Why is FDA Ignoring Actual Consumer Deception in Egg Labeling, While Hounding a Humane, Plant-Based Mayo?
Posted by Kelsey Eberly, Litigation Fellow on September 1, 2015
The FDA is in serious need of a reality check. Part of the FDA’s mandate is to police labels that might confuse and trip up customers. But recent reports indicate that the agency is going seriously astray in prioritizing its enforcement resources in this area. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the FDA sent a warning letter to plant-based mayo company Hampton Creek, regarding alleged misleading labeling of the company’s Just Mayo products. Hampton Creek’s sin? Selling a plant-based sandwich spread labeled as “mayo,” while omitting eggs. If this strikes you as bizarre, it’s because arcane federal food standardization rules require that products labeled “mayonnaise” contain eggs. To the FDA, “mayo” means “mayonnaise,” and that’s that. Never mind that Hampton Creek’s product does not use the word “mayonnaise,” and, in fact, clearly features the words “Vegan” and “Egg-Free” on the label. Even more puzzling, the FDA has gone out of its way to clarify that “mayonnaise dressing” is an acceptable term for mayonnaise alternatives, meaning that products labeled “mayonnaise dressing” can be egg-free. Ignoring this, the FDA speciously argued that Just Mayo is misleading, and devoted agency resources to punishing this environmentally-friendly, humane product for daring not to contain eggs. Sound fair to you?
In a similar vein, the FDA is also ignoring the elephant (or rather, battery-caged hen) in the room when it comes to consumer deception in egg labeling. While the FDA devotes agency resources—resources it claims are scarce—to penalize food innovators producing environmentally-friendly and humane products, it ignores the staggering consumer deception perpetrated by egg sellers. Egg labels routinely mislead consumers with exaggerated claims of hen welfare, meaningless terms like “natural” and “farm fresh,” and deceptive images of happy hens pecking in green pastures. All the while, egg companies hide the grim reality that approximately 95 percent of egg-laying hens are crammed in tiny, filthy battery cages, suffering miserably. No label tells consumers this all-important fact about eggs. Purchasers are also kept in the dark as to the safety of these eggs, given the greater risk of Salmonella contamination in eggs from battery-caged hens.
Despite consumers clamoring for the information, the FDA has protected battery cage egg producers by refusing to require that companies tell them, through clear, consistent labeling on the carton, whether eggs come from caged, cage-free, or free-range hens. This consumer protection concern was first brought to the agency nearly a decade ago, in a 2006 federal petition seeking to mandate this disclosure of egg production methods on cartons. The agency’s obstinate refusal to alleviate egg carton deception led the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Compassion Over Killing, and concerned egg purchasers to sue the FDA in 2013. The ALDF and COK’s case is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
While we wait for the Court to provide consumers with the relief the FDA has refused to provide, ALDF sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the FDA to get to the bottom of the agency’s targeting of plant-based products and acceptance of egg carton deception. We won’t sit by while the agency gives egg producers a free pass to mislead purchasers, while persecuting companies trying to do the right thing.
Legally Brief: The Cruel Mechanics of Cecil’s Agonizing Death
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on September 1, 2015
In June of this year, Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist, paid $50,000 to a professional hunting guide in Zimbabwe. Palmer later claimed that he believed this fee would give him the legal right to kill an African lion with a high-powered crossbow. He could then bring home the lion’s head as a trophy advancing his standing among his fellow sport hunters at Safari Club International and the Pope and Young bowhunting club. The lion he ultimately shot turned out to be Cecil the Lion, a major attraction at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and the subject of an Oxford University research study started in 1999. Palmer first wounded Cecil with a shot from his crossbow, then killed the lion 40 hours later, on July 1, with a rifle shot.
The legality of Palmer’s actions is being called into question, centering on the likelihood that Cecil was illegally lured from the National Park to be killed, but the Pope and Young club has refused to rescind Palmer’s membership. The idea that Cecil—or that any lion, or any animal at all, ultimately—can be killed in a pay-to-kill trophy hunt, whether for profit or personal gratification, seems ethically outdated and indefensible to many of us, if not outright unbelievable. Perhaps in part because of this, Cecil’s high-profile death (in comparison to the anonymous deaths of millions of animals hunted annually) has brought about the potential for some change, as the attention paid by government and corporate officials is raising public awareness.
Policy and practice changes have been proposed that would discourage such trophy killings or the transport of bodies, especially for animals deemed endangered or otherwise threatened. For example, in the wake of Cecil’s killing, several major airlines followed Delta’s lead in banning the transport of most animal trophies on their flights from Africa.
Perhaps equally worthy of our attention, though, is Palmer’s practice of bowhunting, and the slow, painful deaths it too often brings about. Bowhunting enthusiasts—the Archery Trade Association’s data suggest there are at least 1.9 million of them in America—embrace the method as some step closer to a fair playing field, less technology-dependent and more ‘ancestral’ or ‘instinctive’ than hunting with firearms.
Such sentiments may be nostalgic but ignore reality. Modern bowhunting is not done with stone-age tools. The first featured item listed for purchase on american-bowhunter.com is a $78 arrow-retrieval kit, including “Retriever Pro Reel, Mounting Hardware, 25 yards of 200# Hi-Vis Braided Dacron line, 2 AMS Safety Slide Kits and Operation and Instruction Booklet for Mounting to your bow.” The most highly rated weapon on the site (pictured) retails for $529.99 and looks more like a tool of Star Wars’, Boba Fett, than a bow-and-arrow. Hardly Paleo.
More importantly, even hunting advocates acknowledge that hunted animals, whether shot with guns or arrows, can wander for hours or days with non-lethal wounds, develop peritonitis or crippling injuries, and die slow deaths if the hunter’s shot is not accurate. Bowhunting, dependent as it is on higher “skill” and endurance from its human practitioners, only increases the odds of cruel outcomes, and decreases the odds that a targeted animal will even be “harvested.” Thrill of the hunt, ego gratification, bloodlust—however the hunter’s motivation might be characterized, his actions too often result in horrific cruelty and always inflicted with zero necessity.
After wandering for 40 hours, wounded with a high-powered crossbow by a man who owns a 650-acre hunting lodge, a man whose Safari Club International profile credits him with 43 trophy kills, a man who told the New York Times in 2009 that he “can hit a playing card from 100 yards with his compound bow” and “eschews bringing a firearm on hunting trips as a backup,” Cecil the Lion ultimately had to be killed by that man at close range with a rifle. There’s nothing instinctive about any of that, nothing ancestral or glorious or noble.
Bowhunting is every bit as cruel and out of touch with nature as any other form of modern sport hunting, if not more so. Cecil was king of Hwange National Park until a rich man with an expensive toy paid a local man for some sloppy, kill-sanctioning paperwork. It happens all the time, even in America, but most hunted animals don’t have any celebrity. With any luck, Cecil’s death will force us to pay closer attention and perhaps drive more Americans to choose no hunting over bowhunting.
5 Ways to Get Involved in Animal Law during Law School
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Staff Attorney on August 28, 2015
Welcome back, law students! Are you interested in animal law? Check out our suggested ways to get involved in this innovative and growing field.
This is a great way to connect with liked-minded students and spread awareness of animal protection issues. The Animal Legal Defense Fund offers its student chapters assistance through the SALDF Program Guides and project and travel grants. We also provide project ideas, free tabling materials to use at events and meetings, and tons of other resources. If you are already part of your SALDF chapter’s board, please update us on your current officers.
2. Get schooled in animal law!
3. Stay informed!
4. Connect with SALDF on Facebook!
Check out the updates on ALDF’s cases and campaigns and other law student news. If you are a SALDF chapter member, join the National SALDF Discussion Group, which is a forum for chapter members around the world to communicate with each other.
5. Prepare for this school year!
During the fall semester, join ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells for our virtual SALDF Town Hall Meeting and help us raise public awareness about the lack of meaningful laws that protect animals raised for food during ALDF’s Speak Out for Farmed Animals Week.
Update: Each Animal Counts!
Posted by Lora Dunn, ALDF Staff Attorney on August 19, 2015
Three years ago, in State v. Nix, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that each animal subjected to abuse counts as a separate “victim” of that crime, rejecting a defendant’s attempt to merge all 20 of his animal neglect convictions into just one count. While the Oregon Supreme Court initially agreed with this ruling, it ultimately vacated the Nix case on procedural grounds. To many who follow these issues, vacating the “Nix rule” was a tough blow to absorb.
But today, we have great news: The Nix rule is once again good law. In affirming multiple convictions in a cat hoarding case (State v. Hess), the Court of Appeals adopted the Oregon Supreme Court’s rationale as published in the original Nix opinion and ruled that each animal qualifies as a victim of cruelty. In short, the rule in Oregon for crimes involving multiple animal victims is now crystal clear: Defendants may not avoid accountability for inflicting mass suffering via merger of convictions.
While ALDF had a hand in helping with both the appeal in Nix and the prosecution of Hess, there are many people whose exceptional work resulted in this great outcome, specifically: Oregon Humane Society for its outstanding work investigating the Hess case; Jacob Kamins (then a Multnomah County DDA and now serving as Oregon’s dedicated animal cruelty prosecutor) for his tenacious trial court work in prosecuting Hess; and Assistant Attorney General Jamie Contreras for her stellar written and oral advocacy in both Nix and Hess appeals.
ALDF Teams with Las Vegas Entertainer Stephen Sorrentino to Urge Illusionist Dirk Arthur to Make Big Cats Disappear from His Magic Show Once and For All!
Posted by Carney Anne Nasser, ALDF Legislative Counsel on August 19, 2015
Dirk Arthur is no stranger to controversy. He is one of only three magic acts left in the country that still uses big cats in performances and has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violating bare minimum standards of care for the animals off of whom he profits. He has flouted the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by cruelly and painfully declawing big cats – a partial amputation procedure which is also condemned by the American Veterinary Medical Association – housing tigers and other big cats in cages that deny them adequate space to stretch their limbs, forcing big cats to endure extreme heat with no protection from the sun, failing to adhere to prescribed veterinary care requirements, disregarding safe handling requirements for dangerous animals in public exhibitions, and subjecting cats to unsafe and hazardous enclosures. Arthur also has a history of acquiring big cats from disreputable roadside zoos with their own egregious histories of AWA violations.
After the USDA cited Arthur for numerous AWA violations and slapped him with an “Official Warning,” Caesar’s Entertainment declined to renew Arthur’s contract to perform at Harrah’s casinos in Nevada. Arthur went on to do a brief stint at the Riviera Casino, which was cut short when the venue closed on May 4, 2015, in anticipation of its impending demolition. Arthur is now slated to open his act, Wild Magic, at the Westgate Casino starting on August 24, 2015.
Just yesterday, ALDF and acclaimed actor, comedian, producer, and friend to animals Stephen Sorrentino have teamed up to offer a win-win solution to Dirk Arthur’s animal welfare woes. Sorrentino, also based in Las Vegas, has generously offered to bring a cruelty-free, contemporary vision to Arthur’s show by producing, staging, choreographing, casting, and costuming animal-free segments of Arthur’s act, and helping publicize the resultant electrifying animal-free version. ALDF stands ready to help rehome the cats to reputable sanctuaries where they will be able to live out the rest of their lives in naturalistic habitats, rather than cramped transport cages and casino stages. ALDF and Sorrentino are urging Arthur to follow the compassionate lead of fellow magician Rick Thomas, who has continued to dazzle audiences with his illusion act after retiring all of his tigers from performing and rehoming them to a reputable sanctuary. As concern for exploitation of endangered species grows and use of exotic animals for entertainment is frowned upon by an enlightened public, we urge Arthur to do the right thing.
Legally Brief: Animals in Entertainment
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on August 11, 2015
P.T. Barnum, circus magnate and author of The Art of Money Getting, once said, “Nobody ever lost a dollar underestimating the taste of the American public.” In that cynical spirit, Barnum bought Jumbo the elephant from the London Zoo in 1882 and had her shipped across the Atlantic so he could haul her across the country in chains as a spectacle for profit. Ironically, years earlier, as a Connecticut legislator, Barnum fought against slavery and in favor of the 13th Amendment that freed them from chains. Like America, Barnum was complicated—profit and freedom in conflict.
For three decades ALDF has fought in courtrooms and legislatures on behalf of animals used in entertainment, improving living conditions, documenting and punishing abusers, and ultimately lobbying for outright freedom. Our most recent work in this arena includes:
Lolita the Orca
On behalf of Lolita, a captive orca held in the smallest orca tank in North America at the Miami Seaquarium, in 2013 ALDF and others petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect Lolita under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In February 2015, the NMFS announced a rule granting Lolita the same status under the ESA as the rest of her family in the wild, opening the door to further potential action to advocate on her behalf. In July 2015, ALDF and a coalition of partners hit the Miami Seaquarium with a lawsuit contending that the facility’s imprisonment of Lolita—currently held without the company of any others of her kind in a cramped tank with no protection from the harsh sun—constitutes a violation of the ESA.
Tony the Tiger
ALDF is fighting a lengthy legal battle to allow Tony, a tiger held captive in a truck stop parking lot in Gross Tete, Louisiana, to be moved to a sanctuary. Tony’s owner, Michael Sandlin, has aggressively fought to keep Tony at his truck stop, but ALDF will continue to fight on Tony’s behalf.
Ricky the Bear
On behalf of Ricky, a female black bear held for 16 years in an undersized chain-link and concrete cage at a Pennsylvania roadside attraction, ALDF filed suit in December 2014. Citing a lack of enrichment, poor overall care and a potential threat to public safety, the suit sought to revoke the owner’s menagerie permit. In February 2015, the owner agreed to a settlement wherein Ricky would be released to live out her days in rolling grassland at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.
Ben the Bear
On behalf of Ben, a bear confined in a North Carolina roadside zoo, ALDF and PETA assisted local residents in suing for her release. Ben was suffering not only physiological injuries but psychological and emotional distress. . Citing unsanitary conditions, hazardous enclosures, failure to provide adequate veterinary care, and failure to supply sufficient quantities of food and potable water, the lawsuit resulted in a victory when a Cumberland County District Court injunction ordered Ben released to reside permanently at the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California, where he can forage, swim, and build his den under the trees.
Lucky the Elephant
On behalf of Lucky, an Asian elephant captured from the wild in Thailand and kept at the San Antonio Zoo for over 50 years, in April 2015 ALDF sent a notice of intent to sue the Zoo for mistreatment, alleging that the Zoo is violating the Endangered Species Act by keeping Lucky in conditions that injure her physically and psychologically—she has been kept alone since the 2013 death of her companion, Boo. The letter was sent on behalf of San Antonio residents requesting that the Zoo retire Lucky to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, where she can be with other Asian elephants in a habitat closer to natural conditions for elephants in the wild.
Cricket Hollow Zoo
On behalf of the endangered tigers, lemurs, and gray wolves held at the Cricket Hollow Zoo in Iowa, ALDF filed a lawsuit in 2014 for violations of the ESA—specifically for failing to provide proper care. Since filing the lawsuit, ALDF has obtained alarming records from investigations conducted by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS), showing that the zoo is also violating the Animal Welfare Act. In June and early July, Cricket Hollow Zoo was forced to close temporarily as a result of the USDA’s suspension of its operating license—a fact that ALDF relayed to the United States District Court as it considers the ESA violations lawsuit.
ALDF will continue to lobby on behalf of humanity toward animals confined, neglected, or abused by the entertainment industry and anywhere else in the world. You can receive updates regarding our progress by subscribing to our Email Newsletters and Action Alerts at aldf.org/signup. And if you’re not already a member of ALDF, please join us.
“The desire for wealth is nearly universal, and none can say it is not laudable, provided the possessor of it accepts its responsibilities, and uses it as a friend to humanity.” – P.T. Barnum, The Art of Money Getting
ALDF Urges APHIS to Strengthen Regulations Protecting Research Animals
Posted by Neil Abramson, Kelly Anne Targett & Daniel Saperstein, Proskauer Rose LLP, ALDF Guest Bloggers on July 15, 2015
About forty-five years ago, Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to ensure that animals receive humane care and treatment. Sadly, since that time, too many laboratories in the United States have continued to subject research animals to painful—and unnecessary—experimental procedures.
Refusing to stand idly by, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recently petitioned the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to clarify and strengthen the regulations implementing the AWA to ensure that research facilities more fully explore and exhaust alternatives to animal research. APHIS responded to the petition by soliciting public comments, and ALDF, with the assistance of pro bono legal counsel Proskauer Rose, embraced the opportunity to speak out in favor of the petition.
In our comments to APHIS, we chronicled the well-established intent of Congress to significantly restrict the use of animals by research facilities. The stated purpose of the AWA is, after all, to “expand the perimeters of its protection to more animals” used “in the pursuit of medical and scientific knowledge.” And, by amending the AWA in 1985 through the Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act (ISLAA), Congress clearly enunciated its commitment to the humane and ethical treatment of research animals.
Yet, while ISLAA urged the development of non-animal models to replace painful procedures performed on animal subjects, the loopholes and vague wording in the regulations implementing the AWA have failed to prevent widespread animal abuse in the research context. Sadly, laboratory animals are still subject to duplicative, unnecessary and painful experimental procedures. We continue to urge APHIS to take the PCRM petition and our comments under serious consideration, and take affirmative action against the inhumane treatment of research animals.
Running 52.4 miles for the Animals!
Posted by Mike Stough, ALDF Guest Blogger on June 16, 2015
My name is Mike Stough and at midnight on July 26, I am going to run the San Francisco Marathon… twice. I am going to run one of the toughest marathons in one of the hilliest cities back to back. That’s 52.4 miles!
Why am I taking on this extraordinary challenge? I’m running the San Francisco Marathon twice to raise awareness for animal rights and to benefit the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)—the only national organization dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.
My goal is to raise $10,000 to help fund their lifesaving work. Though I don’t work for ALDF, I’ve seen firsthand the passion this small group of legal professionals have for our non-human friends and the incredible strides they’ve been able to make for animal rights.
For more than 35 years, ALDF has been involved in thousands of legal battles encompassing all aspects of animal rights. 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.
ALDF is not a large organization with limitless funding from the government, corporations or celebrities. Because of this, they rely heavily on its fellow advocates to help support what they’re doing. One of the most impactful ways we can help is by donating.
Please help me raise $10,000. A tax-deductible donation of any size—$10, $20 or even $100—will help me get closer to my goal and will make a big difference in the lives of animals.
July 26th will be one of the toughest days I’ve ever experienced. It will be about 10 hours of running and I’m sure I’ll have numerous blisters and extremely sore muscles. The challenge of running 52.4 miles in a day will be all worth it knowing that together we were able to contribute a significant amount of money directly to an organization who’s really making a difference for our non-human friends.
I’ve been training for 6 months and I know I can do the run. I also know that working together we can help ALDF be the legal voice for animal victims of cruelty and demand that society hold abusers accountable for their crimes.
I urge you to please make as generous a donation as you can. Your support is vital to helping animals.
Meet ALDF LL.M. Scholar Aurora Paulsen
Posted by Pamela Hart, ALDF Director of Animal Law Program on June 12, 2015
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) are pleased to announce that Aurora Paulsen has been selected to receive the first-ever ALDF LL.M. Scholar Award in recognition of her academic and professional achievements in animal law. This award provides tuition assistance toward the Animal Law LL.M. degree at Lewis & Clark Law School—the first and only postgraduate law degree program focused specifically on animal law.
Aurora holds a B.A. in linguistics from Reed College and a J.D. and certificate in environmental law from Lewis & Clark Law School. Additionally, Aurora was a judicial law clerk at the Oregon Court of Appeals and a legal fellow at the Center for Food Safety, where she litigated various sustainable agriculture issues. She has also held positions with ALDF and the Humane Society of the United States. While in law school, Aurora led Animal Law Review as Editor in Chief and instituted the journal’s first annual symposium. She has authored and co-authored five law review articles and two newsletter articles on legal issues around farmed and wild animals, as well as a book chapter on CAFO litigation (forthcoming).
She is currently pursuing an Animal Law LL.M at Lewis & Clark Law School, focusing on animals in agriculture. Through the Animal Law LL.M. program, Aurora will also edit a book on Swiss animal law, co-teach an introductory course in animal law, and continue with animal protection litigation, among other projects. According to Nicole Pallotta, ALDF’s Student Programs Manager, “Aurora exemplifies the bright future of animal law, and we are pleased to offer this scholarship to support her continued education in the field. She is a shining example of the talent and dedication of our growing network of SALDF members, who use their considerable skills and passion to find creative and affective ways to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.”
In 2008, the Animal Legal Defense Fund entered into an exciting collaboration with Lewis & Clark Law School to launch the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark. As a result of this collaboration, CALS has educated and supported law students and legal professionals in the rapidly developing field of animal law through classes, conferences, scholarships, and clinical opportunities. The milestones that have been achieved at CALS have been nothing short of incredible, from the appointment of the first animal law dean to hiring the first full-time faculty member dedicated to an animal law clinic. These “firsts” complement an already impressive list of pioneering accomplishments at Lewis & Clark, including the formation of the first SALDF chapter, the first academic animal law conference, the first animal law journal, the first national animal law competitions, and launching of the first Animal Law LL.M. (Master of Laws) program in the world. The ALDF LL.M. Scholar Award is another of these “firsts” in support of the field of animal law. ALDF has a longstanding commitment to animal legal education, and providing CALS with the funds to offer this new LL.M. award to Aurora Paulsen is the next step in its continued support.
New York Animal Law Symposium
Posted by Andrea Rodricks, SALDF Regional Representative for the New York City area and President of the Pace Law School SALDF chapter on May 16, 2015
On Saturday, April 18, 2015, more than 60 attorneys, law students, and animal advocates came together to attend the first Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) New York Symposium. At this premiere event, top experts discussed the legal aspects and harmful impacts of animal agriculture and ag gag laws on animals, humans, and the environment. This student-organized event was made possible through the collaboration of SALDF chapters at Pace Law School, CUNY Law School, Brooklyn Law School, Yale Law School, Columbia Law School, and NYU School of Law. It was held at Pace Law School and sponsored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
ALDF speakers include David Cassuto, Chris Green, T.J. Tumasse, Jeff Pierce, and Justin Marceau. The day began with a panel on the environmental impacts of animal agriculture on wildlife, air, and water. This was followed by a panel about the importance of plant-based diets as a remedy for these many ills.
A lunchtime keynote address followed, presented by David Cassuto, Pace Law School Professor and ALDF board member. Professor Cassuto’s inspirational keynote presentation focused on the intersection of animal law and environmental law, and how we cannot talk about environmental law without having a discussion about what is happening to animals. He then addressed the significant dearth of environmental protections for animals because animal suffering is not considered an environmental issue. Using ag gag statutes and anti-cruelty laws as examples, Professor Cassuto argued that the pitiful legal protections afforded farmed animals derive from imaginatively disassociating animals from the environment.
Improvements to animal protection laws, in the U.S. and abroad, shaped the rest of the afternoon’s discussions. This included current and future initiatives to improve animal protection in farming, updates on ag gag legislation, and the effects of these laws on First Amendment rights and the criminalization of undercover investigations that expose the cruelty of factory farming. The day concluded with a bonus “Hot Topics in New York” panel, which discussed such important topics as bans on carriage horses and captive exotics.
With this symposium, attendees were armed with new knowledge, strategies, and connections to bring to the fight against animal agriculture.
ALDF Opens New Frontier for Animal Personhood as Scientists Create Human-Animal Chimeras
Posted by Christopher A. Berry, ALDF Staff Attorney on May 15, 2015
What are the legal implications for splicing human cells into nonhuman animals? When does an animal become a person—how much human material is required? Where do we draw the legal line? Cutting-edge research in “chimera” science blurs traditional morality and raises critical new questions. And human protection laws may provide the clues we need to solve this puzzle.
Many people would be surprised to discover that for more than a decade scientists have been creating human-animal chimeras by grafting human stem cells into animal bodies. This results in purely human cells replacing some of the animal parts. The effect of this process cannot be totally predicted, but is largely determined by the type of human stem cell, where the stem cells are grafted, and the youth of the animal. Scientists have also been creating transgenic human-animal creatures where human DNA is added to an animal’s genetic sequence. A traditional use of these chimeric and transgenic creatures involves grafting human immune cells into mouse bodies because this is thought to produce more accurate results in biomedical research that uses the mice to study human diseases. But a string of recent revolutionary new research involves humanizing animal brains, resulting in chimeras and transgenics with significantly enhanced cognitive abilities.
In one study from 2013, researchers implanted human glial progenitor cells—a type of brain cell that supports neurons in the brain and contributes to cognitive function—into mice brains, causing a significant increase in mouse learning ability and change in behavior. In another example from 2014, researchers replaced an animal gene with the human FOXP2 gene which is understood to be strongly associated with human language ability. Remarkably, the researchers found that the mice with the humanized FOXP2 gene learned certain information faster than their non-humanized litter mates. Other published experiments have resulted in human glial progenitor cells completely overtaking mice brains, and the human HARE5 gene causing mice to grow significantly enlarged brains. More dramatic experiments are already underway.
Shockingly, there are no laws generally regulating this type of research involving animals with humanized and augmented intelligence. There is no special oversight, no prohibition against creating apes or monkeys with humanized brains, and no requirement that any animals that might eventually exhibit human-like intelligence receive human-like rights. Thus, mere self-restraint holds researchers back from conducting research with even more moral ambiguity than the research already being done. A team that created chimeras where human glial progenitor cells completely overtook mouse brains said that they considered doing the experiment with monkeys but simply “decided not to” because of the ethical issues.
To fill this regulatory void, ALDF filed a formal rulemaking petition with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking that agency to enact regulations under the Public Health Services Act. The Public Health Services Act imposes a duty on HHS to protect the rights of human research subjects in all federally-supported research. 42 U.S.C. § 289. These protections include informed consent, assessment of risks and benefits, and equitable selection of subjects. 45 C.F.R. §§ 46.101, et seq. Specifically, ALDF’s rulemaking petition asks HHS to enact regulations that (1) require special oversight of all research involving human-animal chimeras and transgenics, and (2) require that animals exhibiting human-like intelligence as a result of those experiments be granted all protection normally given to human research subjects. HHS has until December 2017 to respond to ALDF’s petition.
While the adoption of ALDF’s rulemaking proposal helps promote the welfare of human-animal chimeras and transgenics by requiring additional oversight, the real value is in obtaining personhood status for those animals exhibiting human-like intelligence. As it stands now, the only member of the animal kingdom with personhood status is the human species. By compelling the legal system to recognize that biologically manipulated animals with human-like intelligence and at least a drop of human DNA ought to receive the same rights as human research subjects, we can build a bridge between rights for humans and rights for all the other animals.
Joshua Horwitz – War of the Whales
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 14, 2015
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—which this week won the 2015 PEN Literary Award for Science Writing. As he explains, the “war of the whales” refers to the conflict between the safety of marine life and the Navy’s use of lethal sonar training exercises that impact the ocean’s animals for hundreds of miles. For more on this topic, see ALDF’s resource The Case Against Navy Sonar and our coalition’s forward progress in a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy.
The clash of national security with animal and environmental advocacy makes this book a compelling narrative, and it is a story that continues in the courtroom today with ALDF’s lawsuit (along with the Natural Resources Defense Council) against the U.S. Navy. Horwitz explains, “Number one, all of the lawsuits—including the current one that ALDF is party to—all they want to do is limit peace-time training and exercises. In a war situation… obviously the Navy needs to protect its people and protect the country. However, whales and dolphins shouldn’t have to die for practice. You don’t need to train in known marine habitats. That’s the position of NRDC and ALDF in this, and it’s a self-evident position.”
War of the Whales follows two very different advocates for whales: NRDC senior attorney Joel Reynolds and Navy veteran and whale researcher Ken Balcomb. Because of the secrecy inherent to military procedures, naval sonar expert Ken Balcomb provides valuable insights into Navy operations. Together, Balcomb and Reynolds brought forth a lawsuit in the 1990s to compel the Navy to tell the truth about acoustic warfare activities and the impact these tests have on marine life. A lower court ruled against the Navy, but the Bush administration overturned that decision by executive order, claiming national security issues were at stake. NRDC did not give up, and that case reached the Supreme Court in 2008. The higher court ruled that protection of the public interest came from “securing the strongest military defense rather than in enforcing marine mammal protection.” However, the case invoked further comprehensive environmental research on the topic. Thanks to NRDC’s lawsuit, such studies are required and often funded by the Office of Naval Research.
Along with the NRDC, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is currently involved with a similar lawsuit against the U.S. Navy for amplifying its sonar testing program. ALDF and NRDC allege that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) illegally granted the Navy permission to harm marine mammals nearly ten million times off the coast of southern California and Hawaii during the 2013-2018 “training” period. In the Navy’s own environmental review, the Navy estimates that its activities will cause 9.6 million “takes” (or harms), including thousands of instances of permanent hearing loss as well as temporary hearing loss for millions of dolphins and whales, including beaked whales and endangered blue whales. This is more than a 1000% increase from the previous five year period—which was already under question by environmental and animal advocates in the lawsuit featured in War of the Whales.
The public is growing increasingly aware of issues that affect whales and orcas–from the environmental issues presented in War of the Whales to the issues of captivity raised in the documentary film Blackfish. Horwitz says “My biggest hope for the book is that general readers will become aware of how their tax dollars are being spent in ways that threaten endangered species like whales and other marine mammals—and to activate through organizations like ALDF.”
Joshua Horwitz has worked for decades with humane, environmental, and animal groups—including ALDF—and he is cofounder and publisher of Living Planet Books. For more information, visit 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.
Legal Rights for Elephants
Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on May 13, 2015
We’re obliterating African elephants, killing 96 of them every day: 100,000 in just three years. The reason is simple and familiar: human greed. Elephants have many wonderful qualities, yet they are being killed to supply their tusks to the ivory trade. And, despite the efforts of many great organizations, passionate advocates, and even some governments, the slaughter continues at an unprecedented pace, a pace that the elephant birth rate cannot keep up with. The result will be the extinction of African elephants within one decade.
For an optimist like me, this is a trying time. I’m losing hope. As long as we humans view African elephants as nothing more than a commercially useful body part, the mass slaughter will continue. And, time is quickly running out. Therefore, I propose that we radically change how we view, discuss and ultimately protect elephants.
My view of elephants has been influenced by the scientific studies that inform us that they are large brained, highly intelligent and sentient social beings with complex communication skills. One recent study showed that wild elephants distinguish the sound of bees from the sound of human voices, and communicate those distinctions to other members of their herd. They signal each other, not only that there is danger, but also to identify the type of danger, bees or humans.
Other scientists are recording that elephants form lifelong matriarchal family units, in which they teach their children everything they need to know to survive in the wild; that they cooperate with each other to solve problems, and that some of them suffer from PTSD. Anecdotal examples of elephants exhibiting compassion, both to their own kind and ours, abound.
One of my favorites is the story of an African elephant who accidentally injured a man in the bush, breaking his leg. Displaying the sort of empathy and intelligence that was once thought to be possessed only by humans, this elephant moved him out of the hot sun and placed him under a tree. Even though her own family moved on, she stayed with him for a day, until his villagers realized he was missing and came to rescue him. Once he was safe, the elephant moved on to rejoin her family.
Leading elephant expert, Joyce Poole, has observed that when elephants are ready to do a group charge, they look at each other to make sure everyone is ready, and after the charge, they celebrate, lifting their heads high into the air, clanking their tusks, and making trumpeting and rumbling noises.
If we can learn to see elephants as the remarkable individuals they are, then we will cease asking the question “what is the sustainable use of wild elephants?” All use, all exploitation must stop. I am part of a growing group of people who no longer view elephants as merely things, who recognize their extraordinary capacities, and who want to engage in a dialogue about completely altering the way we view and treat these wonderful beings. And, we need to start now, because, by the end of this day, another 96 will have died horribly and senselessly.
In an article appearing in the latest issue of the Quinnipiac Law Review, I argue that elephants must be granted legal rights. “In all legally relevant ways, elephants possess qualities that compel us to put aside convention and convenience, and to realize that for too long we have ignored and violated their rights. Elephants are not things. Legal systems which treat them as such are inherently flawed.”
Legal rights for elephants would enable us to codify and enforce broad new legal protections of their lives, well-being, and dignity. We could no longer exploit them, kill them, or use them for our own purposes. We would allow them to live out their natural lives, with their families, in their native lands. Now that would be something to rumble and trumpet about.
Hawaii Poised to Become the First State to Ban Wild Animal Entertainment Acts
Posted by Davi Lang, ALDF Legislative Coordinator on May 12, 2015
Last week, Hawaii Governor David Ige announced his pledge to cease issuing permits for wild animal performances in the State of Hawaii. This would make Hawaii the first state in the U.S. to effectively ban wild animal entertainment acts.
Governor Ige’s announcement comes twenty years after the tragic incident in Honolulu involving an elephant named Tyke, who was trained and used by the notorious Hawthorn Corporation—an exhibitor with a lengthy history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act. Despite Tyke’s history of escapes and attacks, Hawthorn still provided her to be used in Circus International at the Neal Blaisdell Center in Honolulu in 1994. While in Honolulu, Tyke went on another rampage, trampling a groomer, killing a handler, and injuring a dozen bystanders on the streets of downtown Honolulu. Local police ended up opening fire on the panicked and frightened Tyke, who sustained 86 gunshot wounds before she finally collapsed. Tyke then suffered for another two hours as she slowly died on the street from her injuries. A new documentary about the incident, called Tyke the Elephant Outlaw, currently is appearing at major film festivals around the world.
Dozens of U.S. cities have banned the use of bullhooks and other cruel training devices, and some have banned exotic or wild animal performances altogether. Just last month, San Francisco became the largest U.S. city to enact such a ban, and a Pennsylvania state senator has introduced a similar ban on traveling exotic animal acts. According to company officials, such measures played a significant role in Ringling Bros. recent decision to phase out the use of elephants in its circus.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture plans to place the proposed policy change on its June agenda. But because that rulemaking process could take several months, Gov. Ige’s has ordered the Department of Agriculture to immediately deny all further permits for wild animal performances.
ALDF applauds Governor Ige for this progressive and compassionate decision to make Hawaii the first U.S. state to end the cruel and outdated practice of using wild and exotic animals for entertainment. Recognition is also due to those advocates and organizations on the ground who engage with decision-makers to lay the groundwork for such victories. ALDF will continue to assist in these efforts by employing all litigation and legislative means help to bring an end to all further use of animals in entertainment acts.
Students Speak Up for Tony the Tiger
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 8, 2015
Animal lawyers aren’t the only ones roaring about cruelty to captive animals like Tony the tiger. Kids care too. Tony’s plight—being confined at a Louisiana truck stop parking lot—and ALDF’s ongoing legal battle to release him from that concrete nightmare got the attention of one awesome 4th grade class at Guilmette Elementary School in Massachusetts.
This spring, Ms. Buck’s 4th grade class used Tony’s cause to shape a persuasive writing and research project. Students were so excited about Tony, Ms. Buck says, the project “took on a life of its own.” Students created posters and circulated petitions as part of this project, and wrote letters to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, asking him to take Tony’s suffering seriously.
In particular, students were impressed by ALDF senior attorney Matthew Liebman’s work—Matthew has led Tony’s legal battle for years. Ms. Buck explains:
During their research, the students learned about the Animal Legal Defense Fund… as they read articles about Tony in which you were quoted. They suggested that I forward a sample of their work to you directly because they believe you will be supportive of their efforts.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is touched and inspired by the dedication of these young advocates. Their letters urge fairness and humane treatment of animals like Tony, and his release to a reputable sanctuary. They also make persuasive arguments backed up with at least three points of solid evidence to prove their points and maintain a truly fair and balanced tone, appealing to the governor’s ethical and responsibility.
In conclusion, we respectfully ask you, Governor Jindal, to do what is right and fair. Hear our voice. –
Do you know how it feels to be locked up in a cage for 14 years? Tony does and that’s why I want Tony the Truck Stop Tiger to go to a sanctuary. –
[Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin] is threatening Tony’s and the public’s safety by keeping Tony. … In fact, Michael Sandlin got written up for “unsanitary feeding practices” by the USDA. –
Tony’s cage is like being locked up in jail. —
As Matthew told the children, “support from people like you keeps my spirits up and helps me keep fighting for his freedom. Your voices join thousands of people who are demanding that Tony be sent to a sanctuary. Sometimes, if enough people raise enough of a ruckus, things can change for the better. You should be proud of your contribution (and thankful you have a teacher who encourages this kind of civic participation). I hope Tony will one day be able to breathe clean air instead of diesel fumes and hear the grass rustling in the wind instead of the idling engines of trucks. Thanks for helping get him a step closer to that day!”
This outstanding class inspires each of us to keep fighting to protect animals. As Matthew says, “even though these battles can be frustrating and slow, don’t give up. The animals are counting on you to speak up for them. Your voice has power. Use it!”
Want to get your class involved in advocacy projects for animals? Check out ALDF’s brand-new youth advocacy action kit!