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Demand Labeling to Prevent Superbug Crisis


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on July 14, 2014

Did you know that nearly 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to animals on factory farms before they’re even sick? Crowding and filth in factory farms creates conditions where animals need medicine to keep them alive before slaughter. This mass usage of antibiotics in animal agriculture means antibiotic resistant “superbugs”—bacteria that can’t be killed by our common medicines. These superbugs could be the number one public health crisis facing us today.

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Consumers who eat (and feed their children) meat and poultry have no way of knowing if it comes from an animal who was given pre-emptive antibiotics, and that’s why ALDF is demanding the government place labels on meat products. Consumers have a right to make informed decisions—and animals have rights to live in conditions that don’t require mass doses of medicine simply to survive. A Change.org petition to require labeling on meat from animals fed antibiotics is approaching 150,000 signatures—help it get there by signing here. This petition supports ALDF’s request to the USDA to protect the public from a “superbug” crisis from factory farms by labeling meat and poultry.

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Tightly packed spaces and unsanitary conditions on factory farms mean mass usage of antibiotics. Intensive confinement like this weakens immune systems and causes immense physiological stress. Instead of making conditions better, producers give drugs to animals to prevent the outbreak of disease and to speed an animal’s hormonal growth to “slaughter weight” more cheaply by using less food. That meat may end up in school lunches or family suppers. Studies show that antibiotic-resistant epidemics of E. coli and salmonella may start from just this origin. Yet the ag industry isn’t required to disclose its use of antibiotics to consumers!

Labeling is how consumers understand what they are purchasing and feeding their families. Food safety information helps consumers make better choices, and it’s up to the USDA to empower us with the ability to make these decisions. Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation, explains:

Millions of animals are being harmed and consumers misled by this failure to accurately label food products—and this is a matter critical to public and animal health.

Write or call your Congressional representative and ask them to support ALDF’s petition by urging the USDA to protect the public with clear food labels.

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Heroes and Criminals: Reporting Animal Abuse in 2014


Posted by Shelley Rizzotti, Vice Chair, ALDF-LA on July 3, 2014

Two boys, ages 12 and 17, watched their neighbor from their second story window bludgeon a defenseless cocker spaniel “Mookie” with a pipe-like object. Mookie was confined to a tiny pen with nowhere to escape. The children watched the attack long enough to film it with a cell phone so they would have proof to show authorities—one of the boys being heard to say “I’m sorry, doggie” as the dog cried during the filming. When the abuser initially denied hitting the animal, the children were called heroes for having captured the abuse on video—video that was critical to ensure authorities had evidence to pursue criminal charges against the abuser. Authorities were grateful.

What is the difference in the eyes of the law?

What is the difference in the eyes of the law?

A young woman, in her early 20’s, watched men from the side of a public road rake a living cow across the ground with a piece of heavy machinery that looked like a bulldozer. The animal was unable to stand up, unable to get away. The young woman watched the men hurt the animal and like the boys, filmed it. It was proof that the animal was being abused. Instead of authorities thanking her though, and saying how brave she was to watch the abuse long enough to film it, they were only focused on where she was standing when she filmed the abuse, not that the helpless animal was being abused. Authorities were not grateful. Authorities filed criminal charges against her (that were ultimately dismissed).

Would the young woman have been treated differently if she had been age 5, 10, 17, filming the abuse, instead of an adult? Lauded a hero like the boys if she had been a little girl with bows in her hair crying because the animal was being hurt? Would she have been threatened by the slaughterhouse manager and law enforcement if she was a child and had parents there with her? Would that have made a difference in the way she was treated? Would things have been different if the animal being scraped with the bulldozer was a dog, instead of a cow? Would things have been different if the animal was going to be a pet versus going to be food?

The bottom line is that whether animal abuse is recorded by a child or an adult, an immigrant worker or one undercover—whether the abuse is of a companion animal or an animal in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), abuse, is abuse, is abuse. Anyone who reports it, especially those who can endure seeing it long enough to film it, and film it long enough to build a case against it (however long that may be), is a hero, not a criminal.

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Legally Brief: Animal Bill of Rights


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on July 3, 2014

Legally Brief

Each Fourth of July in the United States, we celebrate our freedom and our independence—our legal “rights” are a point of pride. The Animal Legal Defense Fund advocates for nonhuman animals to also receive the full protection of the law as a right.

Without legal protection, animals are defenseless against exploitation and abuse by humans. From the shameful treatment of exotic animals—like Ben the Bear and Tony the Tiger—who have been imprisoned in roadside cages, to wildlife who are penned, hounded, trapped, shot, and terrorized, to the dogs savagely torn apart for profit in dogfighting rings, to puppies treated like disposable machines in puppy mills, to ducks force-fed to the point of disease so people can eat gourmet treats, to the animals confined by hoarders in the most horrifying of conditions.

(CC Soggydan Benenovitch)

(CC Soggydan Benenovitch)

This Fourth of July, ALDF urges you to sign the Animal Bill of Rights and encourage your representatives to pass legislation that gives animals the rights they deserve:

  • The Right of animals to be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse.
  • The Right of laboratory animals not to be used in cruel or unnecessary experiments.
  • The Right of farm animals to an environment that satisfies their basic physical and psychological needs.
  • The Right of companion animals to a healthy diet, protective shelter, and adequate medical care.
  • The Right of wildlife to a natural habitat, ecologically sufficient to a normal existence and self-sustaining species population.
  • The Right of animals to have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the land.

Across the nation, people are signing the Animal Bill of Rights to show a groundswell of support for laws that protect animals. ALDF is aiming for ONE MILLION SIGNATURES. If you haven’t yet joined the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed the Animal Bill of Rights—please take action now. Let our elected officials know we need stronger laws to protect the basic needs of animals—and provide justice for those who are abused and exploited.

Watch ALDF’s Animal Bill of Rights Video, which has aired more than 3,000 times across the country in just over two months.

Sign the Animal Bill of Rights.

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Joshua Horwitz – War of the Whales


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on July 1, 2014

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When science author Joshua Horwitz first came across a lawsuit filed by an environmental lawyer against the U.S. Navy, he knew he had a found an untold story. That story has become a brand new book (from Simon & Schuster) called The War of the Whales. As he explains, the “war of the whales” refers to the conflict between the safety of marine life and the Navy’s use of lethal sonar training exercises that impact the ocean’s animals for hundreds of miles.

The clash of national security with animal and environmental advocacy makes this book a compelling narrative, and it is a story that continues in the courtroom today with ALDF’s lawsuit (along with the Natural Resources Defense Council) against the U.S. Navy. Horwitz explains, “Number one, all of the lawsuits—including the current one that ALDF is party to—all they want to do is limit peace-time training and exercises. In a war situation… obviously the Navy needs to protect its people and protect the country. However, whales and dolphins shouldn’t have to die for practice. You don’t need to train in known marine habitats. That’s the position of NRDC and ALDF in this, and it’s a self-evident position.”

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War of the Whales follows two very different advocates for whales: NRDC senior attorney Joel Reynolds and Navy veteran and whale researcher Ken Balcomb. Because of the secrecy inherent to military procedures,naval sonar expert Ken Balcomb provides valuable insights into Navy operations. Together, Balcomb and Reynolds brought forth a lawsuit in the 1990s to compel the Navy to tell the truth about acoustic warfare activities and the impact these tests have on marine life. A lower court ruled against the Navy, but the Bush administration overturned that decision by executive order, claiming national security issues were at stake. NRDC did not give up, and that case reached the Supreme Court in 2008. The higher court ruled that protection of the public interest came from “securing the strongest military defense rather than in enforcing marine mammal protection.” However, the case invoked further comprehensive environmental research on the topic. Thanks to NRDC’s lawsuit, such studies are required and often funded by the Office of Naval Research.

Along with the NRDC, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is currently involved with a similar lawsuit against the U.S. Navy for amplifying its sonar testing program. ALDF and NRDC allege that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) illegally granted the Navy permission to harm marine mammals nearly ten million times off the coast of southern California and Hawaii during the 2013-2018 “training” period. In the Navy’s own environmental review, the Navy estimates that its activities will cause 9.6 million “takes” (or harms), including thousands of instances of permanent hearing loss as well as temporary hearing loss for millions of dolphins and whales, including beaked whales and endangered blue whales. This is more than a 1000% increase from the previous five year period—which was already under question by environmental and animal advocates in the lawsuit featured in War of the Whales.

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The public is growing increasingly aware of issues that affect whales and orcas–from the environmental issues presented in War of the Whales to the issues of captivity raised in the documentary film Blackfish. Horwitz says “My biggest hope for the book is that general readers will become aware of how their tax dollars are being spent in ways that threaten endangered species like whales and other marine mammals—and to activate through organizations like ALDF.”

Joshua Horwitz has worked for decades with humane, environmental, and animal groups—including ALDF—and he is cofounder and publisher of Living Planet Books. For more information, visit warofthewhales.com. War of the Whales comes out today, July 1.

Read the longer interview with author Joshua Horwitz and case study of War of the Whales here.

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Dogs in Hot Cars Need You


Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF Online Editor on July 1, 2014

We have all seen the sad story in the news about a neglectful dog owner who goes into a store “just for a minute” and returns to find his dog dead inside the car, where, on hot days, interior temperatures can reach over 160 degrees in just ten minutes. In happier endings, the police arrive to smash the car window to rescue the dog in time.

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Protect dogs wherever you park.

Each year as summer approaches, ALDF does our best to help prevent these avoidable cases of negligence—and this year, our supporters played a bigger-than-ever part in spreading the word! Our May Facebook post about dogs in hot cars reached over 43 million newsfeeds, and it was shared over a million times. It was heartening to see so many people take up the cause with such enthusiasm—and now you can join us in continuing this campaign!

By taking action today, you can keep your own car cool while delivering the message directly to your local parking lots. We designed our new Dogs in Hot Cars Sunshade so you can make a bold statement wherever you park. The design reminds people passing by that cars can be lethal to dogs, even on seemingly mild days. The lettering is large enough to be seen from across the lot, and urges people to call 911 to report trapped dogs, sending a message to the authorities that overheating is indeed an emergency for our canine friends.

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Closeup of the design. Click to enhance.

Order yours today! Your purchase helps support ALDF and the lifesaving work that we do.

BUY-NOW

You can also take action in one of the following ways:

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Click to enhance or download (PNG).

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Animals Need Lawyers—and Animals Need You!


Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF Online Editor on June 27, 2014

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ALDF works though the legal system to improve the lives of animals. We file lawsuits, we advise lawmakers, we help catch animal abusers, and we educate the next generation of animal lawyers—all with the goal of protecting animals.

When people are faced with the animal suffering ALDF works so hard to eliminate, we always get the same question. What can I do? The answer? A lot.

You certainly don’t need a law degree to help animals. Do you rescue dogs? Have you adopted a companion animal? Thank you for all that you do! We know how hard animal lovers work to help animals.

Now join us in taking another step to protect animals from harm! We have created a comprehensive Cruelty-Free Resource Guide to help show you what you can do to protect animals through the daily choices you make. The good news is that it’s easier now than it ever has been before to make animal-friendly choices about what you eat, what you wear, and how you live. Check out our Cruelty-Free Resource Guide for great tips, recipes, personal care products, and other resources to reduce your impact on animals.

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It’s easy, and we’re here to help!

Spread the Word

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I’m Running 52.4 Miles for Animals! They Are “Worth the Hurt”


Posted by Eileen Francisco, ALDF Guest Blogger on June 27, 2014

At midnight on Sunday, July 27, I will run the San Francisco “Worth the Hurt” double marathon. I will run through the city’s dark and extremely hilly streets for 26.2 miles. As soon as I cross the finish line, I’ll run the same marathon course again. That’s 52.4 miles of running—a challenge indeed—but I feel strongly that giving animals a voice in our legal system is worth this extreme effort. My run is nothing in comparison to the plight of suffering animals.

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I’m running to benefit the Animal Legal Defense Fund: the only national organization dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.

Every day, the Animal Legal Defense Fund works to protect animals by:

  • Filing groundbreaking lawsuits to stop animal abuse and expand the boundaries of animal law.
  • Providing free legal assistance to prosecutors handling cruelty cases.
  • Working to strengthen state anti-cruelty statutes.
  • Encouraging the federal government to enforce existing animal protection laws.
  • Nurturing the future of animal law through Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapters and our Animal Law Program.
  • Providing public education through seminars, workshops and other outreach efforts.

Abusing an animal is wrong. Lasting change can only come when our laws reflect this. By working together, we can demand that society hold abusers accountable for their crimes.

Please help me raise $10,000. A tax deductible donation of any size—$10, $50 or $100—will help me get closer to my $10,000 goal and will make a big difference in the lives of animals.

I urge you to please make as generous a donation as you can. Your support is vital to saving millions of lives from needless suffering because of animal testing, factory farms and roadside entertainment.

Donate Now

From the bottoms of my heart and feet, I thank you for your generous support!

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Captive Orcas Finally Have the Attention of Congress—but is the USDA Listening?


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on June 19, 2014

Legally Brief

On June 11, 38 members of Congress penned a letter to Tom Vilsack—U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—demanding updated regulations for captive marine mammals. Current regulations do not take into account some dramatic improvements over the past several decades in our scientific understanding of the physical and psychological impact of confinement upon these highly intelligent and social animals.

For years, ALDF has been leading the fight to ensure better laws and enforcement for captive marine mammals. For example, an orca named Lolita has been housed in the smallest orca tank in North America at the Miami Seaquarium for more than four decades. Her tank fails to meet even the minimum requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—requirements already recognized as outdated and inadequate. In addition to being held in a tank that is far too small, Lolita has no shelter from the sun, and she hasn’t seen another orca for decades (in the wild, orcas like Lolita spend their entire lives with their mothers and swim up to 100 miles a day). Yet the USDA keeps renewing this theme park’s exhibitor’s license, and ALDF along with PETA filed a lawsuit to stop this renewal. Recently, ALDF also urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce safety regulations for Lolita and her trainer’s sake. There’s profit to be had in this billion dollar industry, but Lolita suffers for it.

For nearly two decades, the USDA has done little to nothing to update the AWA regulations for captive marine mammals: in 1995, the USDA convened a committee that failed to reach consensus on the most important regulations; in 2002, the USDA began the process of updating the remaining regulations, but has so far failed to do so; in 2010, SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by an orca named Tilikum in front of a horrified audience at a SeaWorld show, as highlighted in the documentary Blackfish.

Last week’s letter from members of Congress strongly urges the USDA to prioritize the revision of these regulations. For example, the letter asks that tank size, temperatures, and noise regulations (along with the impact of having trainers in the water and swim-with-the-dolphins programs) be modernized, “so that the updated science can be incorporated” and the agency can “provide the most updated and scientifically supported humane standards for captive marine mammals.”

Congress took another bold step last week, as Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) added an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Act that will provide one million dollars to study the effects of captivity on orcas, if the amendment survives the Senate and the bill becomes law.

ALDF will continue to fight for Lolita’s freedom and we applaud members of Congress who are calling upon the federal agency in charge of protecting captive animals—the USDA—to take action as well. After 20 years of delay, it is well past time for animals like Lolita and Tilikum to receive the legal protections they deserve. The Miami Seaquarium violates even the weakest, most outdated laws. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition to boycott SeaWorld and we encourage people to boycott marine mammal parks like SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium that treat these magnificent wild animals like amusement park sideshow attractions.

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Kicking a Sick Pig When She’s Down


Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 18, 2014

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On June 3, ALDF and a coalition of animal advocacy groups submitted a petition to the USDA requesting that so-called “downer” pigs—who are too sick, weak, or injured to walk to their slaughter—be removed from the human food supply.

Slaughtering downer animals for food has disastrous animal welfare consequences. Under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which aims to prevent needless suffering of animals, the USDA is obligated by Congressional mandate to ensure that animals raised for food are slaughtered humanely. Allowing products from downer animals to be sold after slaughter discourages compliance with this law. When animals are too weak to stand but can still be sold for food, slaughterhouse workers have an incentive to force those animals to stand, and to use abusive tactics to do so.

Undercover investigations at slaughter facilities have documented workers prodding, kicking, and even ramming weak animals with forklifts to force them to their feet. Additionally, workers can aggressively handle and injure even healthy animals, since wounded animals can be sold for profit. As a result, animal welfare expert Temple Grandin has recognized that “maintaining an adequate level of animal welfare at the plant level is impossible if the pigs are too weak to walk through the yards.”

From a food safety perspective, the inclusion of these animals in the food supply poses a risk to public health. Unhealthy animals sold for food are more likely to make consumers sick. For example, the USDA banned downer cows in 2009, presumably in part due to evidence that downer cows are more likely to be infected with “mad cow disease” that can be transmitted to humans who eat infected beef.

If producers are not financially rewarded for weak and injured animals, healthy animals are more likely to be treated humanely—sick animals will be humanely euthanized, not turned into food. The USDA has already recognized this very fact when they recently granted a petition to prohibit the slaughter of downer veal calves, stating that such a ban would “better ensure humane handling” at slaughterhouses.

The USDA has an abysmal record of enforcing the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, not least because there are too few inspectors for the enormous task of overseeing the slaughter of more than nine billion animals every year. Granting this petition would allow USDA to focus on the humane treatment of healthy animals, as well as ensure a better food supply for consumers.

Click here to take action by asking the USDA to act on the coalition’s petition, 14-02.

For more information, please see ALDF’s Farmed Animals and the Law brochure.

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Readers Write: Summer Reading for Animal Advocates


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on June 18, 2014

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Earlier this month, ALDF asked Animal Book Club readers to write in with their suggestions for a great summer reading list for animal advocates! Here’s what you said!

Michelle Mitchell writes:

All the Way to the Ocean, by Joel Harper, is wonderful! An uplifting story about two best friends, Isaac and James, and their discovery of the cause and effect relationship between our cities’ storm drains and the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers… It is sure to inspire both young and adult readers alike and teach a timeless life lesson—If we all do our part a cleaner, safer environment is indeed within our reach…”

Sara Jacksmith

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler. I thought it was just going to be a novel, but it had a great message about the horrors of animal testing.”

Marianna Burt

“At this time of year I take a break from grim animal cases and cutting-edge literary works and reread the books that first moved me to care about animals. I go back to the iconic classics Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe and find that they have the power to stir my sympathy as they did when I was a child. Next I go to my all-time favorites: Richard Adams’ Watership Down and The Plague Dogs. Finally I look at one author’s lighthearted use of anthropomorphism—May Sarton’s The Fur Person.

Dee De Santis

“I love all of Rob Laidlaw’s animal protection books. I have added them to my public library’s collection.”

Other Suggestions

  • Striking at the Roots — Mark Hawthorne
  • Redemption: the Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America – Nathan Winograd
  • Don’t Lick the Dog – Wendy Wahman
  • Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls—One Flying Disc at a Tim — Jim Gorant
  • Wild Animals in Captivity — Rob Laidlaw
  • Buddy Unchained — Daisy Bix
  • Suspect -- Robert Crais
  • A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life — Steven Kotler
  • A Home for Dakota – Jan Zita Grover
  • The Elephant Letters: The Story of Billy and Kani – G.A. Bradshaw

Coming Up in the Animal Book Club

One of our readers reminds us of a good quotation by Jenny Brown, author of The Lucky Ones, who said “Animals are here with us, not for us.”

Happy reading!

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Fifth Circuit Rules that Animal Crush Video Law Prohibits Obscenity and Congress Has Significant Interest in Preventing Animal Cruelty


Posted by Lora Dunn, Staff Attorney, Criminal Justice Program on June 17, 2014

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On June 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the “Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010” (“the Act”) is Constitutional on its face because it prohibits “obscenity” not protected by the First Amendment, and that Congress has a “significant interest” in preventing the violence and criminal activity that these heinous videos necessitate.

The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded a 2013 ruling by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas, which had held that animal crush videos are not obscene and that the Act violated defendants’ First Amendment rights. In 2012, defendants Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice were arrested in Houston and charged with violating the Act for producing and selling obscene videos of Richards torturing dogs, cats, and other animals for the sexual gratification of viewers.

The Fifth Circuit agreed with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) that the district court should have applied the Supreme Court’s three-part test for obscenity established in the case of Miller v. California, rather than relying on the “variable and debatable” legislative history of the Act. ALDF filed its amicus brief, along with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, in August 2013.

In the 2010 case of U.S. v. Stevens, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that an earlier version of the Act from 1999 was unconstitutional; Congress swiftly and nearly unanimously passed an amended version of the Act in 2010. Today, the Fifth Circuit ruled that this second and current version of the Act is Constitutional on its face because it serves the “significant interest” of preventing the violence to animals promoted and required by such videos, and was “reasonably tailored” to meet that interest, in part because the Act now exempts lawful activities like hunting, normal veterinary practices, and customary agricultural practices.

Significantly for victim animals, the Fifth Circuit looked to the “long history and substantial consensus” of animal cruelty laws in this country, emphasizing that animal cruelty “is so antisocial that it has been made criminal” in every state. As a practical matter, the Court also acknowledged that because of the “clandestine manner in which animal crush videos are made,” it is difficult for state law enforcement to target the underlying cruelty that these videos depict—furthering the need for the Act.

ALDF applauds the Fifth Circuit for this landmark ruling that acknowledges Congress’s compelling interest in combatting the egregious animal cruelty inherent in animal crush videos.

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Welcome New ALDF Board Members and Advisory Council


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on June 17, 2014

aldf-logo-burgundyALDF is pleased to introduce three new members of the ALDF Board of Directors, Wendy Morgan, Lisa Brewer, and Victoria Stack. Victoria is a co-founder and director of International Communication Initiatives, a nonprofit whose mission is to design, coordinate, and promote cross-disciplinary projects that advance a humane and environmentally conscious society. Wendy Morgan is a family law attorney experienced in business, entertainment, and animal rights law. Lisa Brewer has worked as an attorney at Hewlett-Packard Corporation and Apple, Inc., and currently has her own law practice in the San Francisco Bay Area, focusing on workplace investigations.

We are also delighted to present ALDF’s brand new Advisory Council. This council of diverse advisors includes law professors David Favre (Michigan State University) and Bernard Rollin (Colorado State University). David is also the vice chair of the American Bar Association/TIPS Committee on Animal Law, while Bernard serves on the Institute for Laboratory Animal Resources (ILAR) Council of the National Academy of Sciences. Also joining the council are former ALDF Board members Susann MacLachlan (professor of law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago) and Joshua Marquis (former district attorney in Astoria, Oregon). Other advisors include Robert “Skip” Trimble, a board member of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, Dave Simon—author of Meatonomics and board member of the Animal Protection & Rescue League—software architect Stephanie Walter, and Brooks McCormick.

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All Talk, No Quack: Vet Association Won’t Stand Against Foie Gras


Posted by By Kelly Murray, ALDF Law Clerk on June 13, 2014

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Force-feeding young ducks and geese to produce fatty livers known as “foie gras,” is inhumane, and that is why ALDF has launched multiple attacks against this cruel industry. It is a tough argument to say that force-feeding ducks to produce foie gras does not cause animal suffering. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is suggesting by not taking a stance against foie gras production.

In 2010, the AVMA amended its Veterinarian’s Oath to emphasize the association’s commitment to animal welfare. The revised oath reads:

“I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering…”

According to former AVMA Executive Board Chair, Dr. John R. Brooks, AVMA’s board was sending a message by adopting the new oath – “The message is we as the AVMA and veterinarians in general do recognize that protecting animal well-being is what we’re all about.”

Based on the oath, you would expect the AVMA to take a strong position against the production and sale of foie gras—but you would be wrong. In fact, the AVMA has refused to adopt a policy on this cruel and unnecessary practice. On May 7, 2014, the AVMA released a report entitled, “Literature Review on the Welfare Implications of Foie Production,” in which the association even admits, “Capture and restraint are stressful to the ducks and rapid insertion of the feeding tube provide opportunities for injury and therefore pain.” It further goes on to list the known risks of foie gras production, including the “creation of a vulnerable animal more likely to sufferfrom otherwise tolerable conditions….”

Despite the AVMA’s own admission that ducks used in foie gras production are stressed, have increased opportunities for pain, and are more likely to suffer than other ducks, and despite animal organizations like ALDF leading the fight against the foie gras industry, the AVMA refuses to take a stance or implement a policy on foie gras.

Rather than strive to prevent the suffering and relief of ducks used in foie gras production, as their oath requires, the AVMA has turned a blind eye to the plight of these animals. Until the AVMA recognizes its self-prescribed duty, it will have a tough time convincing anyone that protecting animal well-being really is its top priority.

To read more about ALDF’s landmark victory against the foie gras industry and our lawsuits against producers and restaurants who violate California’s ban on foie gras, visit ALDF.org/foiegras.

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ALDF Speaks Out Against Factory Farm Pollution at Washington Board of Health Hearing


Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 11, 2014

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Dairy cows being milked.

Today, Washington’s Board of Health is holding a hearing regarding the impacts of animal agriculture on public health and the environment. ALDF, along with several environmental groups, is speaking at the hearing to urge the Board to hold factory farms accountable for their role in polluting the state water supply.

Thousands of animals are confined in crowded and filthy conditions on factory farms in Washington where they are forced to stand in their own waste for their entire lives. These conditions not only lead to unimaginable animal suffering, but also contribute to the spread of disease, endangering both animal and human health. These thousands of animals also create an enormous amount of waste—which then goes untreated and leaks into ground and surface water.

For example, Washington has around 500 dairies, containing 200,000 cows who produce 20 million pounds of manure each day. This untreated manure is kept in unlined lagoons or is spread across fields. This waste then runs into surface and groundwater, polluting streams and aquifers with nitrates and E.Coli. In fact, the EPA has determined that the nitrate pollution of drinking water in the Lower Yakima Valley is the result of these industrial animal farms. Antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals fed to the animals on these farms also contaminate the drinking supply. Water pollution from factory farms is a well-established risk to public health.

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Manure being spread on a field.

The Washington State Board of Health has the legal authority to promulgate rules to protect residents from the health hazards posed by manure from factory farms. ALDF is asking that the Board revise the regulations regarding the keeping of animals on concentrated animal operations to include specific and enforceable requirements for managing the spread of animal manure.

The Board of Health must act on this urgent matter, as neither the Washington Department of Ecology nor the Department of Agriculture is sufficiently regulating water pollution from factory farms. In fact, the Department of Ecology is charged by the federal Environmental Protection Agency with protecting the state waters under the Clean Water Act. However, the Department has so far ignored this duty and has required the federally mandated water pollution permit from only 1% of factory farms in the state.

It is imperative that Washington’s state agencies regulate the pollution coming from factory farms. Until then these facilities will continue to put both animal and human health at risk.

Click here to take action by asking the USDA to act on the coalition’s petition, 14-02.

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Will Lolita—Miami Seaquarium’s Lonely Orca—Star in Blackfish “Sequel”?


Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 10, 2014

The Miami Seaquarium is in the business of breaking laws. For decades, the Miami Seaquarium has confined Lolita, a wild born orca, in conditions that violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Lolita is kept in an undersized concrete aquarium prison and denied shade and the companionship of other orcas. Because of this, ALDF and PETA sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for renewing the Miami Seaquarium’s license.

The Miami Seaquarium has also been violating the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act—the law that protects employees from deadly workplace hazards, such as swimming with wild orcas. Miami Seaquarium has been requiring trainers to swim with and even ride upon Lolita as she performs tricks in her tiny tank, despite the law. ALDF included exclusive video evidence of this ongoing occupational hazard in a complaint sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). This complaint renews the request ALDF made first in November 2013, asking OSHA to investigate this blatant violation of the OSH Act.

To see the violation in question, click here (12:25 in the video).

The Miami Seaquarium has no excuse for its lawless behavior. The 2010 death of SeaWorld orca trainer Dawn Brancheau (made notorious by the award-winning documentary Blackfish), sparked a prolonged legal battle over employee safety. This battle ended in April 2014, when SeaWorld lost its appeal before a panel of judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in SeaWorld of Florida v. Perez. The panel affirmed the decision below, which held that close contact with captive orcas is a recognized hazard, prohibited by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Despite this clear ruling, as depicted in ALDF’s video footage of Lolita’s May 10, 2014 performance, the Miami Seaquarium continues to ask its employees to put their lives on the line, all in the name of entertainment and profit. By doing so, they are inviting another tragic disaster like the one featured in Blackfish.

The legal issue is settled. The Miami Seaquarium is not immune from the Circuit Court’s decision. OSHA now has the opportunity to prevent another tragedy. In the process, Lolita will no longer be treated like a living surfboard. If you think an investigation is overdue, you can take action here.

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