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.
ALDF Offers $5,000 Reward for Information after Sacramento Dog is Trapped and Burned in a Crate
Posted by on January 22, 2015
For immediate release:
Megan Backus, ALDF
Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
SACRAMENTO — The national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s) responsible for locking a small dog in a crate and setting him on fire. At 12:30am January 21, neighbors reported a trash fire outside the Oak Plains Masonic Lodge on 3010 Becerra Way, near Watt and Marconi avenues. The fire turned out to be a burned dog, who may have been heard whimpering or howling before Sacramento Metro Fire District firefighters arrived on the scene and realized the fire was actually a burning dog in a dog crate.
According to media reports, the dog’s wounds were catastrophic. “It was a small dog, in a small crate that was burned beyond belief,” said Metro Fire Captain Michele Eidam. The fire department is working with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department to investigate this heinous crime.
Under California Penal Code § 597(a) any person convicted of maliciously and intentionally maiming or killing an animal can be imprisoned for up to three years in county jail 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. Intentionally killing a dog is against the law in all 50 states.
“Our hearts break for this poor dog, who must have suffered agonizing pain from this sadistic act,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Animal abusers are usually repeat offenders—against animals and humans—and this perpetrator poses a grave threat to the community.”
Anyone with information that might lead to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the killing of this dog should call the arson tip line at 916-859-3775.
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.
Rest in Peace, Archie
Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Senior Attorney on January 15, 2015
Last Friday afternoon, I was working on a brief in a lawsuit we filed to rescue a lonely chimpanzee named Archie from a solitary cage at a pathetic roadside zoo, when I learned that, just a few hours earlier, Archie had died in a fire.
It’s the kind of news that stops you cold and forces you to confirm it, over and over again. And once the reality sinks in, you start to ask yourself those nagging questions: Could I have done anything to prevent this? What if I had acted more quickly? What if I had tried harder to save him? Of course, ultimately the responsibility for Archie’s death lies with those who held him captive, but still the questions linger.
Here’s how we described Archie’s life at North Carolina’s King Kong Zoo in our lawsuit:
Among the suffering animals at King Kong Zoo is Archie, a chimpanzee confined in isolation in a chain link cage with a concrete floor. Archie spends his days sitting or lying alone in his cage. Archie is a member of an intensely social species, members of which often decline into extreme psychological and physical suffering when isolated. The only “enrichment” available to Archie is a tire swing and a blanket. Archie consistently displays tell-tale signs of extreme psychological suffering, which now also manifest in forms of self-abuse and physical suffering including compulsive hair-plucking, which has left bare patches on his arms. Archie displays symptoms of extreme psychological and physical distress and suffering that would be expected in isolated captive chimpanzees.
Both before and after filing the lawsuit, ALDF offered to assist King Kong Zoo in moving Archie to a reputable sanctuary that could give him the kind of care and environment that he so desperately needed and deserved: interacting with other chimpanzees with grass under his feet and the sky above, under the supervision of expert veterinarians and caregivers. Instead of taking us up on our offer, King Kong Zoo’s owner, John Curtis, decided to ship Archie off to Hollywild, a horrible roadside zoo in South Carolina under investigation by the USDA for chronic and repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Just a few months after arriving at Hollywild, Archie died of smoke inhalation from an electrical fire in Hollywild’s “primate barn.” Twenty-seven other animals died along with him. Shockingly, Hollywild’s veterinarian said, “It appears it was a quick and painless death for the animals that died.” One shudders to think this is the person in charge of animal care.
After all he had been through, Archie deserved to breathe his last breath in the fresh air of a loving sanctuary, not choke to death on smoke from an electrical fire behind bars at a dilapidated roadside menagerie. We tried to rescue Archie, but we didn’t get there soon enough. That hurts. A lot. But we haven’t given up on our case against King Kong Zoo. We’re determined to keep King Kong Zoo and John Curtis, who consigned Archie to a life of misery and a horrific death, from ever owning animals again. In fact, our opening appellate brief is being filed today. Archie’s life was tragic; we won’t let his death be in vain.
In Wolf Country: The Power & Politics of Reintroduction
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on January 15, 2015
Perfectly timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone, a brand new book, In Wolf Country, from writer Jim Yuskavitch, hit the presses last week. This thoroughly-researched volume chronicles that transition, from the 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to the mid-90s reintroduction, to their dispersal throughout the Northern Rockies. In Wolf Country also offers a distinctive look at the struggle of wolves in the anti-wolf climate of Idaho. ALDF spoke with the author recently about this new contribution to wolf and wildlife studies.
“Wolves are unique from other species protected under the ESA,” says Jim Yuskavitch. That’s one reason the ESA is so important: it is a law guided by science, rather than politics. “Wolves were deliberately killed off by people and have only returned because the ESA prevented people from killing them off again.”
Protection under the ESA is absolutely critical for wolves, because some people would exterminate them completely if the law allowed it. For example, “Idaho is trying to reduce its de-listed wolf population to the federal minimum of 150.” Recently, a predator “killing contest” near Salmon, Idaho, allowed hunters to kill wolves, coyotes, foxes, and other native wildlife despite massive public uproar. The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) canceled the permits for the event under pressure from a conservation lawsuit (and tens of thousands of advocates including ALDF supporters), but the event went ahead on non-BLM land.
California recently relisted wolves under the ESA, and this was likely out of concern for a wolf named “OR-7” (named “Journey” by schoolchildren in hopes he would become ‘too famous to kill’). OR-7 made a long journey through Northern California before finding a mate and having pups in Southern Oregon. That wolf and his family may return to California, and if they do, they will be protected by law.
But wolves will not always have ESA protections. From a legal standpoint, anti-wolf interests look to Fish and Wildlife commissions and state legislatures to reduce protections for wolves,” Jim says. “Wolf advocates need to be ready to protect wolves at the state level once the federal government is out of the picture.” For example, management of wolves was returned to states like Montana and Idaho. Wyoming’s haphazard shoot-on-sight wolf management “plan” was at first rejected by the feds. But in 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) handed over control. Thankfully, that decision was invalidated in 2014 after a lawsuit from a conservation coalition showed Wyoming was unable to properly manage wolves in that state.
Currently, the USFWS is considering removing wolves from ESA protection even though reintroduction is still in its early days. And irrational hostility to wolves, fueled by media sensationalism, helps create a culture where laws are not governed by science, but by fear. Wolf kills are sensationalized in the media, and prey upon fears rooted in the collective unconscious, even though far more “livestock” animals are killed by childbirth, disease, and other predators than by wolves. “If more reporters put into perspective how small the impact of wolves really is, reporting on wolves would be much different.”
That clash between wildlife interests and human interests poses the real obstacle to coexistence. “While politically connected groups like ranchers and hunters mostly oppose wolves, there are also many people who are in favor of them,” Jim points out. But laws regulating other wild animals also pose problems, as wolves are “accidentally” shot by hunters “mistaking” a wolf for a coyote (as claimed about a wolf killed in Utah, believed to be “Echo,” the first wolf in the Grand Canyon in 70 years). This is a convenient excuse given by poachers as well, as there is, shockingly, no bag limit or seasonal limit on coyote kills.
Drawing upon the research of experts who spent decades studying wolves in the field, In Wolf Country cuts against simple polarization. It combines the dramatic stories of individual wolves like B-45 and OR-7 with larger studies of wolf populations. Seeing wolves as both individuals and part of larger groups is crucial. If wolves are going to disperse successfully, our culture must adapt. As Jim writes, “wolves are here to stay, despite the continuing opposition of some people and their willingness to kill them, legally or otherwise….”
Where Does California’s Foie Gras Law Stand?
Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Senior Attorney on January 9, 2015
Foie gras is the product of extreme cruelty. Ducks are force-fed by having tubes shoved down their throats, which causes injury, swelling of the liver, and painful liver disease. In 2004, California banned the production and sale of force-fed foie gras. This landmark ban went into effect in 2012. Despite having had eight years to come into compliance, foie gras producers and sellers immediately challenged the law in federal court, seeking to halt enforcement of the sales ban through a preliminary injunction.
As part of a broad coalition of animal protection organizations, the Animal Legal Defense Fund played an integral role in helping defend the law as the litigation proceeded, submitting amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs at several stages. The law was upheld in the trial court and again by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to stop the law’s enforcement or reconsider its decision. The challengers’ petition for the Supreme Court to hear the case was also denied. Having failed—at every judicial level—to halt enforcement through a preliminary injunction, the foie gras proponents returned to the trial court to argue the merits of their case.
On January 7, 2015, the federal judge hearing the case struck down the foie gras sales ban on the basis that the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act preempts it. In a misguided decision, the court reasoned that the force feeding of ducks is somehow an “ingredient” of the final meat product, and thus, that states could not regulate it. The Animal Legal Defense Fund finds utterly meritless the idea that a ban targeting egregious cruelty on farms could be preempted by a law that applies exclusively to slaughterhouse operations and meat safety and labeling. California’s prohibition on force feeding to produce foie gras is unaffected by the decision.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and its fellow coalition members are urging Attorney General Kamala Harris to appeal this faulty ruling. We are confident that the Ninth Circuit will ultimately uphold the law, as it has in previous rounds of litigation, thereby preserving the will of Californians and ending the sale of this cruel product in California once and for all.
Save the Date for National Justice for Animals Week!
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Staff Attorney on January 7, 2015
Mark your calendars! February 22-28, 2015 is the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s seventh annual National Justice for Animals Week (NJAW). NJAW is a yearly event dedicated to raising public awareness nationwide about criminal animal abuse, including how to report it, and how to work within your community to create stronger laws and ensure tough enforcement.
How can Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters get involved? SALDF chapters are encouraged to host events to raise awareness about criminal justice issues in animal law.
Suggested Events & Projects
- Table during lunch or class breaks (ALDF can provide free materials).
- Hold a film screening.
- Email or call your representative about pending local, state, or federal legislation. Check city and state government websites for current legislation, or contact us to see if there is pending legislation in your area.
- 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 win the case against cruelty.
- Host a guest speaker.
- Find more project ideas here.
Suggested Speaker Topics
- Ag gag legislation, which criminalizes whistleblowing of egregious animal cruelty on factory farms.
- Criminal anti-cruelty laws: an overview of the laws in your state or exciting legislative developments, or how certain animals like farmed animals are exempt from them.
- The connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty.
- The prosecution of animal cruelty cases.
Your SALDF chapter can apply for a project grant to support your event. You can also receive a grant for a SALDF banner to use during NJAW and other chapter events. If your chapter is interested in getting involved and receiving promotional materials, please contact Student Programs Coordinator Nicole Pallotta at email@example.com.
New Year’s Resolution: Plant-Based, Cruelty-Free Fitness
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on January 5, 2015
Many people begin the New Year wanting to get their lives into shape, physically, professionally, and otherwise. And for some, this means wanting to get fit quick. It’s all the rage to cut carbs these days, but too often, people fall victim to leaning on a diet high on animal protein. But did you know there are healthier and cruelty-free ways of getting fit? A plant-based lifestyle is not only healthier short-term and long-term, it’s better for animals too. That’s the focus of a brand new book—Plant-Based Performance: Know Your Own Strength—50% of the proceeds go directly to benefit the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the work we do to protect animals. So this year, pledge to get fit, have fun, and help animals with Plant-Based Performance.
Co-author Scott Shetler, owner of Atlanta-based Extreme Performance Training Systems/the ECF Gym is a big supporter of animal rights in unity with health and wellness. His path to fitness? “In a nutshell, dump animal-based foods, eat a plant-based diet, making sure to consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables,” Scott says. Doing so is the most primary step in maximizing health, along with improving mental and physical strength. Scott is author of many other expert books in fitness (including Abundant Health: Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit).
Why is a plant-based diet so important for people who truly love animals and want a more just society? Billions of animals are slaughtered, maimed, and abused each year in the U.S. alone, as standard practice in industrial agriculture. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is dedicated to establishing better laws for animals and stronger sentences for abusers, but right now very few laws protect the billions of animals suffering on factory farms across the U.S., and the cruel ways they are confined and treated—even the legal ways—horrify even the heartiest among us. Cruelty-free diets help support ALDF’s mission to protect animals, and one of the best ways to support this mission, and to stop the abuse of animals, is not to consume them or support industries that abuse animals.
And that’s why this book, Plant-Based Performance: Known Your Own Strength is such a great way for you to start your New Year’s resolutions, and stick with them. You’re not just helping yourself: you’re also helping animals and the planet we share! The book is a collection of essays from 22 vegan athletes, activists, and health and fitness professionals that outlines the path to wellness and becoming healthy, strong, and fit while following a plant-based lifestyle. Transitioning to a plant-based diet often takes a little thought, and that’s why Plant-Based Performance includes more than 20 plant-based recipes, training logs and tips. Another useful tool is ALDF’s Cruelty-Free Resource Guide.
100% of book sales revenue will go to benefit the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Forgotten Animals Rescue (50% each), and it is available in both print and E-book formats. For more information on individual authors and details about the book, visit the Plant-Based Performance Facebook page.
Legally Brief: Protecting Pets from Domestic Violence
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on December 30, 2014
Last week, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed SB 177 into law, which authorizes judges to include companion animals in orders of protection from domestic violence. This law allows the person protected by the order to remove her companion animals from the home and states that a judge can stop an abuser who attempts to:
“remove, damage, hide, harm or dispose of any companion animal owned or possessed by the person to be protected by the order.”
Why is it important to put animals in protective orders? Nearly half of the victims who stay in violent households do so because they are afraid of what will happen to their animals. Abusers can torment their victims by threatening to harm a companion animal. Many victims never leave the home for this very reason. This new law protects both human and animal victims of violence in these situations. Furthermore, as the Erie County Prosecutor’s Office has noted, this statute indicates to officers serving protective orders that they should not only look for the victim’s cellphone and keys—but also for the victim’s companion animals.
Putting companion animals in protective orders clears up some legal gray areas—and when victims are scared for their safety and worried about their children and animals, the last thing they need are unanswered questions regarding their orders of protection. In addition, allowing companion animals to be listed in protective orders emphasizes the importance of the safety of companion animals—and suggests that they are much more like family members than mere property. This legal clarification provides a great deal of relief for those who are hurting and afraid.
As ALDF recently noted in our 2014 U.S. Animal Protection Laws & State Rankings Report, several states amended protective order statutes this year to include animals—bringing the total number with these provisions to 26 states and the District of Columbia. According to the National Link Coalition, many states exclude farmed animals in these orders, which limits an individual’s ability to flee a dangerous situation when those animals–say, horses or egg-laying hens–are related to her financial security. So clearly there is significant room for improvement in animal protection laws. Other ways we can better protect animals include funding community shelters that allow animals to stay temporarily, giving victims of violence a place to go where they can bring their companion animals with them.
There is a well-documented link between violence against nonhuman animals and violence against people—abusers of animals are five times as likely to harm humans as well. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have established that violence—whether physical, sexual, or emotional—is fueled by silence. When a victim is afraid to speak up, because his or her safety, children, or animals are threatened, the cycle continues. Putting animals in protective orders is a crucial protection for human and nonhuman victims, and it speaks volumes about the way we value animals.
Read ALDF’s resource on Animal Cruelty & Domestic Violence for more information.
Top 10 Wacky Animal Laws of 2014
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on December 28, 2014
The Animal Legal Defense Fund recently released its annual State Rankings report—the longest-running, most comprehensive report of its kind. The report tracks animal protection laws across the United States. Check out this ever-popular report to learn where your state ranks, and what states are the best and worst to be an animal abuser.
Some laws, however, leave our animal law experts scratching their heads. Some old and some new, but without delay, here is this year’s edition of Top Ten Wacky Animal Laws:
- In Tennessee, you cannot arm wrestle a fish! According to Code Ann. § 70-4-104you can fish with a rod, reel, hook or trotline only. No spearing, wrestling, or mind control allowed!
- “Roadkill” can be taken home for dinner in West Virginia, just in case you were getting peckish—and that’s a win-win for the Department of Transportation clean-up crew, and for 4th meal!
- Neighboring Virginia has a different take—you can eat roadkill, but you can’t hunt wildlife on Sundays, except for raccoons.
- Good news for California whales—it’s a misdemeanor to shoot any animal from a moving vehicle, unless the target is a whale, then things get real. Marine mammals receive federal protection in the U.S. and great whales have protection under the Endangered Species Act.
- In Kentucky, as if baby animals didn’t have it rough enough, it is illegal to sell fewer than six baby chickens, ducks, or rabbits at a time, if those babies have been dyed like Easter eggs.
- Frequent flier miles for moose have come to an end. We don’t know how they got the moose in the plane, but it is illegal to push a moose out of a plane during a flight in Alaska.
- As Forrest Gump probably knows, you aren’t allowed to force bears to wrestle (by riling them up, for example). Dogfighting is horrific enough, but Alabamans have taken this to another level.
- No matter how much you want to, you can’t keep a skunk as a pet in North Dakota, and your family is probably pretty happy about that.
- This one’s pretty self-explanatory—you can’t bring fish in fishbowls on a public bus in Oklahoma.
- And of course, everyone’s favorite, animals are not allowed—and they’ve been told this time and again—to publicly mate within 1,500 feet of a tavern, school, or church in California. The tricky part is enforcement though.
But that’s not all. ALDF has had to fight some equally absurd laws by taking corporations to court:
- This year, Louisiana passed a law that made it legal for a truck stop owner to keep a 14-year-old Siberian Bengal tiger named Tony in the parking lot of a gas station, despite a ban on owning dangerous exotic cats like Tony, a ban specifically written with Tony’s plight in mind.
- The University of Wisconsin-Madison is intentionally terrorizing baby monkeys (before killing them) and depriving them of their mothers from day one to see if it scares them.
- Several states attempted to pass “ag gag” laws that make it illegal to record animal abuse, to prove that abuse was happening, which thereby punishes whistleblowers, not animal abusers.
The Generosity of Animal Advocates
Posted by Dale Thompson, Development Associate on December 25, 2014
Once a week, as part of my work to keep Animal Legal Defense Fund donors up-to-date on our work for animals, I get to meet with ALDF’s founder, Joyce Tischler, the “the mother of animal law.” During one of our recent meetings, I asked her how it feels knowing that so many people support an organization she bravely started from scratch. She looked at me thoughtfully and then responded: “humbling.” For each gift we receive, no matter the size, everyone at the Animal Legal Defense Fund feels a deep sense of gratitude because our supporters make it possible for us to create a better world for animals. It’s also inspiring to know that there is such a large, generous community of people dedicated to animal protection.
We’ve received touching gifts in all shapes and sizes, and if you were to ask any one of us how it feels to have this kind of support, we would all agree with Joyce: it is humbling. Just a handful of humbling moments at our office include the following:
- A little girl cracked open her piggy bank and gave us all her savings—she even sent a picture of the piggy bank!
- Every year, a mother encourages her children who are eight and five to save their money and pick a charity to give it to in December. This year they chose ALDF.
- The entire eight grade class at a nearby junior high school held a fundraiser for ALDF.
- Our supporter, Eileen Francisco, did a double marathon and raised $10K for ALDF.
- We just processed an annual check for $25 from a donor who has been giving for more than two decades.
- People have donated their cars to us.
- Many of our supporters honor a deceased pet by making a contribution to ALDF in their memory.
- More than 75 people have left us in their will.
Thank you to all of you who make our work possible! You can contribute to our work by joining here.
Pro Bono: Giving Back to the Animal Community
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on December 24, 2014
Working for the Animal Legal Defense Fund is an excellent opportunity to provide legal justice for animals. But the amount of work ALDF does wouldn’t be possible without pro bono assistance. Winners of the 2014 Advancement in Animal Law Pro Bono Achievement Awards helped contribute nearly 5,300 hours of donated legal service last year alone—and that’s millions of dollars of outstanding legal expertise that helps improve the legal status and protect the lives of animals.
Pro bono assistance helped ALDF take action against a pet store chain that sells puppy-mill dogs; work to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City; support West Hollywood’s ban on fur; submit amicus briefs in cases that challenge the legal status of animals as property; and petition federal agencies to enforce animal cruelty laws and better regulate those that break them.
Attorney Award Recipients
Chapin Fitzgerald LLP
Dorsey & Whitney
Paralegal Award Recipient
Hsiao-Ting H. Cheng
Morrison & Foerster LLP
Firm Award Recipients
Bingham McCutchen LLP
Brinks Gilson & Lione
Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC
Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP
Fazio | Micheletti LLP
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
King & Spalding
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Proskauer Rose LLP
Winston & Strawn LLP
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.