Victory for Egg-Laying Hens as 9th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Prop 2 Challenge
Posted by on November 18, 2016
Missouri’s crusade to roll back farmed animal protections approved by California voters suffered a fatal blow today when a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the case (State of Missouri ex rel. Koster v. Harris). The Missouri Attorney General’s lawsuit sought to gut California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, or Proposition 2, which passed in 2008 and went into effect two years ago this January.
The law affords farmed animals more humane living conditions, requiring that farmers provide egg-laying hens, calves used for veal and pregnant pigs adequate space to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turnabout freely within their enclosures. In a showing of California’s staunch commitment to humane treatment, the state’s General Assembly voted to require all eggs sold—in addition to those raised—in the Golden State to meet these same requirements, improving the lives of millions of hens throughout California and across the country.
However, rather than permit their egg producers to compete in the new, California-driven humane marketplace, Missouri and five other states decided to sue. In February 2014, before the law even went into effect, the six states filed a federal lawsuit to overturn it. A few months later, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with Farm Sanctuary and Compassion Over Killing, submitted an amicus brief in support of California’s motion to dismiss Missouri’s baseless suit, and on October 2, 2014, a federal judge in Northern California granted California’s motion, prompting Missouri and the states to appeal.
Now, the Ninth Circuit has also sided with California, affirming the lower court’s finding that Missouri has no standing to sue, because its lawsuit benefits not the people of Missouri but the private economic interests of an unidentified number of its egg producers. In short, the Missouri Attorney General’s naked attempt to use state power to do big ag’s bidding utterly failed. While the Ninth Circuit left the door cracked for Missouri to file a new complaint if it can show that the law, now in full effect, is harming the state, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is hopeful that Missouri and the five other states will see that battery cages are quickly becoming obsolete, and give up their pointless campaign.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund celebrates this victory for hens and is committed to fighting for a world in which inhumane battery cages are relegated to the dustbin of history.
Wins for Animal Protection in the 2016 Election
Posted by Nicole Pallotta on November 15, 2016
While much of the nation’s focus has been riveted on the outcome of the recent presidential election, voters in a handful of states also decided important ballot measures related to animal protection last week. First, the good news.
Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved Question 3, An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals, which bans the production and sale of products obtained from the extreme confinement of farmed animals. The bill not only prohibits confining farmed animals in cages so small they cannot comfortably stand up, lie down, turn around or move their limbs, but also goes further in banning the sale of meat and eggs resulting from these practices outside Massachusetts.
The confinement practices that will be prohibited in Massachusetts starting Jan. 1, 2022, include battery cages for egg-laying hens, veal crates for calves and gestation crates for pigs. Although only one farm in Massachusetts currently uses battery cages, and none use veal crates or gestation crates, the provision banning the sale of products resulting from these practices will have a greater impact. So far, only California has passed a law banning the sale of eggs from hens kept in cages, and no state has banned the sale of meat products from confined animals.
This new legislation—which passed by a landslide with 78% in favor—is stronger than any similar law in the U.S. and sends a clear message that people care about farmed animals. We can expect more challenges in the future to the egregious methods of animal confinement that have become standard in the agriculture industry.
Oklahoma voters rejected State Question 777, also known as the Right to Farm bill, which would have amended the state constitution to include farming and ranching rights. Adding guaranteed farming rights to the state constitution would have made it extremely difficult to pass any new regulations related to agriculture. The amendment would have required the courts to apply the same standards to lawsuits concerning agriculture and farmed animals that it does in those concerning free speech, gun ownership and religious freedom—thus making newer state restrictions and regulations vulnerable to lawsuits. Despite the backing of powerful agriculture groups, Oklahoma voters decided not to grant the farming industry legal protection from future regulation.
In another positive development, Oregonians approved Measure 100, the Wildlife Trafficking Prevention Act, which bans the sale of animal parts from 12 endangered species to thwart illegal poaching. It passed by a wide margin.
The U.S. is now the second largest market for illegal wildlife products and Oregon joins several states that have recently enacted legislation to curtail trafficking, including New York, New Jersey, California, Washington and Hawaii. At the federal level, last month President Obama signed into law H.R. 2494, the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016, which provides tools to help the U.S. lead efforts to combat the global poaching crisis and work with partner nations to protect elephants, rhinos and members of other endangered and threatened species from being victimized by the international trafficking trade.
And in California, voters rejected Proposition 67, affirming a ban on plastic bags. Plastic bags are a significant cause of death for marine animals. After San Francisco became the first jurisdiction to ban single use plastic bags in 2007, California followed in 2015 with the nation’s first statewide ban. Proposition 67, put on the ballot by a coalition of plastic bag companies, would have overturned the ban.
Unfortunately, not all of the news was positive for animals. Montanans voted down the Montana Animal Trap Restrictions Initiative, or I-777, a ballot measure that would have prohibited the use of cruel animal traps and snares on public lands. Although the initiative contained many exemptions, anti-trapping advocates knew they faced an uphill battle in a state with a strong hunting and trapping tradition that in 2004 approved a constitutional right to “harvest wildlife.” However, in light of the fact that advocates had tried unsuccessfully to get similar measures on the ballot in 2010 and 2014, the fact that they were able to collect enough signatures to get it on the ballot this year can be viewed as a hopeful sign.
Despite the mostly positive gains made on state ballot measures this election, many are concerned about what a Donald Trump presidency will mean for animals. Although President-elect Trump has not issued any official statements on animal protection, during his campaign he pledged to dismantle environmental protections and regulations, which could have far-reaching impacts on animals and their dwindling habitats. Trump does not have a voting record on animal protection—having never previously held political office—however, many of his likely picks for cabinet-level positions, including the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, are sport-hunting enthusiasts and climate change skeptics, some of whom have demonstrated a pronounced antipathy to animal interests.
While the effects of a Trump presidency remain to be seen, we will fight to ensure the progress that has been made for animal protection will not be undone—and indeed will continue to move forward—no matter who sits in the Oval Office.
- Massachusetts Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment, Question 3 (2016)
- Oklahoma Right to Farm Amendment, State Question 777 (2016)
- Oregon Wildlife Trafficking Prevention, Measure 100 (2016)
- California Proposition 67, Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum (2016)
- Montana Animal Trap Restrictions Initiative, I-177 (2016)
- Cook, Nancy, and Andrew Restuccia. “Meet Trump’s Cabinet-in-waiting.” POLITICO. November 9, 2016.
Congratulations to 2016 Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) Essay Contest Winner Jonathan Morris!
Posted by Nicole Pallotta on November 14, 2016
We are pleased to announce Lewis & Clark Law School 3L Jonathan Morris has won the first-ever SALDF Essay Contest, the theme of which was: “How can we best protect wild animals in light of urban expansion and population growth?”
In his winning entry, Time to Grow Up: Vertical Farming as a Potential Solution to Wildlife Issues in the United States, Jonathan argued that in addition to increasing urbanization and human population growth, animal agriculture (including plant crops grown to feed farmed animals) is a significant contributor to wild animals losing their habitats. In addition to the devastating displacement effects of more land being used for agriculture, countless wild animals lose their lives each year through lethal predator control programs operated by federal and state agencies that work to protect agricultural interests. Jonathan posits that vertical farming – a method utilizing taller structures in urban areas to grow crops in a higher density, controlled environment – represents one potential solution to making more land available for wild animals, thus also reducing deadly encounters with humans.
Jonathan won two free tickets to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Cruise for a Cause, which took place November 5, 2016, and a travel stipend to help him and a guest attend.
He said: “The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Cruise for a Cause was an incredible event. I had a wonderful time meeting supporters and several staff attorneys, all dedicated to improving the lives of animals. As a law student, it is not often I am invited to attend a luxury cruise in Los Angeles. I particularly enjoyed Moby’s live performance and meeting Ed Asner. I am grateful for the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s generous invitation and hope that the cruise becomes an annual event.”
Jonathan is an active member of the Lewis & Clark SALDF chapter. He is currently doing an externship with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and has clerked for our Litigation and Animal Law Programs. In addition, Jonathan is a recipient of the 2016 Animal Legal Defense Fund Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund salutes Jonathan and all our wonderful SALDF members – the next generation of animal lawyers – as they work to develop innovative solutions to create a brighter, more humane future for all animals.
Legally Brief: Animal Law Conference 2016
Posted by Natalia Lima on November 8, 2016
On the weekend of Oct. 7, 2016 the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School and the Lewis & Clark Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter hosted the 24th annual Animal Law Conference in New York City. The event brought together students, attorneys and experts with one common goal: to make the world a better place for animals through the legal system. Animal Law might still be a new field, but there’s a high demand to learn more about it. Yet again, this year’s conference was sold out well ahead of the big weekend.
The conference kicked off with an evening reception at the Manhattan Penthouse, near Union Square. Guests enjoyed plant-based appetizers while the Animal Legal Defense Fund honored pro bono attorneys and law firms Morgan Hector; Deb Robinson; Dentons US LLP; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP; Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Winston & Strawn LLP who offered invaluable help with our cases in the past year. Recent law school grad, Priscilla Rader, and current law student, Raj Reddy, accepted the SALDF Chapter of the Year award on behalf of the Lewis & Clark Law School SALDF chapter for their outstanding work to engage fellow students in animal law projects and events.
Throughout the weekend attendees had a chance to hear about a number of legal issues affecting animals today. Keynote speaker Steven Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, spoke of his ongoing efforts to seek legal personhood for nonhuman animals, highlighting his work on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York state. Other panels explored the first amendment’s important role in the litigation of animal protection work, the challenges surrounding military working dogs and their handlers and new approaches to helping captive wildlife, among others. You can view each presentation on the Animal Law Conference YouTube page.
Attorneys and activists from around the country were able to network and learn about new strategies they can implement in their own cases. Law students got to see firsthand how they can advance the interests of animals in the future.
We’re grateful to all of this year’s speakers and attendees for making our conference such a success. And a big thank you to our sponsors: Donor Point Marketing, The Moxie Foundation and RKD Alpha Dog, and in-kind sponsors: Beyond Meat, Happy Cow and Janet Holmes.
Conference attendees were the first to hear some big news: our venue for next year’s Animal Law Conference will accommodate many more guests. We’ll be back in Portland, Oregon the weekend of Oct. 13-15, 2017, and it’s sure to be one of the biggest, most exciting Animal Law Conferences yet. Make sure to watch animallawconference.org and follow the Animal Law Conference on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest updates.
LIVE with the Animal Legal Defense Fund: Ag-Gag
Posted by on November 1, 2016
Our first Facebook LIVE event gave viewers the chance to have their questions answered in a live streaming conversation with the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Executive Director Stephen Wells and Chief Legal Counsel Matthew Liebman. Up for discussion: Ag-Gag laws. With a decision in our case against Utah’s Ag-Gag law just days away, viewers brought their best questions to the table. Watch the video below to learn about the different kinds of Ag-Gag laws, why they’re dangerous, and what the Animal Legal Defense Fund is doing to stop them.
Join us on Facebook and stay tuned for a schedule of our 2017 Facebook live events.
First-Ever Law Student Scholarship Panel Held at 2016 Animal Law Conference
Posted by Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager on October 19, 2016
This year, for the first time in the event’s long-running history, the Animal Law Conference dedicated a panel to showcasing law student work. The Inaugural Law Student Scholarship Panel took place Sunday morning, October 9, and featured three papers chosen from among more than 30 submissions. The call for papers, written on any animal law topic during law school in the last two years, was announced by the Animal Legal Defense Fund last spring. Submissions were reviewed and ranked by a committee of practicing animal law attorneys and professors.
Papers were selected based on writing quality and animal law analysis, with the latter including originality of the topic and/or the legal analysis and suggestions for effective solutions with potential to help animals and advance the animal law movement. In addition to the opportunity to present their work, the authors of the winning papers also received a travel scholarship from the Animal Legal Defense Fund to attend the conference. The top papers were:
- “(Elephant) Death and Taxes: Proposed Tax Treatment of Illegal Ivory,” by Angie Ostrowski (Lewis & Clark Law School, 2015)
- “Regulating Feedlots: Approaches to Containing Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,” by Caitlin Foley (University of Chicago Law School, 2016)
- “Occupational Licensure for Pet Dog Trainers: Dogs are not the Only Ones Who Should be Licensed,” by Elizabeth Foubert (The John Marshall Law School, 2016)
The panel was a success and the three panelists did an outstanding job. The selection committee also chose ten honorable mention papers, which are posted, along with the panel papers, on the conference website here (under “Inaugural Law Student Scholarship Panel”).
Our decision to organize this panel is the direct result of the incredible growth of animal law in academia and concomitant rise of student interest in animal law issues. Since 2000, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animal Law Program has been dedicated to advancing and supporting the future of animal law, and the field has undergone near-exponential expansion in the last decade and a half. In the 16 years since we started tracking, the number of Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters has grown from 12 to 215 and, in that same time period, the number of law schools offering a course in animal law has expanded from 9 to more than 160. Along with our resources for law students and SALDF chapters, educational opportunities continue to expand.
In 2008, the inception of the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, was an important milestone that broke new ground in professional higher education by creating the most extensive animal law curriculum in the world. More recently, Harvard Law School has emerged as an academic leader with the launch of its new Animal Law & Policy Program.
Students are the next generation of animal lawyers and policy makers and, as this panel ably demonstrated, they are already doing great work exploring cutting-edge legal theories and considering practical ways to use the law to help animals. We look forward to hearing more student ideas that will help move the conversation forward at next year’s panel!
Keeping Everyone in Matthew’s Path in Our Thoughts
Posted by Stephen Wells, Executive Director on October 6, 2016
As Hurricane Matthew causes rising anxieties in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, our hearts go out to everyone in the region. Looking at the storm’s destruction in the Caribbean, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is mourning the many lives lost, and urging anyone in the storm’s path to take appropriate precautions.
We hope that anyone sheltering in place or evacuating can stay united with their human and nonhuman family. The internet offers some very useful emergency preparedness resources including listings of places with pet-friendly accommodations, caring for pets during an emergency and what to take with you if you have to evacuate.
As we watch reports of the storm unfolding on the news and social media, and hear reports from our friends and family in the region, we can’t help but be concerned about everyone in Matthew’s path. We hope the storm will pass through with minimum impact, and we want you to know that we are thinking of all of you.
Pennsylvania Court: Neglected Puppy Does Not Have to Return to His Abuser
Posted by David Rosengard, Criminal Justice Program Fellow on September 6, 2016
Great news for a pit bull puppy named Luke—last week, a Pennsylvania court decided that he does not have to return to his abuser! In Commonwealth v. Kuhns, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the legitimacy of using contraband forfeiture rules to prevent seized animals from going back to owners who subjected them to unlawful cruelty. Derivative contraband is now one more legal strategy that animal advocates, prosecutors and law enforcement can add to their toolbox to protect animal victims where the criminal justice system falls short.
The case in question involved Luke, a pit bull puppy. In 2014, Luke, then six months old, suffered a shattered shoulder allegedly at the hands of his owner. Law enforcement subsequently seized Luke, charging his owner with animal cruelty. At trial, however, a key witness’s testimony was different than her earlier statements regarding how Luke’s injury took place: his owner was acquitted—and demanded that the state return Luke. The prosecutor, concerned at the prospect of Luke returning to the environment where he was so seriously wounded, worked with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to develop a unique legal argument that would ultimately succeed in preventing Luke’s return.
Our ‘derivative contraband’ argument—which requires a much lower standard of proof (preponderance of evidence) than that of a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt )—focused not on how Luke’s shoulder came to be broken, but rather neglect: specifically, on trial testimony establishing that the defendant failed to get Luke the immediate veterinary care that his severe injury required. The argument’s second stage applied Pennsylvania’s contraband law: if the defendant sufficiently involved Luke in an unlawful act, that would, in turn, make Luke derivative contraband—which law enforcement has no obligation to return. In short, the strategy was to argue that a preponderance of the evidence showed (1) the defendant had engaged in a specific episode of unlawful animal neglect; (2) as the subject of that specific neglect, Luke was integrally related to that unlawful act; (3) Luke should therefore be declared contraband; and (4) as contraband, the defendant could be ordered to forfeit Luke.
The trial court agreed with our analysis, ruling that Luke was indeed contraband, and ordering him forfeited from the defendant owner. The defendant appealed to the Superior Court, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus (‘friend of the court’) brief in the case. In its amicus, the Animal Legal Defense Fund argued not only that the trial court had properly applied Pennsylvania’s contraband rules, but that so long as the law treats animals as property, it must also be willing to award them contraband status when they are subject to unlawful cruelty. Failing to do so would perversely give the state fewer options on behalf of animals (who suffer when subject to cruelty) than on behalf of mere unfeeling objects.
The Superior Court upheld the trial court’s ruling: Luke had been subject to unlawful neglect, which allowed him to be designated contraband, and appropriately forfeited. Crucially, the Superior Court found the defendant “unreasonably risked harm to [Luke] by exhibiting indifference to the consequence of [his] injury. Likewise, [defendant] failed to take the necessary steps to care for [Luke] at the time that care became necessary. The symptoms displayed … required immediate medical attention….” In other words, the obligation to provide one’s animal with timely care rises in direct proportion to the severity of the animal’s injury—and a “wanton or cruel” failure to provide such care can result in the animal being forfeit.
We salute the great work undertaken on this matter by Lycoming County Assistant District Attorney Melissa Kalaus and late Humane Society Police Officer Lawrence Woltz. HSPO Woltz conducted the investigation of Luke’s injury and unlawful treatment, and ADA Kalaus argued the case at trial and handled the state’s response on appeal. Luke has since been adopted, and is very happy in his new home. Without the dedication to the cause of justice exhibited by HSPO Woltz and ADA Kalaus, Luke would not enjoy the safety and security he does today!
California says Bye-Bye to Bullhooks
Posted by Carney Anne Nasser, Senior Counsel for Wildlife & Regulatory Affairs on August 30, 2016
The only way to get a multiton elephant to perform the ridiculously contrived and unnatural tricks you see in the circus, or to be conditioned to walk in circles to provide rides at county fairs and roadside amusements, is through the constant threat of physical punishment. Elephants do not perform for peanuts. Indeed, exhibitors who use elephants for entertainment brandish a firepoker-like device known as a “bullhook” or “ankus” to strike and jab elephants in the most sensitive parts of their bodies. While the worst abuses take place during training behind closed doors, elephant handlers are never seen without their bullhooks during performances because the mere presence of the bullhook is a reminder to the elephant of the pain that awaits her if she doesn’t do as commanded.
Fortunately, localities around the country have started prohibiting or restricting the use of cruel training tools used to make elephants and big cats dance in circles or jump through rings of fire. It is these local legislative changes that precipitated Ringling Bros.’ parent corporation to end using elephants for its circus—complying with new legislation all over the country was just too complicated for the traveling act which is on the road 50 weeks out of the year. However, in the past month, we have seen states stepping up to do the right thing for elephants, too.
In July 2016, Rhode Island became the first state to enact a statewide bullhook ban when Gov. Gina Raimondo signed legislation prohibiting use of the cruel devices. Just this week, California became the second with Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bullhook ban into law.
Elephant advocates will recall that Gov. Brown vetoed a criminal bullhook ban that passed both houses during the 2014-15 legislative session due to his stated wish not to further complicate the California Penal Code. Bill sponsor Sen. Ricardo Lara tweaked the language of the bill so that violations would be subject to civil penalties, including revocation of any state-issued wildlife permits, rather than criminal prosecution. No time has been lost in the process of making these changes since both included an effective date of January 1, 2018.
Ringling Bros. stopped traveling with elephants in May 2016, and all of the accredited zoos in California use protected contact, a positive-reinforcement style of elephant management that is safer and more humane because handlers never share the same unrestricted free space with elephants—and therefore do not need to use bullhooks. So what impact will SB 1062 have? You may recall that Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), the Perris, Calif.-based exhibitor that supplies elephants for movies, weddings, commercials, parties and elephant rides at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, was captured on undercover video violently abusing elephants with bullhooks and electric shock, including an elephant named Tai who has been used in a number of movies, including Water for Elephants. Since the undercover video footage became publicly available, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums ended its affiliation with HTWT and all county fairs across the State of California where HTWT used to provide elephant rides have cut ties with the company. The language in SB 1062 subject HTWT to civil penalties including revocation of the permits necessary for it to lawfully keep elephants in the state for treating and training the elephants the way it does.
As circuses pivot away from use of elephants, as the curtain is being peeled back on the dark side of animals used in Hollywood, and blockbuster movies like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and television shows like The Walking Dead are opting to use computer generated imaging and animatronics rather than live animals, days are numbered for exploitative companies like Have Trunk Will Travel.
When it comes to elephants, big cats and other exotic animals used for human amusement, abuse is the rule—not the exception—which is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue to urge and support critical legal and regulatory changes that will bring an end to the cruel exploitation of rare and endangered species once and for all.
Good news for Alaska’s Wolves and Bears . . . Maybe.
Posted by Stephen Wells, Executive Director on August 24, 2016
First the good news. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which manages our nation’s National Wildlife Refuges, has issued new regulations for Wildlife Refuges in Alaska that end some of the most egregious forms of wildlife killing permitted and promoted by the state of Alaska. Specifically, the new rules “prohibit the take of mother bears and their cubs, the take of brown (grizzly) bears over bait, the killing of wolves and their pups at den sites, and aerial gunning” on any National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
The USFWS rules were necessary because the federal agency allows the state of Alaska to manage wildlife on National Wildlife Refuges within the state. And Alaska’s wildlife policies regard wolves and bears as competition with human hunters for prized hunting targets, like moose and caribou. Thus they have “managed” wolves and bears to severely limit their numbers, by allowing extreme methods of killing including those listed above, as well as outrageously long hunting and trapping seasons (for wolves this often means no limits on the number you are allowed to kill). The state has even hired marksmen to shoot wolves and bears from helicopters and airplanes.
While this war on Alaska’s wildlife will continue on state lands and other federal lands, like those managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the rule change still matters. Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges comprise more than half of all the National Wildlife Refuge land in the country – nearly 77 million acres. That’s about 18% of all land in the state. And much of that land is excellent habitat for these species.
Time to celebrate, right? Maybe. Here’s the bad news. Even as these new, minimal protections are being put in place, both the U.S. House and Senate FY17 Interior Appropriations bills (the bills that fund the entire federal government) contain “riders,” sneaky amendments, which would block the implementation of this rule. Riders are attached to “must-pass” legislation like funding bills, because it is very difficult to remove them from such sweeping matters.
That means that members of the Congress in both the Senate and the House of Representatives want the massacre of wolf pups in their dens, bear mothers and their cubs, the baiting of bears for the kill with garbage and even shooting from aircraft to continue on our National Wildlife Refuges.
The USDA is Standing By While a Global Crisis Looms
Posted by Kelsey Eberly, Staff Attorney on August 23, 2016
A global health crisis fueled by the greed of factory farming conglomerates and their allies in Congress is looming. It’s not climate change or heart disease, but the public health nightmare of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The development of antibiotics only began in earnest about 100 years ago, and since then they have revolutionized medicine. Most people alive today have no concept of what life would look like without access to lifesaving antibiotics, but widespread misuse and overuse of these lifesaving tools could have deadly consequences.
“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization. “Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.” The Centers for Disease Control state that each year at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria, and 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. With major health organizations in agreement that antibiotic resistance is a dire health threat, one would think that the meat industry, the largest abuser of these lifesaving drugs, would clean up its act. Sadly, this is not the case.
For years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has been sounding the alarm bells about the danger of feeding thousands of pounds of antibiotics to healthy farm animals, to keep them growing faster and larger and to prevent them from succumbing to disease amid their filthy, overcrowded living conditions. Antibiotics have long been a crutch used by the meat industry to maintain their inhumane, industrialized operations that churn out meat with maximum efficiency and profit. The overuse of these drugs, many of which are important—even critical—in human medicine, has contributed to the spread of pathogens that are resistant even to next-generation, cutting-edge antibiotics. Colistin, a drug of last resort, has become one of the only effective antibiotics to treat highly drug-resistant bacteria when all else has failed. The recent emergence of a colistin-resistant bacteria in the United States, then, first in a human patient and later in a specimen of pig intestine, raises the specter of a truly invincible super bacteria.
At the same time, consumer demand for meat from animals raised without antibiotics has skyrocketed, as consumers seek to avoid drug-resistant bacteria and choose healthier options. However, misleading labeling of meat and poultry both deceives consumers and prevents the market from changing to meet consumer demand.
In response to this public health crisis, on June 3, 2013—over three years ago—the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, asking the agency to require that meat and poultry from animals fed antibiotics be labeled as such, and to provide a uniform labeling standard for antibiotic use in meat, to meet consumer demand and address the antibiotic resistance crisis. The Animal Legal Defense Fund followed up the petition with a letter providing additional evidence of the need for mandatory antibiotics labeling, including Congressional support, studies, surveys and policymaking recommendations.
In response, the agency did absolutely nothing. Now, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has gathered another three years of additional evidence of the antibiotic resistance crisis, rising consumer demand for meat raised without antibiotics and the confusion that inconsistent and unregulated antibiotics labeling has sowed. And today, the organization submitted another follow-up letter, accompanied by 31 pieces of evidence, illustrating the dire need for mandatory meat and poultry antibiotics labeling.
Since the original letter, evidence has mounted in support of antibiotic labeling. Three federal acts have been introduced to combat antibiotic resistance and the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture, and new studies have emerged documenting the transference of drug-resistant bacteria between farm animals and human hosts. The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s first letter has garnered support from a coalition of public health and environmental organizations, including The Sierra Club, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project and Friends of Family Farmers.
The USDA’s continued inaction in the face of an enormous public health crisis and rampant consumer confusion shows that it’s abdicating its statutory responsibility to protect consumers and safeguard human health. The Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue urging the agency to do its duty.
Lucky and Nicole: Together in Solitary
Posted by Stephen Wells, Executive Director on August 17, 2016
A female Asian elephant named Lucky, who has lived for 53 years in captivity under conditions that don’t meet her basic physical, psychological or social needs, deserves some relief. In December 2015, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of concerned San Antonio residents against the San Antonio Zoo, seeking compliance with Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) elephant-management guidelines. The lawsuit, filed under the Endangered Species Act, notes that conditions for Lucky have caused her psychological torment and physical injury.
We also hoped that zoo officials would release Lucky, to spend her final days at a sanctuary in the company of other elephants, walking in grass, resting in shade. The Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary offered such accommodations free of charge. The zoo declined.
The zoo’s former director has said that Lucky was “weird” and “too old” to move to sanctuary; his successor, Tim Morrow, maintains that Lucky is simply better off alone. We’ve come to expect such feigned ignorance about the natural needs of captive animals from people who benefit from their captivity, but Morrow has gone a brazen step further.
He’s introduced Nicole, an Asian elephant held captive as a circus performer for 36 years, as a companion. Morrow described the act as “the first step into our next phase.” Adding an aging elephant and citing it as a solution effectively doubles down on the zoo’s willful ignorance of elephant welfare. Now there will be two elephants living in substandard conditions—still out of compliance with AZA guidelines and the Endangered Species Act. That issue aside, not all elephant pairings are compatible, and Nicole has been removed from the elephant companions she’s known for decades. To split substandard conditions between two arthritic animals and sell it as an improvement is either insulting or oblivious.
Not surprisingly, the zoo continues to spin the story as a win for Lucky. “Elephant in need of a friend finds perfect match,” declared USA Today, alongside kid-friendly video, oompah circus music—and zero supportive science. If Morrow means it when he says “Lucky’s health and well-being is the primary focus,” she would be moved to a sanctuary, not expected to share her woefully inadequate enclosure with another elephant she might not even bond with.
Our litigation aims to remedy that, either through compliance with the AZA guidelines, or by seeing these elephants liberated to live comfortably with others of their own kind at an appropriate sanctuary.
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund Chapter of the Year Award 2016
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Student Programs Attorney on August 9, 2016
SALDF Fostering Growth for Next Generation of Animal Advocates
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on July 21, 2016
With 190 chapters established in the U.S. and 22 internationally, ALDF’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter program has taken law schools by storm. Through SALDF, we provide grants and guidance, career advice and educational materials, and a variety of other resources. Over 15 years, the number of universities and law schools offering courses in animal law has increased from just 9 in the year 2000 to more than 170 today—largely as a result of the work of our coordination with concerned students on those campuses through SALDF.
In an environment where legal protections for animals are often inadequate and consistently under attack, an obvious need exists to enlist talented, driven individuals to advance and execute better protections. The entities that profit from the abuse and killing of animals too often have access to expensive legal teams. SALDF invests in law students so that the animals also have teams of dedicated lawyers willing to take on the toughest fights—and win.
Last October at the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 23rd annual Animal Law Conference, the George Washington University Law School (GW) and Harvard Law School (HLS) SALDF chapters received the SALDF Chapter of the Year Award. Both chapters held networking and fundraising events, organized conferences, brought in guest speakers, and built coalitions with other law school organizations. In 2015, the HLS chapter worked with the Harvard Food Law Society to host an all-day conference on factory farming with over 200 people in attendance. The GW chapter co-hosted a screening of the film Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret for ALDF’s National Justice for Animals Week; it also hosted a discussion of Ag-Gag laws with a former undercover investigator who had been charged with animal cruelty for documenting animal abuse. We’ve also featured the outstanding work of dozens of chapters throughout the U.S. for engaging in similarly robust efforts in our Student Chapter Spotlight Series.
Our Where Are They Now page features former SALDF members and the valuable work they have gone on to do. The most recent subject, Elizabeth Baker, is senior science policy specialist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, where she works to modernize the laws governing pharmaceutical testing. She says, “I want to ensure that the people and organizations who want to use modern human-focused technologies have the same support that those currently using the traditional animal methods have.” Through SALDF, we’re working toward a more level playing field in the same way—so the next generation of lawyers is equipped to construct legal protections that work for animals.
Scales Tilt Toward Justice for Animals Abused in Research Labs
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on July 6, 2016
In late May, Santa Cruz Biotechnology, a large supplier of animal subjects for laboratory testing, reached a record-setting settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), agreeing to pay a $3.5 million penalty and forfeit its animal dealer license. The verdict followed years of contention and litigation over allegations that goats and rabbits at its Santa Cruz facility had been mistreated. The USDA cited “repeated failure to provide minimally adequate and expeditious veterinary care and treatment to animals.”
The $3.5 million penalty reached with the USDA is more than ten times the previous highest penalty assessed under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This historic USDA penalty may signify a meaningful shift in the USDA’s willingness to actively pursue and prosecute corporate animal abusers.
Meanwhile, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s litigation against Santa Cruz Biotech, on behalf of Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), is still underway. A judge had dismissed our case in light of the USDA’s enforcement action, but recently the court heard oral argument in our appeal of that dismissal. Because our lawsuit is based on California state animal cruelty laws, a decision would apply to all animals, including those that the AWA excludes, including rats and mice. Thus, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and SAEN’s lawsuit would be the only remaining bulwark against Santa Cruz Biotechnology’s callous cruelty to animals left out of federal law. We expect to receive a ruling this summer.
From one perspective, we can see the USDA’s multi-million dollar penalty both as a vindication of our work with SAEN to end the commercialization of abuse and as a warning signal to other lab-animal companies doing the same. From another perspective, we recognize that the terms of the settlement reduced the original USDA fines dramatically, perhaps by 90% or more. Such a bright moment of humane adjudication shouldn’t be allowed to recede, but neither should it be heralded as an unqualified victory. It is without question a big step in the right direction.