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ALDF Supports a Fur Free Hollywood


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 6, 2015

Today, ALDF has again stepped up for animals by speaking out in support of West Hollywood’s historic, first-in-the-country ban on the sale of products made from fur within city limits. Animal fur—from animals like foxes, minks, raccoon dogs, and many others—is cruelly produced, so the city decided to foster a cruelty free community by demanding that businesses sell faux fur or other cruelty-free alternatives. Unfortunately, a business called Mayfair House, which sells luxury animal fur products, has once again challenged the constitutionality of the city’s ban.

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The ban was passed in 2011, but did not go into effect until 2013. Last year, Mayfair House filed a lawsuit challenging the ban in federal court. In that case, the court allowed ALDF to submit a friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief in support of the city’s motion to dismiss the business’s lawsuit. A federal judge ruled that Mayfair House’s lawsuit was meritless and dismissed its suit with prejudice. But in June 2014, Mayfair House filed another lawsuit—this time in state court—challenging the validity of the law. The city was forced to defend its ordinance yet again, and ALDF will support the city’s efforts to reject the cruelty of fur by filing another amicus brief today.

ALDF has consistently supported West Hollywood’s effort to become the leader in groundbreaking, local animal protection ordinances. Indeed, more than 25 years ago, in 1989, the city declared itself to be a Cruelty Free Zone for Animals. Ordinances banning steel leghold traps and animal testing to make cosmetics soon followed. In 2003, the city banned the practice of non-therapeutic declawing of cats and other animals; seven other California cities followed that model in 2009. More recently, in 2010 West Hollywood banned the commercial sale of dogs and cats, in an effort to crackdown on the inhumane treatment of animals raised in puppy and kitten mills. And in 2013, West Hollywood banned the commercial display of animals, including circuses.

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Does the city have the right to pass such humane laws? California’s state constitution protects a municipality’s ability to evolve in response to public values—like valuing the well-being of animals. Local control has proven effective in combatting animal cruelty because state and federal laws are inadequate. Animals depend on local governments, to fill that void. And precedent supports this: ten years ago California courts upheld the West Hollywood’s ban on the declawing of domestic cats after the California Veterinary Medical Association filed a lawsuit similar to Mayfair House’s.

West Hollywood meets its obligation to foster a Cruelty Free Zone with a ban on the sale of fur products. The agony animals on fur farms suffer is hard to swallow. The methods of confinement and slaughter are intentionally barbaric in order to preserve the integrity of a fox, rabbit, or chinchilla’s “pelt.” Animals are kept in small, filthy cages before being suffocated, electrocuted, gassed, or poisoned. In anal or vaginal electrocution, electrodes are attached to the animal’s face and genitals, and a heart attack is induced. Commonly—with no pain-killers and while fully conscious—animals are skinned alive.

ALDF’s support of West Hollywood is just one of a number of ways we are reaching out to protect animals and to defend humane, reasonable animal protection laws. Next month, the court will hear oral arguments on this issue, and ALDF will be there. Stay tuned for more in our fight against fur.

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Ringling to Phase Out Circus Elephants!


Posted by Carney Anne Small, ALDF Legislative Counsel on March 5, 2015

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“We’re not going to come… without our elephants,” said Stephen Payne, Ringling Bros.’ vice president of corporate communications, when the City of Los Angeles passed a ban on firepoker-like bullhooks that circuses use to dominate and control elephants. As public awareness has grown about the circus’ barbaric bullhook abuse, forcible separation of mothers and infant elephants, confinement of elephants in cramped boxcars for up to 100 hours at a time, nearly interminable chaining at performance venues, and use of elephants who are sick or suffering from painful conditions like arthritis, dozens of jurisdictions across the United States have banned the use of bullhooks or the use of exotic animals in traveling acts all together. Despite the clear shift in public opinion about the use of elephants and other animals in entertainment acts, Ringling has remained unyielding in its position that it will not end its use of elephants. Until today.

We have all hoped to see the elephants have their own Blackfish moment. And that moment appears to have arrived. On March 5, 2015, we all woke up to historic news that may not have been believable had it not been reported on virtually every major news network across the United States: Ringling Bros. announced that it is finally eliminating the use of elephants from its circus by 2018. In this earthshattering about-face maneuver, Ken Feld, the CEO of Ringling’s parent company, acknowledged the role that shifting public opinion and legislative efforts to ban bullhooks has played, and the circus’ need to adapt. While some groups have been critical of the efficacy of bullhook bans, this announcement by Ringling Bros. is a clear indication that the bans passed in Oakland, Los Angeles, Fulton County, and other localities across the U.S. have indeed influenced the $2 billion entertainment corporation’s decision to adapt and drop the elephant act.

This is a monumental step in the right direction, but our work on behalf of exotic animals in entertainment is not over yet. While we at Animal Legal Defense Fund are celebrating this historic victory for elephants, our efforts to pass legislation that will protect elephants, tigers, and other animals who are exploited in circuses and traveling acts will not end until all animal acts are a relic of the past.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Animal Bill of Rights

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.

 

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Captive Elephants Need Better Protections


Posted by Carney Anne Nasser, ALDF Legislative Counsel on February 26, 2015

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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.

Take Action

  • Do not attend events that exploit animals.
  • Urge your local legislators to pass similar ordinances that ban the use of exotic animals in entertainment.
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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!

Take Action Button

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Arrest Made in Puppy-Burning Case!


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 24, 2015

arrested-burned-dog-250pxOn 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?

Urge your local and state lawmakers to enforce stricter sentences for the most violent abusers.

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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!

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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 info@aldf.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!

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National Justice for Animals Week 2015 Begins


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 23, 2015

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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.

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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.

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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 npallotta@aldf.org.

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Legally Brief: L.A. Animal Law Symposium


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on February 5, 2015

Legally Brief

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.

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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!

Register Now!

Register Button

This symposium is presented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the USC Gould School of Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.

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Reckless California Killing Contests Continue Despite Ban on Prizes


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 3, 2015

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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.

Please sign ALDF’s pledge to boycott all killing contests.

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Love in Infant Monkeys


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on January 29, 2015

harlow-monkey-240pxMy 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.

love-in-infant-monkeysAn 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.

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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.”

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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.

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