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Animal Rights 101: Liberating, Not Eliminating, the Nonhuman World


Posted by Carter Dillard, ALDF Litigation Director on March 8, 2014

The eradication of the nonhuman world hardly registers on the animal rights radar, and it should. The short movie the Meatrix plays upon the idea of going back to the basics, a sort of “Animal Rights 101.” The film shows Leo the pig learning that the bucolic family farm he believed existed was hiding the sickening reality of the factory farm where Leo really lived. When Leo backs out of the illusion the lesson becomes clear: people who care about animals should treat them well, both directly and indirectly through their purchases.

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We live with the illusion that the animal rights movement is gaining ground because there are more vegans, more alternatives to animals in research, better laws, more no-kill shelters, etc. Yet the truth is, our planet is undergoing the Holocene or Sixth Extinction—the mass extinction of nonhuman species caused by human population growth as well as increased consumption and pollution, where the rate of extinction is estimated to be 100-1000 times higher than without human influence. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E.O. Wilson predicts that 30,000 species per year (or three species per hour) go extinct—at the current rate, one-half of what he terms Earth’s higher life forms will be extinct by 2100. It is a Meatrix-style delusion to say there is a mounting “animal rights movement” while we wipe other species from the planet. If we dispel our illusion the way Leo did our lesson will be clear: we must liberate, rather than eliminate, the nonhuman world.

One recent study of 114 nations found that human population density predicted with 88-percent accuracy the number of endangered birds and mammals. Current trends indicate that the number of threatened and endangered species will increase as human population skyrockets to 8 billion by 2020, and 9 to 15 billion by 2050. And yet few if any animal organizations truly address human population growth or consumption, leaving these issues instead to environmentalists for whom population is also a taboo word. Peter Singer is considered by many to be the father of the modern animal rights movement but he himself had three children roughly at a time when projections showed that having three children on average would increase the world population to 256 billion humans in a mere 150 years.

Animal Rights 101 has to mean escaping the matrix or illusion that humans are doing right by animals by treating only a few species well. Instead, we must imagine the nonhuman world as it would have been had humanity’s numbers not begun to explode exponentially around 200 years ago. Working from that baseline could give us a new concept of animal rights; one that would mean looking at the growth and consumption habits of our species as a whole—because those habits are obliterating the nonhumans we claim to want to protect. The end of animal rights and the way out of the matrix actually means going back to the beginning, and giving animals back their world as best we can.

But what can actually be done? Our movement confronts factory farming by focusing on the worst of the worst, the Tysons of the world, rather than the family farmer down the street. Similarly those interested in confronting population growth and consumption can target those loudly promoting growth, like Jonathan Last, whose writings promote state policies like cutting back on higher education (which is inconveniently timed during prime reproductive years) in order to achieve higher fertility rates. Those promoting human growth are necessarily promoting the extinction of nonhumans, which is something that—cruelty aside—an animal rights movement focused on its 101 has to care about.

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ALDF Offers $20K Reward to Help Find Dog Poisoner


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 7, 2014

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is adding $10,000 to a reward offer from the Center for Biological Diversity, to bring the total to $20,000, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect in an illegal and cruel act of dog poisoning in Blue Lake, California.

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Nyxo was a ten-year-old lab mix and the companion of Dr. Mourad Gabriel and his family. On the night of February 2, 2014, the Northern California dog, “Nyxo,” was playing in his backyard when he apparently ingested meat laced with a highly toxic and controversial rat poison. Dr. Gabriel woke the next morning to find Nyxo vomiting and having seizures. Although Nyxo was rushed to an animal hospital in Arcata, Nyxo passed away. A necropsy performed by the University of California at Davis concluded Nyxo had been poisoned by a substance known as brodifacoum, which frequently threatens wildlife like Pacific fishers and northern spotted owls. Dr Gabriel is a leading ecological researcher in the study of this poison and its effect on endangered species. Evidence suggests this poisoning was a malicious act tied to Dr. Gabriel’s research.

The state of California and the Environmental Protection Agency are moving towards banning hazardous d-CON products containing brodifacoum because of poisonings of children, companion animals, and wildlife. The manufacturer of d-CON, Reckitt Benckiser, is currently challenging the EPA cancellation order and brodifacoum in d-CON products is still being sold until that case is resolved.

Dr. Gabriel is co-founder and executive director of Integral Ecology Research Center, a nonprofit research organization. The Center for Biological Diversity has condemned the use of violence to silence any scientist, researcher or citizen whose work aims to conserve wildlife, and notes that this tragedy is an example of how the reckless use and sale of these poisons is ruining lives. Along with ALDF, they call for a ban on these types of poisons.

“Nyxo was a beautiful rescue dog and did not deserve to die—perhaps, as speculated, because of someone’s cruel opinions about this controversial research,” said Stephen Wells, ALDF executive director. “ALDF offers this reward to help track down the dangerous individual who could harm a helpless companion animal. Anticoagulant rodenticides put our pets and our wildlife at risk—it is time to ban these substances.”

If you have information relating to the identity of the person or persons involved, please contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at 707-795-2533, x1010 or write to info@aldf.org.

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Tyson’s “Meat Racket”: Factory Farming Hurts Family Farmers as well as Animals


Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on March 3, 2014

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Agricultural corporations routinely trot out the cliché that fighting against them means fighting against American family farmers. However, Christopher Leonard, in his new book The Meat Racket, exposes this cliché for the falsehood that it is. The book offers an insider view into the largest meat producer in the world, Tyson Foods—against whom ALDF has filed a consumer protection complaint with the Federal Trade Commission for false “humane” advertising.

According to the author, Tyson (and the other large corporations that have copied Tyson’s business model) has taken from American farming families the control they used to have over their animals and their livelihood. Through a system called “vertical integration,” Tyson has turned these families into modern-day feudal peasants.

Vertical integration occurs when an agricultural corporation controls every step of food production. Tyson has perfected this system for chicken production. The corporation owns and operates the hatchery and provides the chicks to the farmer—but it also provides the feed, the medication, and the veterinary care the chickens require during their short lives. That way, Tyson pays the farmer only for the labor he expended raising the chickens, and only once they are collected for the Tyson-owned slaughterhouse. With this scheme, Tyson owns neither the farm nor the farm equipment, because “farming”—that is, raising the birds—is the least profitable link in the chain of production.

This means that Tyson, not the farmer, sets the standard for the way animals are housed and treated on the farm, including whether the animals are fed antibiotics and other drugs. Tyson can also demand upgrades to the farm buildings for more efficient feeding or air quality systems, costing family farmers upwards of $300,000, money they must inevitably borrow. Once farmers take on that debt to meet Tyson’s satisfaction, the farmer is at the mercy of the corporation’s payments to work off that debt. Tyson can walk away at any time from their promise to buy the farmer’s chickens, leaving farmers saddled with debt and facing bankruptcy.

A recent report from the Pew Charitable Trust, The Business of Broilers, states “even highly capable and environmentally responsible growers can be constrained by heavy debt.” The report cites a study showing that 71 percent of growers whose only source of income was chicken farming were living below the poverty line. The report also found that vertical integration means that producers like Tyson often are not held legally responsible for the environmental problems caused by the large amount of waste produced by the animals. This is because the farmers, not Tyson, own the farm and its facilities, and these insights make Leonard’s book, The Meat Racket a worthwhile read.

Tyson claims that its products come from pigs and chickens in “favorable” and “comfortable” environments, claims that ALDF has charged are false and deceptive. Evidently, the only individuals who live and work in favorable and comfortable environments at Tyson Foods are its executives.

Learn more about ALDF’s campaign to hold Tyson Foods accountable and take action today.

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Legally Brief: Cruelty to Sled Dogs


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on February 26, 2014

Legally Brief

When I lived in Alaska, the annual “Iditarod” sled dog race ran right past my office window in downtown Anchorage. It is a major commercial event for the state: the winning mushers earn cash prizes and become Alaskan celebrities. For the dogs, however, the 1000 mile race means days of suffering and, for some, even death. On March 1, 2014, the Iditarod begins and teams of dogs will be forced to pull a sled over 1000 miles across the Alaskan wilderness, often running at a grueling pace of up to 100 miles per day for seven to ten straight days.

Dogs love to run. Anyone who shares life with a canine companion knows this, and some breeds are especially athletic. My own dog Eve is my hiking companion and can easily wear out other dogs while racing for a stick or a ball, over and over again, even at twelve years of age. But nobody throws a dog’s ball 1000 miles before yelling fetch! From the Iditarod website:

A race covering 1000 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer. She throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams. Add to that temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills, and you have the Iditarod.

The race is supposed to be a recreation of an historic event: the rushing of a diphtheria vaccine by sled to Nome in 1925 during an epidemic. During that actual, life-saving mission, the vaccine was carried not by a single dog team but by relay. It was understood that it made no sense to run dogs so far. Today, the event has become a corporate-sponsored money-maker – each participant pays an entry fee of more than $3,000, and winnings of up to $650,000 are shared among the top thirty.

The Iditarod puts animals’ lives at risk. Big game animals like elk and moose, who get in the way of the race, may be killed. Injured or “dropped” dogs are left alone at checkpoints with their paperwork, four pounds of dog food, and a chain. All dogs remain tethered at all times. “Rule 42″ regarding an “expired dog” states that “all dog deaths are regrettable, but there are some that may be considered unpreventable.”

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In some states, dog sledding conditions might be considered criminally cruel. California’s cruelty law makes it a crime to inflict “needless suffering” or “unnecessary cruelty” upon an animal, particularly by overworking an animal. Violations can result in up to three years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. However, Alaska’s cruelty law conveniently “does not apply to generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests or practices.” The industry itself defines “generally accepted” practices, and protects itself from meaningful scrutiny.

Since the race began decades ago, more than 140 dogs have died during the event—from heart attacks, pneumonia, muscle deterioration, dehydration, diarrhea, and spine injuries. They are impaled on sleds, drowned, or accidentally strangled. According to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, during the off-season the dogs are crowded into small kennels with no state management or oversight. Many are tethered on short chains at all times, unable to play, forced to sit, stand, and lie in the same small area in which they eat and defecate. When the dogs are no longer profitable, they are destroyed.

And it’s not just the Iditarod. “Sled dogs” are treated cruelly in other states as well – on the trail, and off. Last month, CNN reported a story of a Colorado sled dog operator charged with animal cruelty when investigations revealed starving, sick, and constantly tethered dogs left out in the cold. The owner has been charged with eight counts of animal cruelty.

Take Action

Please take action to help ALDF speak out for sled dogs by asking the corporate sponsors of events like the Iditarod to withdraw their support.

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$25,000 Reward! Help ALDF Track Down Dog Poisoner as Fatal Meatballs Strike Again


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 26, 2014

Poisoned meatballs have been found in San Francisco again! The Animal Legal Defense Fund, SFDOG, and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s) of the poisoned meatballs in the Bay Area. On February 22, a San Francisco animal control officer found 35 meatballs that would be deadly to unsuspecting dogs and cats who came for a nibble. The poisoned meatballs were scattered through a Twin Peaks neighborhood where a similar incident occurred last year, hidden in carports, stairwells, along curbs, and in bushes. Along with funds from ALDF and SFDOG, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has generously pledged the bulk of the reward—contributing $23,000—to help track down the perpetrator(s) responsible.

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Last year, ALDF reported the wave of pathetic attempts to poison San Francisco dogs with poisoned meatballs. Just before the July 4, 2013 holiday, an unknown individual deliberately left hundreds of strychnine-laced meatballs in areas dogs frequent, in an apparent attempt to poison unsuspecting pups. This nightmare was discovered after a seven-year-old dachshund named Oskar gobbled down a poison meatball on his July 3 morning walk and immediately became very sick. First discovered in the Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights neighborhoods, the majority of the meatballs were found around Crestline Drive, Parkridge Drive, and Burnett Avenue. Some reports indicate that they have been discovered in neighborhoods as far flung as Cole Valley, Hayes Valley, and Bernal Heights. Sadly, Oskar passed away after a long struggle at the veterinarian.

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Two meatballs found at the crime scene.

San Francisco is a mutt-loving city, home to the “Dog Day on the Bay” canine-friendly cruise (to benefit the San Francisco SPCA), Muttville senior dog rescue, and even a group of local dog walkers who sued to enable their pups to continue playing at Fort Funston.

Not surprisingly, San Francisco animal lovers fought back. Last year, they canvassed neighborhoods, locating dozens of the meatballs before any more dogs could be hurt. They turned the dangerous items over to police, who acted swiftly, offering a tip line, warning residents to maintain vigilance, and seeking the public’s help in finding the culprit. The community’s quick action likely saved other dogs from suffering as Oskar did. Residents came together to show that animal poisoning will not go unnoticed or unpunished in San Francisco. However, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is calling on the public again.

If you have information relating to the identity of the person or persons involved, please contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at 707-795-2533, x1010.

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Animal Suspense Fiction: The Chain


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 25, 2014

the-chainWant to win a copy of an animal rights-themed suspense novel? Enter below to win—two lucky winners will be chosen at random to receive a copy of Robin Lamont’s novel The Chain.

While the Animal Legal Defense Fund works so hard within the legal system to achieve justice for animals, we see so many heart-breaking crimes against animals. That is why it is a relief of sorts to read about another world of crime—the fictional world of a seasoned and passionate animal rights investigator, Jude Brannock, in Robin Lamont’s novel The Chain. Robin is an award-winning suspense novelist and The Chain is the first book in her “The Kinship” series.

Many of ALDF’s legal actions have relied on evidence provided by investigations on factory farms—like our ALDF v. Mendes case. Factory farms and slaughterhouses are the center of animal cruelty in America, in terms of both sheer numbers of animals harmed and the epic failure of oversight by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies. For this reason, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is vigorously fighting “ag gag” laws, and filed the first lawsuit in history to challenge a state ag gag law.

So it is a pleasure to read a fictional tale on this topic. Released just last October, The Chain tells the story of Jude Brannock’s investigation in a small town that depends economically upon a meat-packing plant in the heart of Bragg Falls. In the way that many animal rights writers are drawn to compare life with fiction, Robin’s story centers upon a whistleblower, who has documented dangerous conditions and illegal treatment of pigs at the processing plant. When Jude Brannock arrives on the scene, however, she finds the whistleblower has committed suicide and his video documentation of illegal cruelty has disappeared. The townspeople aren’t sure what to do, afraid that an investigation will affect their livelihoods. Meanwhile, a sinister force is at play to hide the dark world inside the slaughterhouse.

robin-lamontRobin Lamont has had an incredible journey herself—before becoming a novelist she was first a Broadway actress, an assistant district attorney, and a private investigator. Her novels always focus on social justice issues, and it is a delight to read an animal rights-themed crime fiction novel from such a talented writer–The Chain will appeal to animal advocates and the general public alike.

Part two of “The Kinship” series will look to take on the notorious Wildlife Services, whom the Animal Legal Defense Fund has consistently tackled for its cruel treatment of native predators like coyotes. Without discrimination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services has essentially acted as an extermination service for private ranchers—trapping and killing animals from coyotes to companion animals without real oversight or public scrutiny. It is this mess Robin hopes to expose in her second animal rights-themed crime fiction novel and this war on wildlife that the Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue to fight.

Robin is an animal advocate and lives in New York with her husband and her vegan rescue dog, Kaley. To learn more about the series, visit Robin’s Animal Suspense website and her Animal Suspense Facebook page. And take action online now in ALDF’s campaigns to help farmed animals.

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A Better World for Animals is at Your Fingertips!


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on February 21, 2014

Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is: Fight animal abuse from your home computer.

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Fight animal abuse and honor animal victims from your home computer. 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.

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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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Become a Partner in Protection


Posted by Jennifer Molidor ALDF's Staff Writer on February 20, 2014

Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is: Help ALDF Help Animals

logan-on-grass-article-image-500pxAnimal victims of abuse cannot speak for themselves—so concerned citizens and our legal system must speak up for them. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been fighting to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system for over thirty years. And we want you to be a part of that critical, desperately important work—day in and day out, 365 days a year. Now, you can help animals every month of the year by making a monthly donation to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

ALDF’s Partners in Protection program gives you a simple and convenient way to make regular contributions to ALDF via your credit card or electronic funds transfer. As a Partner in Protection, your gifts will provide a reliable, ongoing source of funding that is critical to our work on behalf animals.

Whether your monthly donation is $10 or $100, every dollar counts in the fight against animal abuse. Be a part of ALDF’s cutting-edge work to push the law to provide real, lasting protections for animals—and to get real justice for animal victims. Become an ALDF Partner in Protection by signing up today to make easy, automatic monthly donations. If you can’t make a monthly pledge today, please make a one-time donation in honor of National Justice for Animals Week—honoring animal victims with your support for ALDF’s ongoing fight to put animal abusers behind bars.

Thank you!

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Making News for Animals


Posted by Jennifer Molidor ALDF's Staff Writer on February 18, 2014

Today’s daily action for National Justice for Animals Week is to make news for animals!

Write a Letter to the Editor

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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, 2014 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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Actress Charlotte Ross Speaks Up for Animals during National Justice for Animals Week


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on February 16, 2014

This week, ALDF hosts National Justice for Animals Week, Feb 16-22—a tribute to the human heroes who protect animals, and the animal victims of cruelty. Actress Charlotte Ross, star of popular television shows like Glee and NYPD Blue, joins ALDF’s campaign as spokesperson. “As a detective on NYPD Blue, I fought for justice for victims of heinous crimes,” says Charlotte. “But you don’t need to be an officer of the law to stop abusers in their tracks. Every single one of us can join the fight to stop animal cruelty in our own communities.”

Watch our special message from Charlotte Ross below:

“ALDF’s National Justice for Animals Week gives each of us the tools to stop animal abuse, and urges law enforcement, prosecutors, and lawmakers to protect our animals and communities from abusers,” Charlotte explains.

National Justice for Animals Week provides a way for all of us to take action for animals. From ALDF action alerts, adoption campaigns, spreading the message with social media, signing the Animal Bill of Rights, to downloading ALDF’s Crime Tips 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.

“That’s why I’ve teamed up with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to celebrate National Justice for Animals Week,” Charlotte explains. “There are so many ways that you can help stop cruelty. Please join us at the Animal Legal Defense Fund in fighting animal cruelty and honoring animal victims.”

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ALDF Speaks Out For Captive Bears


Posted by Posted by ALDF Guest Bloggers Neil Abramson, Kelly Anne Targett, Daniel Saperstein, Nicholas Tamburri, and Allison Martin on February 15, 2014

ben-the-bear-copyright-PETA-article-image2Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) more than forty years ago to ensure that animals used for exhibition purposes receive humane care and treatment. Although the regulations implementing the AWA set forth specific criteria for the care of certain animal groups including non-human primates and marine mammals, one set of catch-all standards covers the vast majority of animal species. Because of their general nature, the nonspecific standards have proven largely ineffective in promoting the welfare of many species of captive animals and, therefore, cannot fulfill the AWA mandate. Nowhere are those failings more obvious than in the treatment of captive bears in this country, frequently left to languish in barren concrete dog-run style enclosures at roadside zoos. ALDF has worked to protect and defend captive bears at every opportunity, for example filing suit to free Ben the Bear and threatening to sue the Chief Saunooke Bear Park. But bears also deserve strong, species-specific standards that consider the unique needs of this complex species.

PETA, our partner in the Ben the Bear case, recently petitioned the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to urge the promulgation of bear-specific standards to better protect confined members of the species. The PETA petition specifically encouraged APHIS to establish minimum criteria to govern, among other things, adequacy of diet, space for foraging and denning, enrichment, and the need for clean water for bathing. APHIS responded to the petition by soliciting public comments on PETA’s proposal, and ALDF, with the assistance of pro bono legal counsel Proskauer Rose, immediately embraced the opportunity to speak out, once again, on behalf of captive bears.

With the help of veterinarian and animal scientist Dr. Ursula Bechert, we submitted comments to APHIS demonstrating that the generic standards as applied to captive bears violate the well-established intent of the AWA to promote the welfare of the species. We also flatly rejected the suggestion that promulgating more comprehensive species-specific standards would adversely impact Native Americans, and argued, instead, that many Native American cultures honor bears and condemn their abuse.  Finally, we pointed out the international impact of this country’s failure to protect captive bears, which can foster a dismissive attitude toward the species in other countries and compromise conservation efforts on a global scale.

We truly hope that APHIS will act at this critical moment to end the suffering of captive bears by imposing stricter standards to account for the unique social, physical, and psychological needs of the species.

Take Action!

You can submit your own comments here, encouraging APHIS to adopt the petition and create strong, bear-specific standards under the Animal Welfare Act. APHIS has extended the deadline to comment to March 12, 2014.

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Fall in Love… With Esther the Wonder Pig!


Posted by Nicole Roth, ALDF Board Member on February 14, 2014

Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day—and I am in love with Esther the Wonder Pig! If you haven’t checked out her website yet, you need to. Esther’s guardians have posted videos of Esther taking a bath, playing with her canine companions, and eating fruit! Esther’s guardians never expected to live with a 300 pound pig. They were told she was a “micropig,” estimated to be around 50 pounds full grown.

Much to their surprise, Esther just kept growing! Luckily for Esther, Cupid’s arrow had struck—her guardians had fallen in love with her. They experienced first-hand how intelligent pigs are. They saw no difference between Esther and their two companion dogs. So they not only decided to keep her… they decided to show love for all animals, by going vegan.

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In reality, Esther was one of over 116,000,000 factory farm pigs slaughtered yearly in the United States. The vast majority of them do not get Esther’s happy ending. At the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we have pledged to hold farms accountable for violating the law and encourage legislatures to enact new laws to protect animals. Recently, ALDF has been working to protect pregnant and nursing pigs at the California State fair. Pregnant sows are put on display at the State fair so that the public can watch them give birth and nurse. If they were given the choice, these sows would build a nest to give birth and protect their young far away from people. The sows at the State Fair are kept in standard industry farrowing crates in which they are not able to walk, turn around, or stand comfortably. These are the same types of crates that pigs like Esther would be confined to every year in order to nurse her young. Pigs like Esther are forcibly impregnated about twice a year and confined to a cycle of gestation crates and farrowing crates for her short three to four year life before she is spent and sent to slaughter.

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So while I love Esther because she is adorable, I love her even more because she is opening people’s eyes to the fact that farm animals are just as cute and intelligent as domestic animals. I hope that Esther’s growing following on Facebook and YouTube will convince more people to love and protect pigs instead of eating them. Many of her admirers are also meat eaters. I hope Esther can open their eyes to the fact that the pigs on their plate are the same as Esther. Maybe then they will think twice before grabbing a slice of bacon or, even better, stop eating all animal products like Esther’s guardians. Many people think their individual decisions do not make much of a difference. In reality, being vegan saves about 200 animals per year. Every time you refrain from buying animal products, you are telling the industry that you do not support the treatment and killing of animals like Esther. More and more people are making similar choices and the consumption of meat in the U.S. is steadily declining which means less animals are bred, raised, and killed.

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Please help me save pigs like Esther! And check out her videos. She is absolutely adorable. If you are considering reducing (or eliminating!) your consumption of animal products, please find resources here for help:

Share with Someone You Love!

If you liked seeing Esther’s photos and reading her story, share this Valentine’s card with someone you love on Facebook by clicking below:

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Legally Brief: No Zoo Animal is “Surplus”


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on February 13, 2014

Legally Brief

This week, animal advocates around the world were horrified to learn of a Danish zoo that slaughtered a giraffe and then fed him to lions in front of children. The perfectly healthy, two-year-old giraffe, named Marius, was killed Sunday according to a Copenhagen Zoo spokesperson because he was considered surplus and his genes were already well-represented in worldwide captive giraffe populations—despite a petition begging for his life signed by tens of thousands of people, an offer from a private citizen of nearly $700,000 to spare his life, and offers from the Yorkshire Wildlife Park (which houses Marius’ brother) and a zoo in northern Sweden to take him.

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Photograph of Marius’ body after being killed.

The Copenhagen zoo also considered the killing of Marius to be an educational opportunity. Stunned spectators, including children, were invited to witness Marius’ death and the feeding of his body to lions. A zoo spokesperson is reportedly “proud” of the event for the anatomy lesson it gave children, according to the Associated Press.

But what it teaches children should give us all pause. By slaughtering Marius, the Copenhagen Zoo demonstrated apathy for Marius’ life and his individuality. It illustrates the common viewpoint of zoos (and most wildlife “management” agencies) that individual wild animals, whether captive or free-roaming, are not deserving of consideration as individuals—only “populations” matter. And it highlights how this view translates into a lack of concern for the well-being of animals in zoos or other captive environments.

No wonder then that life in most zoos consists of being displayed in unnatural and often immeasurably depressing, crowded concrete enclosures, separated from family members and thwarted from most natural behaviors. Marius’ life held so little value to his captors that his public execution was just another spectacle. That’s really what children learn from zoos, that wild animals’ lives don’t really matter. The killing of Marius is as awful a lesson for children, and an indictment of the culture within zoos.

Recently, ALDF called on the USDA to enforce the law and prosecute captive animal cruelty violations in North Carolina roadside zoos, where giraffes, baboons, llamas, camels, sheep, deer, and goats, have been found in horrendous conditions. The culture within zoos has made it commonplace even for “reputable” zoos to dump “surplus” animals at terrible roadside zoos like the one ALDF helped rescue Ben the bear from in North Carolina. Perhaps Marius’ fate was better than that of many animals sold or dumped by zoos right here in the US on such roadside hellholes.

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It’s National Justice for Animals Week!


Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF Online Editor on February 12, 2014

Every year in February the Animal Legal Defense Fund celebrates National Justice for Animals Week, and our first action is planned for this Monday, February 17! We couldn’t be more excited! We have actions planned for each day of the week, and we are kicking off the week of action with a special announcement by celebrity and animal lover, Charlotte Ross. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to be the first to see it!

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Check out the actions from previous years, and join us next week in fighting animal abuse and honoring animal victims!

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The Great Bull Run in Texas Was Exactly What I Expected


Posted by Alexis Braun, ALDF Litigation Clerk on February 7, 2014

I attended the Great Bull Run in Baytown, Texas, on Saturday, January 25, because I wanted to be a witness to the event and the treatment of the bulls. What I saw was exactly what I expected: people scaring animals for their own entertainment. Before each run participants are led in reciting a “Bull Honorific” which includes the phrase “we honor the bull,” but there is no honor in scaring animals for our own entertainment or sport—and certainly none in scaring animals because we desire an adrenaline rush.

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Men on horseback whipped the bulls until they again began running towards the crowd of runners.

I arrived around one and purchased a spectator ticket. Around 1:30, Great Bull Run employees began to allow runners onto the track. When all who had registered for the run were on the track, the announcer read safety instructions. (I’m using the words “safety instructions” loosely here—the instructions lasted for just over a minute and included a reminder that you shouldn’t carry a firearm during the run.)

After the safety instructions, the announcer asked the runners to hold their bandanas in the air and led them in reciting the “Bull Honorific”: “Here we are the courageous few, to test ourselves and honor the bull. From those that run to those that fall, we honor the bull and salute you all.”

Next, the runners spread out along the track and sixteen bulls from one of the corrals were released. When the bulls saw the runners, they stopped running and tried to turn around to return to their corral. Two men on horseback whipped the bulls until they again began running towards the crowd of runners. Once the bulls breached the runners, the whole thing lasted less than half a minute. The bulls were put into a new corral, and the runners exited the track.

The next run I witnessed was the last of the day. It was during this run that a man later identified as 21-year-old Hugo Soto was trampled. Soto was immediately taken to an ambulance parked near the track and was treated for head injuries at a nearby hospital before being released later in the day.

Organizers of the Great Bull Run events have publicly denied that the runs are cruel, stating, “We do not torture, abuse or do anything cruel to the bulls.” The organizers believe that animal cruelty is limited to the torture and killing of animals.  However, animals experience fear, and many might say (and I would agree) that putting animals in a state of fear for our own pleasure or entertainment constitutes animal cruelty.

There are humane alternatives to events like the Great Bull Run. We do not need to be scaring animals for our own entertainment.

Great Bull Run events are scheduled to take place in ten cities in 2014. Pledge today to boycott the Great Bull Run!

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