Is the Urban Chicken Farming Trend Good for Chickens?
Posted by Leigh Lowry, ALDF Litigation Program Volunteer on July 25, 2013
Urban chicken farming is old news at this point, but the mainstream media has been erupting with reports of the number of chickens recently flooding into animal shelters.
From rooftops in Brooklyn to backyards here in Portland, flocks of chickens are occupying a unique cultural space, existing somewhere in between pets and sustenance-providers for city-dwelling humans. Neiman Marcus even offered a $100,000 mini-Versailles coop for the most discerning chicken wranglers last December, suggesting the trend has moved beyond urban homesteaders into the 1%. But regardless of income level, what’s a new chicken owner to do when the adorable, chirping balls of fluff grow beyond their egg-laying years or even—surprise!—into a rooster? The rise in shelter chickens can be attributed to the higher level of care and long-term commitment many first-time owners aren’t prepared for.
The biggest misconception is that raising the chickens yourself is a positive alternative to factory farming, but that isn’t the whole story. Baby chicks are shipped from their origin hatcheries by mail, be it directly to their new owner or a local farming supply store. Sadly, the shipping process can limit their ability to breathe and expose them to extreme temperatures. It is common to expect one or two chicks to be DOA after their journey through the postal service, and not uncommon to destroy entire orders—not exactly humane. Additionally, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between male and female chicks, meaning new owners often unwittingly raise a rooster. Most municipalities have ordinances that disallow roosters entirely, meaning these boys must be given up or destroyed. The same goes for city-permitted hens that have moved past their egg-laying years. Considering that a healthy and happy hen can live at least a decade, the commitment to caring for them doesn’t end when their egg production does.
Raising a flock of chickens isn’t as bucolic as the trend suggests, and isn’t a hobby to be entered into casually. It’s important to remember that chickens are sensitive, high-maintenance animals, not merely quirky egg-laying machines, and their adoption should be entered into thoughtfully.
Landmark “Ag Gag” Lawsuit Fights Threat to Freedom of Speech
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on July 21, 2013
In Salt Lake City, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and PETA are filing an historic lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of “ag gag” laws. Undercover investigations have revealed the dark world of animal abuse and health and safety violations on factory farms—such as workers kicking, punching, and dragging cows, pigs, and chickens. These investigations have resulted in criminal convictions, national meat recalls, plant closures, and civil lawsuits—all of which makes undercover investigations and reporting an absolute necessity for protecting animals and public health and safety.
But corporate agriculture sees such exposure as a threat to profits. Rather than change to less abusive practices it has instead chosen to keep the public uninformed by aggressively pushing for legislation that makes such investigations illegal—a classic case of shooting the messenger. The laws are designed to thwart the collection of evidence of wrongdoing, thereby “gagging” reporters and whistleblowers from exposing the facts. It’s an incredible abuse of power and public trust. Many states have passed such laws and more are pending. Imagine if childcare facilities were able to keep their secrets behind closed doors, or if restaurants were able to hide their kitchens. Now imagine someone documented and reported that child abuse or those health threats; would the law would turn on them for prosecution? That’s exactly what ag gag laws seek to do.
ALDF and PETA’s groundbreaking lawsuit challenges Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-112, enacted last year, for violating the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and equal protection under the law. Utah’s law makes it illegal to obtain access to an agricultural operation under false pretenses, such as providing inaccurate information on a job application, which is one of the ways that investigative reporters document violations and abuses.
Utah’s law also makes it illegal to apply for a job at a factory farm with the intent to conduct an unauthorized undercover investigation and to document abuses. That is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with PETA, is filing this lawsuit and is representing plaintiffs including journalists Will Potter and Jesse Fruhwirth; Daniel Hauff, an undercover investigations consultant specializing in factory farms; the political journal CounterPunch; and professor James McWilliams, as plaintiffs along with Salt Lake City resident Amy Meyer.
Amy made headlines this spring when she became the first person in the nation to be prosecuted under an ag gag law. After videotaping animal abuse at a slaughterhouse in Utah from a public road, Amy was charged under Utah’s ag gag law. The state dismissed her case without prejudice, however, when it was discovered she was on public land—and when the public became outraged over her unjust charges.
Journalistic exposés of the meat industry, such as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, have led to landmark laws such as the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. These laws help protect the public from “mad cow” disease and meat contaminated with E. coli and salmonella. Investigations also consistently reveal severe and illegal animal cruelty, like animals being beaten, kicked, maimed, and thrown against walls.
The American public relies on journalists and activists to expose inhumane and unsafe food production practices in industrial facilities. Our Constitution grants us the right to bring animal cruelty to light. Concerns over the constitutionality of ag gag laws recently caused Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to veto a proposed ag gag law in that state. The Tennessee Attorney General called that state’s proposed law “constitutionally suspect.” We cannot allow politicians to violate our rights so they can protect the financial interests of their corporate agriculture backers in covering up dangerous and cruel practices.
A Case For Change
Posted by Mark Lopresto, ALDF Guest Blogger on July 19, 2013
Like the factory farm industry and its massive abundance of animal growth for human consumption, science has become very gluttonous with its use of animals for research. The use of animals for testing can be found everywhere, and in almost every product we may unknowingly support.
Can we continue to ignore what we know is wrong by letting proponents of animal testing argue that it is the only viable option; an option that causes an arrant amount of pain and suffering? Some have questioned if we really understand what kind of pain an animal feels, or how can we know what the level of intensity is to the animal being tested on? As Peter Singer, moral philosopher and professor of Bioethics at Princeton University explains:
We have reasons to believe that non-human animals feel pain. Animals also respond to noxious stimuli much the same way we do. They avoid these stimuli and shriek, cry, or jerk when they can’t escape them.
Associating ethics with animal rights usually centers the ethics around the representation of the animals only. What happens if we consider that testing on animals for human comparison can bring inadequate data? The ethical question—for some begins to favor the human and not the animal. In his book Inhumane Society, Dr. Michael W. Fox quotes an excerpt taken from a scholarly article on birth defects.
Although billions of dollars have been spent worldwide on experiments that have sacrificed millions of mice, rats, and rabbits, in only two instances has a cause of birth defects in humans been found first in an animal,” and concerning cancer: “Chemotherapy—much of it based on animal research—is not proving effective in treating most forms of cancer, even though an estimated 200,000 patients are subjected to it and its harmful and sometimes fatal side effects.
Is it ethical to deem drugs safe for human consumption, that have been approved by testing on animals, when science can prove there are important differences between human and non-human animals? Are we stuck using animals as test models in the foreseeable future? Can the exceptional human mind—in combination with modern technology—put an end to current medical laboratory practices involving animal exploitation and animal testing?
Welcome to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing. The CAAT explains—via their “about us” page—they are a small non-profit center dedicated to improving the health of both people and animals.
We seek to effect change by working with scientists in industry, government, and academia to find new ways to replace animals with non-animal methods, reduce the numbers of animals necessary, or refine methods to make them less painful or stressful to the animals involved
How are these incredible advancements—which also happen to embrace ethicality—discovered? Besides the diligent work and strong support led by animal rights groups, this according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:
Innovations in medical simulation technology, availability of alternatives, increased awareness of ethical concerns, and a growing acknowledgement that medical training must be human-focused.
Most research is performed at the university level and this important work should be no different. Doctors, engineers, scientists, professors, and students who are studying in these fields, need to collaborate in an understanding that will better our human(e) footprint. This means there needs to be a greater push in scholarship offerings for students who want to pursue fields that remove animals from testing, and grant offerings to the researchers who are working hard to do so.
From in-vitro testing methods, to in-silico methods that involve computer integration and simulation, the concern on a global level should be to move forward and create substantial and beneficial replacements to animal based research. This is for the wellbeing of all living creatures including the human and animal lives saved through research.
Advancements and scientific breakthroughs are made at extraordinary rates. Science is confirming our animal friends may not be our best resources for human simulation, and technology can do a better job at filling this void.
Some hastily consider technology to be the “evil” of the twenty-first century, but anything that enables us to saves lives and finally put an end to suffering cannot possibly be more evil than an archaic world full of pain.
We cannot let the fear of change or a fear of technology push us to settle for old world ideals of approving medicine and other products. Engineering methods that are accurate, faster to conclusion, and empathetic to the pain once felt, is a future we can all benefit from.
San Francisco Community Fights Back Against Dog Poisoning
Posted by Kelsey Rinehart, ALDF Litigation Clerk on July 17, 2013
While gearing up for the July 4 holiday, San Francisco residents uncovered a massive incident of attempted animal abuse in their city. An unknown individual deliberately left hundreds of strychnine-laced meatballs in areas dogs frequent, in an apparent attempt to poison unsuspecting canines.
The problem was uncovered after a seven-year-old dachshund named Oskar gobbled down a poison meatball on his July 3 morning walk and immediately became very sick. First discovered in the Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights neighborhoods, the majority of the meatballs have been found around Crestline Drive, Parkridge Drive, and Burnett Avenue. Some reports indicate that they have been discovered in neighborhoods as far flung as Cole Valley, Hayes Valley, and Bernal Heights. Sadly, Oskar passed away after a long struggle at the veterinarian.
This incident–which undoubtedly required significant time, effort, and planning by the individual planting the meatballs–is mysterious and unsettling. Who would do such a thing? It is particularly hard to believe in the mutt-loving city of San Francisco, home to the “Dog Day on the Bay” canine-friendly cruise (to benefit the San Francisco SPCA), Muttville senior dog rescue, and even a group of local dog walkers who sued to enable their pups to continue romping on the bluffs of Fort Funston. San Francisco residents enjoy walking with their companion animals up and down the city’s steep streets, relishing the expansive views and rugged beauty of the city’s canyons and parks. In other words, it is the last place on earth you would expect someone to orchestrate a massive dog poisoning.
Thankfully, in the face of this chilling episode, San Francisco animal lovers showed their stripes. They immediately canvassed the neighborhoods, locating dozens of the poison meatballs before any more dogs could be hurt. They turned in the dangerous items to police, who acted swiftly, offering a tip line, warning residents to maintain vigilance, and seeking the public’s help in finding the culprit.
The outcome of the case remains uncertain, and police are warning there may very well be more poison meatballs still undiscovered. However, the community’s quick action likely saved other dogs from suffering as Oskar did. Residents came together to show that animal poisoning will not go unnoticed or unpunished in San Francisco.
If you have information about the case, contact the San Francisco Police Department’s anonymous tip line at 415-575-4444.
ALDF, VegNews Magazine, and SFDOG are offering a $3,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s) who placed the poison meatballs for dogs to consume. If you have information relating to the identity of the person or persons involved, please contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at 707-795-2533, x1010.
How to Promote Homeland Security? Serve Justice and Fire Olson
Posted by Carter Dillard, ALDF's Director of Litigation on July 15, 2013
Recently a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) center distributed a counter-terrorism bulletin to law enforcement regarding an online petition on the advocacy website Change.org. The petition, which was initiated by Project Coyote and has more than 60,000 signatures, calls for the firing of Jamie Olson, a USDA Wildlife Services employee who posted photos on his Facebook page and hunting websites showing his dogs mauling trapped coyotes, bobcats, and raccoons. The DHS affiliate that distributed the bulletin fears the petition “may bring the attention of the more extreme animal rights activists to Wyoming.”
As a former legal advisor to DHS who worked in a counter-terrorism unit I can appreciate the need to be vigilant regarding anything that might incite violence. But the clear path here is not to focus on the activists calling, well within their constitutional rights, for Olson’s termination. The smart move is to simply fire Olson. It is his extreme cruelty, without repercussions, that is causing any upset that is out there, and quite frankly, I don’t think any of us would want to live in a country where cruelty like that would not upset people and where it would go unpunished. Injustice causes upset, as well it should. It’s time for the USDA to end both, do the right thing, and fire Olson.
Freedom for Bears at Chief Saunooke Bear Park
Posted by Danny Lutz, ALDF Litigation Fellow on July 12, 2013
Great news has trickled out of North Carolina: Eleven bears have been removed from terrible conditions in gladiator-style bear pits and now inhabit a new sanctuary home.
The black and brown bears had long suffered at Chief Saunooke Bear Park, a roadside zoo that lost its license to exhibit, because of its multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Forced to live inside pits ranging from 300 to 1300 square feet and to beg for food from visiting humans, the bears exhibited signs of psychological harm, constantly pacing on abrasive concrete and repeatedly weaving their heads.
Though imprisoned, the bears had formidable support outside Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s walls. Years of local and national pressure and especially powerful advocacy by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alerted federal authorities to the terrible bear pit conditions. And earlier this year, we at the Animal Legal Defense Fund sent Chief Saunooke Bear Park a letter threatening to sue for its ongoing harm to the roadside zoo’s grizzlies. As a result, this bear story truly has a happy ending: the bears now roam the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary, and Chief Saunooke Bear Park has shuttered its operations.
Our efforts to seek relief for these eleven bears is just one of many actions on behalf of bears. In another example, we brought a lawsuit that rescued Ben the Bear from a barren concrete cage and permanently transferred Ben to a sanctuary. We will continue to work to move bears from entertainment conscription to sanctuary protection.
Animal Wise by Virginia Morell
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on July 10, 2013
This month, the Animal Book Club is exploring the fascinating Animal Wise by Virginia Morell–a noted author and contributing correspondent for Science, and contributor for National Geographic. She is also an award-winning author of books like Ancestral Passions and Blue Nile, as well as Wildlife Wars (which she co-authored with the world-class scientist Richard Leakey). Animal Wise is an incredible study of the ways that animals–whether dolphins, elephants, birds or wolves–think and feel about their worlds. Virginia kindly worked through some of our questions about animals–check them out below!
Leave a comment to enter our giveaway! Three winners will receive a copy of Animal Wise!
Animal Wise is an observation of the work of other scientists–what conclusions can we draw about animal sentience by comparing the relationships, memories, laughter, and feelings of different animals?
Charles Darwin said it best:
“There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties…. The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.”
The same is true for the emotions and various abilities such as memory, attention, and curiosity, which Darwin noted were found even in “the lower animals.” In other words, the mental skills and emotional feelings that we humans often like to think of as particularly unique to humankind, in fact have biological roots. They have evolved–meaning they have a biological past, and that we will find similar, if not identical, abilities and emotions in our fellow creatures.
In your book you discuss both the “educated dolphin” and the “wild mind” of dolphins. What’s the difference?
It’s really a play on the idea that the dolphin researcher, Louis Herman, developed for his study of dolphin minds. Herman began his scientific career as a human cognition psychologist with a keen interest in the “laws of learning.” He became a pioneer in dolphin cognition research–a career switch I write about in Animal Wise. Herman wasn’t an ethologist, like Jane Goodall, and so he didn’t study dolphins in the wild. Instead, he worked with them in captivity at the Dolphin Institute, which was affiliated with the University of Hawaii. Herman regarded dolphins the way that a parent might an especially bright child. He wanted to explore what a dolphin is mentally capable of achieving. In contrast, Richard Connor, a cetacean biologist at the University of Massachusetts, studies dolphins in the wild. He wants to understand the natural pressures–both environmental and social–that would cause a dolphin to evolve intelligence. He’s seeking the “wild mind” of the dolphin.
How are elephants “among the best social networkers in the animal kingdom?”
Elephant society is centered on the family–consisting of the matriarch, her daughters, and their descendants. Often, a matriarch’s sisters and their offspring are also included in a family group. But a family isn’t always together in the same place. They’re like us–as a family, we may all wake up in the same home, but we leave to do different things. Mom and dad go to work in different places; the kids may go to different schools; some members may stop to shop before coming home. Elephants do the same thing; families separate during the day to do different things or to go visit relatives in other families. They’re able to keep track of the many different elephants they know by their calls and also by smelling where they’ve urinated. They know exactly who is who, and where the various family members are, and where others are going. They also know their relatives in other family groups, and they enjoy gathering together as a clan–which can include several hundred elephants. Their social networks are broad and deep, and they remember each other the old-fashioned way: with their brain’s memory cells, not Facebook!
What compelled you to write this book?
I’ve always been drawn to animals, and loved watching them and thinking about their lives since I was a child. But as a science writer, I learned early in my career that many scientists were skeptical about animals having thoughts or emotions. When I visited Jane Goodall in 1987 at Gombe Stream National Park for the book I was then writing (a biography about the Leakey family of paleoanthropologists), I had several encounters with chimpanzees that ran completely counter to what I’d been taught. I tell about my chimpanzee experiences in Animal Wise, and also my discussions with Jane about why scientists were so reluctant to say, for instance, that chimpanzees could deceive one another, or have friends, or grieve or love. Even a casual observer, as I was, could easily see that they were thinking, emotional beings. Jane assured me that the field was going to change. As soon as she said that, I knew I would write this book one day.
What animal-focused books have you read lately?
I’m an animal lover and a book lover–so, of course, I’m always reading books about animals. Some of my recent favorites: How Animals Grieve by Barbara J. King; Gifts of the Crow by John Marzluff and Tony Angell; and The Tiger by John Vaillant.
Legally Brief: The Greenwashing of Factory Farms
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on July 5, 2013
Well, it looks like Tyson Foods is at it again, changing words rather than actions. In this day and age, environmental responsibility is something to be taken seriously; it is not just for show. Seeming ecologically sound, rather than being so, is greenwashing. And that is just what Tyson is doing when they only make cosmetic changes to their website, rather than to the treatment of animals on their factory farms.
As I explained last week in my blog on Huffington Post, Tyson Foods has publicly formed a panel of advisors to consider the well-being of animals–but not made any actual changes to its treatment of animals. In fact, Tyson continues to rely upon some of the cruelest forms of industrial agriculture possible. Often such tactics, like the use of “gestation crates” (in which pregnant sows are unable to turn around), are banned outright in many agricultural states for cruelty to animals.
Tyson has begun quieting its animal welfare claims, in light of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s consumer protection complaint to the Federal Trade Commission to stop Tyson falsely advertising itself a “humane” producer. We are certainly glad to see Tyson walking back its claims to be humane. But it is not nearly enough. Where once they claimed to be “leading the industry” in animal well-being, Tyson’s president now claims to be determined to “find better, smarter ways to care for” animals. Many other claims have been moved or buried in sustainability reports. However, Tyson continues to use deceptive double-speak. It still uses gestation crates, but calls them “individual housing.” The Animal Legal Defense Fund doesn’t want Tyson to modify just its language–we call on factory farms like Tyson’s, and indeed all industrial agriculture, to stop their cruel practices–and gestation crates are one of the worst.
If Tyson really cares about animals–and humanely caring for animals–their actions need to match their publicity stunts. We at the Animal Legal Defense Fund will continue to serve as a watchdog over the dangerous and inhumane practices of corporate agriculture: for the good of consumers, for our environment, and for the well-being of animals.
Please join us in holding Tyson Foods accountable and take action here to support our petition.
Don’t believe the hype! Share this graphic on Facebook to tell your friends that you don’t buy Tyson’s claims of being “humane.” Click the image below:
Support Our Work Just by Eating Lunch
Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF's Online Editor on July 2, 2013
Mark your calendars! If you live in Southern California, visit one of the many Native Foods Café locations on July 9 and show your support of ALDF.
Animal Legal Defense Fund is one of the July beneficiaries of Native Foods Café. Just by eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner at one of the Southern California Native Foods Café locations, you contribute to the lifesaving work of ALDF. For every meal sold on July 9, a portion of the sale is donated to Animal Legal Defense Fund.
To sweeten the deal, you get a free desert with your purchase of an entree, side, and Native drink. So call a friend and save the date! Pencil in a visit to one of the Southern California Native Foods locations on Tuesday, July 9.
Share this flyer on Facebook and Twitter with your Southern California friends, and help us get the word out about this great opportunity to eat great vegan food and support ALDF at the same time. Click the flyer below to share on Facebook:
Animal Grief & Bear Suicide
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on July 2, 2013
Having been an animal lover all my life, studying biological anthropology in college, and spending as much of my time in the wilderness as possible, I was a keen witness to the emotional sentience and intelligence of animals. But I discovered I had no idea the depravity and cruelty humans perpetrate upon human and nonhuman animals. It was learning about bear-bile farms that really broke me.
A post written by Mark Bekoff, titled “Bear Kills Son and Herself on a Chinese Bear Farm” pierced my heart to its core. A mother bear trapped at a bile farm could hear her baby suffering the extraction of his bile. Unable to stand his pain, or even the idea of it, she broke through the grates, smothered him, and intentionally rammed her own head into a wall until she died.
For the past month, the Animal Book Club has been featuring Barbara J. King’s excellent new book “How Animals Grieve.” In Chapter 11 (“Animal Suicide?”), Barbara considers the horrors of bile farms. She quotes Else Poulsen’s Smiling Bears, to explain:
Each bear lies down, permanently, in a coffin-shaped, wire mesh crate for his entire life—years—able to move only one arm so that he can reach out for food… Without proper anesthetic, drugged only half unconscious, the bear is tied down by ropes, and a metal catheter, which eventually rusts, is permanently stuck through his abdomen into his gall bladder.
Unable to move, bears often lose their minds, smack their heads on the bars, and suffer long, excruciating, unimaginable pain before death, which must come far, far too slowly. Possibly 10,000 or more bears are suffering at bile farms across Asia, where bile is extracted for supposed medicinal purposes, and used in face cream and toothpaste.
Barbara’s book considers instances like these, and our interpretation of the mother bear’s actions.
Do animals kill themselves? And if they do, is grief ever the probable motivation?
She avoids the easy conclusions of anthropomorphizing animals as well as negating the emotional complexity of animals. Elephants who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a striking example–where the horrors of poaching and war disrupt the normal patterns of elephant behavior. Jane Goodall showed us baby chimpanzees who lose their mothers can die of broken hearts. I have always been similarly struck by silverback male gorillas—vegetarian males who are the great protectors of those they love. The stories that haunt me are those in which poachers, who hunt gorillas merely to butcher the silverback’s hands and teeth, shoot silverbacks again and again–because only death will stop a male gorilla from protecting his family. He keeps charging in defense until his life is taken. Humans do terrible things to each other–is it really so difficult to understand that animals suffer as we do for love?
Are we the only animals who love? Who suffer? Who would break through walls to protect our children? Who experience confinement and pain as an unbearable torture not preferable to death? What can we learn about the psychological damage we do animals in even well-intentioned zoos, by understanding, through compassion and empathy, the real lives of love, grief, and suffering present in animals?
As Barbara writes, “We bring about conditions in the wild and captivity that lead animals to feel a sort of self-grief, and at times to feel empathy for others’ suffering. Whatever caused that mother bear on the Chinese bile farm to run into a wall, in the end, it was human behavior—human greed twinned with an insensitivity to animal suffering—that murdered her.” How much are we contributing to animal suffering, if not bears on bile farms, maybe animals closer to home? From factory farms, to zoos, to theme parks, to animal testing, to rodeos, just what are we doing to animals who share the ability to love and to grieve?
Share your stories that demonstrate the brave capacity of nonhuman animals to self-sacrifice and to mourn the loss of love.
U.S. Horse Slaughter Rears its Ugly Head
Posted by Chris Green, ALDF's Legislative Affairs Director on June 28, 2013
It is with great disappointment we learned today that the USDA has issued a permit for a Horse Slaughter plant to open in Roswell, New Mexico––with permits for two more plants in Missouri & Iowa apparently to follow next week.
This would be the first time the abhorrent practice has occurred on U.S. soil since 2007. That was when myself and other animal advocates helped shut down the sole remaining U.S. horse slaughter plant in my home state of Illinois by getting the governor to sign legislation banning the procedure, then successfully defending the law against legal challenges from industry.
Given the horror stories of horses arriving at slaughterhouses with multiple broken limbs and eyes popped out of their sockets, then being subjected to repeated whipping & electric prodding, the U.S. Congress acted swiftly to ban any funding to inspect horse slaughterhouses, effectively ending the brutal practice nationwide. An undercover video report by the CBC exposes similar inhumane treatment currently occurring at horse slaughterhouses in Canada, as determined by expert Temple Grandin.
Today’s decision by the USDA is mind-boggling given that both the U.S. House & Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committees recently approved amendments to renew the ban on inspection funding just last week! However, since those bills won’t be voted on until later in July the USDA evidently thinks it makes sense to allow these three horse slaughterhouses to hire workers and begin operating, only to shut them all down again next month.
While there is no market for horsemeat in the U.S., the meat from North American horse slaughterhouses is shipped overseas, primarily to France, Belgium & Japan. As you may recall, earlier this year Europe erupted in scandal as DNA testing determined horsemeat had been mixed in with beef and sold throughout the EU––including at Taco Bell, hospitals & the British public school lunch system. Due to various performance enhancing drugs given to many horses, this poses a very serious health risk and reveals a deeply troubling breakdown of inspection mechanisms.
Now it is more important than ever to urge your members of congress to pass the Safeguard American Foods Export (SAFE) Act S. 541 and H.R. 1094. This bill would ban the domestic slaughter of horses and prohibit exporting horses for slaughter abroad––including at the Canadian plants in the expose above, and in even worse conditions at slaughterhouses in Mexico. The threat of this atrocity resuming in America is no longer theoretical, it is happening now.
In the meantime, the Animal Legal Defense Fund & other animal advocacy groups will do everything we can to keep these three plants from becoming operational. Your help is invaluable.
NIH to “Substantially Reduce” Research on Captive Chimpanzees
Posted by ALDF Guest Bloggers, Neil Abramson, Daniel Saperstein, and Kelly Anne Targett, Proskauer Rose LLP on June 26, 2013
Today, the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) announced its intention to substantially reduce the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded biomedical research and to designate for retirement most of the chimpanzees it currently owns or supports. In what was a banner day for captive chimpanzees in the United States, the NIH accepted most of the recommendations made by an independent advisory council tasked with implementing a set of principles and criteria proposed by the Institute of Medicine for the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded research.
As part of its deliberations, the NIH solicited and reviewed public comments on the council’s recommendations. ALDF, represented by pro bono legal counsel from the law firm of Proskauer Rose, submitted a comment calling for an end to cruel and unnecessary behavioral and biomedical testing on chimpanzees. Our comment emphasized that NIH policy was languishing behind the laws of many other countries, which, particularly in recent years, have banned or otherwise restricted chimpanzee-based research. We also stressed that the NIH was out-of-step with public opinion and actions by other federal government agencies, which have embraced greater protections for captive chimpanzees.
Indeed, the NIH announcement comes on the heels of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to reverse a nearly forty-year policy of “split-listing” chimpanzees, a practice that inharmoniously afforded endangered species protections to wild members of the species residing in Africa while simultaneously denying any protection at all to their captive counterparts living in the United States. The NIH expects to adapt its policies to comply with the final rule issued by the FWS.
Although part of the NIH plan involves the maintenance (without breeding) of a colony of up to 50 chimpanzees for possible future biomedical research, we remain confident that the weight of history, public opinion, and international outcry ultimately will persuade the NIH to end its testing on chimpanzees once and for all. With a ban on this expensive and counter-productive practice, the NIH could marshal its resources toward developing non-animal research models that are not only scientifically sound, but also more ethical and humane. To echo the NIH press release, formulating behavioral and biomedical research models that are not dependent on animal testing is just “the right thing to do.”
Humane Standing: A Step Forward in Case against Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Posted by John Melia, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 26, 2013
Yesterday, the Animal Legal Defense Fund achieved another victory moving forward in our case against Hudson Valley Foie Gras—the largest remaining U.S. producer of force-fed foie gras. Hudson Valley moved to dismiss ALDF from the case, arguing that ALDF had not suffered any injury as a result of their false advertising, and therefore did not have standing to sue under California law. But Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California disagreed, explaining that an “advocacy organization has standing” to sue under California false advertising law “when it diverts resources in response to challenged unlawful activity,” as ALDF has done. It is a victory for animals, and for the rights of animal advocates to protect themselves in court.
Last November, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Regal Vegan (producer of a vegan spread called Faux Gras) sued Hudson Valley Foie Gras for false advertising under federal and California state law. Hudson Valley, the largest foie gras producer in the United States, advertises itself as “The Humane Choice,” even though it force-feeds its ducks three times a day to induce a painful liver disease in the animals. These diseased livers, which can be eight or more times their normal size by slaughter, are then sold as foie gras for exorbitant prices. Avian veterinary experts agree that this painful force-feeding process can never be humane, and ALDF’s suit is an attempt to stop Hudson Valley’s misleading advertising.
While this legal ground for standing has a long history of success in housing discrimination cases, it is the first time that it has been applied to an animal protection group attempting to stop a business from lying about abusing animals. It is tempting to celebrate this as a victory that advances the ability of animal advocates to protect animals in court. In reality, the order represents that animal protection groups may finally enjoy the same rights to legal standing that other advocacy organizations have had for years. This is good news, but is also a reminder of how hard we must fight to protect the rights that animals are supposed to have already. If we want to truly push the ball forward, we will have to fight even harder.
As rewarding as it is to have a job that lets me advocate for animals in court, all too often it feels like an uphill battle. Even when the law is written to protect animals, which it generally isn’t, judges sometimes allow their personal discomfort with the treatment of animals to prevent the fair application of the law. In these cases, animal advocates are often thrown out before they can say “Good morning, Your Honor,” much less explain their claims. So when a federal judge applies established case law to affirm my right to stand up for animals in the courtroom, as Judge Alsup did yesterday, I feel like my uphill battle just got a bit easier.
Animal welfare is an emotionally charged subject for many (including judges), and this sometimes causes people to ignore reasonable arguments about animal treatment when they would listen with open minds in other contexts. Yesterday’s decision, is a refreshing reminder that there are powerful individuals who, while not animal advocates themselves, will hear reason. Treating animals well makes sense, and is consistent with the ideals of love and compassion in which the vast majority of us believe. When people make this connection, whether in a courtroom or in their daily lives, the lives of animals on this planet get a little bit better.
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— ALDF (@ALDF) June 26, 2013
Legally Brief: The Fate of Animal Cruelty in U.S. Agricultural Bills
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on June 21, 2013
Farmed animals have shockingly few legal protections from abuse. There are no federal laws protecting farmed animals while they are raised and many state laws have been modified to exempt farmed animals from animal cruelty statutes as well, leaving their treatment entirely “beyond the law.”
To that end, this past week has seen a flurry of activity on U.S. Agricultural bills affecting animal welfare. To recap, on Tuesday the House Rules Committee refused to allow several animal-related amendments to be considered with the U.S. Farm Bill. Two of those amendments addressed horse welfare: one instituting an outright federal ban on the slaughter and transportation of horses for human consumption; the other requiring the USDA to train & license inspectors to identify horse soring, the practice of creating painful sores on a horse’s legs or hooves to cause an artificial, exaggerated gait for show. However, the primary amendment supported by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and other animal advocates, was to remove potentially disastrous language from the Farm Bill that could have prevented states from setting their own animal welfare & food safety standards. That bi-partisan amendment proposed by Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) further would have replaced the draconian “King Amendment” language with common-sense standards to improve the treatment and wellbeing of egg-laying hens.
It is hard to overstate the devastating potential of Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) Farm Bill language (you may remember King from his outrageous diatribe defending dogfighters).
The “King Amendment” would have forbidden states from applying safety & welfare regulations to any “agricultural products” from out of state, including animals raised for food, eggs, milk and even puppies and kittens sold to pet stores. This would have nullified many of the hard-fought victories won by animal advocates to protect calves, hens, pregnant sows, and other animals, such as California’s foie gras ban, its passage of the historic Proposition 2, as well as state laws cracking down on puppy mills, banning horsemeat and even dog meat sales . . . all could all have been eliminated by the current U.S. Farm Bill containing the King Amendment. Outside the animal realm, the “King Amendment” also would scale back child nutritional requirements.
Ultimately, however, the House of Representatives was unable to pass its own bill (just like last year) and the Farm Bill died on the House floor today. Although there were some positive elements in the House Farm Bill to increase penalties for spectating at dog fights, and although the King language might not have survived the conference with the Senate, we all now can regroup and prepare to advocate effectively for positive changes to the Farm Bill when Congress starts the process over again next year.
But the Farm Bill wasn’t the only news today…we still made positive progress when the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to restore the ban on federal funding for inspections of horse slaughter plants––a key provision that has kept new slaughterhouses from opening. The previous ban was about to expire and several applications already had been submitted for new horse slaughter facilities. Since the House Ag Appropriations Committee passed a similar amendment last week, this vital protection for American horses most likely will be preserved in the law.
Across the nation, voters are succeeding in demanding stronger animal protection laws––Michigan law now bans veal crates to protect baby cows, California law bans battery cages for hens, gestation crates for pregnant pigs and veal crates, and Florida and Arizona laws likewise ban gestation crates. However, there still is much work to do. More than nine billion animals are slaughtered in the U.S. every year, most having spent their entire lives on factory farms in unimaginably filthy and agonizing conditions. That’s why the work Animal Legal Defense Fund does is so crucial to ensure protections for farmed animals. We know from experience we can’t rely on corporate goodwill. There will always be those who put profit above the cost of suffering––as we find with the dangerous feed additive ractopamine or the catastrophic creation of drug-resistant “superbugs” on factory farms. ALDF will continue to push for laws that protect farmed animals and assure the enforcement of the laws that do exist.
Pit Bull Photo Contest Winners!
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on June 21, 2013
Last week we announced a photo contest inspired by the work of the nonprofit group StubbyDog, who work hard to change the public perception of pit bulls, or “pitties” or even “pibbles” as they are often known to their human companions. We had so many adorable contestants! You can visit our Pinterest album to see for yourself!
It sure was hard to choose!
We had Mia, and her pet crocodile:
My name is Annalisa and this is our beautiful pit Mia. We found her wondering the streets dirty, hungry and lost. We took her in and gave her a place to rest her head until we found her family. After months of failed attempts to locate her owners the time came to decide her fate, we couldn’t imagine life without her. She had grown on us and claimed her spot in our family. Our family couldn’t be more complete which consists of myself, my six year old son Gio, our parrot Romeo and the princess herself Mia. She has been with us for 9 months and has finally found her forever home… with us.
Annalisa, we love Mia! I certainly can’t imagine anything less ferocious than a stuffed lizard and a sleeping doggy. Can you? But then we saw Lexi and it was pretty close. We’re not really sure what’s going on here, but we definitely want to know. Honorable Mention to you, Lexi!
Another favorite was an entry entitled “Sleepy Babies” and we think you’ll agree this touches at the heart of the trust, friendship, and love between good humans and their well-treated pittie friends. Meet Carrie:
Carrie is a three year old Pit bull with a heart of gold. She came into Paul’s (my fiancé) life because his niece and her boyfriend had adopted Carrie when she was just a tiny pup. Paul would go visit from time to time and he could see how special she was but unfortunately he also saw that she wasn’t receiving the attention and care that she so needed. At the time, Paul had a 10 year old tea cup Pomeranian named, Nala, yet he thought about Carrie every day. He would even drive all the way over to their house just to take her out to do her business. One fateful afternoon Paul’s ex showed up unannounced to re-claim custody of Nala… just took her, out of the blue, and drove off. Paul was devastated. Without knowing what had just happened, his niece called and asked, “uncle… do you think you could come get Carrie? We just can’t keep her here” and just like that, they were brought together & I believe, saved each other’s lives. Since that day my fiancé has trained her impeccably with love and confidence: he sings to her, pampers her, takes baths with her, does her nails, and to this day will pick her up & cradle her like a baby until she falls fast asleep. Carrie is a beautiful & happy dog who thinks she is a tea-cup pit bull.
Thank you Jantine & Paul for sharing this lovely story!
But our winner comes from Sarah, and her buddy Buddy.
As Sarah writes:
My pit bull, Buddy, is one of the loves of my life. He walked into my life one day as a stray. I tried so hard to find him a home and thought I’d failed until I realized that he had already found a home in my heart. He cries when he can’t have his body snuggled up against me, and I’m always happy to have him there. He has forever changed me and inspired my interest in reforming BSL. One of my passions in life now is to change the way the world sees all “bully” breeds.
Thank you for all you dog lovers out there who make sure to show your canine companions the compassion, dignity, and care that they deserve! We hope you will continue to support the Animal Legal Defense Fund and our fight to ensure protections and advance the interest of all animals.