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A Bad Boutique Law Shows Its Skin


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on October 15, 2014

This article was originally published in the Daily Journal.

On September 29, 2014, California made an unfortunate move away from meaningfully protecting endangered and threatened species when Governor Brown signed AB 2075 into law. AB 2075’s origins date back to 2006, when then-Governor Schwarzenegger rescinded California’s ban on selling alligator and crocodile parts until January 1, 2015. Schwarzenegger himself was known to wear alligator skin boots at the Capitol.

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This year, just as the ban was about to be reinstituted, Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) introduced AB 2075, a bill to further delay implementation of the ban until 2025. The purpose behind this legislation is purely commercial—an obvious pandering to Rodeo Drive retailers who want to continue profiting off of selling handbags, shoes, and other luxury items made from skins taken off the backs of exotic and endangered animals. The national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) joined the Humane Society of the United States and Turtle Island Restoration Network in opposing AB 2075 outright. But despite the best efforts of these organizations, the measure still passed, albeit with a final sunset period of five years instead of the ten initially proposed. So again, California’s ban on selling alligator and crocodile parts remains rescinded until January 1, 2020.

Pressure for AB 2075 came from the California Restaurant Association, Brooks Brothers, and numerous luxury goods retailers, among others who argued for “comprehensive luxury retail offerings,” “economic incentive,” and ability to “sell millions of dollars of handbags, wallets, watchbands and footwear to tourists and locals alike” “particularly in Beverly Hills.” Indeed, AB 2075 has been touted by retail trade groups as an important way to preserve their ability to continue selling whatever goods they please, regardless of the imperiled status of the animals whose skins went into making the opulent items. Such a targeted handout to commercial interests gives the impression that the State of California’s interest in protecting endangered and threatened species is inversely proportional to the profit it can turn from their exploitation.

AB 2075 is a significant step backwards in California’s progress as a leader among states like New York and New Jersey that are implementing progressive policies to protect endangered and threatened species, including marine reptiles. In contrast, the State of Louisiana—the primary source of wild alligator skins bought and sold in California—is the only shrimping state in the U.S. that does not enforce federally mandated protections for endangered sea turtles in its shrimp fleet.

The Louisiana legislature even enacted a law prohibiting the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries from enforcing federal regulations that mandate the use of Turtle Excluder Devices, which protect endangered sea turtles from being captured by shrimpers. Furthermore, just this year Louisiana legislators passed another exemption regarding exotic animals that directly overruled several settled court decisions, and again forced the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to loosen their exotic animal regulations––ensuring that a lonely tiger remains caged as a gimmick in a truck stop parking lot. These actions demonstrate that Governor Jindal and the Louisiana legislature cannot be trusted to meaningfully protect endangered and threatened wildlife where there is a profit to be made in the “Sportsman’s Paradise.”

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Alligator factory farm. (© Jo-Anne McArthur / WE ANIMALS)

Indeed, alligator slaughtering practices are under-regulated and inhumane. As with all other fur and skin farms, the industry has virtually been left to police itself. On one Louisiana farm, a rancher confessed that he thought refrigerated air killed the alligators so he would stack them in a freezer for a period of time and then skin the animals. Only later did he realize that the air wasn’t killing the alligators–it was merely slowing down their metabolism, and he had been skinning them alive. He then amended his slaughter practice to bashing the alligators in the head with a baseball bat or hammer until death could be confirmed. Not exactly a vast improvement when it comes to the suffering and welfare of these animals. It still is not uncommon for alligators in Louisiana to be skinned while alive and fully conscious.

States like New York and New Jersey have enacted bans on the sales of ivory in the past few months to protect threatened African elephants and curtail their states’ contributions to further the trade in exotic animals and their parts. In direct conflict with those progressive moves, AB 2075 exposes California’s interest in maintaining a supply of exotic animal parts for luxury goods consumers at a time when other states are taking meaningful steps in the opposite direction.

The argument from proponents of AB 2075 is that the alligator parts come from animals who are being farmed in controlled conditions in Louisiana, and that the Beverly Hills boutiques are only selling products made from these farmed animals. However, while AB 2075 ostensibly prohibits the import of skins from critically endangered animals, without tags attached to alligator handbags or shoes to show the origin of the exotic skins used, there is no way to ascertain with certainty whether the items have been crafted from lawfully sourced and traded skins, instead of critically endangered populations. Even if there were a way to distinguish the final goods, there still remains the serious concern over the treatment, slaughter, and welfare of these animals.

ALDF is also concerned that by increasing public access to exotic skins from threatened or endangered species, California will be complicit in perpetuating a false impression that these animals are not truly in peril. That misperception could diminish interest in bona fide conservation initiatives, increase public demand for exotic skins, and thus further incentivize the illegal trade in alligator and crocodile parts. AB 2075 is clearly inconsistent with growing public awareness about the commercial exploitation of exotic animals. AB 2075 was the wrong thing for California and the wrong thing for animal welfare—but the bill was signed into law by Governor Brown in September. Now, ALDF encourages compassionate consumers to vote with their pocketbooks and refuse to purchase any products made from the skins of such animals.

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High Court Leaves California Foie Gras Ban Undisturbed, as ALDF’s Campaign Continues


Posted by Kelsey Eberly, Litigation Fellow on October 15, 2014

In a victory for ducks and for Californians who have battled for years to protect them from force feeding to produce foie gras, the Supreme Court declined to disturb California’s landmark foie gras ban, rejecting a petition from restaurants and producers, including Hudson Valley Foie Gras.

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A resident duck of Hen Harbor animal sanctuary.

The challengers had contended that California’s law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and asked the high court to review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ August 2013 decision upholding the ban. In that decision, the Ninth Circuit found that California was well within its rights in prohibiting the in-state production and sale of force-fed foie gras.

As the Ninth Circuit found, nothing in the Constitution prevents California from adopting laws to ensure the humane treatment of ducks within its borders and to keep this cruelly-produced “delicacy” out of its restaurants. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the challengers’ petition leaves this conclusion unchanged. Although the case now heads back to the district court, the high court’s action ensures that, for the time being, California law will continue to protect ducks from the barbaric practice of force-feeding.

This development is the latest in ALDF’s long-running campaign against the foie gras industry. The lucrative “gourmet” product is made by force-feeding young ducks massive amounts of grain, causing their livers to balloon to eight times their natural size. Last year ALDF, along with Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Marin Humane Society, filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit, supporting the state ban and opposing industry efforts to have it temporarily lifted.

Next, ALDF is headed to the California Court of Appeals to defend its July 2013 victory over Napa, California-based La Toque restaurant. A Napa County Superior Court previously rejected La Toque’s claim that its illegal conduct—continuing to sell force-fed foie gras—constitutes “speech” protected under the First Amendment. ALDF will again counter this meritless claim, and continue to hold the restaurant accountable for flouting the law.

As Hudson Valley Foie Gras, La Toque, and other peddlers of this inhumane product have shown no signs of abandoning their attack against California’s landmark law, ALDF will continue to oppose the production and sale of force-fed foie gras at every turn.

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ALDF-Los Angeles


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on October 9, 2014

Legally Brief

At the end of September, the Animal Legal Defense Fund hosted a reception in Los Angeles to celebrate our 35th anniversary and to mark the beginning of our new regional network in the Southern California hotspot. Joining us were animal-loving celebs, like our emcee for the night actress Elaine Hendrix (The Parent Trap, Anger Management), actress Kristen Renton (Sons of Anarchy), and Jackson Galaxy (“the cat whisperer” and host of Animal Planet’s hit show My Cat from Hell). Also joining us at the event was the founder of ALDF—aka the Mother of Animal Law—Joyce Tischler.

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Stephen Wells, Elaine Hendrix, Joyce Tischler, and T.J. Tumasse

For 35 years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has been fighting to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. Over the years, Los Angeles has played an important role in our work. And LA has led the country in legislation to protect animals like the ban on cruel bullhooks and puppy mills. A few weeks ago, ALDF filed a lawsuit against Barkworks, the Southern California pet store chain that has been lying to customers and selling puppies from puppy mills for years.

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Jackson Galaxy and Minoo Rahbar in Los Angeles.

We’ve also successfully lobbied in Riverside County to deny the Great Bull Run the permits needed to hold their abusive event in Southern California. And we are suing UCLA to require disclosure of basic public records about animal testing at that public university. Similarly, ALDF filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the City of West Hollywood, when it was hit with a lawsuit by a boutique called Mayfair House that wanted to continue to sell cruelly-produced animal fur, despite the City’s 2011 ban on the sale of animal fur products.

That’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund is expanding its presence in Los Angeles area, by bringing together local members of our national attorney network and our amazing LA area student chapters. This network will advance ALDF’s mission, host local events, offer CLE (“continuing legal education” for attorneys) activities and speaking engagements, and develop collaborations with local animal protection organizations. In the coming months ALDF will hire a regional representative for the Los Angeles region and we are excited to embark on this new development.

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An Open Letter to the University of Wisconsin-Madison


Posted by Kelsey Eberly, Litigation Fellow on October 7, 2014

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When ALDF and online petitioners trained a spotlight on the maternal deprivation research being conducted on newborn rhesus monkeys at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), the University defended the studies and alleged that these critiques contained “falsehoods and exaggerations.”

The University contends that Dr. Ned Kalin’s current study “bears no meaningful resemblance” to Harry Harlow’s infamous research subjecting baby monkeys to psychological torture. Today, UW says, “young monkeys are raised by human caretakers and alongside monkeys of a similar age.” Dean Robert Golden of the School of Medicine and Public Health says that “maternal deprivation” is an “intentionally shocking catch-phrase of the animal rights movement.”

ALDF believes the facts speak for themselves. According to Dr. Kalin’s research protocol, 20 infant macaques will be permanently removed from their mothers on their first day of life and kept in an incubator box for roughly six weeks with only a stuffed “surrogate” for comfort. Twenty additional mother-raised primates will act as the control group. The maternally-deprived monkeys are not “raised by human caretakers,” but removed from their incubators only for feeding and to clean the incubator. The University’s Standard Operating Procedures specify that “infant monkeys should not be handled unnecessarily to minimize the possibility of inappropriate attachments to humans.” Indeed, the protocol is designed to induce acute stress through maternal deprivation—not, as the University disingenuously suggests, to pair human-reared monkeys with playmates.

After this isolation, the motherless monkeys are paired with another young monkey, so that the confused babies can “raise” each other. This “rearing” model has been widely reported to cause tremendous anxiety, often triggering “self-injurious behavior” (i.e., self-biting and -mutilation) as the monkeys get older. At a recent public meeting, UW-Madison Associate Professor of Bioethics and Philosophy Robert Streiffer quoted a prominent primate researcher who said, “Harry [Harlow] discovered that if you rear two infants together, it’s almost as bad as total isolation. Nobody in their right mind who knew Harry Harlow’s work would raise rhesus babies in pairs.

Dr. Kalin notes in the protocol, “rhesus monkeys have been selected because their similarities to humans in social behavior, emotion, hormonal responses and brain structure make them the best model for examining human emotion regulation as well as the risk to develop anxiety and depression.” In other words, baby monkeys are suitable because their emotional vulnerability and capacity for anguish mirrors our own.

During the experiments the baby monkeys will be repeatedly subjected to tests intended to trigger terror and anxiety, including live snakes and unfamiliar “human intruders.” These fear-inducing tests will begin at the earliest stage of the animals’ lives, when they are just weeks old. During the experiments the infants’ blood and cerebrospinal fluid will be harvested repeatedly. They will be subjected to skin-punch biopsies and numerous brain scans, requiring physical restraint and chemical sedation. Before the monkeys are 18 months old, the researchers will kill all 40 monkeys and dissect their brains.

The University asserts that this research is aimed at a better understanding of anxiety and depression disorders in humans. As Dr. Kalin contends in the protocol, “understanding the involvement of brain chemicals that have never before been implicated in anxiety, will allow the field to begin to search for medications that affect these newly identified systems”—i.e., for drugs to give vulnerable children. According to pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Sujartha Ramakrishna, this “amounts to ordering a pre-emptive chemical strike on the developing brains of at-risk children.” As Dr. Ramakrishna explains, “pediatric psychiatry is an art as much as it is a science…Kalin’s attempts to attribute the development of mood and anxiety disorders to a few specific physiological changes in the brain are based on a gross oversimplification of the complexities of a developing human mind.”

The University also asserts that the research was undertaken after “thorough consideration and approval granted by campus animal research committees.” What the University does not say is that under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) committees may approve any research, however painful or invasive.

Dr. Kalin’s research has cost many millions of taxpayer dollars over the last 25 years. ALDF will continue to criticize research that torments sensitive infant primates and kills them before their second birthday, all on the taxpayer’s dime.

More than 300,000 people have signed Dr. Ruth Decker’s (a UW alumna, who holds both a medical degree and a law degree) Change.org petition to cancel these cruel tests, and we urge you to do the same.

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Big Win for Hens as Judge Dismisses Challenge to California’s Prop 2


Posted by Jessica Blome, Staff Attorney on October 3, 2014

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Missouri’s campaign to roll back farmed animal protections approved by California voters ended yesterday when a federal judge in Northern California dismissed the Attorney General’s lawsuit challenging California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, or Proposition 2, which passed in 2008. California voters helped pass Prop 2 so that farmers would have to make sure egg-laying hens, calves used for veal, and pregnant pigs can lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turnabout freely within their enclosures. Shortly after the passage of Prop 2, in a surprising victory, the California General Assembly voted to require eggs sold in California to meet the same requirements as those produced in California.

Rather than advise egg producers to improve the living conditions for millions of animals raised for food within their borders, six states decided to litigate. Last February, the Attorney General of Missouri and five other states filed a federal lawsuit to overturn Prop 2. In April 2014, ALDF submitted an amicus brief, along with Farm Sanctuary and Compassion Over Killing, in support of the state of California’s motion for dismissal of Missouri’s lawsuit

In dismissing that lawsuit yesterday, the judge ruled that Missouri could not sue California because the lawsuit could only benefit an unidentified number of egg producers’ private economic interests, rather than the state as a whole. In other words, the Attorney General’s transparent attempt to harness the political prowess of big agriculture did not work in California federal court.

Due to a phase-in provision, Prop 2 is not scheduled to go into effect until 2015; therefore, any egg sold in California after January 2015 must be raised in the more humane conditions afforded by Prop 2. The judge’s ruling yesterday will allow Proposition 2 to go into effect next year instead and thereby improve the lives of millions of farmed animals throughout California and the U.S.

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Honey Badger Does Care – New Video Blasts Tests on Baby Monkeys


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on September 30, 2014

A brand new video, made by internet sensation “Randall” of the viral “Honey Badger Don’t Care” YouTube video and meme, blasts the controversial torture of baby monkeys known as “maternal deprivation” conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It’s badger against badger in this funny new video by the Honey Badger, and he hopes the UW Badgers are listening.

In the same sassy style as the Honey Badger video, viewed more than 69 million times, Randall explains these “horrible, evil, disgusting mother deprivation tests” are being conducted on little baby monkeys. And why? “To learn that babies are miserable without their mothers?”

Randall told the Animal Legal Defense Fund:

I created this video because I want everyone to know we live in a world which has a very hard time learning from its past. I created this video because I do NOT want my tax dollars funding “baby monkey terror tests.” Experimenting on animals, especially in this day of technology and science, is archaic, disgusting and beyond inhumane.

The infant monkeys are removed from their mothers and isolated in incubator boxes, before being exposed to anxiety-inducing stressors like a live snake. They are also forced to undergo painful skin-punch biopsies, cerebrospinal fluid draws, and brain scans. Then, before they turn two, they’re killed. Unlike the fearless honey badger, who fights cobras and lives life on the edge, baby monkeys get scared and suffer without their moms.

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In August 2014, the Animal Legal Defense Fund called on the USDA to investigate the protocol for these “terror tests” and potential violations of the federal law—the Animal Welfare Act—that protects animals in laboratories. As Randall says, “our tax money is going to fund this barbaric…” nonsense. More than 300,000 people have signed a Change.org petition, from a medical doctor and UW alumna, calling for an end to unethical torture of baby monkeys.

SIGN THE PETITION to demand an end to the torture of baby monkeys by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Legally Brief: FBI Takes Animal Cruelty Seriously


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on September 25, 2014

Legally Brief

At the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we are often asked for statistics about animal cruelty crimes—which for too long have been unavailable: until now. Animal cruelty will now be tracked and recorded by the FBI in the National Incident Based Reporting System as a separate offense. This important development will allow the FBI to better allocate resources to solve animal cruelty cases and provide valuable insight into the scope of animal abuse nationally. With this new inclusion in the Uniform Crime Report—the most comprehensive source of crime statistics—law enforcement is given the tools to allocate resources to fight animal cruelty and an incentive to prosecute animal cruelty to the full extent of the law.

Recently, ALDF sent a letter of support for this change, which the National Sheriffs’ Association presented to the FBI. The Animal Legal Defense Fund applauds the tireless efforts of the National Sheriff’s Association, the Animal Welfare Institute, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (of whom ALDF is a member), who worked hard to help make this change happen.

But it’s also more evidence that our society as a whole wants its law enforcement to take animal cruelty seriously. Armed with this data, law enforcement can better respond to cruelty cases that previously may have gone ignored. The report provides the FBI with statistics on when and where animal crimes happen so they can dedicate more time, training, and funding to solve these cases. The changes will be implemented in 2015 and collected data will be accepted in 2016.

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With this change, crimes against animals become crimes against society, legally speaking. Four categories of animal cruelty will be monitored: simple/gross neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse, and animal sexual abuse. As ALDF supporters know, the work we do involves aiding in the investigation and prosecution of animal cruelty cases as well as helping to fund forensic evidence collections and even offering rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators. We work with police officers, investigators, district attorneys, and other officers of the law to ensure crimes against animals are met with justice. But we are also creating a national Do Not Adopt database that shelters and rescue organizations can use nationwide to prevent convicted animal abusers—who have a very high likelihood of repeating their crimes—from adopting animals.

Of course, there’s more work to be done, but this is an important step forward to securing criminal justice for animals through the legal system and recognizing that animals deserve legal protection, too.

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Federal Protection Returned to Endangered Gray Wolves in Wyoming


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on September 24, 2014

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It isn’t often we get good news for wolves, but a court decision on September 23, 2014 made that day’s news cycle very good indeed. Gray wolves in Wyoming will once again be protected, as they deserve, under the Endangered Species Act: their safety no longer vulnerable to shoot-on-sight anti-wolf policies.

Two years ago, as a new staff member, I wrote my first blog post for ALDF called Wolf Hunting: The Final Frontier. In that segment, I explained that in 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the federal protections afforded gray wolves in Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act. By doing so, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service handed over control of the fragile wolf population to politicians in a state whose hostile anti-wolf policies will go down in history as extreme and unreasonable.

The D.C. district court invalidated that September 2012 decision yesterday. In their successful lawsuit, Earthjustice represented Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity in court. The court granted summary judgment on the basis that Wyoming was not able to manage the gray wolf population. The judgment states:

the Court concludes that it was arbitrary and capricious for the Service to rely on the state’s nonbinding promises to maintain a particular number of wolves when the availability of that specific numerical buffer was such a critical aspect of the delisting decision.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated gray wolves of the Northern Rockies as a protected species under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. The Act was passed “to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species may be conserved” and “to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species.” In 2009, the Fish and Wildlife Service refused to give management responsibility to Wyoming, even after giving it to Idaho and Montana, repeatedly finding Wyoming’s management plan to be inadequate—critics have called its variations haphazard and cruel. In 2010, the District Court of Wyoming tried to give management back to the state, Wyoming made some minor adjustments, and in September 2012 the Fish and Wildlife Service allowed federal protections to be removed from wolves. In November, after the mandatory waiting period, our conservation colleagues filed suit.

In its judgment, the court found that “The Service cannot rely solely on an unenforceable promise as a basis to delist a species” and cited a variety of precedents where our federal, taxpayer-funded agency relied on “unenforceable statements of intent on an issue that was critical to the delisting decision.” In the plainest terms, the court ruled that Wyoming’s haphazard management of gray wolves—their shoot-on-sight and essentially unlimited wolf-killing policy—will come to an end. Wolves will be protected under federal law in Wyoming once again.

In just a few weeks, ALDF will cohost the 22nd Annual Animal Law Conference, along with the Center for Animal Law Studies, at Lewis & Clark Law School. The theme of this conference is Animal Law in a Changing Environment: Finding Common Ground. The importance of sharing that common ground, coexisting with nonhuman animals in our wild spaces, and working together—animal protection groups with conservation groups and others—to find justice for our earth, is made tangible today.

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Growl: Compassion, Truth, Nonviolence, and Justice in Animal Advocacy


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on September 18, 2014

kim-stallwood-article-240pxKim Stallwood is British animal rights scholar every advocate for animals should have on his or her radar. His latest book, Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate from Lantern Books, has been long-awaited by the Animal Book Club. Growl’s main drive is an exploration of how to co-exist with nonhuman animals using four main principles or “key values” of truth, compassion, nonviolence, and justice. The book also raises important questions about animal advocacy.

Can animals have rights? Growl investigates this question in practical terms and philosophical measure. Opponents claim animals cannot have legal rights because they cannot articulate reason or consciousness (although even this has been challenged). Yet, Growl asks readers to consider: moral and legal rights are commonly given to humans—such as infants and the mentally impaired—who don’t possess those requirements. So why not allow the same for the interests of nonhuman animals?

Kindness to animals, Kim notes, referencing Immanuel Kant, is a virtue worthy of human moral systems. And justice—as opposed to charity—is what is required for these moral systems. As he writes, “injustice characterizes our activities with animals. The animal industrial complex is injustice on a massive scale.” And this sense of justice distinguishes the seriousness with which one pursues animal protection. Many animal charities, he suggests, are based on “individual good-heartedness.” Justice, on the other hand, “reflects the sanction (in both meanings of the word) of society and the enforcement of law and order.”

And it is in this way that Kim’s work aligns with that of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Our mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals using the legal system. Animals need laws to protect them from harm and to advance their interests: animals need more than the kind-hearted generosity of few, they need the permanent protection of the whole. Kim writes:

I am optimistic for the future of animal rights in the U.S. because of the strength of the third branch of the government—the judiciary—and the ability to develop public policy through the courts.

kim-stallwoodAnd that is the work the Animal Legal Defense Fund continues to do, in the ballot box, the courts, and working with community and individuals to better protect animals.Growl (evocative of Allan Ginsberg’s famous poem Howl) encompasses the work of a lifelong animal advocate and complements Kim’s alter-ego blog and social media presence as The Grumpy Vegan. Kim describes five stages of effective social movements: public education, policy development, legislation, enforcement, and public acceptance.

Kim Stallwood founded the Animal Rights Network—the world’s largest library on animal rights—and was once national director of PETA, campaigns officer for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, and national organizer for Compassion in World Farming. For many years he was executive editor of The Animals’ Agenda and currently edits Speaking Out for Animals, and is the European director for the Animals and Society Institute, an organization he co-founded in 2005. He has also written Animal Dharma. Visit Kim’s website to learn more about the Animal Rights Challenge to make society’s treatment of animals the responsibility of society.

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Tracking Animal Crimes Data in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program – A Huge Step Forward


Posted by Scott Heiser, Senior Attorney and Director, Criminal Justice Program on September 17, 2014

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Since 1929, the FBI has been the central repository for the collection and dissemination of federal, state, and local crime statistics. Law enforcement and lawmakers alike regularly cite these statistics when making key policy decisions—be it a decision by a local sheriff to add patrols to reduce the rate of residential burglaries or a state legislature’s enactment of a new statute defining a new crime or enhancing the penalties for an existing one.

For those of us who champion animal protection issues, we have been frustrated by the fact that the FBI’s UCR program has not included data related to crimes against animals. However, that glaring deficiency is about to change. The key internal committee within the FBI that proposes changes to the UCR program rules recently (and unanimously) passed two resolutions that amend the UCR program to expand its scope to finally include crimes against animals, and in September 2014 the Director of the FBI formally approved these changes.

This great outcome is the product the hard work of many, including the Animal Welfare Institute, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. However, this could not have happened without the Herculean efforts of John Thompson, Deputy Executive Director of the National Sheriffs’ Association (or as we like to say, the “other NSA”).

This is great news and we have every confidence that, when armed with the hard facts of the extent and frequency of crimes against animals, this data will play a vital role in improving federal, state, and local laws for the betterment of animals—thank you, Mr. Thompson!

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FLOAT for Lolita


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on September 15, 2014

This week—and this week only—you can make a splash for Lolita the orca, the star of one of ALDF’s most important ongoing campaigns, by purchasing a specially designed t-shirt in her honor.

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Lolita is an intelligent and sensitive orca who is confined to the smallest orca tank in North America (at the Miami Seaquarium) and has been for decades—since she was kidnapped from her family in the Puget Sound. Her conditions at the Miami Seaquarium mean daily misery for Lolita—no orca companion, no shelter from the sun, and a pathetically small tank that really is more like a bathtub, which she is trapped in, day in and day out. And, even though her shameful living conditions clearly violate the Animal Welfare Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to hand out AWA licenses to the theme park. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is working hard to give Lolita the justice she so rightly deserves, which includes protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Your purchase of an exclusive shirt in her likeness will help support that campaign. Available this week only!

For Love of All Things, or FLOAT, is a new breed of company promoting socially, environmentally and globally conscious consumerism. They create awareness and funding for the world’s top nonprofits by conducting limited edition apparel campaigns and contributing $8 from every sale to the current week’s cause. Thisweek, that cause is Lolita.

T-shirts can be purchased Sept. 15 – 21 at FLOAT’s website.

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Caught in the Trap: LA Bans Snare and Body Gripping Traps


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on September 11, 2014

Legally Brief

Every year, millions of animals like coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, and beavers are caught by trappers in the U.S. The most popular trap—the barbaric steel jaw leghold trap—uses metal jaws to grasp an animal by the leg. Most animals caught in these devices die slowly and painfully from shock, blood loss, hypothermia, or starvation. Many try to chew their own legs off to escape. That’s one reason why, earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously banned anyone from using any trap “that maims or causes the inhumane death or suffering of any animal” such as those that grip or snare wild animals or use poisons as bait. One council member wrote that all traps “can be inhumane through negligent care or use, but snares, body-crushing and body-gripping traps are inherently inhumane.” Banning these traps reduces the suffering of wild animals and also protects other animals from getting caught in such traps accidentally.

California Ban on Steel Jaw Traps

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California voters banned many of these same devices in 1998 through Proposition 4, a statewide ballot initiative that banned traps and other cruel practices used by the fur trade along with dangerous poisons that hurt animals and the environment. Violation of these laws indeed can result in criminal charges. However those prohibitions did not apply to government employees who still are allowed to use other body-gripping traps, such as conibear traps and snares, and are only prevented from using steel jaw leghold traps. California is one of nine U.S. states and more than 85 countries that ban or severely restrict the use of steel jaw leghold traps, which have been declared inhumane by the World Veterinary Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the National Animal Control Association.

A New Way Forward

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Many animals are trapped as part of a federal predator control program known as Wildlife Services. The agency spends more than 100 million dollars annually to trap, snare, shoot and poison more than a million wild animals. Targeted animals, like coyotes, bobcats, bears, raccoons, and beavers, and animals killed unintentionally, like moose, deer, great-blue herons, endangered condors, bald eagles, and even family pets are killed mostly on public lands and at taxpayer expense. One Wildlife Services trapper reports his records showing that for every one target animal his traps caught, two additional non-target animals were captured—nearly all of whom had to be killed due to their injuries from traps.

My dog once had the misfortune of being caught in a steel jaw leghold trap set out for wolves in Alaska’s Chugach National Forest. I’ll never forget his cries of pain, fear, and helplessness. Fortunately, I was able to release him with relatively minor injuries. Most non-targeted animals caught in traps are not so lucky.

Research shows that nonlethal methods (like range riders, guard dogs, proper fencing) are more effective than trapping, snaring, and poisoning. That’s why ALDF is working with other animal and conservation organizations to assure that our wild neighbors are afforded the respect and protection they deserve. California has made significant moves to protect its wildlife and the Los Angeles ban demonstrates that there are more humane and effective ways to coexist with our wild neighbors.

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Legally Brief: A Step Toward Victory in Idaho Ag Gag Case


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on September 4, 2014

Legally Brief

Tremendous news today in one of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s most important lawsuits! Protecting the billions of animals raised for meat, dairy, eggs and other products on factory farms is an important part of ALDF’s work. A key to our efforts is the ability to gather evidence about the routine cruelty that occurs on factory farms. Ag gag laws like Idaho’s are the industry’s attempt to shield corporate owners from exposés of their treatment of animals.

ALDF led a coalition of public interest groups in suing the state of Idaho arguing that its recently enacted ag gag law violates the U.S. Constitution by trying to “gag” constitutionally protected free speech. To put it simply, the law seeks to punish people who speak up about animal abuse, instead of punishing animal abusers.

Today, the U.S. District Court of Idaho ruled against the State of Idaho’s attempt to throw out our lawsuit. The court ruled instead that our coalition, which includes PETA, the ACLU, the Center for Food Safety and others, can move forward against the state of Idaho and its controversial ag gag law!

Undercover investigations, which ag gag laws are designed to prevent, have exposed egregious and horrific animal cruelty on factory farms, leading to civil and criminal penalties and adding weight to efforts to pass stronger animal protection laws. They have exposed illegal animal abuse including animals being beaten, kicked, maimed, and thrown by workers—as well as revealing the terrible conditions animals endure every day on these massive industrial farms.

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The state asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed this March, outright; instead the judge agreed the case merits its day in court. We also opposed an attempt from the Idaho Dairymen’s Association—an ag industry group—to intervene in the lawsuit as a defendant. This group played a key role in drafting the ag gag law to begin with in a disturbing collusion between industry and the government set in place to regulate that industry. The court denied this attempt to intervene in June.

Today’s ruling is important: the “motion to dismiss” is a hurdle that stops many a lawsuit in its tracks, but it looks like we, and the animals, will have our day in court. The judge recognizes that if our claims are true, then we have stated a constitutional violation. If the laws are motivated by animus or if the State cannot put forward sufficient evidence to justify the law, it is unconstitutional.

Our coalition of plaintiffs includes:

  • ALDF, PETA, ACLU, CFS
  • Farm Sanctuary, River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, Western Watersheds Project
  • Sandpoint Vegetarians, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment (ICARE), Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education (IHCIRE)
  • The political journal CounterPunch, Farm Forward,  journalist Will Potter, Professor James McWilliams, investigator Monte Hickman, investigative journalist Blair Koch, and undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff.

In addition to this, many groups have filed amicus briefs with the court in support of our case, including:

  • AFL-CIO
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • A coalition of journalist organizations led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

What’s next? Our case now moves into the “discovery” phase, in which each side gathers information from the other as we build our legal arguments.

Our case in Idaho is our second such lawsuit. ALDF filed the nation’s first lawsuit against an ag gag law in Utah last year, and we recently won the motion to dismiss in that case as well. Both cases are moving forward and so far, we are two for two against ag gag.

For more information about why ag gag laws are bad for animals, the public health, worker safety, and the environment, please visit ALDF.org/aggag.

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Student Animal Legal Defense Fund Chapter of the Year Award 2014


Posted by Kelly Levenda, Animal Law Program Staff Attorney on September 2, 2014

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We are now accepting submissions for our second annual Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) Chapter of the Year Award! The award celebrates a SALDF chapter that has shown amazing efforts in advancing the field of animal law and advocating for animals through original projects and initiatives both on and off campus. This award will be given out at the Annual Animal Law Conference in Portland, Oregon.

SALDF chapters play an important role in shaping the animal law attorneys of tomorrow and raising the awareness of animal law. They do this through activities such as submitting comments on federal regulations, participating in their local legislative process, holding networking events, and writing academic articles. They also partake in tabling, leafleting, organizing conferences and guest speakers, building coalitions with other law school student organizations, and screening films.

If you are a SALDF member and would like your chapter to be considered for this award, you must describe how, during the 2013-2014 academic year, your SALDF chapter met one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Demonstrate how your chapter raised animal law awareness to other law students, the law school, and/or the broader campus community;
  2. Describe one or more pioneering projects or initiatives your chapter spearheaded that advanced the field of animal law or otherwise directly benefited animals;
  3. Describe any other activity your chapter believes demonstrated exceptional dedication to the field that either advanced animal law or otherwise directly benefited animals.

A committee comprised of representatives from Animal Law Conference co-hosts Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Animal Law Studies, and the Lewis & Clark Law School SALDF will review submissions and select a winner. The Lewis & Clark Law School SALDF is prohibited from being considered for this award. Submissions must be 250 words or less, and be received no later than 5 pm (PST) on Thursday Oct 2. Please email your submission to me at klevenda@aldf.org. I encourage all SALDF chapters to apply!

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ALDF Scores Partial Transparency Victory for Animals on Airlines


Posted by Chris Berry, Staff Attorney on August 21, 2014

On July 3, 2014, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a final rule partially granting a request by ALDF to expand reporting requirements by air carriers for incidents involving animals during air transport. 79 Fed. Reg. 37938. The final rule significantly expands the previous rule by requiring major air carriers to report incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of all warm and cold-blooded animals shipped as pets, and all cats and dogs even if they are part of a commercial shipment. By contrast, the previous rule excluded all animals who were part of a commercial shipment (e.g. to a pet store or laboratory).

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ALDF originally petitioned DOT in August 2010 to cover all animals after reviewing news reports that seven puppies died on a hot flight from a commercial dog breeder in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Chicago, Illinois. The air carrier was not required to report those deaths because the seven puppies were traveling as a commercial shipment to pet stores and therefore did not qualify as pets. ALDF promptly responded to this inequity by petitioning DOT to require reporting incidents involving all animals – not just pets traveling with their guardian. ALDF explained that strengthening the reporting rule would increase consumer and law enforcement access to data involving air carriers’ pet safety records.

ANIMALS COVERED BY OLD REPORTING RULE
PET COMMERCIAL
CATS AND DOGS Covered Not Covered
OTHER SPECIES Covered Not Covered

DOT’s final rule meets ALDF partway by expanding the reporting requirement to include all cats and dogs even if they are not shipped as pets. The most significant effect of the new rule will likely involve reports for incidents involving cats and dogs shipped en masse in the pet store and animal research industries. However, the rule falls short of granting ALDF’s full request because it is limited to commercially-shipped cats and dogs. For example, air carriers will not be required to report incidents involving nonhuman primates on the way to research facilities or other commercial enterprises. That information would help consumers determine an air carrier’s general animal transportation safety record, and facilitate efforts to review a carrier’s compliance with applicable animal welfare laws and transporting standards.

ANIMALS COVERED BY NEW REPORTING RULE
PET COMMERCIAL
CATS AND DOGS Covered Covered
OTHER SPECIES Covered Not Covered

Even if it falls short, DOT’s new rule is nonetheless a substantial victory for animal and transparency advocates. In addition to covering more animals, the new rule provides additional strengthening of the reporting regime by:

  • Expanding the reporting requirement to include any U.S. Carrier with at least one aircraft holding sixty or more seats;
  • Requiring carriers to file annual reports with the number of all animals lost, injured, or killed during the calendar year, and to affirmatively state that the number was “zero” if there were no incidents;
  • Requiring carriers to include the total number of animals transported during the calendar year when they file their annual reports; and
  • Requiring carriers to sign and certify that the annual report is true, correct, and complete.
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