown, and many other unspeakable abuses.
- Did you know that the animal agriculture industry defines what treatments toward animals are “exempt” from the law?
- Did you know animals can have their testicles, tails, horns, beaks, or toes removed without anesthesia?
- Did you know male chicks are ground up alive, and piglets are killed by slamming their heads on the ground?
Animals need a new generation of animal lawyers to protect them—and to fight for better laws. For great dialogue on this important topic, join us at the USC Gould School of Law, a beautiful campus conveniently located in downtown Los Angeles. We hear the weather will be welcoming for those coming from colder climates!
Attorneys can receive CLE credits for attending. We also welcome law students and other legal professionals. Please join us!
This symposium is presented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the USC Gould School of Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Reckless California Killing Contests Continue Despite Ban on Prizes
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 3, 2015
This weekend, February 6-8, the town of Adin, in the rural northeast corner of California, will hold its annual coyote killing spree, the “Big Valley Coyote Drive,” despite the 2014 ban on prizes for killing furbearing animals in contests. Last week, concerned about the high potential for law-breaking at this event, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sent a formal letter to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Law Enforcement Division, asking them to send an observer to the Pit River Rod and Gun Club and Adin Supply-sponsored killing contest. Last December, the California Fish and Game Commission banned the distribution of prizes in killing contests.
Historically, every February for the last eight years, contest participants in Adin’s Coyote Drive have competed for large cash prizes and other awards (like expensive artillery) to see who can kill the most native coyotes. These prizes were outlawed in 2014 in California’s Fish and Game Code § 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.”
California taxpayers overwhelmingly support the Commission’s ban on killing contest prizes. A wide majority of hunters also support the ban. In these bloodbaths, animals like foxes, coyotes, and bobcats are cruelly killed for no other reason than to procure prizes for killing. Tens of thousands of signatures have been garnered on a Project Coyote petition to ban wildlife killing contests in California.
Killing contests are reckless wildlife management: those who defend the killing sprees by pointing to an increase in coyote populations refuse to acknowledge science which has conclusively shown that killing animals haphazardly like this increases their populations and worsens any “problem” they may create for “livestock.” These contests are creating the problem they pretend to be controlling, and are ineffective at best, savage at worst: glorifying killing for the sake of killing. As ALDF has repeatedly shown, nonlethal predator control works, is more effective, and is more humane.
As a leader in humane laws, California should ban all killing contests—not just the prizes that have traditionally been awarded to hunters. Until that safeguard is in place, California’s Department of Fish & Wildlife must ensure that these reckless killing sprees—like Adin’s this week—are acting in accordance with the ban on prizes that reward this mindless destruction of wildlife.
Love in Infant Monkeys
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on January 29, 2015
My fascination with apes and monkeys began with dreams of studying chimpanzees in Africa, like the legendary Dr. Jane Goodall, who created a decades-long, first-of-its-kind ethological study of wild chimpanzees in the mountains of Gombe National Park (Tanganyika). In Africa, apes and monkeys suffer unspeakable horrors at the hands of poachers. But the nightmarish suffering of our close cousins, these incredibly intelligent monkeys and the apes, isn’t just on the other side of the world. These sensitive animals are used in gruesome experiments in the U.S., as depicted in Lydia Millet’s story “Love in Infant Monkeys,” a fictional account of real-life tests inflicted on monkeys by the infamous Harry Harlow.
In the 1950s, Harlow had the idea to separate newborn monkeys from their mothers and expose them to trauma and terror. The goal was to measure the value of “love” between mother and child. These experiments came amidst other cruel tests, like boiling live rats, pinning the legs of cats together until they withered, cooking the skin of living dogs until it crisped from radiation, and removing the spinal cords of monkeys who were still alive, but immobilized. So Harlow’s tests at the University of Wisconsin, and the psychological torture they inflicted on baby monkeys, were de rigueur within the secretive world of animal experimentation.
An infant monkey was taken from her mother, put it in a box, and her panic noted. First anxiety, shaking, then screams, followed by symptoms of psychological suffering. Then the newborn infant was isolated for 30 days. Had the infant died of starvation, panic, and ceased all movement? Some had; those who had not went back in the box for more deprivation. Other “tests” included adding painful mother “surrogates”—objects with spikes, objects that blast cold wind. The monkeys, terrified by their isolation and abandonment, would cling to even these “bad” and painful mothers over no mother at all.
How could these cruel tests on primates continue? The Animal Welfare Act, regulated by the USDA, is the primary law designed to protect animals used for experimentation in laboratories. The law is poorly regulated, rarely enforced, and full of loopholes that allow the cruelest, most unthinkable experiments to continue. That’s why nearly 400,000 people have signed a Change.org petition against the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has started up tests similar to Harry Harlow’s decades-old studies. ALDF has also filed a lawsuit against the university over these cruel tests.
Now, 20 newborn rhesus macaques are taken from their mothers on their first day of life and kept in a barren box, with only a stuffed “surrogate” and bottle for comfort. The infants undergo anxiety-inducing experiences, including unfamiliar “human intruders” and live snakes. Their blood and cerebrospinal fluid will be repeatedly harvested, and they will be subjected to invasive brain scans. The aim is to cause such severe trauma that their brain chemistry will have changed before the age of one. By 18 months, they will be killed.
In “Love in Infant Monkeys,” the reader sees Harlow, after his tests, stumbling drunkenly through a faculty party, only to end in the lab, where he sees the monkeys he’s broken psychologically. Later, the man who had remorselessly dismissed the suffering of monkeys is visited by nightmares, much like Ebenezer Scrooge, but here featuring the utter grief of the mother monkeys.
“He saw each infant in the heart of its mother, precious, unique, held so close because the mother was willing to die for [him]… All she wanted was the safety of her infant. She would chew off her feet for it. She would do anything… When he took the baby from her arms, her panic rose so high it could rise no higher; if she knew how to beg she would beg till the end of the world, scream until her throat split. Give me my baby back.”
And in this way, Lydia Millet’s story offers us an imaginative look into the souls of the mother monkeys, to show just how destructive and unnecessary these tests are. Maternal deprivation is torture.
“Love in Infant Monkeys” is the title story from a collection by Lydia Millet—a Pulitzer prize finalist, Salon Best Fiction of the Year for 2009, and a Los Angeles Times Favorite Fiction of 2009—featuring encounters between animals and celebrities, from David Hasselhoff to Madonna to Thomas Edison. Lydia has also written nine novels, including the brand new Mermaids in Paradise. She is the staff writer for the Center of Biological Diversity. Visit her website for more books about the lives of animals.
Kosher Slaughter Laws and an End to “Shackle-and-Hoist” Restraint
Posted by Carmine Lippolis, ALDF Research Fellow on January 23, 2015
In December 2014, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal invalidated a 2013 law in that country that required that animals be stunned prior to slaughter—which renders cows and other animals insensitive to pain before their killing blows are dealt. In enacting the now-invalid stunning mandate, Poland had joined Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and New Zealand in indirectly prohibiting kosher slaughter: the kosher ritual, or shechita, requires that animals be healthy and uninjured prior to slaughter, and thus, stunning renders the animals—according to interpretation—unfit for kosher consumers. Unfortunately, this apparent conflict has led countries, including the United States, to broadly exempt kosher slaughterhouses from all humane requirements and to permit cruel practices like “shackle-and-hoist.”
Shackle-and-hoist is a common method of restraining animals for shechita. In this horrific practice, a slaughterhouse employee places an iron shackle around one of the still-conscious animal’s rear limbs, then hoists the steer into the air where he hangs upside-down by a chain, desperately thrashing and bellowing until slaughter. This cruel method of restraint inflicts broken bones, snapped tendons, and intense pain and stress. In most slaughterhouses, shackle-and-hoist is illegal unless the animals are first rendered insensible to pain. Shamefully, when it comes to ritual slaughter, U.S. law not only permits shackle-and-hoist but also considers it “humane.” This absurd exemption exists despite the fact that the kosher ritual does not require shackle-and-hoist. Many Jewish groups and authorities have even condemned the practice as a violation of tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, the prohibition against causing unnecessary suffering to living creatures.
While the most humane choice is always plant-based alternatives to slaughtered animals, most experts agree that kosher slaughter, when performed correctly, is at least as humane as pre-slaughter stunning. What does this look like? In short, shechita is performed correctly when a shochet (a specially trained Jewish male) severs the animal’s carotid arteries with a knife that is surgically sharp and without imperfection, causing the animal to lose consciousness instantly. Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the foremost authorities on humane slaughter practices, insists that animals slaughtered under optimal conditions show little or no stress reaction to the ritual cut before losing consciousness.
Conditions in kosher slaughterhouses, however, are very rarely optimal. Indeed, despite the availability of more humane restraint alternatives, such as upright restraint pens, shackle-and-hoist remains the primary restraint method in South American kosher slaughterhouses, which produce most of the world’s kosher beef. In 2010, a PETA investigation uncovered horrific cruelty, including the use of shackle-and-hoist restraint, in a kosher slaughterhouse in Uruguay.
Religious groups reasonably view laws like Poland’s effective ban on kosher slaughter as oppressive. On the other hand, laws that grant kosher slaughterhouses the broad authority to shackle-and-hoist conscious animals wrongly assume that the kosher ritual is unachievable without cruel handling. The truth is, it is possible to promote humane handling and respect religion by holding kosher slaughterhouses accountable to basic standards of humane handling to the greatest extent practicable without requiring pre-slaughter stunning. Much of ALDF’s legal work is to address the glaring absence of legal protection for farmed animals. This means, at the least, prohibiting the most cruel slaughterhouse practices, like shackle-and-hoist restraint.
Farmed Animals Suffer in Cruel Experiments for Meat Industry
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Staff Attorney on January 22, 2015
The New York Times just released the shocking results of an investigation of outrageous cruelty to animals used in taxpayer-funded experiments. The experiments attempt to create farmed animals who yield more meat, cost less to produce, and have more offspring. This unregulated research benefits the meat industry’s quest to sell more meat, but the animals pay for it dearly.
The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC), funded by your tax dollars through the USDA, seeks to genetically manipulate animals to increase the animal agriculture industry’s bottom line. The animals used in these disturbing experiments are largely unprotected; federal laws generally do not protect farmed animals from mistreatment or being used in inhumane research.
Animal Production in Exchange for Animal Well-Being
For ten years, MARC has been trying to create sheep that require less effort on the part of the farmer (i.e., can survive without costly barns) by making sheep give birth alone in open fields, where baby lambs are often abandoned by their mothers and killed by starvation, weather, or torn apart by coyotes. One quarter to one third of the lambs die.
And for nearly thirty years, the facility has been genetically manipulating cows, who do not naturally have litters, to produce twins. 95% of female twins were deformed, and the death rate of twin calves was four times higher than single calves. These animals don’t even receive basic care. Thousands have starved and died from exposure to bad weather, and hundreds have died from mastitis, a painful and easily treatable udder infection.
Researchers without veterinary or medical degrees operate on and euthanize these animals. A MARC scientist was quoted as saying, “A vet has no business coming in and telling you how to [operate on animals].” MARC currently has only one veterinarian on staff, and that person and others have complained repeatedly to managers about a failure to fully consider the pain that animals suffer during experiments.
No Oversight for Animal Experiments
No federal laws govern the treatment of farmed animals used for experimentation. The Animal Welfare Act, which provides minimal protections for animals used in experiments and held in captivity, exempts the farmed animals used in experiments at MARC. Additionally, the USDA reportedly fails to enforce its own rules, which require careful scrutiny of experiments by a review committee. It also does not require MARC to keep records for treatment of all the animals. And, until now, the public had no idea that the government spends tens of millions of dollars to help the meat industry complete these horrific experiments that have caused pain and suffering to thousands of animals.
What Can You Do?
- Do not economically support the industry that drives these experiments; instead opt for a plant-based diet.
- Inform family and friends about the issue.
- Sign the Change.org petition to stop these experiments.
Support ALDF in our work to fight abuses at factory farms, work with legislators to strengthen laws protecting farmed animals, and assist prosecutors handling cruelty cases.
Legally Brief: Animal Protection and Human Population Growth
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on January 15, 2015
In the past 50 years, my own lifetime, the human population has more than doubled from about 3.2 billion to more than 7 billion. There will likely be more than 10 billion by mid-century. This raises some pressing questions. How many people can our small planet sustain? How many can it sustain while leaving room for the other species that call Earth home? These questions are at the heart of a new speaking tour, which began this week, by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Center for Biological Diversity, entitled “Breaking the Taboo: Leading Animal and Environmental Groups to Discuss Population, Human, and Animal Rights.”
ALDF’s director of litigation, Carter Dillard, and the Center for Biological Diversity’s Stephanie Feldstein will speak at the top law schools in the nation to address these difficult issues. And the questions of sustainability and leaving room in the world for other species hinges on one question perhaps more than any other: How do we feed 10 billion people? Because what we choose to eat has a greater impact on the environment and the lives of other animals than any other choice we make.
More than 55 billion land animals are slaughtered each year around the world. More than a quarter of the land on our planet is taken up by animal agriculture. One third of the Earth’s land is used to grow feed for these animals. Eating plants, rather than the animals that consume plants, would dramatically reduce the amount of land needed to grow crops, use only a fraction of the amount of water, and result in far fewer air and water pollutants—particularly greenhouse gases. That means our planet can feed more people on less land. This would, of course, also prevent the lives of misery that most animals raised for food endure until they are slaughtered.
Discussing human reproduction and dietary habits makes people understandably uncomfortable. But we cannot afford to ignore uncomfortable realities. We are the most adaptable species and we have the capacity to see the consequences of our choices. These are issues that cut through politics, age, class, gender, or race—and present some of the most serious challenges in the 21st century. If we don’t confront them all animals, human and nonhuman, and the planet we share, will suffer.
And that’s why this speaking tour aims to help audiences move beyond the stigma that keeps overpopulation and diet out of conversations. In the panel, Carter and Stephanie discuss legal reform and practical ways each of us can protect the future for all species.
01/13/15 – Stanford
02/18/15 – University of Minnesota
02/23/15 – Harvard
02/24/15 – Yale
02/25/15 – Columbia
02/26/15 – NYU
02/27/15 – Georgetown
04/02/15 – Lewis & Clark
Panels are hosted by Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters and are free and open to the public. For more information check ALDF’s events page.