The Ghosts in Our Machine: A Film by Liz Marshall
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on October 31, 2013
This Halloween, let’s reflect on real ghosts: the billions of animals exploited for food, fur, and in laboratories, and the hidden suffering they endure. Liz Marshall’s new documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine, brings to light the haunting way the “machine” of our modern world transforms these sentient beings into mere specters. The Ghosts in Our Machine is a rallying cry for animal advocates and questions the legal status of animals as property. ALDF is thrilled to be a campaign partner supporting the film, which opens in the U.S. in New York City on November 8, and in Los Angeles on November 15th.
Marshall’s film chronicles activist Jo-Anne McArthur’s photographic documentation of animals held captive for food and in other industries around the globe. As she demonstrates in the film, the machine of the animal industry includes smaller farms and large industrial facilities, supposedly-“humanely” raised animals and animals skinned alive in fur farms. Fur farms and factory farms are growing, not decreasing. More marine theme parks and zoos are opening, not closing.
When animals become a cog in the machine, they become ghosts; their exploitation relegated to the shadow of our lives, and their abuse taken for granted. So the question becomes, how do we get the story out about industrialized animal cruelty, to audiences who don’t want to hear, or see, or know? After witnessing so much harrowing cruelty, McArthur says “I feel like I’m a war photographer and I’m photographing history.” ALDF spoke with the film’s director, Liz Marshall, recently about her film and the virtual war on animals.
What led you to focus on the wider global perspective on factory farming?
I wanted The Ghosts in Our Machine to have a global and timeless quality. Hopefully, the “timeless” part will change eventually and the industrial complex will collapse, and we won’t have this voracious system that has reduced billions of animals, annually, to mere products for our use.
Why do we value companion animals but not the billions bred and used annually by industry?
Through marketing and socialization, we choose to not “see” the ghosts, or we are just unaware. The ghosts are the invisible animals used within the machine of our modern world; they are often hidden from our view. So even if our eyes are already open, we need to work at keeping them open—that is part of bearing witness and being conscious, for them. Animals have been divided into three parts: companion animals, wildlife, and the ones we don’t like to think of—the ghosts in our machine.
What are some of the worst industries for the animals considered “ghosts”?
Factory farming that uses animals for food or fur. Animals farmed for food in industrialized farms. Animals used for biomedical research, bred and used for entertainment within circuses and marine theme parks… because it really is all about the bottom line—business and profit. The animals are commodities; they are not treated as sentient creatures.
So profit overrides our value of sentient creatures, not just in our hearts, but in the eyes of the law?
Indeed. Laws need to change, worldwide, to reflect a new paradigm.
How would you like to see consumers get more involved with bringing the ghostly world of animal suffering out of the darkness?
What I love about this issue is that it’s empowering. The Ghosts in Our Machine is not a “doom and gloom” film; our hope is that after people view the film they will reflect inwardly about their own daily consumer choices. All consumers can reduce their animal footprint, which means that we can look at ingredients differently, and we can make more compassionate choices. For more information, visit the NYC Facebook page and the LA Facebook page for the film.
Tell us your ghost-free journey: what are you doing to bring attention to animal exploitation?
SeaWorld’s Secret is Out
Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on October 29, 2013
SeaWorld’s secret is out. On October 24th, 1.4 million people tuned in to CNN to watch Blackfish, the documentary that exposes the dark side of orca captivity. Blackfish (this generation’s “Free Willy”) tells the story of how Tilikum, a six-ton orca, came to kill his trainer, Dawn Brancheau. Blackfish leaves us asking whether orcas are ours to cage. The answer for me—and for many others—is a resounding no.
Thanks to ALDF, CNN, and two industrious SALDF chapters, I was able to see Blackfish earlier, at screenings at UCLA and NYU. After each screening, I was honored to share a panel with filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Together we answered questions posed by ALDF supporters and our panel moderators, UCLA SALDF’s Lina Cohen and NYU SALDF’s Charmayne Palomba.
We discussed ALDF’s work on behalf of Lolita, the only captive orca held in the U.S. outside of a SeaWorld park. Lolita, whose 1970 capture is featured in Blackfish, has been failed by agencies that should protect her. ALDF sued the USDA for refusing to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, leaving Lolita confined in a tiny tank, without shade or orca companionship. ALDF sued NMFS, who excluded Lolita from protection under the Endangered Species Act. We discussed how Lolita’s biggest problem is one shared by all nonhuman animals–she is property under the law, so she lacks fundamental legal rights and cannot sue to protect herself.
Gabriela said that she didn’t set out to make a film about animal rights. A mother and a SeaWorld patron herself, Gabriela simply wanted to know how an experienced trainer could be killed by a captive orca. When the story didn’t add up, Gabriela dug deeper. When she realized how horrible life in captivity was for orcas, she had to share. In particular, she was moved by the suffering of orca mothers, whose babies were torn from their sides at SeaWorld’s whim. Gabriela now advocates to end captive breeding and to transition orcas to sea pen sanctuaries.
I asked Gabriela whether she realized as she was making it that Blackfish would create such a buzz? Her answer was classic. “I make documentaries. I don’t expect anyone to see my films on purpose.”
The audience asked what they could do. The answer was simple. Don’t buy a ticket. Orcas are held captive because their display is profitable. SeaWorld sells an illusion. Blackfish pulls back the curtain. If you aren’t one of the 1.4 million who have already watched, look for a screening near you or arrange one of your own.
We freed Willy. Now it is time to free Tilly—and Lolita and the world’s 50 other captive orcas.
Look, Don’t Touch
Posted by Jeffrey Bramson, ALDF Guest Blogger on October 25, 2013
Dozens of facilities across the United States advertise what seems like a fun and harmless activity: allow members of the public, including children, to handle and play with exotic animals. Children can bottle-feed baby tigers, play with monkeys, and interact with baby bears. Families love it (and get great pictures), and no animals are harmed in the process, right?
Unfortunately, the public handling of these animals is detrimental to both the animals and the public. There is an increased bi-directional risk of disease transmission, and higher likelihoods of injury to children. And the massive industry that has formed around such public handling requires a constant and unsupervised cycle of over-breeding. Such conditions negatively impact carefully-designed species conservation efforts, destroy the natural behavioral connections between young mammals and their mothers, and foster stressful conditions that permanently diminish the health of the animals exposed to the public.
Given these problems, the Animal Legal Defense Fund recently supported the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in proposing an amendment to the regulations promulgated under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The proposed changes would make it illegal for licensed animal exhibitors, including zoos, to allow members of the public to handle big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates.
In particular, the ALDF focused on three legal problems within the current regulatory framework. First, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), responsible for administering the AWA, has a problematic track record in enforcing existing regulations. Second, the current regulations are vague and performance-based, rather than providing bright-line rules that would allow for more efficient compliance and enforcement. Third, the over-breeding that is incentivized by the current AWA rules is so reckless that it constitutes a violation of the Endangered Species Act.
With HSUS’s petition and ALDF’s comments now submitted, the waiting period begins. Should APHIS agree to amend the AWA regulations, the public will no longer be allowed to handle big cats, bears, and primates. Some may grumble about the change, but we will all benefit from knowing that the law protects these majestic animals from the dangers posed by us, and likewise that we are protected from these beautiful but dangerous creatures.
Jeffrey Bramson is an attorney at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, a law firm in Chicago. He happily volunteers time to support the important work of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Legally Brief: Animal Law Conference 2013
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on October 24, 2013
The Animal Legal Defense Fund will be cohosting the 21st Animal Law Conference at Stanford University this weekend, and we couldn’t be more excited about this amazing event for animal advocates. Despite all we’ve learned about animal intelligence and their rich emotional lives, animals remain things in the eyes of the law; their worth measured only by their usefulness to humans. The fundamental problem for animals under the law is that they are considered property. Any legal system that relegates living, sentient beings to the status of mere property is incapable of providing true justice. And that is why this conference—a dynamic meeting of world-class animal scholars, from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds—will be an invigorating way to assess the future of animal law.
At this conference, we will tackle important issues like legislative solutions for criminal animal abuse, innovative revolutions in meat alternatives, our ethical obligations in protecting wildlife, and an exciting new look at the intersections of animal law with race, culture, and gender.
The event is all-vegan, of course, because as Joyce Tischler once said, “we don’t eat our clients.” And we are delighted to welcome our keynote speaker, outspoken animal advocate, award-winning journalist, and bestselling author Jane Velez-Mitchell. As host of her own cable news show on Headline News, Jane is an animal hero regularly featuring stories about animal abuse, particularly in the factory farming industry. She is a powerful voice for the voiceless animals who so very dearly need our help.
As a society, we claim to value kindness to animals—and yet our laws permit unthinkable cruelty to animals on a routine, even institutionalized basis. It’s time to bring our laws into alignment with our values. And that’s what makes this such an exciting time to be involved. Fighting for animals under the law can translate into actual improvements in the lives of billions of animals. A better future for animals is ours to shape.
Look for our conference updates as we live-tweet the event, using the hasthtag: #AnimalLawConference.
Ban LA Elephant Bullhooks!
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on October 22, 2013
Update 10-23-2013: Los Angeles passed the ban! There will be a three year phase in period to implement the ban and elephants in circuses still suffer in other ways, but this is a great step in the right direction.
On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, the Los Angeles City Council will be voting on a recommendation to ban the use of sharp, steel bullhooks, and other repugnant devices on elephants in any public performance (including “baseball bats, axe handles, pitchforks, and other implements and tools designed to inflict pain for the purpose of training and controlling the behavior of elephants”). These weapons are regularly used by circuses, and other traveling shows, and result in both physical and emotional scarring of elephants.
Elephants used in entertainment are subjected to many cruel practices in addition to the use of bullhooks. They face extended periods chained in railroad cars, they suffer stressful travel, they are deprived of anything that is natural to them, and various other cruelties. However, a ban on bullhooks and related instruments of torture is a good first step towards recognizing and addressing the cruelty inherent in the use of animals in entertainment.
ALDF is calling on all Los Angeles residents to urge City Council members to support this critical proposal that would make Los Angeles the largest U.S. city to adopt such a ban.
To find out who represents you in Los Angeles, type in your address where indicated and press “find” to see your City Council Member. You can contact City Council Members by email individually and show your support to City Council Members on social media. To send an email to the entire City Council, click the take action button below.
You also can attend the hearing in person and wear something yellow to show solidarity to show your support:
Wednesday, October 23, 2013, at 10 a.m.
John Ferraro Council Chamber
Room 340, City Hall
200 N. Spring Street
Los Angeles 90012
There may be an opportunity to make a short statement of support of the bullhook ban.
If you are unable to attend the hearing, please make a brief, polite phone call to your City Council Member. You can say, “I am a constituent. I care about animal cruelty and welfare, and therefore urge you to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants in Los Angeles.”
After you call, please send a follow-up email message to all the City Council members. The contact information is below. While ALDF opposes the use of any wild animals in entertainment, a Los Angeles bullhook ban is a significant move toward that goal. Thank you for supporting this positive step forward in improving the welfare of these majestic beings.
City Council Telephone Numbers
Curren D. Price, Jr.
Herb Wesson, Jr.
Welcome Lora Dunn
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on October 18, 2013
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has added yet another invaluable animal hero to its staff! As our work in criminal justice grows—prosecuting animal cruelty cases and assisting law enforcement across the nation to ensure betters laws, tougher sentences, and stricter enforcement—so too has our staff. Read Lora’s op-ed in the Oregonian about making animal legislation a priority in Oregon.
Lora Dunn helps us meet this need by providing editorial and research support for ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program by tracking our legislative reports and assisting prosecutors throughout the country in animal cruelty cases. Lora received her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, where she focused on environmental and animal law and received the Dean’s Scholarship for Excellence.
As a law student, Lora served on the board of Lewis & Clark’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter, clerked for ALDF and the Animal Law Clinic at the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), and interned with the Oregon Humane Society’s Investigations Department. As an ALDF clerk, Lora assisted in the drafting of ALDF’s amicus brief in State v. Nix, a seminal Oregon Court of Appeals decision that ruled that every abused animal is a separate victim of a crime.
Lora also helped coordinate the 2012 Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark, and helped draft one of Oregon’s most extensive animal cruelty bills—now state law—which sets tougher penalties and sentencing guidelines for animal abuse. Before law school, Lora was an associate managing editor for Carnegie Hall and editorial assistant for Oxford University Press. Though she is an East Coast native, Lora now calls Portland her home, where she enjoys a vegan lifestyle and lives with her husband and their rescued cat, Panther.
Please help us welcome Lora Dunn!
Cancel the Great Bull Run!
Posted by Jessica Blome, ALDF Staff Attorney on October 17, 2013
Late Friday, the Great Bull Run Company submitted a rushed application for a state livestock exhibitor license to the Georgia Department of Agriculture for the “running of the bulls” events scheduled for this Saturday at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia. Despite clear legal requirements that the company obtain this license 21 days prior to any livestock exhibition, the Georgia Department of Agriculture rushed through a state holiday to issue the license by Tuesday. The Company has yet to obtain a federal license, so the Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue pushing state and federal officials to cancel these events in the months to come. You can help by contacting Conyers, Georgia Mayor Randal Mills and explaining why this dangerous, cruel event must be stopped.
On October 19, the Great Bull Run Company will host a “running of the bulls” event at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia. ALDF has called on the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the City of Conyers to cancel this inhumane, dangerous event.
The Great Bull Run is a thrill seeking competition primarily geared toward what the Great Bull Run website refers to as “adrenaline junkies.” Although the Great Bull Run claims that the participating bulls will not be killed or mistreated, the event will be inherently stressful to bulls that are forced to run in hazardously close proximity to other bulls and thousands of humans in a narrow enclosure. Unlike human participants, the bulls cannot choose to sit out the Great Bull Run.
Under the Animal Welfare Act the Great Bull Run is required to obtain a United States Department of Agriculture license to ensure the safety of both humans and animals. But the Great Bull Run has no such license. Georgia law requires the Great Bull Run to prove its bulls meet interstate veterinary care, vaccination, and general health requirements as a livestock exhibitor. We haven’t seen evidence that the Great Bull Run meets those requirements.
Help ALDF stop this outrageous display of animal cruelty! Contact:
- Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black firstname.lastname@example.org (404)-656-3665
- City of Conyers Mayor Randal Mills email@example.com (770)-483-4411
Ask these government officials to exercise their authority to protect animal welfare and human health by canceling the Great Bull Run.
Interview with Ruby Roth
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on October 16, 2013
Ruby Roth is world renowned for her vegan books for children. Her book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals (2009), was the first of its kind in children’s literature, and she has since followed with V is for Vegan: the ABCs of Being Kind (2013), and other books in this series. A former art teacher, Ruby has been featured on CNN, Fox, and other major media outlets, and her work has been translated into many languages. V is for Vegan is a charming introduction for young readers to a lifestyle of compassion and eco-friendly themes.
“J is for jail, like zoos and their bars…”
“R is for rescue from shelters, not stores…”
“Z is for zero, no animals harmed. Hooray for the day when they’re no longer farmed!”
ALDF’s Animal Book Club spoke to Ruby recently about V is for Vegan, and the importance of teaching children compassion. To qualify to win a copy of this lovely book, leave a comment below!
1. What do you love about writing and illustrating books for children?
The best children’s books can be as allegorical and revelatory as a lengthy adult book. I love taking a huge body of research or an abstract feeling and trying to rightly capture it in simple text and art. The elementary school kids I taught art to were very good at this, essentializing animals, for example, into simple geometric shapes. My time in the classroom with them definitely influenced my style. And it was their curiosity about my veganism that drove me to create a book I couldn’t at the time.
2. Can you talk about activism and reaching out to children at their level?
Children are usually left out of social, cultural, and political dialogues. First, we think they can’t understand and that their opinions wouldn’t matter. Second, we think the adult world has nothing to do with them—that kids are, and should be, in their own make-believe world, when in fact they represent the future of politics and society.
3. Why does V is for Vegan tackle zoos, circuses, and aquariums, in addition to animals who are eaten?
Children are advertising targets in the animal entertainment industry, which hides its malpractices behind mottos about education and conservation, when in fact they are the complete opposite of what they purport themselves to be. I raise the issues as a lesson about supply and demand and engaging ourselves in the public realm. If we don’t agree with something, let’s not complain: we have the power to change it!
4. You’ve been vegan for ten years. What led you to make this decision?
A friend pointed out that my eating habits did not match my morals, values, or the way I championed other social justice causes. I began researching and found that what goes on between factory farms, “sustainable meat,” medical schools, prescription drugs, and lobbyists was, in fact, diametrically opposed to my values and who I thought myself to be.
5. How do children relate to the emotional lives of animals?
Unlike adults, children react to the plight that animals endure with profound diplomacy. They pause, reflect, ask questions, share insights—they do not immediately try to justify human dominance or the “right” to eat animals.
Learn more about Ruby Roth and V is for Vegan at www.wedonteatanimals.com.
Qualify to win a copy of V is for Vegan by answering: what are some creative ways children can participate in the social and cultural dialogue about animals and animal exploitation?
Legally Brief: Leading Away from Lead
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on October 11, 2013
Thank you! The Animal Legal Defense Fund is thrilled to announce that California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law today that makes California the first state in the nation to ban the use of lead bullets in hunting. Thanks to ALDF member support, especially those of you who lent your voice to this important cause, Gov. Brown signed AB 711 into law. The bill mandates that bullets will now be made from copper, steel, and other far less toxic materials, and passed despite significant opposition from the National Rifle Association.
Lead-based bullets, even when not targeted toward animals, poison wildlife, including endangered species like California condors. As we know by now, lead-poisoning is a significant problem, which is why we’ve worked so hard to remove it from paint and gasoline. Millions of birds, from doves to condors to owls, eagles, and hawks have died from lead poisoning each year, as well as coyotes and more than one hundred other species of wild animals. Shotgun pellets are particularly pervasive as each round can contain dozens of tiny lead pellets that can be mistaken for food by birds and small animals.
This law is one more way California serves as a model for the nation in humane laws. In fact, Gov. Brown also signed a law today (AB 1213) to ban the trapping of bobcats in Joshua Tree National park and other national wildlife refuges. And just last year, Gov. Brown outlawed the use of hounds in hunting bears and bobcats.
It’s a great day to celebrate on behalf of wildlife and the animal advocates and conservationists that work so hard to protect our wild animals and wild places! Thanks go to Governor Brown, Assemblymembers Anthony Rendon and Richard Bloom, and Dr. Richard Pan, and to you, our members!
Welcome Jeff Pierce
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on October 11, 2013
ALDF is delighted to welcome our newest litigation fellow, Jeff Pierce. Already busy at work assisting us with our major caseload, Jeff is returning to ALDF after clerking for us last summer. Jeff is a recent graduate of Stanford Law School, where, as a SALDF member, he conducted legal research for Compassion Over Killing and oversaw his chapter’s pro bono efforts on behalf of that organization. As a law student, Jeff not only clerked for ALDF but also served as Editor-in-Chief of Stanford’s Journal of Animal Law and Policy.
In addition to law, Jeff studied biology at Duke University, where he graduated summa cum laude, and theology at Yale University. He also received a Fulbright Fellowship to research the impact of commercial forestry on rural communities and wildlife in Swaziland, in southern Africa. Jeff also brings to this position a background in education. For three years, he taught English and religious studies to high school students at Mercersburg Academy.
Jeff is a committed vegetarian, and stopped eating animals fifteen years ago, originally for environmental reasons. However, his religious training and spiritual practice intertwined with these ecological concerns, and a moral obligation to animals became his principal motivating factor. Along with this commitment, Jeff hopes to focus on the well-being of wildlife, especially those who suffer in artificial environs of captivity. But also key in his mind is the importance of ensuring the rights of non-captive wildlife to inhabit wild spaces free from extermination, harassment, and encroachment. Finally, Jeff aims to improve the legal status of animals.
ALDF Looking for Victims of Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella Linked to Outbreak in Foster Farms Chicken Meat
Posted by Chris Berry, Litigation Fellow on October 10, 2013
Dangerous and apparently antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella linked to Foster Farms chicken have sickened hundreds of people nationwide. On Monday, October 7, 2013, the Food Safety and Inspection Service estimated that the outbreak sickened 278 people in eighteen states, predominantly in California, Oregon, and Washington State. Affected packages contain raw chicken meat and bear one of the following United States Department of Agriculture marks of inspection: P6137, P6137A, or P7632.
Alarmingly, some of the salmonella strains associated with this outbreak appear to be resistant to antibiotics. USA Today reported that nearly half of the victims had been hospitalized—double the usual number of hospitalizations for this type of salmonella. This increase in hospitalizations is likely caused by the infections not responding normally to antibiotics used to combat salmonella, and can lead to prolonged and heightened suffering in salmonella victims.
Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked regular overuse of antibiotics on factory farms to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria like salmonella:
[T]here are more kilograms of antibiotics sold in the United States for food-producing animals than for people… This use contributes to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food-producing animals [and] people who consume these foods can develop antibiotic-resistant infections.
This CDC report summarized the strong scientific evidence linking the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections:
- Use of antibiotics in food-producing animals allows antibiotic-resistant bacteria to thrive while susceptible bacteria are suppressed or die,
- Resistant bacteria can be transmitted from food-producing animals to humans through the food supply,
- Resistant bacteria can cause infections in humans,
- Infections caused by resistant bacteria can result in adverse health consequences for humans.
The report went on to recommend that “antibiotics should be used in food-producing animals only under veterinary oversight and only to manage and treat infectious diseases, not to promote growth.”
Incredibly, most producers in the animal agriculture industry continue to routinely feed antibiotics to their animals to stimulate growth and prevent (rather than cure) disease despite the strong evidence cited by the CDC linking misuse of antibiotics to drug-resistant infections. So far the industry has remained unaccountable for instigating this public health threat.
Do you think the animal agriculture industry should be allowed to intentionally misuse antibiotics to increase profits even though they know it spawns drug-resistant strains of salmonella, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and other life-threatening “superbugs?” Sound off in the comments below, and if you or someone you know has been a victim of drug-resistant salmonella in this outbreak please share your story with ALDF to see how you might help put an end to this practice.
Contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dogs are People, Too—Except in Court
Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on October 8, 2013
This past Sunday and Monday, more people emailed to their friends and loved ones an op-ed titled “Dogs Are People, Too” than they did any other article in the New York Times. In it, Dr. Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, offers evidence from brain-imaging studies he conducted with dogs to contemplate limited legal personhood “for animals that show neurobiological evidence of positive emotions.”
Many behavioral scientific findings already support the idea that animals experience emotions and are cognitively advanced. Chimpanzees can use tools and learn language, and exhibit complex social relationships. Dogs use human emotional and social cues to learn about the world. Dolphins remember the friends with whom they were in captivity years after they have been separated. Elephants appear to mourn the deaths of other elephants.
MRI technology allows scientists to see which areas of the brain are active while a test subject is awake and reacting to the world. To scan a human brain, a person lies completely still in a scanner for long periods while they listen to sounds or watch a movie. Scientists then observe which brain areas activate. Some participants find the procedure unpleasant—the scanner is loud, and the space is cramped. Dr. Berns has achieved something rare with animals in neuroscience—he has trained dogs to lie completely still in the scanners, with no sedative or invasive procedure necessary, so he can see inside their brains as they process information while awake.
At least one similarity between human and dog brains stands out: they both process positive emotions in the caudate nucleus. This could mean both dogs and humans experience emotions like love and attachment in the same way. If that is the case, he argues, dogs might be cognitively closer to young children than previously thought. Berns suggests that courts should therefore extend greater protections and perhaps even rights to dogs under the law.
Direct comparison of brain activity between humans and dogs is a fantastic step forward for animal welfare research. However, as Adam Gopnik recently pointed out in the New Yorker, merely pinpointing areas of the brain that activate tells us next to nothing about the actual experiences of any individual. Ultimately, it is not surprising that related mammals such as dogs and humans share similar brain structures, used for the same cognitive abilities.
Dr. Berns should be applauded for pioneering new, painless techniques for studying animal neuroscience. However, you don’t need to compare brain parts to discover the complexity of animal emotions or to know that they suffer. Observing the natural behaviors of animals alone should be sufficient to grant animals protection under the law.
FDA Approves “Prison Yard” Access for Hens
Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on October 3, 2013
I am often asked by friends how they can choose products that support responsible agriculture. The most common question I get is whether “USDA organic” products are better for animal welfare. I have always answered that no, organic is meaningless when it comes to how animals are treated on farms. Turns out, I am wrong.
According to the USDA’s National Organic Program, to be granted the seal of “USDA organic,” farmers must provide for the “health and natural behavior of animals”, including
“year-round access for all animals to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight, suitable to the species, its stage of life, the climate, and the environment.”
This is definitely an improvement over typical non-organic factory farms, where farmers can house and treat their animals however the farmer prefers. However, USDA has not clarified what this outdoor access for organic farm animals means. Do the animals really get to see the sky or touch the soil?
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided that they would provide descriptions of acceptable outdoor access used for organic egg-laying hens as “guidance” for farmers. Unfortunately, the first description, titled “Indoor Area with Porch,” stated that outdoor access for hens could be an enclosed porch with a solid roof and a floor that is “often concrete.”
The natural behavior of hens includes scratching and dust bathing in the dirt and foraging through vegetation—something they cannot do through a concrete floor. A covered, fenced-in porch is far from the bucolic, open space pasture that many egg consumers believe exists for organic chickens.
Luckily, animal advocates and consumers can be a voice for farm animal welfare. FDA’s guidance descriptions, as with all federal agency proposals, must be vetted by the public through an open comment period before becoming law. Any individual or group is able to submit their approval or disapproval for any agency proposal at www.regulations.gov. Although the government agency is not required to adopt any public stance on the law, they are required to consider and respond to all comments.
Last week, ALDF’s legal team, along with partner group The Cornucopia Institute, submitted our objections. We demonstrated that FDA’s description is not consistent with the existing law on organic standards. Moreover, we provided FDA with evidence that larger outdoor spaces for hens, with access to both sunlight and soil, provide greater protection for the health of the animals and, through their eggs, of consumers.
Ultimately, however, setting housing standards for organic animals is not the job of the FDA. Let’s hope that this overreach by the FDA, and the outcry from animal and food groups, prompts the USDA to set even higher standards for animal welfare under the organic program. Until then, animal advocates will need to monitor agricultural standards to best inform their friends, and themselves, on how to make the biggest impact for farm animal welfare—with their consumer dollars.
Amazing Elephant Activist
Posted by Pamela Hart, ALDF's Director of Animal Law Program on September 30, 2013
At the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), we are fortunate to work with outstanding attorneys, law students, and advocates who tirelessly work to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals. In many cases, it’s the next generation of animal advocates that catch our eye and remind us why we continue the march forward to strengthen animal protection. Through their perseverance, commitment and tenaciousness, this younger generation imparts a gift—a lens in which we can look through and see a future that is kinder to all animals. They remind us that each individual can truly make a difference and a recent award-winning documentary How I Became an Elephant hammers this message home.
How I Became an Elephant is one girl’s journey to inspire a movement. When Juliette West set out on a quest to educate herself she got far more than she bargained for. Now she is angry. Her anger is driven by love; love for all that is natural and free. How I Became an Elephant follows this innocent fourteen year-old girl from suburban California on her quest to save the world’s largest land mammals; a quest that takes her halfway across the globe and face to face with the giants she aims to save.
Watch the trailer above and visit the website to get your copy of How I Became an Elephant today!
Welcome Liz Hallinan!
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on September 27, 2013
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is delighted to welcome our newest Litigation Fellow to our team of animal heroes! As a Fellow, Liz will help litigate some of our most important animal cases.
Liz Hallinan received her J.D. from New York University, where she focused on environmental law and completed a clinic at the Natural Resources Defense Council. As a law student, Liz clerked for ALDF and was awarded an Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship. She also holds a master’s degree from Queens University, where she studied psychology and was recognized by the Canadian Psychological Association for her work in mind-brain behavior in child development. Before this, Liz received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard University. Her senior thesis was awarded summa cum laude.
Prior to coming to ALDF, Liz worked on farmed-animal protection litigation for Compassion Over Killing, and environmental and animal law cases as a clerk for Meyer Glitzenstein and Crystal in Washington, D.C. Her special interests lie in factory-farm related issues, particularly because of the numbers of animals harmed and the clandestine nature of that industry. A published author of several psychological studies, Liz also enjoys cooking, hiking, volunteering, movies, and politics, and shares her household with a tabby cat named Piggy.