Howling for Coyotes
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on August 15, 2014
Coyotes are wild “song dogs” known for their beautiful howls and their importance to diverse wild lands. Like dogs, their gentle, affectionate nature and the role they play in their habitat is fascinating. Yet, like wolves, they are slaughtered en masse because of mistaken cultural myths and legal loopholes. From a love of outdoors, time spent working in a national park, and my own experience living in the country amongst coyotes, I know them to be incredibly playful awe-inspiring wild animals with a profound intelligence and sense of family. That’s why I’m proud of the work the Animal Legal Defense Fund does to help protect coyotes and other native predators.
These song dogs (their official name is canis latrans, or “talking dog”) are pack animals, like wolves, domestic dogs, and humans. Coyotes mate for life and live in family structures with a dominant mom and dad and extended family. They create elaborate dens within circular territories so they can better protect their pups. Coyotes are small, weighing between 35-45lbs, depending upon geography and season. Contrary to popular myth which demonizes them, coyotes are very shy animals—and they are a “keystone species” which means their presence impacts the entire ecosystem they belong to. Remove these animals in savage, haphazard ways and everyone suffers.
Yet coyotes can be killed without limitation in California and Oregon and nearly every other state. In fact, in the Pacific Northwest, coyotes are treated like garbage by the courts, which considers them “vermin.” There are little to no bag limits, no seasons, and, thanks to the abuse of legal loopholes, groups find ways to hold blood bath “killing contests” with large cash prizes to see who can kill the most of this beloved but maligned song dog. Working with Project Coyote, ALDF recently shut down an Oregon coyote killing contest and is in support of a proposed ban that would end predator killing contests in California permanently. Right now, you can help protect coyotes in Idaho from a killing contest bloodbath by leaving a public comment with the Bureau of Land Management.
Whether for their fundamental beauty, their cultural heritage as “trickster” in native communities, their dog-like, wolf-like complex family and social relationships, their intelligence, their playfulness, their importance to wild habitats, or for the simple fact that killing contests are dangerous and barbaric, the fact that these contests continue across our country every year is shocking.
But that’s not all humans do to coyotes. ALDF has long fought coyote and fox “penning” facilities. Penning is the practice of capturing wild animals to use as bait to train dogs to kill on hunts. Coyotes and foxes are trapped in leghold traps or snares, sold to penning facilities, where they are released into a small pen by hunting dogs who tear them to pieces for practice. Penning is legal in nearly 20 states.
Coyotes are persecuted on an even more regular basis too. ALDF, along with a strong coalition of conservation groups, is working hard to challenge the federal agency known as “Wildlife Services” and its war on native wildlife. Wildlife Services has become essentially a taxpayer-funded killing agency, recklessly killing coyotes and other animals on public lands at the behest of private ranchers. And that’s where much of the negative, inaccurate lore about coyotes comes from: the introduction of ranching.
Wildlife Services, much like killing contests, traps and kills coyotes haphazardly. The government agency kills millions of animals each year, spending more than $100 million to do so—killing tens of thousands of “non-target” animals and endangered species as well. In the past 14 years, they’ve killed more than a million coyotes. Their standard methods are inhumane and ineffective—despite the holocaust of coyote slaughter by this agency, and the suffering they’ve caused to sentient beings, the coyote population has tripled. Any wildlife agency worth its salt knows that killing coyotes leads to increased procreation. When left alone, coyotes regulate their own populations and help keep our wild places in working order. ALDF’s coalition and campaign shows ranchers that nonlethal predator control, and coexistence with native wildlife, is best for everyone. Marin County, California, for example, replaced Wildlife Services with nonlethal predator control and coyote predation was actually reduced by more than 60%.
Wildlife Services has also been in the news because multiple employees have been caught torturing trapped coyotes. And that brings us to another part of the coyote’s sad saga. Coyotes, as shy, small, playful wild dogs, are vulnerable to the depraved minds that enjoy torturing beings who can’t protect themselves. Just last week, ALDF, along with the Animal Rescue Team, offered a cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator who tied and likely tortured a 6lb female coyote pup.
The way some humans treat animals often breaks our hearts—and our laws. The way some treat apex predators like our wild song dogs—coyotes and wolves–is also a pox on our cultural history and our inability to coexist with wildlife. But it’s something we can remedy with better understanding and better animal protection laws.
NYPD’s Anti-Cruelty Initiative a Success
Posted by Christopher Wlach, ALDF Guest Blogger on August 12, 2014
The NYPD’s recent anti-cruelty initiative has, for many of New York’s animals, been a success. Since the initiative’s launch in January 1, 2014, cruelty investigations have nearly tripled in the city, with the NYPD now taking the lead in responding to complaints. Just last week, for instance, the NYPD’s newly-formed Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad rescued 20 pit bulls from brutal living conditions in Queens, NY.
These increased enforcement efforts represent a positive step toward stopping animal abuse. But New York’s anti-cruelty laws aren’t just for protecting dogs and cats—they protect horses too. Yet how the NYPD’s anti-cruelty initiative is dealing with New York’s carriage horses remains uncertain.
This uncertainty is nothing new. Back in October 2012, ALDF was concerned that the NYPD was not fulfilling its duties to enforce various statutes and regulations protecting carriage horses. ALDF therefore used New York’s Freedom of Information Law—“FOIL” for short—to request enforcement records. FOIL sets up a simple process for obtaining government records: you describe the records you want to a government agency; and unless an exception applies, the agency has to provide them. Yet despite the clear wording of ALDF’s request, the NYPD initially denied that it had any responsive records about carriage horses. And when the NYPD maintained this position on appeal, ALDF was forced to challenge the NYPD in court. After a hearing, a New York judge agreed with ALDF that the NYPD’s professed lack of records was “just hard to believe.” He ordered the NYPD to produce its various enforcement records.
ALDF’s successful FOIL suit underscores the importance of “the people’s right to know”—a right that not only lies at the heart of New York’s Freedom of information Law but also is closely linked to carriage horses’ welfare: without a meaningful right to review NYPD records, the public can’t know whether the NYPD is actually enforcing the laws protecting New York’s carriage horses.
And while the NYPD’s enforcement partnership with the ASPCA appears to be yielding positive results for many animals, it’s still uncertain whether New York’s carriage horses are seeing the partnership’s benefits. With the NYPD now helming anti-cruelty investigations, the ASPCA has disbanded its own Humane Law Enforcement division. It is unclear, however, whether the NYPD has also taken over the division’s enforcement of carriage horse laws—for instance, alerting Central Park drivers to carriage traffic and ensuring that horses are not working in excessive heat. Indeed, recent incidents suggest that enforcement may be lax.
The NYPD/ASPCA anti-cruelty partnership is promising. But it’s important that carriage horses not be left behind. To that end, public inquiry—including through requests under New York’s Freedom of Information Law—provides an essential mechanism for ensuring that the laws protecting carriage horses are not just on the books, but enforced in practice.
Christopher Wlach is an attorney at the New York office of Winston & Strawn LLP, which represented ALDF pro bono in this matter. The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect the views of Winston & Strawn LLP, its management or employees.
Two Great Legal Victories for Animals in Oregon
Posted by Scott Heiser, Director and Lora Dunn, Staff Attorney, Criminal Justice Program on August 11, 2014
August 7 was a busy day for animal lawyers in that the Oregon Supreme Court issued two important decisions: (1) State v. Nix, affirming the Oregon Court of Appeals decision by holding that animals who are abused by their owners are “victims” of those crimes, at least for sentencing purposes; and (2) State v. Fessenden/Dicke, ruling that the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement can apply to animal cruelty victims in imminent harm. ALDF had filed amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in the Court of Appeals in Nix and in the Oregon Supreme Court in Fessenden/Dicke. In the latter, we were joined by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA).
The Nix opinion tracks the logic of the Court of Appeals in large part and stands as a pillar for those who demand that our justice system recognizes animals as more than mere property by specifically holding that, for the purposes of Oregon’s anti-merger statute, ORS 161.067(2), animals abused by their owners are “victims.” The Court rooted its decision in legislative precedent and intent, finding that the Legislature’s goal in enacting the modern second-degree animal neglect statute, ORS 167.325, was “the treatment of individual animals, not harm to the public generally or harm to the owners of the animals.” Because the Oregon Legislature “regarded those animals [suffering from neglect] as the ‘victims’ of the offense,” the Court concluded that animals were likewise victims for purposes of merger. In reaching this conclusion, the Court cited the fact that ALDF funds a full-time, statewide prosecutor who is dedicated to handling only animal abuse cases in Oregon.
In State v. Fessenden/Dicke, the Court was exceptionally cautious in its approach, though it did ultimately reach the correct result. The Court found that an officer can seize an animal without a warrant when that officer has probable cause to believe the animal is a victim of cruelty and immediate action is necessary to prevent further imminent harm to the animal. In so ruling, the Court determined, for the first time in Oregon, that the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement under both the Oregon Constitution (Article I, Section 9) and the Fourth Amendment can apply to cases involving animal victims. In reaching its conclusion, the Court noted—just as ALDF had in its amicus brief—that other states already allow such warrantless seizure to prevent serious injury caused by criminal activity, including California, Montana, and Texas. However, in a disappointing move, the Court declined to decide whether the emergency aid exception applies to animals—an exception similar to the exigent circumstances exception in that it allows warrantless entry to save life, but does not require probable cause—even though the Court of Appeals had extended the emergency aid exception to animal life.
Significantly, the Court soundly rejected defendants’ contention that animal protection laws exist solely for human benefit; while animals are property, said the Court, today Oregon has one of the most comprehensive schemes of animal protection that was clearly enacted to protect animal victims, regardless of ownership. In emphasizing the strength of Oregon’s laws, the Court cited ALDF’s Rankings Report and the Legislature’s finding that “animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear” as evidence of the ongoing evolution of the legal status of animals (legislation ALDF had help to draft and pass in 2013).
The facts of Fessenden/Dicke presented a clear case of imminent harm caused by criminal neglect: A veteran officer, experienced in animal cruelty cases, determined that the extremely emaciated horse required immediate seizure to survive and that there was not adequate time to obtain a warrant before the seizure. Based on the officer’s experience and his reasonable belief that the horse was a victim of cruelty, the Court ruled that his seizure of the dying horse was lawful under the exigent circumstances exception. The Court was careful to apply this exception to these specific facts, but explained that other circumstances may also trigger a similar application of the exception.
Our thanks and congratulations to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon Solicitor General Anna Joyce and Assistant Attorneys General Jamie Contreras and Pamela Walsh for their excellent work on these two important cases. Additionally, ALDF is so very grateful for the brilliant work of Virginia Coleman who was instrumental in preparing our amicus brief, and for the support of David LaBahn of the APA and Allie Philips of the NDAA in joining ALDF on this appeal.
Consumers Win, Meat Producers Lose in Federal Labeling Case
Posted by Daniel Lutz, ALDF Litigation Fellow on July 29, 2014
Today, in American Meat Institute v. U.S. Department of Agriculture the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a USDA regulation requiring meat retailers to disclose country-of-origin information on labels for consumers, or “COOL.” In a significant victory for consumer access to information, the appellate court found that there is substantial governmental value in labels that help consumers avoid outbreaks of disease. The decision also clears a path for an ALDF petition to require labeling of meat that comes from animals dosed with antibiotics.
This important case took a circuitous route to the full, or en banc, D.C. Circuit court. Meat producers challenged the rules, arguing that mandatory labeling violated their free speech rights. The district court and appellate panel rejected the meat industry’s challenge. With an eye towards our antibiotics labeling advocacy, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with the Center for Food Safety submitted an amicus brief in support of the constitutional validity of the regulation. In line with ALDF and CFS’s arguments, the en banc court decided that public health justifies mandatory labels.
As the court wrote, there is a substantial interest in “enabling customers to make informed choices based on characteristics of the products they wished to purchase, including United States supervision of the entire production process for health and hygiene.” The D.C. Circuit’s opinion recognizes the heightened importance of labeling the health risks inherent in meat, and provides all the more reason to urge the USDA to grant ALDF’s petition to require labels on meat and poultry from animals given “subtherapeutic” antibiotics.
Consumers who eat (and feed their children) meat and poultry have no way of knowing if it comes from an animal who was given subtherapeutic antibiotics—dosed out preemptively to animals on factory farms due to the rampant illness that intensive confinement can foster—and that’s why ALDF is demanding the government place labels on meat products.
Consumers have a right to make informed decisions—and animals have rights to live in conditions that don’t require mass doses of medicine simply to survive. A Change.org petition to require labeling on meat from animals fed antibiotics has surpassed 150,000 signatures. This petition supports ALDF’s request to the USDA to protect the public from a “superbug” crisis resulting from standard industry practices at factory farms. Help us spread the word by signing here.
Winning the Case against a Coyote Killing Contest
Posted by Jessica Blome, ALDF Staff Attorney on July 25, 2014
ALDF has just settled an important case and shut down an illegal gambling operation and coyote killing contest. I learned about Duane Freilino’s coyote killing contest in early January, 2013—when I was just beginning week 32 of my pregnancy. As part of an annual tradition, Freilino planned to host a three-day coyote killing spree in the high desert of Harney County, Oregon. The winners of Freilino’s contest—the hunter who killed the most coyotes in three days; the hunter who killed the largest male coyote; the child who killed the most coyotes—would win thousands of dollars in cash prizes, an automatic rifle, and bragging rights. Moreover, hunters would place bets on who they thought would advance in a Caclutta-style hunting auction designed to encourage hunters to kill.
Photographs of the previous seven contests depicted smiling hunters garnishing automatic rifles atop piles of coyote carcasses. The very idea sickened me: What right do we have to kill a class of animals en masse simply for fun? What effect would the mass killing of a single species have on the delicate balance that is ecosystem self-management? What about the coyote’s right to peaceful coexistence?
After some research, I learned coyotes can be killed anytime without limit in Oregon—an injustice that is common in nearly every state. However, the Oregon General Assembly has decided that gambling is a public nuisance as a matter of law. Two weeks after learning about Freilino’s plan, ALDF, Project Coyote, and its members asked the judge to stop Freilino’s coyote killing contest because killing for prizes and betting on those winners is gambling—whether the instrument of risk is a poker chip or a rifle.
Determined to stop the kills, the week of the contest we raced up to Oregon to file the temporary restraining order. At nearly nine months pregnant, I flew up on a tiny little plane, drove four hours through the high desert without cell service or gas station, and then had to stay in a remote rural town. But the trip was worth it in the end because the judge agreed the lawsuit had legal merit.
After that initial hearing, Freilino countersued ALDF, Project Coyote, and their members on meritless grounds for $100,000. ALDF responded quickly by filing a motion to strike Freilino’s counter lawsuit because Freilino’s only purpose was to stifle ALDF’s First Amendment right to challenge his killing contest in court.
Freilino learned that suing charities based on unfounded accusations violates those charities’ First Amendment rights to free speech and public participation. Ultimately, Freilino’s frivolous countersuit cost him more than $5,000 in attorney’s fees and a lifetime ban on hunting contests. In the aftermath of our victory, I hope hunters planning participate in similar killing contests heed this serious lesson.
Animal Law: A World Phenomenon!
Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on July 16, 2014
The Second Global Animal Law Conference has just concluded in Barcelona, Spain, and I was honored to represent the Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”), one of the main sponsors of this historic event. I spoke to the audience about how successful social movements use three interdependent approaches: litigation, legislation and public outreach (education), and how animal protection litigation is creating broad-based changes in the U.S., as well as in other countries.
This was a truly international gathering, bringing together participants from China, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, England, Spain, France, Germany, U.S., Canada, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Italy, Austria, Argentina, and several other nations.
The major themes rising to the surface were that almost every country’s laws are based on the concept that animals are “things” and resources to be used at-will by humans. This fosters the mass amount of suffering that the law does little or nothing to stop. No jurisdiction anywhere in the world currently deals adequately with the basic problems faced by animals. Not surprisingly, the industries that exploit animals are in control of the laws, the codes, the regulations—or lack thereof—and they are always looking for ways to silence their critics. Interestingly, ag-gag, addressed by law professor and ALDF board member, David Cassuto, was a topic of great interest to this international audience.
Listening to each panelist, I was inspired by the great social and cultural diversity represented in that room: we come from different cultures, religions, races, and yet we have common ground in our shared understanding of the enormity of the problems we face in trying to protect animals from largely unregulated suffering. The good news is that our colleagues from different parts of the world are completely committed and passionate about improving the lives of animals.
The question arose, as it always does, about how much we ought to focus on welfare/protection and how much on rights. And, we reviewed the challenges: how do we strengthen animal protection laws and gain basic legal rights for all sentient beings? How do we win more of the battles? It is not enough to be right; we must be strategic.
It was heartwarming for me to share this special experience with two old friends who served on the Board of Directors of ALDF for many years, and have worked to build ALDF as well as the field of animal law: Professor David Favre and renowned author, Steven Wise. In the earliest days of ALDF, when there was just a small group of us, we could not have imagined that someday, animal law would become a worldwide phenomenon. Dear friends and colleagues, Pamela Frasch, dean of the animal law program at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Kim Stallwood, author of the newly released book, Growl, added depth to the conference.
Conferences such as this provide me with the opportunity to reconnect with remarkable leaders, such as Professor Song Wei, champion of animal protection in China, and Professors Deborah Cao and Alex Bruce, who are defining the field in Australia. I was also delighted to make new friends, such as Assistant Professor Maria Baideldinova, who has introduced the first ever animal law course in Kazakhstan, and generally has 80+ students in her class. At dinner, Maria and I compared notes on our approaches to teaching animal law. Presentations by younger scholars, such as Moe Honjo of Japan and Lois Lelanchon of France, reminded me that the future of animal law is in very capable hands.
Muchas gracias to Professor Marita Gimenez-Candela, who has introduced and championed the study of animal law in Spain, and who arranged for the conference to be hosted at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, where she directs the first European master’s program in animal law and society. Equal thanks to David Favre and Pamela Frasch, who worked closely with Marita over the past year to bring this prestigious event together. They even managed to get the Mayor of Barcelona to officially welcome our attendees and the subject of animal law to the City of Barcelona!
Animal law is no longer solely an American movement. There is enormous value to holding international conferences in which the challenges and advances in animal law are discussed and shared, and at the end of the conference, we committed, as a group to meet again at least every four years. Viva Animal Law!
Demand Labeling to Prevent Superbug Crisis
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on July 14, 2014
Did you know that nearly 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to animals on factory farms before they’re even sick? Crowding and filth in factory farms creates conditions where animals need medicine to keep them alive before slaughter. This mass usage of antibiotics in animal agriculture means antibiotic resistant “superbugs”—bacteria that can’t be killed by our common medicines. These superbugs could be the number one public health crisis facing us today.
Consumers who eat (and feed their children) meat and poultry have no way of knowing if it comes from an animal who was given pre-emptive antibiotics, and that’s why ALDF is demanding the government place labels on meat products. Consumers have a right to make informed decisions—and animals have rights to live in conditions that don’t require mass doses of medicine simply to survive. A Change.org petition to require labeling on meat from animals fed antibiotics is approaching 150,000 signatures—help it get there by signing here. This petition supports ALDF’s request to the USDA to protect the public from a “superbug” crisis from factory farms by labeling meat and poultry.
Tightly packed spaces and unsanitary conditions on factory farms mean mass usage of antibiotics. Intensive confinement like this weakens immune systems and causes immense physiological stress. Instead of making conditions better, producers give drugs to animals to prevent the outbreak of disease and to speed an animal’s hormonal growth to “slaughter weight” more cheaply by using less food. That meat may end up in school lunches or family suppers. Studies show that antibiotic-resistant epidemics of E. coli and salmonella may start from just this origin. Yet the ag industry isn’t required to disclose its use of antibiotics to consumers!
Labeling is how consumers understand what they are purchasing and feeding their families. Food safety information helps consumers make better choices, and it’s up to the USDA to empower us with the ability to make these decisions. Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation, explains:
Millions of animals are being harmed and consumers misled by this failure to accurately label food products—and this is a matter critical to public and animal health.
Write or call your Congressional representative and ask them to support ALDF’s petition by urging the USDA to protect the public with clear food labels.
Heroes and Criminals: Reporting Animal Abuse in 2014
Posted by Shelley Rizzotti, Vice Chair, ALDF-LA on July 3, 2014
Two boys, ages 12 and 17, watched their neighbor from their second story window bludgeon a defenseless cocker spaniel “Mookie” with a pipe-like object. Mookie was confined to a tiny pen with nowhere to escape. The children watched the attack long enough to film it with a cell phone so they would have proof to show authorities—one of the boys being heard to say “I’m sorry, doggie” as the dog cried during the filming. When the abuser initially denied hitting the animal, the children were called heroes for having captured the abuse on video—video that was critical to ensure authorities had evidence to pursue criminal charges against the abuser. Authorities were grateful.
A young woman, in her early 20’s, watched men from the side of a public road rake a living cow across the ground with a piece of heavy machinery that looked like a bulldozer. The animal was unable to stand up, unable to get away. The young woman watched the men hurt the animal and like the boys, filmed it. It was proof that the animal was being abused. Instead of authorities thanking her though, and saying how brave she was to watch the abuse long enough to film it, they were only focused on where she was standing when she filmed the abuse, not that the helpless animal was being abused. Authorities were not grateful. Authorities filed criminal charges against her (that were ultimately dismissed).
Would the young woman have been treated differently if she had been age 5, 10, 17, filming the abuse, instead of an adult? Lauded a hero like the boys if she had been a little girl with bows in her hair crying because the animal was being hurt? Would she have been threatened by the slaughterhouse manager and law enforcement if she was a child and had parents there with her? Would that have made a difference in the way she was treated? Would things have been different if the animal being scraped with the bulldozer was a dog, instead of a cow? Would things have been different if the animal was going to be a pet versus going to be food?
The bottom line is that whether animal abuse is recorded by a child or an adult, an immigrant worker or one undercover—whether the abuse is of a companion animal or an animal in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), abuse, is abuse, is abuse. Anyone who reports it, especially those who can endure seeing it long enough to film it, and film it long enough to build a case against it (however long that may be), is a hero, not a criminal.
Legally Brief: Animal Bill of Rights
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on July 3, 2014
Each Fourth of July in the United States, we celebrate our freedom and our independence—our legal “rights” are a point of pride. The Animal Legal Defense Fund advocates for nonhuman animals to also receive the full protection of the law as a right.
Without legal protection, animals are defenseless against exploitation and abuse by humans. From the shameful treatment of exotic animals—like Ben the Bear and Tony the Tiger—who have been imprisoned in roadside cages, to wildlife who are penned, hounded, trapped, shot, and terrorized, to the dogs savagely torn apart for profit in dogfighting rings, to puppies treated like disposable machines in puppy mills, to ducks force-fed to the point of disease so people can eat gourmet treats, to the animals confined by hoarders in the most horrifying of conditions.
This Fourth of July, ALDF urges you to sign the Animal Bill of Rights and encourage your representatives to pass legislation that gives animals the rights they deserve:
- The Right of animals to be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse.
- The Right of laboratory animals not to be used in cruel or unnecessary experiments.
- The Right of farm animals to an environment that satisfies their basic physical and psychological needs.
- The Right of companion animals to a healthy diet, protective shelter, and adequate medical care.
- The Right of wildlife to a natural habitat, ecologically sufficient to a normal existence and self-sustaining species population.
- The Right of animals to have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the land.
Across the nation, people are signing the Animal Bill of Rights to show a groundswell of support for laws that protect animals. ALDF is aiming for ONE MILLION SIGNATURES. If you haven’t yet joined the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed the Animal Bill of Rights—please take action now. Let our elected officials know we need stronger laws to protect the basic needs of animals—and provide justice for those who are abused and exploited.
Watch ALDF’s Animal Bill of Rights Video, which has aired more than 3,000 times across the country in just over two months.
Joshua Horwitz – War of the Whales
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on July 1, 2014
When science author Joshua Horwitz first came across a lawsuit filed by an environmental lawyer against the U.S. Navy, he knew he had a found an untold story. That story has become a brand new book (from Simon & Schuster) called The War of the Whales. As he explains, the “war of the whales” refers to the conflict between the safety of marine life and the Navy’s use of lethal sonar training exercises that impact the ocean’s animals for hundreds of miles.
The clash of national security with animal and environmental advocacy makes this book a compelling narrative, and it is a story that continues in the courtroom today with ALDF’s lawsuit (along with the Natural Resources Defense Council) against the U.S. Navy. Horwitz explains, “Number one, all of the lawsuits—including the current one that ALDF is party to—all they want to do is limit peace-time training and exercises. In a war situation… obviously the Navy needs to protect its people and protect the country. However, whales and dolphins shouldn’t have to die for practice. You don’t need to train in known marine habitats. That’s the position of NRDC and ALDF in this, and it’s a self-evident position.”
War of the Whales follows two very different advocates for whales: NRDC senior attorney Joel Reynolds and Navy veteran and whale researcher Ken Balcomb. Because of the secrecy inherent to military procedures,naval sonar expert Ken Balcomb provides valuable insights into Navy operations. Together, Balcomb and Reynolds brought forth a lawsuit in the 1990s to compel the Navy to tell the truth about acoustic warfare activities and the impact these tests have on marine life. A lower court ruled against the Navy, but the Bush administration overturned that decision by executive order, claiming national security issues were at stake. NRDC did not give up, and that case reached the Supreme Court in 2008. The higher court ruled that protection of the public interest came from “securing the strongest military defense rather than in enforcing marine mammal protection.” However, the case invoked further comprehensive environmental research on the topic. Thanks to NRDC’s lawsuit, such studies are required and often funded by the Office of Naval Research.
Along with the NRDC, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is currently involved with a similar lawsuit against the U.S. Navy for amplifying its sonar testing program. ALDF and NRDC allege that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) illegally granted the Navy permission to harm marine mammals nearly ten million times off the coast of southern California and Hawaii during the 2013-2018 “training” period. In the Navy’s own environmental review, the Navy estimates that its activities will cause 9.6 million “takes” (or harms), including thousands of instances of permanent hearing loss as well as temporary hearing loss for millions of dolphins and whales, including beaked whales and endangered blue whales. This is more than a 1000% increase from the previous five year period—which was already under question by environmental and animal advocates in the lawsuit featured in War of the Whales.
The public is growing increasingly aware of issues that affect whales and orcas–from the environmental issues presented in War of the Whales to the issues of captivity raised in the documentary film Blackfish. Horwitz says “My biggest hope for the book is that general readers will become aware of how their tax dollars are being spent in ways that threaten endangered species like whales and other marine mammals—and to activate through organizations like ALDF.”
Joshua Horwitz has worked for decades with humane, environmental, and animal groups—including ALDF—and he is cofounder and publisher of Living Planet Books. For more information, visit warofthewhales.com. War of the Whales comes out today, July 1.
Read the longer interview with author Joshua Horwitz and case study of War of the Whales here.
Dogs in Hot Cars Need You
Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF Online Editor on July 1, 2014
We have all seen the sad story in the news about a neglectful dog owner who goes into a store “just for a minute” and returns to find his dog dead inside the car, where, on hot days, interior temperatures can reach over 160 degrees in just ten minutes. In happier endings, the police arrive to smash the car window to rescue the dog in time.
Each year as summer approaches, ALDF does our best to help prevent these avoidable cases of negligence—and this year, our supporters played a bigger-than-ever part in spreading the word! Our May Facebook post about dogs in hot cars reached over 43 million newsfeeds, and it was shared over a million times. It was heartening to see so many people take up the cause with such enthusiasm—and now you can join us in continuing this campaign!
By taking action today, you can keep your own car cool while delivering the message directly to your local parking lots. We designed our new Dogs in Hot Cars Sunshade so you can make a bold statement wherever you park. The design reminds people passing by that cars can be lethal to dogs, even on seemingly mild days. The lettering is large enough to be seen from across the lot, and urges people to call 911 to report trapped dogs, sending a message to the authorities that overheating is indeed an emergency for our canine friends.
Order yours today! Your purchase helps support ALDF and the lifesaving work that we do.
You can also take action in one of the following ways:
Animals Need Lawyers—and Animals Need You!
Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF Online Editor on June 27, 2014
ALDF works though the legal system to improve the lives of animals. We file lawsuits, we advise lawmakers, we help catch animal abusers, and we educate the next generation of animal lawyers—all with the goal of protecting animals.
When people are faced with the animal suffering ALDF works so hard to eliminate, we always get the same question. What can I do? The answer? A lot.
You certainly don’t need a law degree to help animals. Do you rescue dogs? Have you adopted a companion animal? Thank you for all that you do! We know how hard animal lovers work to help animals.
Now join us in taking another step to protect animals from harm! We have created a comprehensive Cruelty-Free Resource Guide to help show you what you can do to protect animals through the daily choices you make. The good news is that it’s easier now than it ever has been before to make animal-friendly choices about what you eat, what you wear, and how you live. Check out our Cruelty-Free Resource Guide for great tips, recipes, personal care products, and other resources to reduce your impact on animals.
It’s easy, and we’re here to help!
Spread the Word
I’m Running 52.4 Miles for Animals! They Are “Worth the Hurt”
Posted by Eileen Francisco, ALDF Guest Blogger on June 27, 2014
At midnight on Sunday, July 27, I will run the San Francisco “Worth the Hurt” double marathon. I will run through the city’s dark and extremely hilly streets for 26.2 miles. As soon as I cross the finish line, I’ll run the same marathon course again. That’s 52.4 miles of running—a challenge indeed—but I feel strongly that giving animals a voice in our legal system is worth this extreme effort. My run is nothing in comparison to the plight of suffering animals.
I’m running to benefit the Animal Legal Defense Fund: the only national organization dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.
Every day, the Animal Legal Defense Fund works to protect animals by:
- Filing groundbreaking lawsuits to stop animal abuse and expand the boundaries of animal law.
- Providing free legal assistance to prosecutors handling cruelty cases.
- Working to strengthen state anti-cruelty statutes.
- Encouraging the federal government to enforce existing animal protection laws.
- Nurturing the future of animal law through Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapters and our Animal Law Program.
- Providing public education through seminars, workshops and other outreach efforts.
Abusing an animal is wrong. Lasting change can only come when our laws reflect this. By working together, we can demand that society hold abusers accountable for their crimes.
Please help me raise $10,000. A tax deductible donation of any size—$10, $50 or $100—will help me get closer to my $10,000 goal and will make a big difference in the lives of animals.
I urge you to please make as generous a donation as you can. Your support is vital to saving millions of lives from needless suffering because of animal testing, factory farms and roadside entertainment.
From the bottoms of my heart and feet, I thank you for your generous support!
Captive Orcas Finally Have the Attention of Congress—but is the USDA Listening?
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on June 19, 2014
On June 11, 38 members of Congress penned a letter to Tom Vilsack—U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—demanding updated regulations for captive marine mammals. Current regulations do not take into account some dramatic improvements over the past several decades in our scientific understanding of the physical and psychological impact of confinement upon these highly intelligent and social animals.
For years, ALDF has been leading the fight to ensure better laws and enforcement for captive marine mammals. For example, an orca named Lolita has been housed in the smallest orca tank in North America at the Miami Seaquarium for more than four decades. Her tank fails to meet even the minimum requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—requirements already recognized as outdated and inadequate. In addition to being held in a tank that is far too small, Lolita has no shelter from the sun, and she hasn’t seen another orca for decades (in the wild, orcas like Lolita spend their entire lives with their mothers and swim up to 100 miles a day). Yet the USDA keeps renewing this theme park’s exhibitor’s license, and ALDF along with PETA filed a lawsuit to stop this renewal. Recently, ALDF also urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce safety regulations for Lolita and her trainer’s sake. There’s profit to be had in this billion dollar industry, but Lolita suffers for it.
For nearly two decades, the USDA has done little to nothing to update the AWA regulations for captive marine mammals: in 1995, the USDA convened a committee that failed to reach consensus on the most important regulations; in 2002, the USDA began the process of updating the remaining regulations, but has so far failed to do so; in 2010, SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by an orca named Tilikum in front of a horrified audience at a SeaWorld show, as highlighted in the documentary Blackfish.
Last week’s letter from members of Congress strongly urges the USDA to prioritize the revision of these regulations. For example, the letter asks that tank size, temperatures, and noise regulations (along with the impact of having trainers in the water and swim-with-the-dolphins programs) be modernized, “so that the updated science can be incorporated” and the agency can “provide the most updated and scientifically supported humane standards for captive marine mammals.”
Congress took another bold step last week, as Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) added an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Act that will provide one million dollars to study the effects of captivity on orcas, if the amendment survives the Senate and the bill becomes law.
ALDF will continue to fight for Lolita’s freedom and we applaud members of Congress who are calling upon the federal agency in charge of protecting captive animals—the USDA—to take action as well. After 20 years of delay, it is well past time for animals like Lolita and Tilikum to receive the legal protections they deserve. The Miami Seaquarium violates even the weakest, most outdated laws. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition to boycott SeaWorld and we encourage people to boycott marine mammal parks like SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium that treat these magnificent wild animals like amusement park sideshow attractions.
Kicking a Sick Pig When She’s Down
Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 18, 2014
On June 3, ALDF and a coalition of animal advocacy groups submitted a petition to the USDA requesting that so-called “downer” pigs—who are too sick, weak, or injured to walk to their slaughter—be removed from the human food supply.
Slaughtering downer animals for food has disastrous animal welfare consequences. Under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which aims to prevent needless suffering of animals, the USDA is obligated by Congressional mandate to ensure that animals raised for food are slaughtered humanely. Allowing products from downer animals to be sold after slaughter discourages compliance with this law. When animals are too weak to stand but can still be sold for food, slaughterhouse workers have an incentive to force those animals to stand, and to use abusive tactics to do so.
Undercover investigations at slaughter facilities have documented workers prodding, kicking, and even ramming weak animals with forklifts to force them to their feet. Additionally, workers can aggressively handle and injure even healthy animals, since wounded animals can be sold for profit. As a result, animal welfare expert Temple Grandin has recognized that “maintaining an adequate level of animal welfare at the plant level is impossible if the pigs are too weak to walk through the yards.”
From a food safety perspective, the inclusion of these animals in the food supply poses a risk to public health. Unhealthy animals sold for food are more likely to make consumers sick. For example, the USDA banned downer cows in 2009, presumably in part due to evidence that downer cows are more likely to be infected with “mad cow disease” that can be transmitted to humans who eat infected beef.
If producers are not financially rewarded for weak and injured animals, healthy animals are more likely to be treated humanely—sick animals will be humanely euthanized, not turned into food. The USDA has already recognized this very fact when they recently granted a petition to prohibit the slaughter of downer veal calves, stating that such a ban would “better ensure humane handling” at slaughterhouses.
The USDA has an abysmal record of enforcing the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, not least because there are too few inspectors for the enormous task of overseeing the slaughter of more than nine billion animals every year. Granting this petition would allow USDA to focus on the humane treatment of healthy animals, as well as ensure a better food supply for consumers.
Click here to take action by asking the USDA to act on the coalition’s petition, 14-02.
For more information, please see ALDF’s Farmed Animals and the Law brochure.