High Time to Modernize the Methods of Kosher Slaughter
Posted by Jeff Pierce and Carmine Lippolis, ALDF Litigation Fellows on June 6, 2014
The Times of Israel announced recently that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has adopted a more modern view of gender: women will serve alongside men as Israel’s “kosher supervisors.” These watchmen and watchwomen ensure that slaughterhouse workers follow the religious mandates of shechita, granting (or withholding) the kosher imprimatur on commercially sold meat.
While we applaud the Chief Rabbinate for opening this door to women, we would urge them to modernize not merely the supervision of kosher slaughter but also its execution. The Chief Rabbinate should finally declare as abhorrent to Jewish law the abusive practice of “shackle and hoist” restraint, and should refuse to import any meat from those employing this cruelty.
But don’t kosher requirements already mandate the humane treatment of animals? Not exactly: kosher requirements generally dictate only how the animal must die. Namely, like this: while the animal is still conscious, the slaughterer makes a single slice across the animal’s throat; the animal’s blood pressure drops so suddenly that straightaway he loses consciousness.
Kosher requirements generally say far less about how the animal must live. Like their non-kosher counterparts, most animals who become kosher meat spend their lives in appalling confinement. Similarly, kosher requirements generally say little of how the animal must be handled in the moments surrounding death. Instead, secular regulations have filled that vacuum.
In the U.S., the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (PFDA) required that a slaughtered animal not collapse into the blood of those who went before him. Historically, the only method of kosher restraint was manual: the slaughterer would lay the animal on his side. But that didn’t comply with the PFDA. For the first time, kosher practitioners had to get the animal off the floor. Enter shackle and hoist. Ironically, the Jewish community opposed the PFDA because it essentially mandated cruelty.
The strong of heart may view this undercover footage of a shackle and hoist slaughterhouse in Uruguay, from which the U.S. and Israel import much of their kosher meat. In a 2010 article in The Los Angeles Times about that investigation, Temple Grandin, an expert on humane slaughter, said of shackle and hoist, “I’m getting fed up with it. It’s a really terrible practice and it needs to stop.” Grandin is joined by many influential Jewish groups who feel the same way. For example, the Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards (CJLS) denounced shackle and hoist not only for its blatant cruelty but also because it violates another tenet of Jewish law, tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, the mandate not to cause suffering to living creatures.
Okay, but the CJLS is an authority only within Conservative Judaism. What about an Orthodox authority? The Chief Rabbinate itself. In 2008, after PETA publicized the above-referenced investigation, Israel’s highest religious leadership insisted it would “phase out” shackle and hoist. According to the Jerusalem Post, then-Chief Rabbi Metzger set the end of 2011 as the deadline. It’s now 2014, and steers are still strung up by a chain, bellowing and kicking as their blood courses to the killing floor. Alternatives exist that comply with both the kosher mandate and secular food safety requirements.
With the power to declare what is and is not kosher comes a responsibility not merely toward those who consume but also toward those who are consumed. As the Chief Rabbinate welcomes women into the field of kosher supervision, we urge the Rabbis to live up to the promise of their predecessors and to eliminate the most repugnant method of kosher slaughter.
Horse Carriage Ban the Only Meaningful Way to Protect NYC’s Carriage Horses
Posted by Jeff Pierce, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 5, 2014
Saverio Colarusso, the horse-drawn carriage driver charged with criminal animal cruelty in New York, is due back in court on June 16. Regardless of whether he cuts a plea deal or takes his case to trial, the allegation that he knowingly drove an injured horse (named Blondie) speaks volumes about the suffering that New York’s carriage horses endure.
The facts in Blondie’s case, as alleged, are simple. Late last December, a police officer noticed that Blondie was limping and struggling while Mr. Colarusso was working her. When the officer questioned him, Mr. Colarusso reportedly stated that Blondie had been injured for four days. On that fourth day, Blondie had already been working the streets of New York City for five hours, all while her driver, by his own admission, knew she was injured.
Blondie had thrush, a painful hoof infection that, when left untreated, becomes severe enough to cause lameness. Thrush occurs in wet, muddy, or unsanitary conditions, like an unclean stable. Blondie lived at Clinton Park Stables–the same stables where, in early May, Irish actor Liam Neeson publicly hosted city councilmembers and touted the supposedly high quality of care the industry’s animals receive. Mr. Neeson, who has become the industry’s unofficial spokesman, insisted during an appearance on the Daily Show that carriage drivers “treat these horses like children.” But Mr. Colarusso’s case proves the contrary: carriage drivers make money by driving their horses, not by giving them the care and rest they deserve.
The case of Frank Luo, another shady carriage driver, reinforces the point. Mr. Luo is accused of trying to make an unhealthy, retirement-age horse named Ceasar (sic) appear to be a much younger, healthier horse named Carsen, so that he could continue to exploit Ceasar. When he got caught, he sent Ceasar out of state, beyond the reach of an official investigation. This is hardly any way to treat your children.
We’re sure Blondie and Ceasar are not the only horses forced to endure inhumane treatment, which is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has an ongoing lawsuit against the NYPD to obtain public records of carriage-related accidents and injuries. This lawsuit was bolstered in April by the N.Y. Supreme Court’s agreement with ALDF that the public has a right to see these records.
With Mr. Colarusso’s criminal case still pending, the New York Post reported recently that New York’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), which regulates the carriage drivers, has revoked Mr. Colarusso’s license. The DCA opened its own case, opting wisely not to wait for Mr. Colarusso’s criminal case to run its course. Appearing before the department’s administrative judge, Mr. Colarusso tried to take back what he’d told the police officer, claiming that Blondie injured herself when she stumbled just 15 minutes prior to his questioning, startled by a garbage truck. The administrative judge didn’t buy it, and neither does the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
We applaud the DCA for revoking Mr. Colarusso’s license and urge it to do the same with Mr. Luo. In the meantime, we hope that Mr. Colarusso’s criminal case will reach a just end that properly acknowledges the suffering the industry’s voiceless victims endure, and we call upon the Mayor and City Council to move more swiftly to shut down an industry that, ultimately, victimizes all its horses.
Take the pledge! Join ALDF in calling for the shut down of the horse-drawn carriage industry.
Legally Brief: the U.S. Must Ban Cosmetic Testing on Animals
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on June 5, 2014
Some good news may be coming for animals: the Humane Cosmetics Act, introduced by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) as “HR 4148.” If passed, the Act would eliminate animal testing for cosmetics made or sold in the U.S. It would also make it illegal to sell or transport cosmetics across state lines if any part of that product has been manufactured by testing on animals after the ban is implemented. The bill has bipartisan support and recently Michael Grimm (R-NY) signed on as a co-sponsor, along with nearly 50 other members of Congress.
Animals—most commonly rabbits and rats—are used in acute toxicity tests where they are force-fed or forced to inhale massive doses of a chemical ingredient, and as a result will suffer severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, convulsions, paralysis, seizures, and/or bleeding before death. Other tests include eye and skin corrosion tests, in which rabbits are fully restrained while chemical substances are dripped into their eyes or rubbed into their shaved skin, creating ulcers, scabs, swelling, or blindness. These results are subjective at best and can only predict human reaction with approximately 65% accuracy in most cases.
Furthermore, these tests have been done already, for years—and none of these cosmetic tests are required by law—not by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and not by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) or any other law or regulatory body. Worse still, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—the federal law that regulates animal testing—is poorly enforced, and doesn’t address or provide any legal protection for most of the millions of animals tested on—like rats, mice, and birds.
So why are these cruel, unnecessary tests performed? It is likely that these tests are used by corporations to shield themselves from potential liability in the event they are sued. But even so, it is in the best interest for the industry itself to use alternatives to testing on animals because such tests are known to be unreliable, expensive, and time-consuming. More importantly, they cause tremendous and unnecessary suffering to sentient beings. Scientists have already developed alternatives that use human blood, cell, or skin tissues, or advanced computer technology to test the safety of cosmetic products. Companies already using these alternative methods have cut costs, time, and cruelty. There are numerous, widely available brands that have never been tested on animals—see ALDF’s Cruelty-Free Consumer Guide.
As recently noted in Scientific American, the U.S. has been behind the times when it comes to preventing cruelty to animals in unnecessary laboratory testing. The European Union has banned cosmetic testing and even prohibits the marketing of cosmetic products tested on animals. In contrast, China requires such testing, and the U.S., while not requiring it, has not stepped up to ban it. Happily, that may finally change with the Humane Cosmetics Act.
Just this week, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health held a Briefing on The Humane Cosmetics Act (H.R. 4148): Advances and Challenges in Replacing Animal Use in Cosmetic Testing in Washington, D.C., in which experts discussed the scientific advances in non-animal testing for cosmetic safety, and the scientific, legal, and policy challenges that remain, and how the Humane Cosmetics Act could impact other U.S. laws and policies.
The Humane Cosmetics Act would encourage the development of new testing methods that don’t harm animals, and increase the use of advanced testing alternatives already available. Better, more reliable methods of testing mean eliminating testing on animals. Our need to produce safe products corresponds directly with our need to make those products humane, and both are possible under the law.
For more information, order ALDF’s “Animal Testing and the Law” brochure.
California Gives ESA Protections to Lone Wolf and His Pups
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on June 4, 2014
Fantastic news! The California Fish and Game Commission voted today to protect wolves under our state Endangered Species Act (ESA). California’s lone wolf, known as “OR-7,” aka “Journey,” is a male gray wolf who has roamed our northern mountains for several years, unprotected until now under the ESA. For years, we feared for Journey’s safety, particularly because shameful “coyote killing contests” are bad for wolves who are easily mistaken for coyotes and bad for the thousands of coyotes slaughtered each year nationwide. Now, with these new protections for wolves at least, killing a wolf in California carries a punishment of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to a year in the county jail, under the state’s Fish and Game code.
But today is a good news day for wolves—and not just because of the long-awaited protections under the ESA. Just hours before this announcement from the commission, it was confirmed that Journey has had pups!
The lone wolf now has a pack, and Journey and his family will be protected under state law. He has traveled thousands of miles throughout Oregon and Northern California and is the first and only wolf in California since 1924. He has been tracked in Shasta County, Siskiyou County, and Oregon’s Klamath County—and is perhaps the most well-known wolf in the United States and beyond. In fact, recently he was the subject of documentary called OR-7, which screened in Portland just last month.
Huge kudos goes to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) who has fought hard on this issue—and submitted a petition in 2012. As CBD knows, it’s not just good news for Journey: its good news for the future of our wild habitats and the wildlife who inhabit them—because gray wolves are a central part of the biodiversity of California’s mountainous northern ecosystems. The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, crossing the boundary between California and Oregon, is a breathtaking, outstanding natural resource. In fact, it holds the largest concentration of intact watersheds and untouched wilderness on the Pacific coast, covers 10 million acres, and is defined by the mighty Rogue River watershed.
Congratulations Journey and pups! Slán abhaile, as they say in Irish. Safe journey home.
Pink the Pelican Released after Savage Animal Cruelty Attack
Posted by Shelley Rizzotti, Vice Chair, ALDF-LA on June 4, 2014
As an attorney dedicated to winning justice for animals, yesterday was a truly special day for me. I had the pleasure of watching the release of the California Brown Pelican named “Pink,” who was returned to the wild after a month and a half recovery from a savage attack. In the April 2014 attack, a perpetrator—who is still at large—butchered Pink’s entire throat pouch and left him to die. The International Bird Rescue—a San Pedro, Calif. based nonprofit—has been caring for Pink and rehabilitating him since the attack, and we are thrilled at his recovery and release.
In a surgical room packed with reporters at International Bird Rescue yesterday, Pink received his final pre-release medical clearance. His pink hospital band (hence his nickname, “Pink”) was removed and replaced with a blue identifier: “V70.” He was then placed in a crate and transported a few miles to Royal Palms Beach Park, where even more press awaited to see him released. As a Los Angeles Council Member was addressing the press, a little girl, walking through the park with her parents, approached the crate, oblivious to the cameras, microphones, film equipment and the 50 or more people surrounding the crate. She interrupted the Councilmember and told him she wanted to give the bird some bread. Her little voice silenced the crowd of hundreds, and her concern for the bird in the crate spoke to us all.
Pink’s story isn’t just about a miraculous recovery and release. The heart of his story is really the torture of a defenseless animal. The photos of Pink’s weak and helpless state, with his throat slashed, incited people to action and drew huge media attention. As a result, International Bird Rescue says that reporting of bird injuries along the coast have drastically increased because of Pink’s story—meaning that countless other birds are also now getting a second chance at flying free.
This story reminds us that animal abuse everywhere needs to be reported and prosecuted. That is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund and International Bird Rescue, along with several concerned anonymous citizens, are offering a total $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person (s) responsible for this attack—which could mean felony penalties and prison time. In addition, the Port of Long Beach has put up $5,000 toward Pink’s surgical and rehabilitative care. California Brown Pelicans like Pink are threatened species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and under California’s Penal Code, which prohibits maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, or wounding a living animal. Although we are delighted by Pink’s recovery and release into the wild, his story demonstrates just how much animals need protection under the law.
Anyone with information that might lead to the arrest and conviction of the person (s) responsible for the mutilation of this bird should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 310-328-1516.
Summer Reading for Animal Advocates
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on June 4, 2014
ALDF wants to hear from you! This week, we are inviting readers to write in and share their favorite animal protection-themed books. The best suggestions will be included in our post next week at aldf.org! Help us put together the best summer reading list on animal protection as you get ready for summer and catching up on those books you’ve been meaning to read!
New Books Coming Up in the Animal Book Club
- War of the Whales, by Joshua Horwitz – This month’s Animal Book Club featured book: look for our review and author interview in June—the book comes out in early July! (Simon & Schuster).
- All Creatures Great and Small – The Warm and Joyful Memoirs of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Doctor, by James Herriot, a re-release (St. Martin’s Press, May 2014).
- The World According to Bob – The Further Adventures of One Man and His Streetwise Cat, by James Bowen. Cat lovers will get a kick out of this book (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013).
- Animal Madness – How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves,by Laurel Braitman (Simon & Schuster, June 2014).
- Last Chain on Billie – How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top, by Carol Bradley (St. Martin’s Press, 2014).
- Touching the Wild – Living with the Mule Deer of Deadman Gulch, by Joe Hutto; the book that inspired the stunning PBS show (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014).
- Growl – Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate, by Kim Stallwood.
Recently in the Animal Book Club
- Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs by David Grimm.
- The Meat Racket – The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Businessby Christopher Leonard.
- The Chain by Robin Lamont.
- The Lost Whale by Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm.
- Bleating Hearts – the Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne.
Each of these books raises important issues that the Animal Legal Defense Fund is working on to help protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. These issues include:
- Factory Farming
- Ag Gag Legislation
- Orca Captivity and Display
- The Legal Status of Companion Animals
- Animals Exploited in Sports
What is the best animal book you’ve read recently? Do you have a favorite quote? Let us know!
Love animals? Volunteer at a Sanctuary!
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Animal Law Program Fellow and Nicole Pallotta, Ph.D., Student Programs Coordinator on June 3, 2014
Do you like spending time with rescued animals? Volunteer at a farmed animal sanctuary! This is a great group project for SALDF chapters. We visited Wildwood Farm Sanctuary in Newberg, Oregon. Their mission is to provide shelter and rehabilitation for abused and abandoned farmed animals, and inspire change in the way society views and treats them by promoting a compassionate and cruelty free lifestyle. At Wildwood we met ducks, rabbits, peacocks and pea hens, turkeys, chickens, alpacas, goats, and calves.
Rowdy, the male peacock, was abandoned and found wandering the streets of Portland. As male peacocks can be very vocal, many neighbors found him bothersome and disruptive. Now at Wildwood he is free to vocalize as loud and as much as he wants!
Wildwood took in 40 hens from the largest California farmed animal rescue. The Turlock, California, based company A&L Poultry abandoned 50,000 hens without food and left them to die. Animal Place, Farm Sanctuary, and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary were able to rescue the surviving 5,000 hens. ALDF and Schiff Hardin have sued the owners of the egg farm to hold them responsible for their heinous cruelty. The hens now have a second chance at life, being able to express natural chicken behavior such as dust bathing, wandering, catching bugs in the tall grass, and building nests. They still bear the scars of being debeaked at just a few days of age, although that doesn’t stop them from enjoying life.
Spencer the turkey was being raised to be killed for Thanksgiving dinner, but his owner had a change of heart and Wildwood took him in. Now, he is free to wander the barnyard where he loves to show off his beautiful plumage for the (human) ladies.
The alpacas, Jax and Brownie, were rescued by authorities when the farm where they lived was investigated for animal cruelty. When they arrived at Wildwood, they were thirty pounds underweight, had overgrown hooves and teeth, and were terrified of people. They are slowly recovering from their neglect.
The calves, Ferd, Blitzen, and Valentino, were rescued from a dairy farm the day they were born. After being taken away from their mothers shortly after their birth, they were scheduled to be picked up by a veal farmer. With permission from the dairy owner, Wildwood took the three calves and drove them to their new home in the backseat of a pickup truck!
At ALDF we sometimes say “we may be the only lawyers on earth whose clients are all innocent.” The precious few farmed animals who find their way to safety and sanctuary, along with their brethren who are exploited and slaughtered by the millions each year, are innocent, and no less deserving of love and protection than those animals we define as “pets.” Currently farmed animals receive only miniscule protections by our legal system today. Sanctuaries for farmed animals are sites of cultural resistance that challenge the dominant narrative, forged through years of powerful socialization, that tells us it is normal to love cats, but not pigs, and protect dogs, but not cows. As long as the law so clearly fails to protect farmed animals, the easiest way to know you are not contributing to their abuse is by refusing to economically support the animal agriculture industry and adopting a plant-based diet.
To find an animal sanctuary near you, type “farm animal sanctuary” into Google, followed by your state, or other location.
The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 29, 2014
This week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animal Book Club is considering the question of “happy meat” or humane farming. Can the concept of humane slaughter be implemented realistically, or does the label merely make us feel better about the consumption of sentient beings? What does the law say, and how do animal protection laws, food safety laws, and trends in consumption reflect the contradictions in these concepts? These are issues considered in a recent book by Hope and Cogen Bohanec called The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?
As consumers grow more conscious of the animal cruelty and the environmental degradation caused by industrial agriculture—known as factory farming—they pay more attention to labeling. For example, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has petitioned the USDA to regulate labels on meat and poultry containing antibiotics. That legal petition is bolstered by a petition signed by more than 100,000 people and counting, asking the USDA to require labels on meat derived from animals given antibiotics. Most antibiotics sold in this country are fed to farmed animals (rather than humans) who are not even sick. Antibiotics are given to animals preventatively—prior to the outbreak of illnesses derived from living in unimaginably close quarters on factory farms. This overuse of antibiotics is helping to breed resistance in bacteria, or “superbugs,” who are immune to antibiotics. This is potentially the number one health threat in the U.S. And consumers who want to avoid meat produced with antibiotics have no reliable way to identify such products without proper labels.
Conscious consumers often turn to alternatives like small and/or local farms, yet remain vulnerable to vague and loosely regulated labels like “organic” and “cage-free,” even though state law and regulatory agencies do not define these terms (or enforce the laws) very clearly. As the authors of The Ultimate Betrayal write, cage-free can mean “a large, windowless warehouse where tens of thousands of birds are confined inside on the floor… with just about one square foot of floor space per bird….” Furthermore, many cage-free warehouses are on the same factory farms as the controversial battery-cage operations. Truth-in-advertising is critical in order to ensure consumers are not deceived, and ALDF recently settled a lawsuit on this very issue with a Bay Area egg producer. We resolved a similar issue with the largest producer of force-fed “foie gras” (the diseased livers of young ducks and geese) in the nation, when they marketed themselves as “humane” producers.
Consumers do care about these issues. Californians passed “Prop 2,” which banned (as other states have) the use of “gestation crates” that prevent pregnant pigs from standing, turning around, or moving comfortably. Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay a premium for animal products they perceive to have been produced “humanely.” Yet with anti-cruelty laws that are hard to enforce, and conditions at factory farms or even small farms that are difficult for the severely understaffed federal agencies like the USDA and FDA to regulate, how do we determine what is “humane” about consuming animal products? From warehouses and sheds to the hooks at the slaughterhouse, from environmental concerns to animal cruelty… just how humane can animal agriculture be? The authors conclude their study by writing “we are now convinced that the state of alternative agriculture is actually worse than we thought when we started this project. We found time and again that the conditions for the animals are only marginally improved by alternative farming methods and inherent cruelties abound.” For more information about alternative practices and the problem with “humane” meat, read The Ultimate Betrayal.
Authors Hope and Cogen Bohanec, two local activists residing in ALDF’s own backyard of Sonoma County, California, have long dedicated their lives to animal advocacy and environmental protection. Hope Bohanec is Projects Manager for United Poultry Concerns. The Ultimate Betrayal is now available in soft cover and e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Legally Brief: ALDF’s Case to Free Tony the Tiger
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on May 22, 2014
Our campaign to free Tony the Tiger continues. What would it mean to “free” a 14 year-old Siberian-Bengal Tiger named Tony who has spent all his life in a small cage at a Louisiana truck stop? Freeing Tony would mean sending him to a reputable sanctuary, where he can finally have some peace in his lifetime and live like a tiger—rather than as a truck stop gimmick in a concrete prison pacing back and forth continuously, surrounded by noise and diesel truck exhaust. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has spent years in court fighting for Tony’s freedom. And we won—our victory was upheld by the Louisiana Court of Appeal, and the Louisiana State Supreme Court refused to revisit that decision. But Tony’s owner, having lost repeatedly in court, while continuing to display Tony illegally, has tried to sneak a bill, “SB 250,” through the Louisiana legislature that would allow him to skirt the law.
That’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund works to protect animals by covering all the bases within the legal system. We work with legislatures to ensure laws reflect what’s best for animals. We work with law enforcement to ensure that these laws are actually enforced. And—in addition to our highly successful animal law education initiatives, with hundreds of student ALDF chapters in the top law schools in the land—when individuals violate the law, like Tony’s owner, we file suit and take them to court.
The Louisiana legislature is now considering “SB 250,” which, if passed, could essentially undo every victory ALDF has achieved for Tony and relegate him to a life living in a truck stop parking lot. The bill aims to “exempt certain persons from the requirements of the big exotic cats rules.” Exempting “certain persons” (meaning Tony’s owner) would not only remove Tony’s legal protections, but it would allow an individual like Tony’s owner to undermine the judicial process. Aside from keeping Tony imprisoned, passing such a bill would send the dangerous message that if you don’t like a law, you can just hire some lobbyists to try to rewrite it—in this case Louisiana’s ban on private ownership of tigers and other exotic cats. As that law’s sponsor, representative Warren Triche, notes, it was written specifically to prevent tragic situations like Tony’s. For this tiger, and for all animals, we must make it clear that playing fast and loose with the law is unacceptable, no matter how deep your pockets or how tight your political connections.
This frustrating saga shows how hard it is for animal advocates to protect animals. But long as we work together to unite all aspects of the legal system, from criminal justice to innovative litigation and legislative affairs, we will win the case against animal cruelty. It’s important that everyone stands up for animals and does their part.
Here at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we have a strong connection to Tony’s plight, and our hearts break at the possibility that he may never get his freedom. And if this kind of sneaky, back-door affront to our legal system is allowed to continue, many other tigers may face the same fate.
Improving Conditions for Captive Primates
Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on May 20, 2014
Last week, ALDF joined a coalition of animal welfare organizations petitioning the USDA to improve the conditions for primates in laboratories across the country. Years of creative research and hundreds of studies have documented the complex mental abilities of primates. We know that most primates—like monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees—are highly social and use sophisticated reasoning to understand tools, numbers, and other individuals. Yet these intelligent creatures are often subjected to horribly substandard conditions in research laboratories where they are housed alone in barren cages, without access to the outdoors or even to natural materials.
The federal Animal Welfare Act sets the minimum standards for animals in research laboratories. This law requires the USDA to establish rules governing the treatment and housing of many research animals (excluding rats, mice, and birds). In 1985, Congress amended the Animal Welfare Act to include the requirement that research facilities provide space and conditions that promote the psychological health and well-being of primates. In response, the USDA passed a regulation stating that laboratories must “develop, document, and follow an appropriate plan for environment enhancement adequate to promote the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates.”
What does this mean for apes and monkeys? This vague regulation allows research laboratories to determine their own minimum standard for primate welfare. Not surprisingly, as a result, many laboratories ignore the severe suffering of isolated primates, and USDA inspectors cannot adequately enforce the promotion of psychological well-being for these animals. There is a better way to make sure primates receive proper care under the law.
Instead of these vague regulations, ALDF’s petition requests that the USDA adopt the strict guidelines that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed for chimpanzee care in 2013. These guidelines recognize the intelligence and sensitivity of chimpanzees and their need for social and environmental stimulation. These guidelines also require that chimpanzees be housed in sufficiently large social groups, have year-round access to the outdoors, be fed a varied diet, and that they have access to natural materials and bedding. The petition requests that, at a minimum, the USDA adopt these clear standards for chimpanzees—and adopt similar standards for all other primate species used in research.
For almost 30 years, Congress has recognized that primates possess highly developed cognitive abilities and therefore require significant psychological care. It is about time the USDA passes regulations reflecting this knowledge.
Mother’s Day Spotlight: Betty and Peanut
Posted by Megan Backus, ALDF Media Relations Associate on May 11, 2014
In 2010, while volunteering for a local dog rescue, I met Betty and Peanut. The timid Chihuahua pair were mother and daughter and had been rescued from a Northern California puppy mill.
For me, it was love at first sight with the adorable duo, so naturally when their foster family could no longer keep them, I offered to take them in. As the months went by we become closely attached, and I realized there was no way I could let them go. I made the decision to adopt them, and it’s been a heartwarming journey ever since. During the past few years they have truly come out of their shells and learned how to accept kindness. The girls love visiting with new people, playing with toys, going on walks and snuggle time. I’m deeply grateful that I was able to keep this deeply bonded mother and daughter together, especially after the neglect and poor conditions they endured for the first years of their lives.
However, not all dogs are given such happy endings. Thousands of dogs are suffering immensely in “puppy mills”—large-scale, unethical commercial dog-breeding facilities—so they can be sold to unsuspecting consumers. Dogs produced in puppy mills not only endure terrible conditions before purchase, but are prone to contagious disease, heart and hip problems, and serious breathing difficulties.
Please take action now and tell the USDA to shut down law-breaking puppy mills!
A United Front against Ag Gag
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on May 8, 2014
What issue holds the power to unite a coalition as broad ranging as animal protection organizations, labor unions, civil rights groups, journalists, and environmental watchdogs? The legal work the Animal Legal Defense Fund does on behalf of animals brings together those who stand up to injustice anywhere—and so-called “ag gag” laws are truly an affront to justice everywhere.
In the last two weeks, the AFL-CIO, the Government Accountability Project, and many journalist organizations—including National Public Radio—led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, submitted legal briefs in support of ALDF’s lawsuit against the state of Idaho for its controversial and unconstitutional ag gag law (and its recent attempt to have our lawsuit thrown out of court). In the lawsuit itself, ALDF is joined by the ACLU, Center for Food Safety, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in challenging the state’s attempt to criminalize whistle-blowers who might expose cruel, unsafe, or illegal activities on factory farms.
ALDF, PETA, the ACLU, and Center for Food Safety, are also representing Farm Sanctuary, Farm Forward, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment, the Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education, River’s Wish Sanctuary, Sandpoint Vegetarians, Western Watersheds Project, journalist Will Potter, undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff, investigator Monte Hickman, professor James McWilliams, investigative journalist Blair Koch, and the political journal CounterPunch. ALDF’s similar lawsuit against the state of Utah for its unconstitutional ag gag statute has also received immense support from constitutional law experts and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
To put it plainly, lobbyists for industrial agriculture, like the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, are attempting to write their own laws—laws that sacrifice our constitutional rights to pad their profits. But the tide is turning and most recent ag gag bills have failed. Why? Because people are uniting against corporate ag’s attempt to “gag” whistle-blowers who expose the truth. And this type of coalition and bridge-building is exactly what will help us protect animals, people, and our planet.
Factory farming is not only the largest contributor to animal cruelty—with billions of animals brutalized each year—but is one of the top contributors to climate change and presents ongoing violations of environmental laws and worker safety laws, health hazards, food safety recalls, and challenges to our rights to freedom of press.
For this reason, animal organizations like ALDF are working with environmentalists, journalists, law enforcement, civil rights advocates, and labor unionists. And the Animal Legal Defense is one of the forefront national nonprofits pulling together these groups by taking on the serious problems raised by industrial agriculture. “With much of the conversation rightly focused on animal welfare, we want Idahoans and the court to also understand that this law has the potential to imperil workers, and infringes on workers’ rights to a safe workplace,” said Rian Van Leuven, President of the Idaho State AFL-CIO. “If a worker wanted to demonstrate that worker safety was being jeopardized by unsafe conditions—such as an unventilated manure pit, broken equipment, or an electrocution hazard—and they took a photo of such conditions, they’d be subject to criminal penalties. That runs against everything we stand for.”
In so many ways, factory farming runs against everything most of us stand for.
Reporting from the 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
Posted by Lora Dunn, Staff Attorney on May 5, 2014
The 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference has officially come to a close! What an incredible three days learning from the best of the best in law enforcement, prosecution, and veterinary medicine on how to get the best possible outcomes in animal cruelty cases—from crime scene to courtroom. We heard exciting news about a new campaign to spot and prevent animal abuse, Atlanta’s new requirement that police officers receive training in animal cruelty laws, and an FBI proposal to track animal crimes nationwide.
The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) honored ALDF’s Scott Heiser, Virginia Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch, and Los Angeles Supervising City Attorney Donald Cocek for their incredible advancements in the field. On the last day attendees put their new knowledge to work in breakout sessions on investigator testimony, veterinarian and other expert witnesses, and jury selection. Participants can now take this new knowledge home to their departments and communities—and work toward a better place for animals.
ALDF was honored to sponsor this event this year, hosted by the Georgia Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council. Animal cruelty experts from around the country convened in Atlanta, GA to share their expertise on ensuring justice for victim animals in the criminal system—from prosecutors and law enforcement to veterinarians and forensic evidence professionals.
Speakers included APA President David LaBahn, John Thompson of the National Sheriff’s Association, Dr. Maya Gupta, PhD on the Link between animal and human crimes, Madeline Bernstein of spcaLA on hoarding and puppy mills, and Dr. Melinda Merck, DVM on veterinary forensics. We also heard from ALDF’s own Scott Heiser and Diane Balkin of the Criminal Justice Program, Chris Green of our Legislative Affairs Program, and speakers from HSUS, ASPCA, and AWI! Looking forward to next year!
Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 2, 2014
This week, ALDF’s Animal Book Club reads David Grimm’s new book Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs. David’s book is a consideration of the legal implications of the changing place of animals in society. “The public isn’t aware of the legal status of animals,” David says. “There is really no other book for a broad audience that brings this awareness like Citizen Canine.”
A science buff and animal lover, David considered becoming a veterinarian but instead completed a doctoral degree in genetics. Yet he also pursued a career in journalism and has been the online news editor of Science for ten years. In Citizen Canine, he dedicates an important section to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its formative role in the animal protection movement. The groundbreaking efforts of ALDF founder Joyce Tischler, as well as a number of influential and passionate staff, feature in the book. As David points out, “the animal law movement continues to grow.”
As a journalist, David says he works hard not to advance a particular viewpoint, and in his research he spoke to people from all sides of the aisle. For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association has opposed personhood rights for companion animals. “Vets are in a tricky situation,” David explains. Veterinarians benefit from the fact that people are willing to spend whatever it takes on the health of their companion animals. “It’s what allows the profession to exist, this relationship people have with animals,” he says. “But that stops in the courtroom.” Veterinarians argue that malpractice suits would be costly if animals were valued beyond the price of their purchase.
For example, in 2013 Citizen Canine explains, the Texas Supreme Court decided a case “involving the accidental euthanasia of a dog at an animal control facility.” Even though “the owners weren’t asking for anything close to personhood; they just wanted to recover damages for the sentimental value of their dog… But even that was a bridge too far for the AVMA, whose amicus heavily influenced the judges to deny the claim. As the law now stands in Texas, you can recover more money if someone destroys a picture of your dog than if they destroy the dog itself.”
A fundamental problem for companion animals is that they are considered property under the law, but this wasn’t always the case. “A hundred years ago cats and dogs were not property,” David says. “Only economically viable animals like farmed animals were considered property.” And yet, he says, the way the law treats animals—both now and then—is out of step with reality. “Only 1% of pet owners consider their pets to be property.” In reality, our love of cats and dogs blurs the boundary between companion and property. David explains that cases involving animal custody, emotional distress, and felony anti-cruelty laws mean considering what is in the best interest of animals.
Companion animals also “keep us anchored to the real world.” It’s only in the last decades that companion animals have become like family members, David writes in Citizen Canine. Technological developments have changed our lives and our relationships. But with animal companions, “we have to engage. They are a living breathing loving presence in our lives. Companion animals bring us back down to earth in the physical world.” And that is why, David agrees, the work ALDF does is so important—to make sure these companions are provided the legal protections they deserve.
Enter to win—two lucky winners will be chosen to receive a free copy of David Grimm’s Citizen Canine.
Interview with David LaBahn
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 1, 2014
ALDF is excited to be the exclusive sponsor of the upcoming 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference scheduled for May 5-7 in Atlanta, Georgia. Recently, ALDF spoke with David LaBahn—who is president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), a national association that serves as an advocate for prosecutors on emerging issues and the administration of justice. And that’s why the APA is hosting this conference, which is dedicated to the topic of fighting animal cruelty. David explains, “The reason animal abuse is a priority is the link between interpersonal and animal violence.”
This established link—between, for example, domestic violence and cruelty to animals—has become widely accepted by law enforcement and other reporting agencies. As a result, “Many prosecutor offices are moving from being reactive case processors to being proactive and looking at crime prevention. In fact, the mission of APA is to support prosecutors in their efforts to create safer communities. Any efforts to reduce violence must address all forms of violent crime—including animal abuse.” Like ALDF, the APA takes violence against animals seriously.
But fighting animal cruelty is not an easy task for anyone. That’s why working together, and uniting agencies is crucial in this endeavor. “One of the key challenges is building local task forces so that from the crime scene to the courtroom it is a unified effort,” David says. “It does not matter to prosecutors who the investigating agency or department is in any community. Instead, the concern is whether the investigators or officers are properly trained and have the necessary support and resources to do a complete investigation.” Working with the APA, ALDF offers these resources, training, and support.
And prosecutors—the district attorneys who bring criminal cases before the courts—are not the only important players in securing justice for animals. Medical experts, veterinarians, and witnesses are also key players in establishing compelling cases. As David explains, “The next issue is competent medical evidence and whether the veterinarian or other expert is willing and able to testify.” An equally important step is “educating judges and probations as to the importance of the cases.”
That’s why this event can make lasting change—by making needed connections and spreading awareness of these important pieces of the process. “Thanks to the sponsorship of ALDF, we are able to have our 4th National Animal Cruelty Prosecution Conference. This is an opportunity to bring the national experts together to address the issues facing investigators, prosecutors, and advocates so that cases are properly investigated and prosecuted and all involved are trained.” Conferences like these, David says, “are key to bringing folks together and letting them meet and work through the current issues. These introductions will be incredibly helpful as folks return to their home jurisdictions and then have an issue where they need help.”
Reaching out to individuals and organizations is also crucial. That’s why ALDF is here to help in every step of criminal prosecution. “Not only has ALDF helped by sponsoring this conference, they are available to assist prosecutors and investigators with both technical assistance as well as financial support. When I started this program in 2009, Scott Heiser was my first contact at ALDF. Scott is not only an experienced prosecutor, but he was also an elected district attorney, so he understands the issues facing many of our prosecutors. In addition to Scott, Diane Balkin joined the ALDF team and was a chief deputy in Denver for a number of years and knows what it is like to build a program in a major jurisdiction. Finally, I want to also mention Chris Green and the legislative efforts he brings into the equation. While I do not know whether the fight is tougher in the courtrooms or the capitols, this is something we work together to get good laws that can be enforced.”