ALDF Opens New Frontier for Animal Personhood as Scientists Create Human-Animal Chimeras

Posted by Christopher A. Berry, ALDF Staff Attorney on May 15, 2015


Chimpanzee HARE5 on left, humanized HARE5 on right, showing faster and bigger growth of the brain.

What are the legal implications for splicing human cells into nonhuman animals? When does an animal become a person—how much human material is required? Where do we draw the legal line? Cutting-edge research in “chimera” science blurs traditional morality and raises critical new questions. And human protection laws may provide the clues we need to solve this puzzle.

Many people would be surprised to discover that for more than a decade scientists have been creating human-animal chimeras by grafting human stem cells into animal bodies. This results in purely human cells replacing some of the animal parts. The effect of this process cannot be totally predicted, but is largely determined by the type of human stem cell, where the stem cells are grafted, and the youth of the animal. Scientists have also been creating transgenic human-animal creatures where human DNA is added to an animal’s genetic sequence. A traditional use of these chimeric and transgenic creatures involves grafting human immune cells into mouse bodies because this is thought to produce more accurate results in biomedical research that uses the mice to study human diseases. But a string of recent revolutionary new research involves humanizing animal brains, resulting in chimeras and transgenics with significantly enhanced cognitive abilities.

In one study from 2013, researchers implanted human glial progenitor cells—a type of brain cell that supports neurons in the brain and contributes to cognitive function—into mice brains, causing a significant increase in mouse learning ability and change in behavior. In another example from 2014, researchers replaced an animal gene with the human FOXP2 gene which is understood to be strongly associated with human language ability. Remarkably, the researchers found that the mice with the humanized FOXP2 gene learned certain information faster than their non-humanized litter mates. Other published experiments have resulted in human glial progenitor cells completely overtaking mice brains, and the human HARE5 gene causing mice to grow significantly enlarged brains. More dramatic experiments are already underway.

Shockingly, there are no laws generally regulating this type of research involving animals with humanized and augmented intelligence. There is no special oversight, no prohibition against creating apes or monkeys with humanized brains, and no requirement that any animals that might eventually exhibit human-like intelligence receive human-like rights. Thus, mere self-restraint holds researchers back from conducting research with even more moral ambiguity than the research already being done. A team that created chimeras where human glial progenitor cells completely overtook mouse brains said that they considered doing the experiment with monkeys but simply “decided not to” because of the ethical issues.

To fill this regulatory void, ALDF filed a formal rulemaking petition with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking that agency to enact regulations under the Public Health Services Act. The Public Health Services Act imposes a duty on HHS to protect the rights of human research subjects in all federally-supported research. 42 U.S.C. § 289. These protections include informed consent, assessment of risks and benefits, and equitable selection of subjects. 45 C.F.R. §§ 46.101, et seq. Specifically, ALDF’s rulemaking petition asks HHS to enact regulations that (1) require special oversight of all research involving human-animal chimeras and transgenics, and (2) require that animals exhibiting human-like intelligence as a result of those experiments be granted all protection normally given to human research subjects. HHS has until December 2017 to respond to ALDF’s petition.

While the adoption of ALDF’s rulemaking proposal helps promote the welfare of human-animal chimeras and transgenics by requiring additional oversight, the real value is in obtaining personhood status for those animals exhibiting human-like intelligence. As it stands now, the only member of the animal kingdom with personhood status is the human species. By compelling the legal system to recognize that biologically manipulated animals with human-like intelligence and at least a drop of human DNA ought to receive the same rights as human research subjects, we can build a bridge between rights for humans and rights for all the other animals.

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Joshua Horwitz – War of the Whales

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 14, 2015

war-of-the-whales-cover-200_newWhen 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—which this week won the 2015 PEN Literary Award for Science Writing. 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. For more on this topic, see ALDF’s resource The Case Against Navy Sonar and our coalition’s forward progress in a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy.

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 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.

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Legal Rights for Elephants

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on May 13, 2015


We’re obliterating African elephants, killing 96 of them every day: 100,000 in just three years. The reason is simple and familiar: human greed. Elephants have many wonderful qualities, yet they are being killed to supply their tusks to the ivory trade. And, despite the efforts of many great organizations, passionate advocates, and even some governments, the slaughter continues at an unprecedented pace, a pace that the elephant birth rate cannot keep up with. The result will be the extinction of African elephants within one decade.

For an optimist like me, this is a trying time. I’m losing hope. As long as we humans view African elephants as nothing more than a commercially useful body part, the mass slaughter will continue. And, time is quickly running out. Therefore, I propose that we radically change how we view, discuss and ultimately protect elephants.

My view of elephants has been influenced by the scientific studies that inform us that they are large brained, highly intelligent and sentient social beings with complex communication skills. One recent study showed that wild elephants distinguish the sound of bees from the sound of human voices, and communicate those distinctions to other members of their herd. They signal each other, not only that there is danger, but also to identify the type of danger, bees or humans.


Other scientists are recording that elephants form lifelong matriarchal family units, in which they teach their children everything they need to know to survive in the wild; that they cooperate with each other to solve problems, and that some of them suffer from PTSD. Anecdotal examples of elephants exhibiting compassion, both to their own kind and ours, abound.

One of my favorites is the story of an African elephant who accidentally injured a man in the bush, breaking his leg. Displaying the sort of empathy and intelligence that was once thought to be possessed only by humans, this elephant moved him out of the hot sun and placed him under a tree. Even though her own family moved on, she stayed with him for a day, until his villagers realized he was missing and came to rescue him. Once he was safe, the elephant moved on to rejoin her family.

Leading elephant expert, Joyce Poole, has observed that when elephants are ready to do a group charge, they look at each other to make sure everyone is ready, and after the charge, they celebrate, lifting their heads high into the air, clanking their tusks, and making trumpeting and rumbling noises.

If we can learn to see elephants as the remarkable individuals they are, then we will cease asking the question “what is the sustainable use of wild elephants?” All use, all exploitation must stop. I am part of a growing group of people who no longer view elephants as merely things, who recognize their extraordinary capacities, and who want to engage in a dialogue about completely altering the way we view and treat these wonderful beings. And, we need to start now, because, by the end of this day, another 96 will have died horribly and senselessly.

In an article appearing in the latest issue of the Quinnipiac Law Review, I argue that elephants must be granted legal rights. “In all legally relevant ways, elephants possess qualities that compel us to put aside convention and convenience, and to realize that for too long we have ignored and violated their rights. Elephants are not things. Legal systems which treat them as such are inherently flawed.”

Legal rights for elephants would enable us to codify and enforce broad new legal protections of their lives, well-being, and dignity. We could no longer exploit them, kill them, or use them for our own purposes. We would allow them to live out their natural lives, with their families, in their native lands. Now that would be something to rumble and trumpet about.

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Hawaii Poised to Become the First State to Ban Wild Animal Entertainment Acts

Posted by Davi Lang, ALDF Legislative Coordinator on May 12, 2015

Last week, Hawaii Governor David Ige announced his pledge to cease issuing permits for wild animal performances in the State of Hawaii. This would make Hawaii the first state in the U.S. to effectively ban wild animal entertainment acts.


Governor Ige’s announcement comes twenty years after the tragic incident in Honolulu involving an elephant named Tyke, who was trained and used by the notorious Hawthorn Corporation—an exhibitor with a lengthy history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act. Despite Tyke’s history of escapes and attacks, Hawthorn still provided her to be used in Circus International at the Neal Blaisdell Center in Honolulu in 1994. While in Honolulu, Tyke went on another rampage, trampling a groomer, killing a handler, and injuring a dozen bystanders on the streets of downtown Honolulu. Local police ended up opening fire on the panicked and frightened Tyke, who sustained 86 gunshot wounds before she finally collapsed. Tyke then suffered for another two hours as she slowly died on the street from her injuries. A new documentary about the incident, called Tyke the Elephant Outlaw, currently is appearing at major film festivals around the world.

Dozens of U.S. cities have banned the use of bullhooks and other cruel training devices, and some have banned exotic or wild animal performances altogether. Just last month, San Francisco became the largest U.S. city to enact such a ban, and a Pennsylvania state senator has introduced a similar ban on traveling exotic animal acts. According to company officials, such measures played a significant role in Ringling Bros. recent decision to phase out the use of elephants in its circus.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture plans to place the proposed policy change on its June agenda. But because that rulemaking process could take several months, Gov. Ige’s has ordered the Department of Agriculture to immediately deny all further permits for wild animal performances.

ALDF applauds Governor Ige for this progressive and compassionate decision to make Hawaii the first U.S. state to end the cruel and outdated practice of using wild and exotic animals for entertainment. Recognition is also due to those advocates and organizations on the ground who engage with decision-makers to lay the groundwork for such victories. ALDF will continue to assist in these efforts by employing all litigation and legislative means help to bring an end to all further use of animals in entertainment acts.

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Students Speak Up for Tony the Tiger

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 8, 2015

Animal lawyers aren’t the only ones roaring about cruelty to captive animals like Tony the tiger. Kids care too. Tony’s plight—being confined at a Louisiana truck stop parking lot—and ALDF’s ongoing legal battle to release him from that concrete nightmare got the attention of one awesome 4th grade class at Guilmette Elementary School in Massachusetts.


This spring, Ms. Buck’s 4th grade class used Tony’s cause to shape a persuasive writing and research project. Students were so excited about Tony, Ms. Buck says, the project “took on a life of its own.” Students created posters and circulated petitions as part of this project, and wrote letters to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, asking him to take Tony’s suffering seriously.

In particular, students were impressed by ALDF senior attorney Matthew Liebman’s work—Matthew has led Tony’s legal battle for years. Ms. Buck explains:

During their research, the students learned about the Animal Legal Defense Fund… as they read articles about Tony in which you were quoted. They suggested that I forward a sample of their work to you directly because they believe you will be supportive of their efforts.


The Animal Legal Defense Fund is touched and inspired by the dedication of these young advocates. Their letters urge fairness and humane treatment of animals like Tony, and his release to a reputable sanctuary. They also make persuasive arguments backed up with at least three points of solid evidence to prove their points and maintain a truly fair and balanced tone, appealing to the governor’s ethical and responsibility.

In conclusion, we respectfully ask you, Governor Jindal, to do what is right and fair. Hear our voice. –

Do you know how it feels to be locked up in a cage for 14 years? Tony does and that’s why I want Tony the Truck Stop Tiger to go to a sanctuary. –

[Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin] is threatening Tony’s and the public’s safety by keeping Tony. … In fact, Michael Sandlin got written up for “unsanitary feeding practices” by the USDA. –

Tony’s cage is like being locked up in jail. —


As Matthew told the children, “support from people like you keeps my spirits up and helps me keep fighting for his freedom. Your voices join thousands of people who are demanding that Tony be sent to a sanctuary. Sometimes, if enough people raise enough of a ruckus, things can change for the better. You should be proud of your contribution (and thankful you have a teacher who encourages this kind of civic participation). I hope Tony will one day be able to breathe clean air instead of diesel fumes and hear the grass rustling in the wind instead of the idling engines of trucks. Thanks for helping get him a step closer to that day!”

This outstanding class inspires each of us to keep fighting to protect animals. As Matthew says, “even though these battles can be frustrating and slow, don’t give up. The animals are counting on you to speak up for them. Your voice has power. Use it!”

Want to get your class involved in advocacy projects for animals? Check out ALDF’s brand-new youth advocacy action kit!

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Funding Justice: Cash in New York Crime Busts Goes to Fight Animal Cruelty

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 7, 2015


Animal victims of cruelty got a boost last week in Nassau County, New York when Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas pledged to use money from criminal cases to help protect animals. Forfeiture funds—the cash that criminals lose in cases—will pay for the medical care, boarding, rehabilitation, and rehoming of animals seized from harmful conditions by officers of the law in the prosecution of cruelty and the pursuit of justice. In a nod to fair play, doing so will also mean criminals, rather than taxpayers, will be footing the bill for animals abused by criminals.

Where does the money from forfeiture cases usually go? It depends on state law, but it is common to plug this money back into the system to fund other investigations.

But the cost of care for animal victims in criminal cases can, as all pet lovers can imagine, be extraordinary, especially when full-scale, life-saving procedures are required. This is often the case, given the problems of dogfighting, hoarding, and other horrific acts of cruelty.

“Municipal taxpayers should not have to pay for the senseless and criminal acts of another,” Acting DA Singas wrote in a letter sent to municipal leaders, shelter directors, and local police officials throughout Nassau County on April 28.

Acting DA Singas is also advocating for the passage of the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill as part of her office’s ongoing efforts to prosecute animal cruelty cases. In 2013, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office started a Council on Animal Protection & Safety in the county as a forum for local government and nonprofit agencies to coordinate on efforts to curtail and prosecute animal crimes.

But helping prosecute animal cruelty cases, which this funding will do, also allows for a greater crackdown on all violence in society. “Apart from the well-established social science link between violence against animals and violence against people,” wrote Acting DA Singas, “my office has also found that vigorous investigation and prosecution of animal crimes, most specifically dogfighting, exposes gang networks, narcotics rings, weapons trafficking activity, and other enterprise crimes.”

ALDF celebrates this compassionate choice by the acting district attorney and hopes her decision will serve as a model for other jurisdictions. “This is a good policy, pure and simple,” said Scott Heiser, director of ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program. “The money from these criminal enterprises will be allocated to help prosecutors serve justice to abusers and help other victims outside the district’s drug caseload.”

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Animal Cruelty? The Legal Way to Abuse a Chicken

Posted by Kelly Levenda, Staff Attorney on May 7, 2015

Many were horrified to learn of the recent “unconscionable act of animal cruelty” where four killers broke into a Foster Farms facility and massacred 920 chickens by beating them to death with a golf club and other weapons. Some wondered why, even though chickens are sentient and can feel pain, fear, and stress, they do not receive constant legal protection from harm. The U.S. legal system treats animals differently depending on how humans use those animals and whether society views that use as necessary or justified. The same animal can have different legal protections based on the context in which she is being used.


The four Foster Farms perpetrators were charged with criminal animal cruelty under the California anti-cruelty law, even though the chickens were slated to be slaughtered. While this act of killing almost one thousand chickens was considered a criminal act, the systematic, and many times inhumane, slaughter of almost 10 billion chickens every year for food is legal.

Chickens are not protected by the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which seeks to prevent inhumane slaughter by requiring some farmed animals to be rendered insensible to pain before they are slaughtered. During slaughter, chickens are shackled upside down on a moving rack and dragged through an electrified water bath that should stun them, but might only lead to paralysis. Because birds, including chickens, are not legally required to be slaughtered humanely, many are paralyzed but fully conscious and able to sense pain as their throats are slit. Some chickens are boiled alive by being dunked into a scalding hot tank of water to remove their feathers. (This practice is illegal, but not to protect animal welfare, only as a food safety violation.)

The slaughter of animals for food includes treatment that any reasonable person would consider cruel, but this treatment is not illegal under most criminal animal cruelty laws. Many states have expressly exempted the slaughter of animals used for food from their cruelty laws. Other states imply the exemption by only outlawing “unnecessary cruelty” to animals, in effect stating that slaughtering animals for food is “necessary” cruelty. But it’s not.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund believes all animals deserve protection, no matter the reasons for which humans use them, including animals raised for their meat, milk, or eggs. ALDF has sued a hatchery for their egregious abuse of chicks, supported California’s Prop 2, which outlawed cages for laying hens, and took an egg farm to court for abandoning 50,000 hens and allowing most to starve to death. We will keep fighting to protect all animals, including chickens, but the best way you can help is to adopt a compassionate plant-based diet.

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Interview with Karen Joy Fowler

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 5, 2015

Primates—their legal rights and their wellbeing—are in the news more than ever. Just this month, the USDA is considering ALDF’s petition to establish new standards of care for primates used in research, and the New York State Supreme Court is grappling with issues of legal personhood for chimpanzees. Meanwhile, ALDF is fighting the University of Wisconsin’s terror tests on baby monkeys. That’s just one of many reasons we were so excited to interview Karen Joy Fowler, author of the stunning novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, this month at Green Apple Books in San Francisco.


Three lucky winners will be chosen at random to receive a signed copy of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Enter now!

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is the story of a family’s grief after a chimpanzee who has become like family is removed and sent to a lab. “The idea for the book came from my daughter,” Karen explained. “My father worked in Indiana University when I was a child. He ran rats through mazes and he studied learning behavior.” Karen took her daughter back to the campus and later told her about the famous Winthrop Kellogg experiment which forms the basis of the novel. In that experiment, a chimpanzee named Gua was raised beside a human infant like a family member for nearly one year. Without explanation, Gua was removed from her surrogate human family and sent to the controversial, highly-secretive primate colony “Orange Park”. Karen’s daughter said “that should be your next book, mom.”

Although Karen was allowed in the rat lab as a child, she wasn’t allowed in the area where the monkeys were kept. One to a cage, the monkeys were separated; they could not touch each other. “As a small child it was clear to me that they were mad in every sense of the word. I’ll never know what was done to them but they are one of the reasons I wrote this book. I have spent my life haunted by those monkeys.”

Karen remembers Harry Harlow and his research. “He came to the lab and gave me a lemon drop. Later, when I read the details of what he was doing, it not only struck me as horrific but also–I don’t see what we’ve learned from that tragedy.” Exploiting animals in experiments is problematic, she continues. “I hope we can all agree that testing for cosmetics is an outrage. And the psychological testing I look at most in my book is not only outrageous in terms of the way the animals are treated but is also very suspect in terms of teaching us anything of value or anything we can be confident has any validity.”

Spoiler Alert: Reading this novel is a powerful experience too. It is a well-crafted story of sisterhood and brings light to the secretive world of animal testing. “The book is organized in such a way that it’s clear I intend you to be surprised about a third of the way through. My first person narrator justifies withholding this information because of the point she is trying to make – that the sister she has been telling you about is not a human child but a chimpanzee. “It’s still the story of a family, of a sister, of a lost sister.”

Writing this novel had an impact upon the author as well. “The argument I initially wished to make was that because primates are so human-like, they deserve to be treated in a more humane and human-like way. As I was writing the book, my feelings changed. I looked at more studies of animal cognition in different species. I asked myself why being human-like was the thing that mattered to me. Why did that mean that an animal deserved to be treated well? “

Premiere primatologist Frans De Waal, author of The Bonobo and the Atheist, says empathy is a primate behavior we come by naturally. “We don’t need a church, or our parents, or society telling us how to move morally through the world. With empathy as our guide, we know how we ought to behave,” Karen explains. “But we extend empathy only to those we think of like ourselves. Anyone we think of as ‘other’ we have an antipathy with, that is part of our primate nature.” We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a literary way of extending beyond that orbit of empathy to care about other species.


“As the title of my book suggests, I have come to think of one of the primary roles of literature and art being the extension of our sense of who is like us and therefore the extension of our empathy. As we read books we can think about what it would be like to be other people, to live in other cultures. I would like to go even further and have our empathy extend beyond our species. I would like a world in which we recognize that we are all completely beside ourselves.”

Chimpanzees are the animals we are closest to, genetically and in terms of recognizably human-like intelligence. But, “in the fast-moving field of animal cognition, we are learning that we have underestimated the creatures we share the planet with at every juncture and in every possible way. So in writing this book I started with a very human lens and have tried to grow beyond that.”

The painting for the cover of the book is by Congo, who lived most of his short life in the London Zoo, Karen Joy Fowler notes. “He left quite an astonishing body of work behind. I think it’s really beautiful and I hope other people think so too.”

Take Action

  • Sign the petition to end the unethical torture of baby monkeys at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • Take action on the USDA alert (to come)

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Three lucky winners will be chosen at random to receive a signed copy of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Enter now!

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Runaway Carriage Horse on Streets of St. Louis: ALDF Files Restraining Order Against Reckless Industry

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 1, 2015


ALDF has filed a request for a temporary restraining order against the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission after yet another horse ran wild through city streets, barely averting disaster. Downtown St. Louis was met with chaos last weekend after a runaway horse named Bud charged through city streets without his driver. Bud, who is forced to pull a carriage for the St. Louis Carriage Company, was surely terrified as he desperately galloped across the city, after his driver let go of his reigns. A collision would have meant disaster for automobiles and likely loss of life for Bud or members of the public.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been fighting hard to protect the city’s carriage horses from this cruel and dangerous industry. Together with local pro bono legal counsel and the St. Louis Animal Rights Team (START), ALDF has asked the court repeatedly to force the commission to protect horses from an industry with no oversight or concern for animal and human safety. Just last week, on April 22, ALDF had filed an amended petition to the court asking for enforcement of safety guidelines. Two days later, Bud broke free from his restraints and barreled through town, as captured in the video above.

These dangerous incidents are common to companies like the St. Louis Carriage Company. In statements released by local media reports, a spokesperson for the St. Louis Carriage Company claimed Bud, a one-ton horse fleeing at full gallop, was just a rare incident of a driver abandoning his horse. But just a few years ago, a driver for the same company was knocked off his carriage by a human assailant. That horse, Harry, also made a terrified bolt down the city’s urban landscape. And a witness to last weekend’s scare claims to have seen driverless horse carriages running through the city multiple times just this year.

Horses are easily frightened and confused by traffic and sudden noises. Many accidents result from horses spooking—and these accidents have caused serious (and sometimes fatal) injuries to horses, as well as public harm and destruction to property. Last December, ALDF filed a petition on behalf of START against the commission for failing to enforce regulations (section 608 of the Vehicle for Hire Code) against the carriage industry. Public records show the commission stopped enforcing regulations (including provisions for animal welfare) in 2013. ALDF urged the commission in July 2014 to get back on the horse—so to speak—and enforce these regulations. Earlier this spring, the St. Louis University SALDF chapter (Student Animal Legal Defense Fund) also filed a request for rulemaking with the commission, asking them to strengthen enforcement of the code. After the commission failed to take action, ALDF requested declaratory judgment from the St. Louis City Circuit Court and that case is ongoing.

Carriage horses aren’t just suffering in traffic accidents, but also endure terrible neglect and overwork. They are often forced to work all day, seven days a week, rain or shine, on hot asphalt, to the point of exhaustion and under chaotic conditions. Vets sent to Brookdale Farms, where horses exploited for their labor are confined, reported that the horses were malnourished. In 2013, a horse from Brookdale Farms died during carriage rides, right after the commission stopped enforcing regulations. The next year, in 2014, an exhausted carriage horse collapsed during a parade in front of the city’s health director. The commission’s failure to enforce the Vehicle for Hire Code is putting the well-being of the public and the welfare of these horses at grave risk for fatality. The next time a horse breaks free, the result could be far worse. Disaster is just waiting to happen.

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Advancing the Law for Great Apes: Legal Personhood

Posted by Justin Marceau, Of Counsel, Animal Legal Defense Fund on April 29, 2015


On April 20, animal law made an historic leap forward with the case of two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, who are being held captive for use in experiments by Stony Brook University. Justice Barbara Jaffe of the New York State Supreme Court granted a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the chimps. In doing so, the court implicitly ruled that the chimpanzees, as plaintiffs, were legal “persons”—under New York law only legal persons may have a writ of habeas corpus issued on their behalf.

Can a chimpanzee have legal rights of personhood? To be a legal person, one doesn’t need to be human. Under the law, a legal “person” includes corporations and even ships.

What does all this mean? A writ of habeas corpuswhich means “bring out the body”—is a term regarding whether a person is being detained illegally. When a person is being illegally confined against their will, the law says they have to be freed. The Nonhuman Rights Project is arguing on behalf of Hercules and Leo in order to secure their release from an unlawful detainment in laboratory cages at the university. The university must now show that the chimps are not being illegally confined against their will, and justify their captivity.

In their petition, the Nonhuman Rights Project argued that chimpanzees should be granted the same protections as “persons” under habeas corpus because they show highly complex cognitive functions, including “capacity to suffer pain of imprisonment.” Thus, just as personhood should not be defined by skin color, it should also not be defined by species classification. This doesn’t mean that intelligent animals should have all the same rights as humans, but they should have the right to live their lives outside of cages. If they are released, Hercules and Leo will be sent to a wildlife sanctuary in Florida.

After the ruling was handed down last week, a spokesperson for Justice Jaffe stated that the ruling did not say a chimpanzee is a legal person, but rather that this order gives the chimpanzees, who are being represented by the Nonhuman Rights Project, an opportunity to argue their case in court. Essentially, the order shows that the court believes that chimpanzees could potentially be legal persons. Whether the court will actually give the chimpanzees the rights of a legal person is yet to be determined. Justice Jaffe removed the words “writ of habeas corpus” from the original order, so it is now an order to show cause. But this is essentially the same thing; the only difference is that the chimpanzees will not have to appear in court.

The case is moving forward. The court is scheduled to hear legal arguments between the parties on May 27th at a public hearing at the New York County Supreme Court. Eric Schneiderman, the New York state attorney general, will represent Stony Brook University, and Steve Wise, an attorney for the Nonhuman Rights Project, will represent Hercules and Leo.

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Indiana “Pig Wrestling” Violates Local Anti-cruelty Laws

Posted by Sarah Hanneken, ALDF Guest Blogger on April 28, 2015

Sports involving the exploitation of animals are grotesque—and “pig wrestling” is no different. In this loathsome activity, teams of four humans chase a terrified pig around a muddy pit, attempting to catch her and carry her to the center of the rink before time runs out. The contestants dive on top of her as she runs away, grab her legs, pin her against the fence, slam her to the ground, and attempt to carry her as she struggles desperately to escape. The pig may urinate or defecate out of sheer terror while being pursued by the human contestants, generating public-health concerns as well. Under no condition would we allow a dog or cat to be terrorized or injured this way for “sport,” so why allow it for pigs? Unfortunately, this cruel pastime is scheduled to take place this summer at the 2015 Harrison County Fair (July 12-18).


Yet sections 8(d) and 19 of the Harrison County Animal Control Ordinance make it unlawful for anyone to mistreat, torment, disable, or otherwise abuse an animal. The ordinance defines “animal” broadly, as “any live, vertebrate creature, domestic or wild…” There is no exemption for pigs, meaning the law protects them as well.

Section 8(d) expressly prohibits any person from instigating or permitting combat between animals and humans. Pig wrestling is an onslaught upon a trapped and terrified animal who cannot escape the direct physical assault coming from her human assailants.

Moreover, in light of the significant amount of fear inflicted upon the animal as part of any pig-wrestling event, such activity clearly involves “torment” and, as such, is illegal under Sections 8(d) and 19.

Put simply, if the Harrison County fair board permits this event to take place, it will be breaking the law. That’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund sent a formal letter of complaint to the Fair Board, notifying them that this event is illegal.

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Does Every Animal Count? Not in California

Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on April 24, 2015

120 Day Sentence Handed Down for Killing Over 900 Chickens with a Golf Club


Last fall, ALDF offered a $5,000 reward in a shocking case of animal cruelty: in California’s Central Valley, four killers broke into a Foster Farms facility through a hole in the fence and used a golf club and other weapons to massacre more than 900 chickens. The bloodbath occurred early in the morning hours of September 20 in Caruthers, just south of Fresno. However, law enforcement solved this case without resort to the reward offer. The fruits of the investigation ripened on April 15, when Gabriel Quintero, who was 18 years old at the time of the crime, was sentenced to 120 days in jail after pleading no contest to one count of felony animal cruelty and one count of second-degree burglary. The other three offenders (all males under the age of 18), face similar charges in juvenile court, where the proceedings are confidential and not subject to public scrutiny.

The depths of depravity required to beat 925 chickens to death with multiple blows from blunt instruments is difficult to comprehend—think about how long it would take to kill that many birds, even with four assailants swinging away madly. Despite the fact that these chickens were slated for later slaughter, animal cruelty in California is a serious criminal offense, and we applaud the Fresno County District Attorney for filing this case. The good work of the DA’s office notwithstanding, some might be tempted to ask:  If 920 birds were killed, why was there only one charge of animal cruelty?

Under existing law, California Penal Code § 597(a), any person convicted of maliciously and intentionally maiming or killing an animal can be imprisoned for up to three years in county jail and/or fined $20,000 for felony animal cruelty. Further, California Penal Code § 597(f) expressly states that each animal harmed qualifies as separate offense. However, this sound public policy of recognizing each individual animal as a separately actionable crime only applies to endangered animals and omits both pets and animals used in food production, like chickens.

This flaw in § 597(f) is, in large part, why Quintero faced only one count of animal cruelty (there are other reasons as well, related to the application of California Penal Code § 654 and the “same act or omission” rule). The limited scope of § 597(f) accentuates our legal system’s failure to count each abused animal as a separately actionable victim. We at ALDF believe that every animal counts.

States like Florida and Oregon have already seen the light. With your help, we can change the law in California and other states with a similar rule. Please join the Animal Legal Defense Fund in demanding stronger sentences for animal cruelty crimes by signing our “Every Animal Counts” petition. By doing so, you’ll help ensure prosecutors have the tools they need to secure more meaningful sentences.

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Legally Brief: 5 Ways ALDF Is Challenging Factory Farming of Animals

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on April 23, 2015

Legally Brief

Factory farms, where animals are raised for production of meat, eggs, and dairy, are the cause of unimaginable suffering for billions of animals in the U.S. each year. They are also a major contributor to climate change and air and water pollution. Yet factory farms are routinely exempted from regulations for animal care and environmental protection.


Here are 5 ways the Animal Legal Defense Fund is challenging factory farming’s free ride:

  1. Ag gag – Ag gag laws criminalize the documentation of animal abuse on factory farms. They don’t try to stop animal abuse—they try to stop the reporting of animal abuse, which would hurt the industry’s bottom line. ALDF and a broad coalition of public interest groups have filed landmark constitutional challenges to these statutes that gag free speech in Utah and Idaho.
  2. Antibiotics – Because of the intensive confinement and filthy conditions on factory farms, the industry recklessly doses animals with antibiotics before they get sick. But this “sub-therapeutic” dosing of animals is linked with the proliferation of “superbugs”—antibiotic resistant bacteria that pose one of the greatest health threats of the 21st century. Currently factory farms aren’t even required to label meat products to let consumers know they’re consuming potential superbugs—that’s why ALDF has petitioned the USDA to require mandatory labeling.
  3. Greenhouse gases – Animal agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change—that’s an incontrovertible fact established by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations. Yet, unlike the energy and transportation industries, factory farms aren’t required to limit greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why ALDF filed a first-of-its-kind petition calling on the California Air Resources Board to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from factory farms.
  4. Ractopamine – Despite being banned or restricted by the European Union, Russia, China, and 100 other nations, ractopamine is permitted in U.S. animal feed. Use of the drug, which speeds animal growth to slaughter weight, is cruel to animals and dangerous to humans. ALDF and the Center for Food Safety have petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to reduce ractopamine use.
  5. Water – As California instigates emergency water restrictions for individuals during its historic drought crisis, factory farms, by far the largest users of water, face no new restrictions. Even though a tiny fraction of consumptive water is used by urban water users, we were asked to cut our water use by 25%. Factory farms that drain nearly half of California’s consumptive water use have not been compelled to restrict their water use one iota. ALDF will petition the State Water Resources Control Board to ensure that they do.
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5 Reasons to Eat for the Planet This Earth Day, 2015

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on April 22, 2015

April 22 is Earth Day—a day celebrated around the world—and reminds us to care for the planet we all share. Here are five reasons all animal lovers should “Eat for the Planet” (OneGreenPlanet’s campaign) starting today.


  1. Animal Agriculture Is Killing Our Planet. Industrial-scale agriculture, (the factory farming of animals for food) not only harms the billions of animals we slaughter annually in the U.S. alone, and frequently leads to violations of federal and state anti-cruelty and environmental laws, is also one of the top contributors to climate change. As our population surpasses 7 billion people, cutting animals out of our diets can help save the planet.
  2. Eating Animals Can Make Us Sick. From salmonella to superbugs, do you know what’s in the food you eat? The Animal Legal Defense Fund is leading the fight against factory farms with lawsuits over misused antibiotics in meat that can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, ractopamine added to animal feed, cruelty in force-fed foie gras, and dishonest marketing in supposedly “humane” meat and eggs that are anything but humane, as well as bullying from inhumane producers.
  3. Dolphin Safe Tuna Isn’t Safe for Anyone. Commercial fishing destroys marine ecology. Even tuna companies that claim to use “sustainable” fishing practices are still killing not only tuna but dolphins and countless non-target animals including whales and endangered turtles. You can sign ALDF’s petition to boycott tuna producers.
  4. Predators Are Crucial to Ecosystems. Wolf hunting and coyote killing contests hurt more than just the individuals shot as “trophies.” Reckless killing of pack-members can destroy family systems and disrupt entire ecosystems. What’s more, studies show that most livestock that die before slaughter are killed by disease, not predators.
  5. Better Animal Laws Means a Better Planet. Protecting the interests of nonhuman animals means setting a standard of care for our shared environment! Protecting animals means we must also protect the earth, and not destroy the wild lands used by wild animals. More people eating more eat means less room for wilderness and wildlife. Did you know in the last 50 years 50% of wild species have been extinguished? Animal agriculture is a leading cause of the sixth major extinction crisis in the history of the planet.

How will you celebrate Earth Day?

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Chicago Animal Law Symposium

Posted by Chelsea McFadden, Chicago SALDF regional representative and vice president of the John Marshall School of Law SALDF chapter on April 17, 2015


On Saturday, April 4, over 70 law students and animal advocates came together to attend the first symposium of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (SALDF) Chicago regional network. At this cutting-edge event, top experts discussed hot button issues like “ag gag” laws, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, contemporary issues in Illinois animal law, the convergence of food safety law and animal protection, and the problem of police shootings of companion animals. This student-organized event took place at the Chicago-Kent College of Law and was generously sponsored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and made by possible by the collaboration of SALDF Chapters at Chicago-Kent College of Law, The John Marshall Law School, DePaul University College of Law, Northwestern School of Law, and the University of Chicago Law School.

The day’s presentations began with a moving keynote address by Anna Morrison-Ricordati, animal law attorney at AMR Law Group. She discussed social perspectives on the relationship between humans and nonhuman animals. This was followed by a lively and interactive discussion of legislative efforts to oppose the efforts of animal advocates through ag gag laws and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Odette Wilkens, executive director of the Equal Justice Alliance, explained how the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) labels a wide range of legal activism as “terrorism” and the dangerous chilling effect this has on law-abiding animal advocates. Chris Green, ALDF’s director of legislative affairs, followed with a discussion of how ag gag laws aim to control our behavior by instilling fear of prosecution and intimidating people from gathering evidence of animal abuse on factory farms.

Other presentations included one by Cherie Travis, assistant general counsel for the Cook County Sherriff’s Department, who discussed the tragic problem of dog shootings by police, particularly in Chicago. Cherie discussed the work she does training Illinois police officers, in order to prevent the use of nonlethal force against dogs. Diane Balkin, contract attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, then discussed this issue at a national level and important new legislation aimed at preventing shootings of companion animals by police.

Great presentations followed by Anna Morrison-Ricordati, Carney Anne Nasser, legislative counsel for the ALDF, Chris Berry, ALDF staff attorney, and Kelsey Eberly, ALDF Litigation fellow.

The symposium also included screenings of the new documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine, which illuminates the lives of individual animals living within and rescued from the machine of our modern world through the heart and photographic lens of animal rights photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur.

At the end of the day, symposium attendees were armed with new knowledge and new connections in the Midwest, a region where it can be difficult to advocate against factory farming interests. The day’s presentations inspired attendees to get involved in areas where animals desperately need our voices, and provided a foundation for effectuating meaningful change for animals.

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