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Sign Now: Tell the SEC to Stop Tyson Foods’ Lies


Posted by on January 9, 2017

We need you to join our fight against the cruelty of factory farms. In September 2015 the Animal Legal Defense Fund released undercover footage from a Tyson Foods plant that revealed flagrant violations of state and federal law. We’re working hard to hold Tyson accountable and we need your help as we urge the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to expedite their investigation of Tyson’s deceptions.

Sign now—urge the SEC to hold Tyson to the law.

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Tyson Foods entices investors with false promises of superior animal treatment and care for its workers. Its practices reveal a drastically different reality including shocking animal cruelty and safety violations.

Tell the SEC to expedite their review and bring enforcement action against Tyson to the greatest extent of the law.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is committed to exposing the horrors of factory farming and holding companies accountable to the law.

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Animal Legal Defense Fund Files Anti-SLAPP Motion Against Landry’s Defamation Suit


Posted by on January 8, 2017

National nonprofit questions the captivity and conditions of four endangered white tigers

Contact: Natalia Lima, nlima@aldf.org, 201 679 7088

HOUSTON – The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a motion asking a Harris County judge to dismiss a baseless lawsuit filed by Landry’s Inc. and the Downtown Aquarium Inc. that claims the animal protection organization defamed Landry’s restaurant simply by publicly commenting on the long-controversial mistreatment of four white tigers, Nero, Marina, Coral and Reef. The tigers—who have never had adequate access to sunlight, fresh air or natural surfaces—have been housed indoors at the Downtown Aquarium and restaurant for 12 years.

The motion was filed by Houston law firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, under the Texas Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute. This law allows judges to dismiss meritless lawsuits filed against those who speak out about a “matter of public concern.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund announced its concerns about the four tigers in September when it delivered a 60-day notice of intent to sue—as required by the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)—on behalf of Cheryl Conley, a Montgomery County woman who says she witnessed violations of the ESA at the downtown facility. Before the 60-day-notice period expired, Landry’s pre-empted the organization and Ms. Conley by suing for defamation.

“This is a blatant attempt to silence free speech,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Baseless lawsuits like this are often used in an attempt to intimidate and silence advocates—which is exactly why Texas has an anti-SLAPP law. Our primary concern is the health and wellbeing of the tigers—and we will not be deterred.”

AZA lawyer Adam Milasincic argues that Landry’s and its CEO and owner Tilman Fertitta, star of a reality TV show “Billion Dollar Buyer,” are public figures which makes discussions of the tigers’ confinement a public concern even beyond the concern about the tigers’ welfare.

“This suit’s intention is to dissuade animal advocates from starting a public dialogue about the care and environment these tigers are entitled to under federal law— including the protected right to thrive ,” says Mr. Milasincic.

The anti-SLAPP law allows not only for dismissal of meritless lawsuits, but for fines against those who use them to silence free speech. Ms. Conley filed a separate anti-SLAPP motion requesting dismissal. Her lawyer Ashish Mahendru of Mahendru P.C. calls Mr. Fertitta a “Billion-Dollar bully.” Mr. Mahendru’s motion asks for fines and for Landry’s to be forced to “shut down the tiger enclosure as a sanction for the malicious use of the judicial system to silence its critics. Otherwise, it’s not simply the tigers who are condemned to imprisonment. It’s also the rights of noble citizens like Cheryl Conley that are being violated.”

The lawsuit is Landry’s, Inc. and the Downtown Aquarium, Inc. v. Animal Legal Defense Fund et al. No. 2016-79698 in Harris County’s 334th District Court.

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Animal Legal Defense Fund Urges Securities and Exchange Commission to Expedite Investigation of Tyson Foods


Posted by on January 8, 2017

Contact: Natalia Lima, nlima@aldf.org, 201 679 7088

SAN FRANCISCO—Tyson Foods has come under fire in recent years after several high-profile exposés and investigations. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal organization for animals, is now urging the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to expedite an investigation of the chicken producer in relation to the organization’s 2015 undercover investigation of a Tyson Foods slaughter plant.

The SEC is charged with protecting investors, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund is urging the agency to stop Tyson Foods from enticing investors with false promises of superior animal treatment and care for its workers. Although the company attempts to portray itself as prioritizing responsible farmed animal care and worker safety, its practices reveal a drastically different reality.

Undercover video footage, obtained in a Tyson Foods Carthage, Texas processing plant, clearly shows the extremely fast speed at which chickens are hung and slaughtered. Employees are expected to hang 35 chickens per minute, which greatly increases the possibility of equipment jamming in processing plants—an issue which is captured multiple times on video, killing hundreds of birds through suffocation. The speed also makes it impossible to handle the birds in a humane fashion and creates safety concerns for Tyson Foods employees.

“Our investigation proves that the cruel treatment of chickens by Tyson Foods is not isolated incidents, but a systematic, companywide problem,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Tyson Foods is putting profits over not only ethical standards, but state and federal laws.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund first filed a complaint with the SEC in September 2015 asking for an investigation and enforcement of legal violations revealed by the undercover footage. In September 2016 the organization sent a follow up request to the SEC, which was routed to the agency’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy for further review.

Investors place increasing weight on issues of corporate social responsibility due to the impacts such issues have on consumer purchasing decisions, and thus stock price. The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges the SEC to hold Tyson Foods accountable for deliberately deceiving investors through false and misleading statements.

To view video footage and get more information about the Animal Legal Defense Funds’ undercover investigation of Tyson Foods, visit www.aldf.org/Tyson

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Advances for Animals in 2016


Posted by on January 6, 2017

From the first major victory in an Endangered Species Act lawsuit brought on behalf of animals in captivity, to a cutting edge legal strategy that saved a puppy from an abusive situation, to an undercover investigation that’s still sending shockwaves through the factory farm industry—thanks to your generous support—the Animal Legal Defense Fund spent 2016 fighting for animal protection on every front.

Today—and everyday—we thank you for your unwavering support. These are your victories.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us in 2017—and we’re so glad we have you by our side. Thank you for your support in 2016—and thank you for your support in the coming year.

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Take Action: Help Stop 2 Coyote Killing Contests on Federal Land


Posted by on January 4, 2017

We need your help today to stop two massive coyote killing contests, one of which is scheduled for this Saturday. These two contests are set to take place in Wyoming, partially on federal property, and they don’t have the necessary permits for these killing sprees.

Act today—contact the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and politely urge them not to let these killing contests occur in violation of federal regulations.

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According to federal regulations, the reason permits are required is to manage visitor use, protect natural and cultural resources, minimize recreational use conflicts and provide for the health and safety of visitors. All of these concerns are at play when it comes to the upcoming coyote killing contests.

As an American taxpayer, we need you to contact the BLM today on behalf of coyotes.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and a coalition of other animal protection organizations have already contacted BLM pointing out the legal permit requirements and demanding the killing contests be cancelled. Please add your voice and help us pressure the only agency that can stop these contests.

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Coalition Urges Federal Agency to Regulate Unpermitted Coyote Killing Contests


Posted by on January 4, 2017

Coyote Hunts Lack Necessary Permits and Threaten Public Safety and Natural Resources

Contact: Natalia Lima, nlima@aldf.org, 201 679 7088

JACKSON, WY—Animal protection and environmental organizations submitted a written request to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) urging the agency to enforce its own regulations regarding two Rock Springs, Wyoming, coyote-hunting contests scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. The purpose of such contests is to kill as many coyotes as possible, and prizes are awarded to those who shoot the most. The Rock Springs contests are slated to take place partly on BLM-managed federal land—and contest organizers have failed to obtain the requisite permits and liability insurance.

The first of these upcoming contests, the “Wyoming Coyote Classic,” is scheduled for this Saturday, January 7. In light of the impending date, the coalition is turning up the pressure, encouraging their members and supporters to contact the BLM field office to demand it take action this week.

Federal regulations require that certain commercial and competitive events held on BLM lands have a “special recreation permit” in order to lawfully take place. Both upcoming Rock Springs contests constitute commercial and competitive use of BLM land and therefore require these permits. According to BLM regulations, the purpose of requiring special recreation permits is to manage visitor use, protect natural and cultural resources, minimize recreational use conflicts and provide for the health and safety of visitors.

These planned contests pose great risk to natural resources, as contestants are freely using public lands to shoot as many coyotes as possible. Without permits, recreational use conflicts are almost certain, which raises safety concerns for visitors not aware of or not participating in the contest. With participants competing to kill as many coyotes as possible in a short period of time, there is an increased risk that participants will act carelessly, possibly injuring other recreational users or even killing visitors’ dogs on public lands.

“Killing contests are simply blood sport,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “They are completely inconsistent with proper wildlife management, which recognizes coyotes as essential members of healthy ecosystems, not targets to be killed for ‘fun.’”

The event promoters have also failed to obtain the federally mandated liability insurance prior to hosting the contests. Both upcoming events have no age restrictions, and contestants may enter without prior firearm experience. Serious hunting injuries are especially common among younger and inexperienced participants. As property managers, the federal government could be held liable if a participant or bystander is injured during these contests, putting public safety and taxpayer money at risk.

“Wyoming coyotes can be legally persecuted in almost any manner imaginable,” says Program Director Kristin Combs of Wyoming Untrapped. “Like trapping, these ‘recreational’ contests are not based on a sound science foundation, and it’s time to reform these archaic ‘wildlife management’ practices.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals and has taken on coyote killing contests in the past, including shutting down a Kansas event several months ago. In addition to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Wyoming Untrapped, the coalition currently pressuring the BLM includes the Center for Biological Diversity, Good Wolf, Nevada Wildlife Alliance, Project Coyote, WildEarth Guardians, Wyoming Untrapped, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, and Western Watersheds Project.

For more information visit, aldf.org.

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Governor Snyder Wants Open Season on Michigan Wolves


Posted by on December 28, 2016

Despite the many actions our supporters have taken over the past month, and the demonstrated will of Michigan’s citizens, Governor Snyder has signed SB 1187, intended to create an open season on wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula.

Michigan voters soundly rejected this policy by referendum in 2014, but lawmakers have pursued it anyway. Making matters worse, SB 1187 includes a clause that protects the bill from being subjected to public referendum. Now that the Governor has signed the bill into law, the people of Michigan cannot overturn it unless or until a more responsible state legislature repeals it.

The good news is that despite this blatantly undemocratic move by Michigan lawmakers, wolves remain federally protected, in part because Michigan is so openly hostile to wolves and has routinely failed to demonstrate an ability to manage wolf recovery in the Great Lakes Region.

We encourage Michigan residents to share your opinion and frustration with your governor and elected state representatives by submitting Letters to the Editor and contacting the Governor’s office. As always, the Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue working to protect these wolves and will keep you updated on any developments.

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Honoring a Hero for Animals


Posted by on December 21, 2016

The Animal Legal Defense Fund congratulates Nicoletta J. Caferri, Chief Deputy of the Animal Cruelty Unit in Queens County who was recently honored with the 12th annual New York City Bar Association Thomas E. Dewey Medal. Each year the medal is awarded to an outstanding assistant district attorney in each of New York’s five district attorney offices.

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This honor recognizes ADA Caferri 24 year commitment to the Queens District Attorney’s office as well as her excellence overseeing New York City’s very first Animal Cruelty Unit, which was created earlier in 2016. The elected Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said of the win, “As the Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit Chief, Nikki has shown vision, talent and determination when it comes to the pursuit of justice and improving the quality of life for Queens County’s smallest and furriest residents. Keeping dogs, cats and pets of all kind safe and free from harm has been her highest priority from day one.”

We could not agree with Brown more, having named ADA Caferri one of America’s Top Ten Animal Defenders during National Justice for Animals Week 2016. Her role as head of the Animal Cruelty Unit is invaluable, guiding the unit to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty crimes and educate the public about how to prevent and detect animal abuse. District attorney and law enforcement offices all too often lack the resources or the special expertise needed to prosecute criminal abuse cases, but Queens’ Animal Cruelty Unit is proof of how successful such a unit can be.

We are proud to see ADA Caferri’s tireless work as an animal cruelty prosecutor continue to receive the respect and admiration she deserves. In addition to her packed schedule as a prosecutor, she is a contract attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program and presents animal cruelty case trainings to prosecutors and law enforcement nationwide on our behalf.

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Quebec Court of Appeal Overturns Suspension of Montreal Pit Bull Ban


Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on December 19, 2016

On Dec. 1, 2016, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a lower court ruling that had temporarily suspended new provisions of Montreal’s animal control by-law banning “pit bull-type dogs.” The suspension order was the result of a lawsuit filed by the Montreal SPCA against the city shortly after the ban went into effect on Oct. 3, 2016. The SPCA argued that the breed-specific provisions in the by-law ran counter “to article 898.1 of the Civil Code of Quebec, which grants animals the status of sentient beings.” The organization also charged that the definition of “pit bull” in the new by-law is too vague.

Brindle pit bull puppy cuddles on a couch

The first step in the lawsuit was the request for stay of the provisions targeting “pit bull type dogs” until a hearing could be held on its merits, which the Quebec Superior Court granted. However, the City of Montreal challenged this decision, arguing the stay was not justified in the circumstances, and the Quebec Court of Appeal agreed. Thus, while the Montreal SPCA continues to fight the ban in court, most of the breed-specific provisions are now in effect.

Those provisions make it illegal to adopt or otherwise acquire a pit bull dog within city limits and require any pit bulls grandfathered in to be muzzled when outdoors (even when in their owner’s backyard), kept on a leash no longer than four feet and supervised by someone age 18 or older. In order to be grandfathered in, Montreal pit bull owners must pass a criminal background check, sterilize and vaccinate their dog and purchase a special permit costing approximately $150.00 by March 1st, 2017.

Some of the provisions of the by-law are still under suspension, however, as a result of concessions made by the City of Montreal during the appeal hearings. According to the Montreal SPCA, the City of Montreal “cannot issue euthanasia orders based on breed or physical appearance, prohibit someone from reclaiming their lost dog based on breed or physical appearance, and must allow all dogs to continue to be adopted to families residing outside of Montreal.” This compromise will remain in effect until a hearing can be heard on the merits of the regulations.

As in the U.S., jurisdictions in Canada have not taken a unified approach to the issue of breed-specific legislation. Neighboring province Ontario has had a ban on pit bulls since 2005, which was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2009; that decision was cited by the Quebec Court of Appeal in its Dec. 1, 2016 ruling. However, within Ontario, Ottawa (Canada’s capital city) has been vocal about not enforcing the ban. The City of Winnipeg enacted a breed ban in 1990, and the City of Edmonton repealed its breed ban in 2012, preferring to focus on dogs’ behavior rather than their breed.

A common criticism of breed-specific legislation is that it is inherently problematic to determine a dog’s breed based on appearance, and that the category of “pit bull” is itself arbitrary and overly broad. Empirical data confirms that not only average citizens but even animal care professionals cannot identify breeds by appearance. In Montreal’s by-law, “pit bull” includes three distinct breeds, mixes thereof and any dog with the characteristics of these breeds. Given this ambiguity, breed-specific legislation is almost impossible to enforce in a fair manner. In addition to continuing its lawsuit, the Montreal SPCA will be terminating its animal care services related to dogs, citing an unwillingness to kill healthy, behaviorally-sound, and adoptable dogs based only on their appearance.

Critics of breed-specific legislation argue moreover that these laws are not only discriminatory, penalizing all pit bulls regardless of their behavior, but also ineffective in preventing dog bite fatalities and injuries. Further, such laws raise concerns about due process rights. In the U.S., among those who have issued position statements against breed-discriminatory laws are the American Bar Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Obama administration. The Montreal SPCA has posted a petition and alternative solutions to address the public safety issue of aggressive dogs on its website: saferkindercommunities.com.

Further Reading:

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Dogs and Cats Need You-Take Action Today


Posted by on December 15, 2016

Not all animals have homes for the holidays. In fact, in some places, there aren’t even shelters to help animals looking for home.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund needs your help to improve life for animals in one such place—Barbour County Alabama.

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Alabama state law requires each county in the state to maintain a “county pound and an impounding officer” for impoundment of stray dogs, cats and ferrets. But Barbour County currently has no shelter, and residents are forced to take on the burden of sheltering and rehoming stray and abandoned animals. Today the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit to compel the county to follow its state’s law. Now we need your help to let Barbour County know that the whole country is watching their next move.

Please take action today—urge the Barbour County Commission to follow Alabama state law.

The county started to build a pound 14 years ago, but it has never opened. Still, the County Commission has repeatedly taken funds and equipment appropriated specifically for the animal shelter and services and put them toward other projects. In the meantime, the problem of animal abandonment and other animal cruelty crimes in the county has increased.

In one highly publicized incident in 2016, 11 puppies were found in a garbage bag with their dead mother, likely because there is nowhere for the public to surrender animals.

In another case, a Barbour County resident found a dog suffering from a gunshot wound. She took pictures and notified local law enforcement of the crime, including the identity of a suspect based on witness reports. Law enforcement declined to investigate or even just make a report of the incident.

Take Action

The Barbour County Commission needs to know that compassionate people around the country are watching. It takes just a few moments to send an email politely urging the Barbour County Commission to abide by Alabama law and open a shelter.

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Michigan: Wolves Need Your Quick Action Today


Posted by on December 15, 2016

UPDATE: December 27, 2016 – The Animal Legal Defense Fund is disappointed to report that Governor Snyder has ignored the will of Michigan voters and signed SB 1187 into law. While the law is intended to create an open season on wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula, wolves remain federally protected and the law will not take effect unless the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removes those protections.

Actively ignoring the will of the people, the Michigan Senate passed SB 1187, which would label wolves as a game species to be hunted and trapped. The bill is likely to pass the House as well. There are many elements of this bill that we find deeply concerning. Michigan residents: urge Governor Rick Snyder to veto Senate Bill 1187 in the almost certain event it passes the Michigan House.

Intense Timber Wolf (Canis lupus) Sits Under Pine

This is the third time Michigan has tried to approve a wolf hunt despite voters soundly rejecting the policy by referendum in 2014.

Because lawmakers know they are going against the will of the people they represent, SB 1187 includes a clause that protects the bill from being subjected to public referendum. In other words, the people of Michigan will not be able to overturn the bill if it’s signed in to law. Preventing Michigan voters from being able to directly determine Michigan law is a blatantly undemocratic move.

Michigan: Contact Governor Snyder today on behalf of the wolves.

Once widespread throughout the country, wolf populations have been decimated by hunting trapping and poisoning. Due to their fragile population, wolves of the Great Lakes region are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service would have to remove these protections, before SB 1187 could take effect, but this seems likely to happen in the near future. SB 1187 would lay the groundwork for wolves to be killed for sport in Michigan as soon as it does, and regardless of the will of the people of Michigan.

Michigan residents: call Governor Rick Snyder’s office today and urge him to veto Senate Bill 1187 if it passes the House.

 

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Ohio Appeals Court Rules Dogs are Worth More Than “Fair Market Value”


Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on December 13, 2016

Last month, the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that had relied on a strict property analysis in restricting damages to fair market value in a case that involved the serious injury of a companion dog. Ruling that “substantial justice was not done,” the appellate court remanded the case back to the Toledo Municipal Court, instructing it to recalculate the damages to reflect the fact “that pets do not have the same characteristics as other forms of personal property, such as a table or sofa which is disposable and replaceable at our convenience.”

The case originated in April 2015 when Jamie Rego filed a complaint for damages against Shawn Madalinksi, whose dog attacked and seriously injured Rego’s five month old pit bull puppy Kingston while on Madalinksi’s property during a visit in November 2014. At the time the complaint was filed, Rego had spent more than $10,000 on veterinary care for Kingston following the attack, which resulted in three broken legs and numerous puncture wounds.

Black and white pit bull puppy

In January 2016, the Toledo Municipal Court awarded just $400.00 in damages, finding that because dogs are legally classified as personal property, compensatory damages were capped at the market value of the animal.

The appeal argued the trial court had erred in holding that damages for veterinary expenses incurred for the treatment of a dog attacked and injured by another dog are limited to the injured dog’s market value. The appeals court agreed, noting that while dogs are undisputedly classified as personal property in Ohio, and that damages for loss or injury to personal property, including dogs, are generally limited to market value:

“…we cannot ignore the growing number of courts outside of Ohio which have awarded veterinary expenses for injuries caused by attacks from other dogs and grooming or kennel injuries. Further, some states have enacted statutes allowing recovery for economic damages such as veterinary expenses for injured pets. In addition, various courts and law review articles have discussed the plausibility of reclassifying companion animals under a ‘semi-property’ classification suggesting such terms as companion property, or sentient property.”

The court also included “the owner’s affection for the animal” as a factor that “may be considered in assessing the reasonableness of the decision to treat the animal.” However, citing existing case law, the court made clear it intended affection as a factor to be limited to assessing economic damages (e.g. vet bills) and that noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress or loss of companionship, are not available in cases involving companion animals.

Although it is still rare for courts to award compensatory damages for noneconomic harm in cases where animals are wrongfully injured, decisions like this awarding economic damages beyond market value signal continued evolution in the courts, which—though bound by animals’ legal classification—are moving toward recognizing that animals are distinct from other forms of property.

Further Reading:

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Attention Michigan: A Call to Save Michigan’s Wolves


Posted by on December 7, 2016

UPDATE: December 27, 2016 – The Animal Legal Defense Fund is disappointed to report that Governor Snyder has ignored the will of Michigan voters and signed SB 1187 into law. While the law is intended to create an open season on wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula, wolves remain federally protected and the law will not take effect unless the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removes those protections.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges Michigan residents to take action once again to save the state’s wolves. Compassionate residents have voted to protect wolves—but elected officials are bending to the will of special interest groups in an effort to pass a new law that would label wolves as a “game species” —allowing them to be shot or subjected to even crueler leg-hold traps. This law, SB 1187, threatens to subvert the will of the people of Michigan, who have repeatedly demonstrated opposition to wolf hunting.

With just a few days left in this legislative session, it’s vital that Michigan residents call their state Senator and Representative now to politely—but firmly—urge them to oppose SB 1187. When calling, comments can be as simple as, “I’m a constituent who cares about wolves, and I’m calling to urge you to respect the voice of the people and reject SB 1187.”

Intense Timber Wolf (Canis lupus) Sits Under Pine

Personal phone calls have a heavy influence on elected officials—please take a few moments to assure that wolves remain protected. By making these calls, Michigan residents can hold elected officials accountable.

Michigan has been a battle ground for wolves in the past several years. For more information, read Wolf Hunting Law Ruled Unconstitutional by Michigan Court of Appeals.

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Wolf Hunting Law Ruled Unconstitutional by Michigan Court of Appeals


Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on December 7, 2016

On Nov. 23, 2016, the State of Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, also known as Public Act 281, which would have allowed wolves in Michigan to be hunted if they are ever removed from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) list. The decision was the result of a lawsuit brought by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP), which challenged the state Natural Resources Commission’s authority to classify gray wolves as a “game species.” In 2015, the Michigan Court of Claims found in favor of defendants (the State of Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Commission), but on appeal a three-judge panel reversed the lower court’s ruling on constitutional grounds.

The law at issue, PA 281, was enacted in 2014 as an indirect initiated state statute. These laws are citizen-initiated through signature gathering. After the signatures are collected the proposed law goes directly to the state legislature, which can decide to enact the law or put it on the statewide ballot to be voted on by citizens. PA 281, initiated by a pro-hunting group, gave the Michigan Natural Resource Commission sole discretion over wildlife management in the state and the power to decide which animals are classified as game species and can therefore be hunted. After the petition gained the required number of signatures, the Michigan legislature approved the measure in August 2014, skipping the ballot.

Three Eastern Timber Wolves Pack

That same year, Michigan voters rejected via ballot initiative two laws that would have allowed wolf hunting. Michigan Wolf Hunting Referendum, Proposal 1, would have upheld a law designating the wolf as a game animal and allowed hunting and trapping of wolves in the state. Michigan Natural Resources Commission Referendum, Proposal 2, would have upheld a law granting the Commission permission to directly designate game species and determine hunting seasons. Although these measures were both voted down by Michigan citizens, they were rendered moot since the legislature had approved PA 281.

Critics claimed the legislature had not only subverted the will of the people in enacting PA 281, but also that the wording of the measure was misleading and that many who signed the petition may not have realized they were supporting wolf hunting. In its lawsuit, KMWP argued that the petition was strategically drafted to conceal its true purpose. From the Court of Appeals decision:

“Plaintiff’s description regarding how PA 281 came into being conjures up images of a Trojan Horse, within which the ability to hunt wolves was cleverly hidden. Plaintiff claims that the initiating petition was strategically drafted in such a way as to appeal to potential signers by touting that it would ensure that only sound scientific principles would govern the taking of fish and game … that it would support our active-military members by letting them hunt and fish for free, and that it would provide money to combat the spread of Asian carp—all of which have excellent ‘curb appeal’—while surreptitiously slipping inside the body of the act a reenacting provision to ensure that regardless of the referenda votes on PA 520 and PA 21, wolves would be on the game species list, as would associated wolf hunting provisions … ”

Although the Court of Appeals conceded this assessment may be accurate, it disagreed that the measure was unconstitutionally deceptive and confusing. However, KMWP had also argued PA 281 violated the Title-Object Clause of the Michigan Constitution, which states: “No law shall embrace more than one object, which shall be expressed in its title.” The court was persuaded by this argument, finding the title of the proposed law didn’t inform the public or legislature of the law’s actual effects and that therefore the law as drafted was unconstitutional.

Specifically, the court took issue with the provision of the act granting free hunting and fishing licenses to active members of the military, finding it had no necessary connection to the scientific management of fish, wildlife and their habitats, and that without that provision—and the broad appeal of the benefit it conveyed—“we cannot presume that the Legislature would have passed PA 281.”

Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has tried several times to delist Great Lakes gray wolves, the courts have reversed each attempt. For now, wolves remain classified as endangered and are therefore federally protected in Michigan, which is in line with the will of the Michigan voters.

Further Reading:

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Animal Protection Coalition Urges USDA To Protect Consumers


Posted by on December 5, 2016

Newly Proposed Meat Labeling Guideline Encourages Misleading Industry Practices

Contact: Natalia Lima, nlima@aldf.org, 201 679 7088

SAN FRANCISCO – The Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Compassion Over Killing (COK), representing more than 6 million members and supporters, have submitted a joint comment today, as the comment period closes, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sharply criticizing the agency’s “Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submissions,” released in September. Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly critical, and today’s joint comment from the animal protection coalition leads the outcry.

The comment argues that FSIS’ Guideline violates the law by enabling—even encouraging—rampant consumer deception. Instead of defining a baseline standard for commonly used consumer-attracting animal product labels, like “humane,” “free-range,” and “raised without antibiotics,” the Guideline allows each company to define the terms based on their own interpretation and their internal company policies—and doesn’t even require that these policies be made public. This creates confusion and inconsistency for consumers across the market, and an open invitation for companies to mislead customers who have a reasonable expectation of what certain terms and claims mean.

The Guideline effectively renders any and all animal raising claims meaningless. It allows producers that use standard, industrial production methods to make “humane” or “animal-friendly” claims, while hindering producers that have actually instituted strict standards that come closer to satisfying consumer expectations and likely misleading the large percentage of conscious consumers who are willing to pay extra for products they believe are raised more humanely.

“The USDA’s approach blatantly violates its statutory duty to protect consumers,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges the agency to take steps that genuinely ensure animal products’ and by-products’ labels clarify and inform purchasers, not mislead the public.”

“Without any authority to go onto farms to see for itself how animals are being treated,” says Jared Goodman, the PETA Foundation’s Director of Animal Law, “the USDA has all but guaranteed that it will continue to approve ‘humane’ labels where portions of birds’ beaks and pigs’ tails are cut off and animals live their entire lives indoors without enrichment before being roughly rounded up and loaded onto a truck for a terrifying transportation to a violent death.”

“FSIS is taking a step in the wrong direction with this Guideline, which violates the agency’s own statutory mandates and allows producers to use inconsistent claims that will mislead consumers who care about animal welfare,” says Cheryl Leahy, General Counsel for Compassion Over Killing.

The comment is just one voice in a loud outcry against the USDA’s label giveaway to the animal slaughter and by-product industry. An online petition from PETA has garnered more than 36,000 signatures, and public interest organizations of many constituencies have weighed in with opposition to FSIS’ industry-friendly proposal.

For more information, please visit aldf.org.

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