Ban “Atrazine!” – Dangerous Frog-Castrating Pesticide Poses Grave Risk to Wildlife
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on August 26, 2013
Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund signed onto a letter from the Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of 250 concerned organizations to demand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protect our wildlife, our environment, and our citizens from the horrific pesticide known as “atrazine.” This toxic pesticide contaminates our water supply and can cause endocrine disruption, reproductive harm, and cancer. We need your help to ban this toxin!
To demonstrate support for banning atrazine in the U.S., a coalition of animal protection, conservation, health, farmworker, environmental, and sustainable food groups, signed onto a letter to the EPA that asks to reduce the harmful effects of pesticide on animals, humans, and our environment. The toxin is banned in the European Union, yet more than 80 million pounds of it are used in the U.S. each year.
Frogs and other amphibians are especially vulnerable to atrazine. Their skins absorb these toxic chemicals from agricultural runoff, and research from Dr. Tyrone Hayes at the University of California has demonstrated that atrazine castrates male frogs—even at the levels allowed in our drinking water by the EPA.
Today’s letter calls upon the EPA to ban atrazine due to “widespread exposure and unreasonable risks” to wildlife, human health, and the environment. The federal agency received our letter along with tens of thousands of comments calling for the ban.
The letter to the EPA follows:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
OPP Docket, EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC) (28221T)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20460–0001
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
We the undersigned organizations are writing to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban atrazine, a commonly-used weed killer and toxic chemical that threatens human health and the environment. This dangerous pesticide is the most commonly detected pesticide contaminant of ground, surface, and drinking water.
Atrazine is a powerful endocrine disrupter that is already banned in the European Union. Atrazine causes complete sex reversal in male frogs at concentrations lower than what the U.S. EPA allows in our drinking water supply. In people, there is reason to be concerned about the potential risk of cancer, reproductive harm, or birth defects.
With such widespread exposure and unreasonable risks to human health and the environment, the U.S. EPA must ban the use of atrazine.
Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, and coalition
Raise Your Paws & Paddles in ALDF Fundraiser!
Posted by Michelle Kownacki, ALDF Board Member on August 22, 2013
What would an Online Auction Benefit for Animals be without Kick-off and Tail-end Parties that welcome well-behaved dogs? Ben’s Dazzling Auction Benefit runs Online from August 22 through September 7 with celebrations on both ends in Annapolis! All proceeds from the Auction will be donated to the Animal Legal Defense Fund to help fight animal cruelty.
Join in Ben’s Dazzling Online Auction Benefit & Parties
Paws pet boutique’s mascot Ben, who was rescued from a hoarder by ALDF, is honored to attend and support his cause. He’ll be sporting a bowtie at the Kick-off Party that takes place on Thursday, August 22 from 6 to 8 PM at Niland & Company Jewelers on the corner of Maryland Avenue & State Circle in Annapolis, Maryland. Human and canine refreshments served, select auction items displayed and a portion of Niland’s sales that evening will be donated to ALDF.
When Can You Bid to Help Animals?
Raise your ‘virtual bidding paddles’ and bid on the Auction site anytime from anywhere between August 22 and September 7. Thanks to generous sponsors, amazing items are up for grabs including:
- a sapphire and diamond ring from Niland Jewelers
- Southwest Airline tickets
- Dancing with the Stars live performance tickets
- getaways to Loews Hotels
- dog-friendly cruises on Watermark Boats
- jewelry by Tracy Menz Designs
- photos by Red Leash Pet Photography
- golf at Queenstown Harbor
- pampering at Dogwood Acres
- lunch or dinner with ALDF leaders Steve Wells and Joyce Tischler
- and goodies from Paws pet boutique!
Where Does The Money Go?
“Each year we focus on raising funds and awareness for many animal welfare charities with ALDF being a big focus,” shares Michelle Ullrich-Kownacki, owner of Paws pet boutique, who has organized and hosted Cruises and other fundraisers for ALDF over the years. “Seeing Ben loving life now every day reaffirms our support of ALDF’s work and our desire to give back,” she adds.
A Tail-end Party with refreshments at Paws pet boutique on September 7 from 6-8 PM will close the auction. A portion of Paws pet boutique’s sales will also be donated to ALDF. Ben looks forward to seeing you at the parties—check out his photos on Ben’s Auction site!
About Paws pet boutique
Locally owned and operated by Michelle and Larry Kownacki, Paws Pet Boutique opened in 1999 and has been making tails wag, people smile ever since. This local business strives to make a difference and celebrate the relationships between animals and people by offering unique items for both. From splashy dog and cat collars and hand-painted bowls to tough toys and gourmet treats, Paws pet boutique has it all to make your best friend’s day. The company’s giving philosophy continues to play a large role in their work. The last Ben’s Fundraiser donated $25,000 to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. For information about Paws Pet Boutique, call (410) 263-8683 or visit www.pawspetboutique.com, where you can shop online anytime.
Your Chance at a Vegan Caribbean Cruise: Vote for ALDF!
Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF's Online Editor on August 21, 2013
This year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund was nominated in the “Favorite Nonprofit Animal Organization” category of the 2013 Veggie Awards. Thanks to VegNews, you could win a Caribbean Cruise if you vote for ALDF! And the timing of the nomination could not be more perfect! ALDF just introduced our “Legal Vegan” guide, and we will be publishing the full guide later this year. Click this postcard to share the good news with your friends on Facebook:
The Legal Vegan covers the whys and hows of being vegan. It has answers to common questions (don’t worry about protein!) and a list of classic foods in “veganized” form—all the sweet and savory, with none of the suffering.
We also posted a great video by board member Nicole Roth about the legal protections—or lack thereof—that farmed animals have. At the end is a ringing endorsement of adopting a vegan (or vegetarian) lifestyle as a solution to the problem of animal suffering.
Did you know that ALDF has a vegan office policy? We are firmly committed to ending all animal suffering through the legal system, but our commitment to helping animals doesn’t stop when we leave the courtroom. By leaving animal products off of our plates we withdraw our support of the cruel practices we seek to litigate. Suing factory farms is effective, and it’s twice as effective when we stop paying them to breed, raise, and inhumanely slaughter animals for food, or other purposes.
We are so honored to be an official nominee of the 2013 VegNews Veggie Awards!
Show your support, vote for ALDF now! Visit the following link by clicking the button below, and be sure to fill out as many category nominees as you can. If you’ve never heard of some of the other nominees, take your best guess! ALDF is on page five, under “Favorite Nonprofit Animal Organization”—but don’t skip ahead! We read the fine print for the contest (Lawyers can’t help it!) and you must complete at least half of the ballot in order for your vote to count.
Vote away, and thank you for supporting ALDF!
Help Us Win!
Retweet us to help spread the word, and increase our chances of winning:
— ALDF (@ALDF) August 22, 2013
Click on SHARE on the Facebook post below to share the great news on Facebook.
ALDF Encourages FWS to Build on Progress of Chimpanzees Rights
Posted by Neil Abramson, Daniel Saperstein, and Kelly Anne Targett, Proskauer Rose LLP on August 19, 2013
In June, we shared the momentous news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had reversed its stance on the practice of “split listing” chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The split listing, which had endured in some form for nearly forty years, recognized wild chimpanzees as an endangered species but denied any real protection to captive members of the species kept as pets, used as test subjects for research, or otherwise exploited, including by the entertainment industry. As we previously reported, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) led the effort to end the split listing of captive chimpanzees. In 2010, HSUS filed a petition, along with seven other concerned organizations, urging FWS to change the rule that stripped captive chimpanzees of ESA protection. The petition argued the rule violated the ESA because it failed to enhance the survival of wild chimpanzees and it facilitated the use of captive chimpanzees in entertainment. In our comments to the agency, ALDF, through our pro bono counsel Proskauer Rose LLP, argued further that the practice of split listing was not authorized under the Endangered Species Act at all. In proposing to end the split listing, FWS embraced arguments made by both groups, finding that the ESA does not allow for the split listing of captive animals and acknowledging that wild chimpanzee populations remain in peril.
Following its conclusion that all chimpanzees deserve endangered species protections, FWS proposed a rule that, if finalized, would do away with the split listing that has contributed so significantly to the deterioration of the pan trogolodyte species. FWS invited public comments on its proposed rule and, once again, ALDF weighed in. We applauded FWS for the reversal of its longstanding policy, and encouraged FWS to finalize the rule change as quickly as possible to end the suffering of captive chimpanzees in this country. We also urged FWS to take any and all measures necessary to ensure that the split listing—once eliminated for chimpanzees—never is employed for any other species.
We now await the final word on the matter, and look forward to sharing news of a major victory for captive and wild chimpanzees with all of you. Stay tuned!
Celebrity Journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell to Speak at 2013 Animal Law Conference
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on August 14, 2013
The 2013 Animal Law Conference this fall just got even more exciting! Outspoken animal advocate, award-winning television journalist, and bestselling author Jane Velez-Mitchell will be the keynote speaker for the 2013 Animal Law Conference to be held at Stanford University this fall, October 25-27!
As the host of her own cable news show on Headline News, Jane’s rescue pup Rico joins her every Friday for Rico’s Rescues, where Jane helps connect rescued animals with forever homes. In fact, every day she features the “Pet of the Day” sent in by viewers across the country (you can submit yours to email@example.com). She is a tireless advocate, vegan, and animal hero, always lending her voice to important topical issues in the animal protection movement, and never afraid to speak her mind! Jane is also the bestselling author of Secrets Can Be Murder: What America’s Most Sensational Crimes Tell Us About Ourselves, and Addict Nation: an Intervention for America.
The issue of crime and justice will be covered thoroughly in the 2013 Animal Law Conference. As fans of prime time crime dramas know, jury trials can be the key to locking away dangerous criminals. So how can animal attorneys grapple with jury selection to help achieve justice for abused animals? And how can civil laws be used by citizens and animal advocates to fight animal cruelty? These are just a few of the hot topics attendees will discuss at the conference featuring the keynote talk by Jane Velez-Mitchell, who has also reported for the nationally syndicated show Celebrity Justice. ALDF is thrilled to have Jane on board in our fight to win justice for animals.
Check out the full conference agenda—registration is limited and the conference is expected to sell out soon. For registration and more information, visit our Animal Law Conference page. The conference is co-hosted by Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School, and the Lewis & Clark Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, and jointly sponsored by Stanford University Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program and the Stanford student chapter of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Get your tickets now! Register today for the 21st annual Animal Law Conference.
Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on August 13, 2013
In recent months, ALDF’s Animal Book Club has considered animal thoughts and emotions in Virginia Morell’s Animal Wise and the capacity of animals to not only grieve but to truly love and mourn the loss of love in Barbara J. King’s How Animals Grieve. Bears are some of the most emotionally sensitive, and yet horribly tormented animals, especially when it comes to Moon Bears. This is hard enough for adults to grapple with, but how do we talk to our children about the suffering of animals? The answer to this question can be found in Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears by Jill Robinson and Mark Bekoff and the work done by Animals Asia, in a work that is a testament to the beauty of Jasper’s spirit and the healing power of forgiveness.
Jasper is a real Moon Bear (with the tell-tale pale yellow crescent moon shape on his chest), who was held in a tiny, crippling metal cage for 15 years while his bile was painfully extracted through the most excruciating methods imaginable for use in traditional Asian medicines. A full grown bear, Jasper was held in a cage so uncomfortable, it would be too small even for a dog. He was one of the lucky bears rescued by Animals Asia and brought to the Moon Bear Rescue Centre.
But he was terribly hurt. Jasper’s Story describes how rescued moon bears have terrible physical injuries from their miserable confinement, and display all the signs of extreme psychological agony. When author and Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson found Jasper he was nearly wasted away and unable to move. Surely, after suffering years of such shameful, relentless torture and cruelty, Jasper’s spirit would be broken, unrecoverable?
In a way that would melt anyone’s heart, Jasper’s Story describes Jasper’s recovery; his first taste of freedom, his first experience of love, the first time he played. Jasper was so hurt he had to be taught how to smell and search for food, to stretch his muscles, to engage in normal animal behavior. In time, caregivers noticed a change come into Jasper’s eyes as they watched him roam safely in his sanctuary. He splashed in his pool, foraged in the grass, played in trees, and wrestled with his new bear companions. And most of all, he reached out in concern to other bears by his side. Despite how badly he had been hurt, forgiveness and compassion stayed in his heart. Now, Jasper welcomes each new bear who arrives at the sanctuary and becomes their friend.
“With his kind and gentle spirit he has become a symbol for bears and humans alike, reminding us all that love brings forgiveness and that, in return, forgiveness brings love.”
Jasper’s Story is a beautifully illustrated (Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen) children’s book from Sleeping Bear Press. Co-author Jill Robinson founded Animals Asia in 1998, which has established animal sanctuaries in China and Vietnam and helped hundreds of bears. She has been recognized globally for her work at the highest levels. Mark Bekoff is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado and has received the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society. Together, they have put together Jasper’s Story, a book adults can enjoy and a perfect tool for animal advocates to engage children about serious, dark issues of animal cruelty in a way appropriate for young people.
And that is why the Animal Book Club is giving away free copies of this gorgeous book to three randomly chosen winners who leave a comment below! Stay tuned this month for an interview with Jill Robinson!
How do you reach out to young people about animal cruelty?
Former Ringling Elephants to Escape from Depressing Zoo Facility
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on August 9, 2013
Is anything cuter than a baby elephant? While the cute factor reels in zoo visitors, it papers over the dark side of keeping elephants in inadequate zoos. But a recent decision to transfer long-suffering elephants Sophie and Babe away from unbearable zoo conditions—solely on the basis of protecting their health and welfare–provides a glimmer of hope.
Captivity has caused a lifetime of suffering to elephants like Sophie and Babe—currently housed at the Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley, Illinois. Like other forms of captive animal exhibition, zoos bring in massive profits at the expense of animal welfare. That is why this June the Animal Legal Defense Fund sent a formal letter to the director of Niabi Zoo and its municipal owner, the Forest Preserve Commission, urging the immediate removal of the zoo’s elephants to a safe sanctuary—and warning legal action would be taken if necessary to protect the elephants. And in July, veterinary advice, public pressure, and letters such as the one sent by Animal Legal Defense Fund helped Niabi Zoo ownership and management make the right call to transfer Sophie and Babe, guaranteeing an improvement to the elephants’ welfare.
Sophie and Babe were both kidnapped from the wild as children and taken away from their mothers. Before they arrived at Niabi Zoo, they were enslaved for decades at Ringling Brothers Circus, where they were beaten into performing unnatural tricks for audiences, and chained so tightly they couldn’t move. In the wild, elephants live in social groups structured around mothers and travel as much as 30 miles per day with their families to find fresh vegetation and water to play and bathe in. These majestic giants need large, open spaces for their health and wellbeing. Zoos like Niabi, however, remove even these basic needs, denying elephants social connections, family ties, and space to roam, and they often forcing elephants to stand for hours on hard surfaces. As occurs at many other zoos, Niabi workers even apply cruel discipline using bullhooks and chains; a bullhook is a tool used to punish and control elephants, consisting of a long handle connected to a sharp steel hook, allowing “trainers” to poke, pull, and yank at sensitive areas of the elephant’s flesh.
The pain endured by Sophie and Babe has been well-documented by veterinarians, and everyone agrees Sophie is deteriorating rapidly. Another harsh winter for this Asian elephant could mean her doom. Elephant expert Dr. Alan Roocroft’s March 2013 report on the Niabi Zoo’s elephant exhibit raised serious concerns about Babe and Sophie’s welfare. The Roocroft report documented that they lack almost any enrichment and are often forced to stand for 24 hour periods during the winter in a dark, cold, windy enclosure—which has caused Sophie so much pain that she now has to sleep standing up. These outrageous conditions, which violate the Endangered Species Act and Animal Welfare Act, led the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to refuse accreditation to the Niabi Zoo.
Cramped conditions in tiny enclosures lead to serious health problems for elephants like Sophie and Babe, particularly foot infections and arthritis. Other painful problems for these intelligent, sensitive animals include an extremely psychological distress and intense joint pain.
Thankfully, the Forest Preserve Commission has voted overwhelmingly to move Sophie and Babe to a less cruel location, still to be determined. Unfortunately, while the Forest Preserve Commissioner has admitted the facility is inadequate to house elephants, he has reportedly suggested replacing them with rhinos—large mammals who would also suffer terribly in the inadequate conditions of the exhibit.
Do wild animals deserve to suffer so immensely—ultimately to be put out to pasture when their health problems make them too expensive to house—just so zoos can exploit their appeal to visitors? It is time for our society to take a sharper look at the cruelty behind captive elephant trade. Sophie and Babe deserve immediate transfer to a reputable and appropriate sanctuary. After all their suffering, they have a chance at a better future—and ALDF aims to ensure that they get it.
— ALDF (@ALDF) August 10, 2013
Cetacean Celebration! Why Taking Action for Animals Works
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on August 8, 2013
We did it! Together, with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, your action helped us prevent the import of 18 wild-caught beluga whales into U.S. theme parks like SeaWorld (in Florida, Texas, and California) and the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced this week that after careful review of public comments it was denying the Georgia Aquarium’s request for a permit to import the belugas from the Utrish Marine Mammal “Research” Station in Russia.
This would have been the first time the U.S. approved the intentional capture of a marine mammal for display since 1993, and would have been the worst kind of “whale washing”—as criminals launder money through businesses, the display industry distance themselves from the scandal of capture by importing wild-caught animals from foreign, substandard facilities.
Last October, ALDF raised the red flag about this “whale washing” of wild-caught belugas. ALDF submitted a letter to the NOAA as well, informing them of the importance of upholding the Marine Mammal Protection Act and fully reviewing the National Environmental Policy Act. As we explained, and the NOAA agreed, captive breeding is not sustainable: the importing of wild-caught belugas would likely have resulted in the capture of even more marine mammals.
In other great news for ocean mammals, our voices were heard to protect Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whales. Earlier this year, we asked you to take action to help us protect Lolita’s family, an incredibly self-aware group of whales (orcas) living off the coast of southern Washington. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) considered a petition that aimed to remove the protections granted to these orcas by the Endangered Species Act. Why? As in the case with the wild-caught belugas, it all came down to a contest between greed vs. animal well-being. In both cases we spoke up, and animal well-being won the day. The NMFS pointed to scientific information ALDF provided that demonstrated that the pod meets the standards of the Endangered Species Act, and agreed the orcas should remain protected. ALDF was one of the few animal protection organizations to speak up for these orcas.
Animals need heroes to speak up for them. This is why it is so important for us to be a voice for animals, and help agencies like the NOAA and NMFS understand the importance of animal well-being. It’s a good day to celebrate for whales! But there are so many other animals who need your help—sign up now to join ALDF in the fight for justice for all cetaceans!
The Legal Vegan
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on August 7, 2013
Vegan – (VEE guhn) – Vegans choose plant-based alternatives to animal-based foods. Vegans wear cruelty-free clothes rather than leather, wool, cashmere, silk, or fur. Vegans use cruelty-free personal and household products that have never been tested on animals. Vegans also do not support events that exploit animals, like marine theme parks, zoos, circuses, rodeos, and other “entertainment.”
Why ALDF is Vegan
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. That is why ALDF has used the law to make groundbreaking advances for animals by fighting landmark cases of cruelty on factory farms and in laboratories. Billions of animals are slaughtered, tortured, maimed, and abused each year as standard practice in laboratories and industrial agriculture. Because of this, ALDF works hard to establish better laws for animals, stronger sentences for animal abusers, and education programs across the nation.
One of the best ways we can all join together to stop the abuse of animals is to simply not purchase products or support industries that abuse animals. So from the cupcakes in the office kitchen to the meals at animal law conferences, all ALDF events are cruelty-free.
Listen to what Nicole Roth, one of our board members, has to say:
Being vegan is good for animals—and good for our planet! A cruelty-free diet reduces our carbon footprint far more than driving ecologically responsible automobiles. What’s more, three quarters of the grain grown in the U.S. isn’t for human consumption, but for animals raised as food. If animal welfare and environmental sustainability isn’t enough, veganism also provides the healthiest diet. Animal-based diets mean higher cholesterol levels, food-poisoning incidents, and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Many top athletes thrive from a vegan diet high in plant-based, energy-rich antioxidants.
A Vegan Kitchen
Vegan food is everywhere! Along with healthier alternatives, a vegan diet can include your guilty pleasures like pizza, French fries, ice-cream, candy, and sweets. Of course, vegetables, fruits, vegan pastas, beans, and tofu are vegan too!
Grilled Cheese sandwich
Cream cheese/ Sour Cream
Gelatin (often found in candy)
|Scrumptious AlternativesVeggie burger
Grilled Daiya Cheese Sandwich
Earth Balance Aged Cheddar Puffs
Soy, Almond, Coconut, or Rice milks
Tofutti Soy cream cheese/ sour cream
Soy or Coconut Milk Creamers
Soy or Coconut milk ice cream, sorbet
Egg Substitutes, tofu, bananas
Agave Nectar, Maple Syrup
Harvest Award Olive Oil Spread
Great News! Many familiar foods in your pantry may already be vegan:
- Lays potato chips
- Ruffles potato chips
- Ore-Idea tots/Fries
- Mission food tortillas
- Reduced Fat Bisquick
- Pillsbury Crescent rolls
- Nature Valley Crunchy Granola bars
- Teddy Grahams
- Vanilla Jell-O Instant Pudding
- Fruit by the Foot
- Swedish Fish
- Sour-Patch Kids.
Visit ALDF’s Pinterest boards for a whole host of yummy recipes, links to websites, cookbooks and more! Here are a few vegan cookbooks we love:
- Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
- Vegan on the Cheap
- The 30 Minute Vegan: Over 175 Quick, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes for Everyday Cooking
- Supermarket Vegan: Meat- Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes for Real People in the Real World
- Quick Fix Vegan: Healthy Home-style Meals in 30 Minutes or Less
- Don’t Eat Me! A Cookbook for Animal Lovers
- The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat
Unfortunately, some household products are not cruelty-free and contain animal products or were cruelly tested upon animals. Often items like makeup, hairspray, toothpaste, detergents, and shampoos have been tested on animals, while soap, candles, and glue come from animal products. Nowadays vegan alternatives are readily available in most grocery stores! Buying cruelty-free products is a great way to protect animals as a consumer.
- Look up the menu prior to visiting.
- Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Mediterranean restaurants often have vegan options.
- Explain that you specifically don’t eat meat, eggs, fish, milk or butter.
Some Phone Apps that can make this process easier:
- Animal Free provides a dictionary of animal products, alternatives, as well as a barcode scanner to see if a product is vegan.
- Cruelty Free helps users find cruelty-free household and personal products.
- Happy Cow provides options for local vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurants.
- VeganXpress is a convenient database of vegan options at many fast-food and chain restaurants.
“Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied” – An Update On Patrick The Miracle Dog
Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on August 5, 2013
In April of 2011 we analyzed some of the sentencing issues likely to come up in New Jersey’s case against Kisha Curtis. Recall that Ms. Curtis was accused of starving a dog, Patrick, to the brink of death. Patrick was found wrapped in plastic and clinging to life after being thrown down an apartment building’s trash chute like a common piece of garbage. More than two years later we have reached the point of sentencing in the case. On Tuesday, Ms. Curtis pled guilty to animal cruelty, avoiding trial scheduled to begin on July 31 and absent any additional delays, Superior Court Judge Joseph Cassini, III will sentence her at 9:00 a.m. on August 29, 2013.
Our hats are off to David Feldman, Margarita Rivera, and Cheryl Cucinello of the Essex County Prosecutor’s office, all of whom had a hand in resolving this case after months of specious delay and gamesmanship by the defendant. There is an old adage in the law, related to a defendant’s right to a speedy trial: “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Only recently is that same notion—the right to a prompt resolution of a criminal case—being applied to crime victims with the enactment of state crime victims’ rights statutes.
Unfortunately, for now, New Jersey’s crime victims’ rights laws only recognize humans as victims. But the tide might be shifting a bit, at least in Oregon and Ohio, where courts have recognized that animals owned by the defendant who abused them qualify as victims for sentencing purposes (at least as to technical issues related to merging convictions).
Though he may not formally qualify as a crime victim entitled to invoke his rights under New Jersey’s Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, Patrick is, in every sense of the word, a victim of abuse and we look forward to August 29th when we will learn what Judge Cassini considers to be a just sentence in a case of such protracted suffering. Don’t get your hopes up when it comes the issue of locking up Ms. Curtis—for first time offenders, New Jersey law (N.J. Stat. § 2C:44-1(e)) carries a presumption against incarceration.
Animal Testing and the Law
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on August 2, 2013
Check out ALDF’s new Animal Testing and the Law brochure!
Every year, millions of animals are exploited in biomedical, aeronautic, automotive, military, agricultural, and cognitive research, and in consumer product testing in the U.S. An estimated 95% of these animals are not protected by the law. These tests often amount to legally-sanctioned animal abuse.
So why is the law failing animals?
The Animal Legal Defense Fund presents a brand new leaflet called “Animal Testing and the Law.” This glossy, full-color brochure presents a highly researched synopsis of the status of animal exploitation in laboratories today. Inside the pages you will learn:
- The USDA has 120 inspectors to oversee more than 12,000 facilities that test, exhibit, or breed animals.
- Legal tests include burning, poisoning, starving, mutilating, blinding, electrocuting, and drowning animals, or depriving infants any contact with their mother.
- Illegal incidents include open-heart surgeries with no painkillers and boiling live monkeys as well as drawing blood from malnourished goats.
Are these tests necessary?
- Many scientists believe in vitro testing is scientifically superior to savage animal-based testing.
- Cancer antibody testing is best conducted with human cells.
What about the rest of the world?
- Laboratory testing on chimpanzees is banned in the United Kingdom (and may be reduced in the U.S.).
- Cosmetic testing is banned in the European Union.
What You Can Do!
- Contact your legislators and ask that laws protecting animals be enhanced and followed.
- Contact your alma mater, urging it to adopt humane teaching methods.
- Sign ALDF’s Model Ordinance for Great Apes.
- Avoid commercial products from companies that test on animals. Use alternatives.
And distribute this leaflet! Animal Testing and the Law is perfect for distribution at events, medical schools, law schools, local bookstores and libraries! By sharing this leaflet, you speak up for animals!
Getting Wise about Animals: the Power of Playing
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on July 31, 2013
As adults, many of us long for the carefree days of childhood play. The world not only felt less serious, but seemed more manageable, more interactive. Playing brings us joy and freedom, and brings us into contact with others, helps bridge social gaps, and teaches us important social cues. But what about nonhuman animals, do they play too? Do they have fun?
Today, ALDF’s Animal Book Club continues our exploration of the book Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures by Virginia Morell—a contributing correspondent for Science and contributor for National Geographic—by thinking about the way that animals play. Virginia is also an award-winning author of books like Ancestral Passions and Blue Nile, as well as Wildlife Wars (which she co-authored with Richard Leakey).
Intuitively, we know nonhuman animals play. We’ve seen our companion animals scuffle on lawns, or knock each other off our couches. How about dolphins, elephants, wolves, and even rats? Animal Wise explores research on the thoughts and emotions of these animals and many more. In a chapter called “The Laughter of Rats,” Virginia discusses the complex play of rats. “Pinning must be brief and must be reciprocated. Bites must be quick and not cause actual harm.” Interestingly, researchers note that children, observing the interactions of rats, have no difficulty interpreting the interactions as “playing.” Adults, on the other hand, interpreted it as “fighting,” and aggressive behavior. Doesn’t this difference tell us a whole lot about humans?
Playing often involves wrestling—without the aggressive behaviors present in true fighting, like drawing blood and raising their fur. Instead, it is about fun. Observers note the rats roughhouse gently, stopping if the other gets hurt, and even switching their common roles, like allowing the other to pin him or her down. We can all attest to this behavior in what we’ve witnessed in children as well as puppies and kittens. Playing isn’t unique to the human species. But what about laughter? Do rats laugh?
In Animal Wise, Virginia describes the phenomenon of rat laughter. In his research, Jaak Panskepp, an emeritus professor of psychobiology at Bowling Green State University and neuroscientist at Washington State University, finds that during playtime rats make chirping sounds similar in function to laughter. While not willing to call this “laughter” officially, something only humans may do, in many ways this chirping mimics our own laughter. Although not audible to human ears, an ultrasonic bat detector picked up laughter frequencies. Panskepp tickles a young female rat, who subsequently chirps that displayed similar to the way a young child might giggle; afterwards, the rat “bunny-hopped” around her bin. “That’s a clear sign of joy,” said Panskepp. “It’s a move you see in rats, dogs, and other animals when they’re playing and happy.”
Laughter symbolizes joy, and demonstrates once again that humans are not the only animal capable of emotions and cognition. Despite this great capacity for suffering (and love) the Animal Welfare Act, which is the primary federal law that protects animals in laboratory settings, does not protect rats (or mice, birds, or a whole host of other animals). Rats feel, rats think, rats dream, and even have unique and expressive personalities—science shows us this is true—they even grieve deeply. So is it okay that we don’t adequately protect them by federal law from some of the shockingly cruel and unnecessary tests routinely performed on millions of rats every day?
What do you think? What does this teach us? Maybe we should be tickling, not testing upon rats?
Don’t forget! Enter our free Animal Wise giveaway! Three randomly chosen winners will receive a copy of Animal Wise! Simply leave a comment below or on our Interview with author Virginia Morell to qualify!
Blackfish: the Movie SeaWorld Doesn’t Want You to See
Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF's Online Editor on July 26, 2013
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Many people look back on their childhood and remember places like SeaWorld with fondness. They think of the joy of watching large, majestic orcas breaching out of blue pools on hot summer days. Through the eyes of a child, these gentle giants seem to be happy, healthy, and enjoying a playful game with their trainers. The truth, however, is that captivity for orcas is a bleak existence, and that some “killer whales” live up to their names. The new film, Blackfish, promises to take you on a tour of this darker, murkier world.
SeaWorld officials refused to be interviewed during the filming of Blackfish, but before the United States release of the film the company went on the attack, sending emails questioning the credibility of the film to select film reviewers in an apparent attempt to stagnate the film’s momentum. But it seems to have had the opposite effect. The film has generated a buzz beyond animals rights circles and has breached the mainstream moviegoers “must watch” list.
Before Blackfish started its theatrical run, ALDF caught up with David Kirby, author of Death at SeaWorld, which covers the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, and other, less-publicized violent incidents. After researching the book, Kirby feels unequivocal about the fact that SeaWorld’s captive orca shows are an unethical form of entertainment.
Still not convinced that keeping orcas captive to entertain an audience is unethical? Watch the trailer for Blackfish, and leave a comment below to share your thoughts about the marine mammal entertainment industry.
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— ALDF (@ALDF) July 26, 2013
We want to hear your thoughts! Are you going to go see Blackfish? Have you read Death at SeaWorld? Did you go to SeaWorld as a child? As an adult? Would you go back to SeaWorld after learning about what goes on “behind the scenes?”
Is the Urban Chicken Farming Trend Good for Chickens?
Posted by Leigh Lowry, ALDF Litigation Program Volunteer on July 25, 2013
Urban chicken farming is old news at this point, but the mainstream media has been erupting with reports of the number of chickens recently flooding into animal shelters.
From rooftops in Brooklyn to backyards here in Portland, flocks of chickens are occupying a unique cultural space, existing somewhere in between pets and sustenance-providers for city-dwelling humans. Neiman Marcus even offered a $100,000 mini-Versailles coop for the most discerning chicken wranglers last December, suggesting the trend has moved beyond urban homesteaders into the 1%. But regardless of income level, what’s a new chicken owner to do when the adorable, chirping balls of fluff grow beyond their egg-laying years or even—surprise!—into a rooster? The rise in shelter chickens can be attributed to the higher level of care and long-term commitment many first-time owners aren’t prepared for.
The biggest misconception is that raising the chickens yourself is a positive alternative to factory farming, but that isn’t the whole story. Baby chicks are shipped from their origin hatcheries by mail, be it directly to their new owner or a local farming supply store. Sadly, the shipping process can limit their ability to breathe and expose them to extreme temperatures. It is common to expect one or two chicks to be DOA after their journey through the postal service, and not uncommon to destroy entire orders—not exactly humane. Additionally, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between male and female chicks, meaning new owners often unwittingly raise a rooster. Most municipalities have ordinances that disallow roosters entirely, meaning these boys must be given up or destroyed. The same goes for city-permitted hens that have moved past their egg-laying years. Considering that a healthy and happy hen can live at least a decade, the commitment to caring for them doesn’t end when their egg production does.
Raising a flock of chickens isn’t as bucolic as the trend suggests, and isn’t a hobby to be entered into casually. It’s important to remember that chickens are sensitive, high-maintenance animals, not merely quirky egg-laying machines, and their adoption should be entered into thoughtfully.
Landmark “Ag Gag” Lawsuit Fights Threat to Freedom of Speech
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on July 21, 2013
In Salt Lake City, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and PETA are filing an historic lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of “ag gag” laws. Undercover investigations have revealed the dark world of animal abuse and health and safety violations on factory farms—such as workers kicking, punching, and dragging cows, pigs, and chickens. These investigations have resulted in criminal convictions, national meat recalls, plant closures, and civil lawsuits—all of which makes undercover investigations and reporting an absolute necessity for protecting animals and public health and safety.
But corporate agriculture sees such exposure as a threat to profits. Rather than change to less abusive practices it has instead chosen to keep the public uninformed by aggressively pushing for legislation that makes such investigations illegal—a classic case of shooting the messenger. The laws are designed to thwart the collection of evidence of wrongdoing, thereby “gagging” reporters and whistleblowers from exposing the facts. It’s an incredible abuse of power and public trust. Many states have passed such laws and more are pending. Imagine if childcare facilities were able to keep their secrets behind closed doors, or if restaurants were able to hide their kitchens. Now imagine someone documented and reported that child abuse or those health threats; would the law would turn on them for prosecution? That’s exactly what ag gag laws seek to do.
ALDF and PETA’s groundbreaking lawsuit challenges Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-112, enacted last year, for violating the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and equal protection under the law. Utah’s law makes it illegal to obtain access to an agricultural operation under false pretenses, such as providing inaccurate information on a job application, which is one of the ways that investigative reporters document violations and abuses.
Utah’s law also makes it illegal to apply for a job at a factory farm with the intent to conduct an unauthorized undercover investigation and to document abuses. That is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with PETA, is filing this lawsuit and is representing plaintiffs including journalists Will Potter and Jesse Fruhwirth; Daniel Hauff, an undercover investigations consultant specializing in factory farms; the political journal CounterPunch; and professor James McWilliams, as plaintiffs along with Salt Lake City resident Amy Meyer.
Amy made headlines this spring when she became the first person in the nation to be prosecuted under an ag gag law. After videotaping animal abuse at a slaughterhouse in Utah from a public road, Amy was charged under Utah’s ag gag law. The state dismissed her case without prejudice, however, when it was discovered she was on public land—and when the public became outraged over her unjust charges.
Journalistic exposés of the meat industry, such as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, have led to landmark laws such as the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. These laws help protect the public from “mad cow” disease and meat contaminated with E. coli and salmonella. Investigations also consistently reveal severe and illegal animal cruelty, like animals being beaten, kicked, maimed, and thrown against walls.
The American public relies on journalists and activists to expose inhumane and unsafe food production practices in industrial facilities. Our Constitution grants us the right to bring animal cruelty to light. Concerns over the constitutionality of ag gag laws recently caused Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to veto a proposed ag gag law in that state. The Tennessee Attorney General called that state’s proposed law “constitutionally suspect.” We cannot allow politicians to violate our rights so they can protect the financial interests of their corporate agriculture backers in covering up dangerous and cruel practices.