Blog

Bleating Hearts: the Hidden World of Animal Suffering


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on December 11, 2013

bleating-heartsThe Animal Book Club is thrilled to review Mark Hawthorne’s brand new book Bleating Hearts: the Hidden World of Animal Suffering which hit shelves November 29th and is available as a paperback, a Nook book, or Kindle. So many of us call ourselves “animal lovers,” and yet suspect that there is a whole world of animal exploitation we turn our eyes away from, an awful truth that radiates like the heat of a blinding sun. It’s too hard to know, we tell ourselves, and yet as advocates and as companions to animals who share our lives, we are also compelled to know. Bleating Hearts is the book that we each need to read! And that is why Mark and ALDF are providing three autographed copies of Bleating Hearts to enter to win between December 11 and December 18 for your chance to get a free copy of Bleating Hearts!

Last week, the Animal Book Club spoke to Mark Hawthorne, live and in person, about the importance of knowing (watch the exclusive video here). “The truth is,” Mark writes, “we have an impoverished understanding of the animals we share this planet with.” And that is why Bleating Hearts is so important as a treatise on animal abuse—readers walk away with a far greater understanding of life as so many animals experience it.

Enter for Your Chance to Win!

animal-book-club-contest

Bleating Hearts explores the ways animals are harmed—ways few people may be aware of, but that are just as cruel as the factory farming, laboratory testing, fur farming, and exploitation in entertainment and ‘abusement’ parks that advocates work so hard to publicize. For example, Bleating Hearts contains sections on controversial topics like animals used in religion and sacrificial rites, the negative representations of animals in art, and the exploitation of animals in sports. From the sexual abuse of animals, to animals who are used for manual labor, Bleating Hearts is thorough but engaging, shocking but enlightening as well. Mark has an incredible ability to provide information without overwhelming the reader, and this book will be enjoyed by the most passionate animal advocates as well as those who are new to the world of animal advocacy.

“It is crucial that we see beyond the veil that hides this world of suffering from us,” Mark writes in Bleating Hearts. “Equally important,” he says, “we need to know that there is some optimism amid all the despair.” And that’s something Mark does so well, in this book and his previous works, and in his activism as well. Despite horrendous cruelty, mounting obstacles, and cultural resistance, Mark writes, speaks, and acts with an endlessly optimistic and encouraging spirit. Readers will put this book down and be inspired to act.

Mark is also author of Striking at the Roots: a Practical Guide to Animal Activism, an imminently useful book for animal advocates. Mark’s previous book encourages realistic ways we can each dedicate our lives to improving the lot of animals, and advises us on how to heal from the emotional aftermath of fighting against an infrastructure of animal cruelty so widespread, so enmeshed in our basic cultural traditions, that the rest of the world simply takes it for granted. Mark’s website lists a number of venues around the world where interested readers can find Bleating Hearts today. Get ready to open your eyes to new ways to help animals!

What’s the most useful thing you do to help animals?

8 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

The Girl Who Loved Animals


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on December 7, 2013

kitty-jonesRecently, I watched The Girl Who Loved Animals, a documentary by the filmmaker Oliver W. Tuthill Jr. of Blue Woods Films. The film follows the story of a Seattle-based teenage girl named Kitty Jones. Kitty is an unusual girl who once dreamed of being a dairy farmer, but instead became a stalwart advocate for animals after learning about the reality of systematic agricultural cruelty. For nearly one year, The Girl Who Loved Animals captures the life of Kitty’s dedication and passion for animal advocacy.

She spends her weekends distributing vegan recipes at local farmer’s markets, participates in peace demonstrations, and during the week volunteers at an animal shelter. “People should raise animals in a kind and loving environment the way they would raise their children,” Kitty says.

The film makes a haunting contrast between Kitty’s infectious and cheerful good-nature and disturbing, heart-breaking footage from undercover investigations that show baby piglets being beaten at a factory farm and supplier for a major U.S. pork producer. ALDF, who has been tackling industrial-scale agricultural producers like Tyson Foods, knows only too well the importance of raising awareness to these important issues and the horrific treatment of animals treated like objects for profit. This heart-warming film, however, is a delightful inspiration for young people who want to follow their dreams and take action for animals! Despite the terribly dark world of animal abuse, we can come together and spread positive messages of hope, and change.

Kitty has been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award and founded an Animal Rights Club at Shorecrest High School in Seattle. Oliver Tuthill has produced a number of films on native peoples, such as Wounded Heart: Pine Ridge and the Sioux and Questions for Crazy Horse. Oliver is an animal advocate for animals of all species and advocates respect and compassion for all human and nonhuman animals.

For more information, visit the film’s website and Facebook page.

No Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Call to Keep Gray Wolf Protections in Place


Posted by Chris Green, ALDF's Director of Legislative Affairs on December 4, 2013

grey-wolf-CC-sakarri-article-image-500px

We need your help to protect gray wolves today!

You may have heard the shocking news that plans are underway to delist nearly all gray wolves in the lower 48 states from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This means these wolves would be “fair game” and not protected under the ESA.

As regional hearings are being held on the issue, a letter is being circulated in Congress urging Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to abandon agency plans to delist the wolves. Removing these protections would leave gray wolves at the mercy of the states, many of which still view the wolf as a mere pest to be exterminated.

Since 2011, nearly 1,500 gray wolves have been killed in several U.S. States. Indeed, Montana recently issued 6,000 wolf-hunting permits for only 625 wolves currently remaining in the state –– greatly hastening their chances of eradication. Similarly, Wisconsin just allowed wolves to be hunted with dogs, killing more than 181 of these iconic American animals in just a few weeks.

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva and Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick are trying to get as many of their fellow Congresspersons to sign onto the letter by the December 10 deadline. We need your help to support them!

Take Action!

Please call your Senators and Representative today to voice your opposition to the gray wolf delisting, and ask them to sign on to the Grijalva-Fitzpatrick letter to Secretary Jewell.

Take Action Button

We need your help to ensure that wolves and other wild animals are allowed to fully recover before being subjected to the perils of those who prefer to see them dead.

Spread the Word!

Share this action on Facebook and Twitter to help maximize your impact!

17 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Reward Offer for Cat Killer


Posted by Megan Backus, ALDF Media Relations Associate on December 4, 2013

(CC Konstantinos-Papakonstantinou)

ALDF is offering a $2,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of the perpetrator who threw a cat carrier containing two cats into the San Francisco Bay resulting in their death. Surveillance video of where the attack occurred is available via NBC Bay Area.

If convicted of a felony under California state law the sentence carries a max possible penalty of three years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

“We call on anyone with knowledge of this cruel act to come forward for the safety of other animals. Abusers frequently repeat violent crimes against helpless animals, and often go on to victimize people as well,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

If you have information relating to the identity of the person who killed these cats, please contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund (707-795-2533, x1010).

Tags: ,
14 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Support ALDF by Sharing for Giving Tuesday


Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF's Online Editor on December 3, 2013

Update: The giving period is extended until the end of 2013. Share to give today!

ALDF is excited to participate in a new type of fundraiser this year, which allows people to support our lifesaving work without spending any money—just a little time. If you join the Giving Library today and share our Giving Library page via givinglibrary.org, ALDF will get five dollars. $100,000 is being given away total, so we need your help to get your friends and family involved. It just takes five minutes!

puppy-CC-photo-monkey-article-image-500px

How to Participate

  • First, sign up!
  • Next, go to our Giving Library page and click the “SHARE NOW” button.
  • Then, share on Facebook, Twitter, or both!

That’s it! Of course, you can still make a gift to ALDF and have your gift matched until the end of the year as well. Thank you for supporting ALDF!

Spread the Word!

Help us get this giving opportunity to as many people as possible, share one of our customized ALDF announcements in addition to the Giving Library’s message.

Click the image to share on Facebook:

share-this-puppy-facebook-giving-library-web

Click the tweet below:

12-22-2013-tweet-to-give

 

5 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Is a Chimpanzee Entitled to Legal Rights?


Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on December 2, 2013

 

chimp-CC-Dhammika-Heenpella-article-image2That is the tantalizing question being posed by the Nonhuman Rights Project and its founder, Steven Wise. The legal vehicle Wise and the Nonhuman Rights Project have chosen is a petition filed today with a New York court, demanding the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus for Tommy, a chimpanzee detained “in solitary confinement in a small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed…” This lawsuit argues that Tommy is being unlawfully detained and denied his liberty, and that the purpose of a common law writ of habeas corpus is to deliver a being like him from unjust and illegal restraint.

For most Americans, chimpanzees are still just hairy clowns, trained through brutal tactics to jump up and down and make funny faces in movies and television commercials. They sort of look like us, but not enough to prick our collective conscience. So, we laugh at them, and few of us seriously consider their plight. Chimpanzees have been used, exploited, tortured, and killed for a wide variety of human desires: as moneymakers in entertainment, as subjects of research and testing, and as dangerous play “things” for people who wish to keep them in their homes and yards. I have written previously about our blind adherence to using chimpanzees as if they were mere “things.”

An End to the Dark Era

Yet, developments in the past decade have signaled a new consciousness. Research on chimpanzees has been banned or severely limited in the U.K., New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Japan, Austria, Spain and Belgium, and as of 2010, the European Union has banned it. The Spanish Parliament passed a resolution supporting a grant of legal rights to Great Apes in 2008, the same year that international pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline publicly stated that it would no longer use chimpanzees in laboratory testing. In 2011, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine announced that chimpanzee use is no longer necessary for most biomedical research, and in 2013, the National Institutes of Health, once the major supporter of medical research and testing on chimpanzees, announced that most of the chimpanzees it owns will be retired from medical research and sent to sanctuary.

This is truly heartening, but still a far cry from a court of law recognizing a chimpanzee as a “legal person.” To be a “legal person,” one doesn’t need to be a human being or even a biological being. A corporation is a legal person. “Legal personhood” is a fiction, used to recognize one who has legal rights and duties. It’s one of our most powerful concepts, and American legal history is filled with heated conflicts about whether or not slaves, women, children, Native Americans, corporations, and human fetuses would be considered “legal persons.” This and the ensuing lawsuits by the Nonhuman Rights Project and Wise mark the opening volley in a battle that may well change how we view and treat nonhuman animals.

The Nonhuman Rights Project has given the court a virtual ton of scientific findings about the capacities of chimpanzees. We can no longer ignore the evidence that chimpanzees experience love, hate, fear, and grief, or that they are self-aware, have language, strong social and familial bonds, and a wide variety of other capacities which clearly identify them as beings, not things. Will a court of law find that a chimpanzee is a legal person? The answer may depend, in part, upon whether the judge focuses on the similarities or the differences between chimpanzees and humans. If a judge sees only the differences, then it is unlikely that s/he would recognize the legal rights of chimpanzees. If the similarities rule, then the question becomes, why not?

I’m proud that Animal Legal Defense Fund has done some of the foundational work noted in the Nonhuman Rights Project’s pleadings for the writ of habeas corpus. Working with the Commissioners of the Uniform Trust Code, ALDF helped to change trust law throughout the U.S. and create valid legal trusts for animals, and additionally, we drafted and litigated the first trust for chimpanzees so that it was recognized by courts of law in New York and Washington State, In re Fouts, 677 N.Y.S. 2d 699 (N.Y. Sur. Ct. 1998).

This new chapter will not be decided quickly or easily; it will take enormous effort and resilience from all us working to create legal rights for animals. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes, as I applaud our colleagues at the Nonhuman Rights Project for breaking this new and historic ground:

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight, I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

~Rev. Theodore Parker, Unitarian minister and abolitionist, 1858. 

21 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Tyson Foods and a Culture of Cruelty


Posted by Daniel Lutz, ALDF Litigation Fellow on November 27, 2013

farmed-pig-CC-the-pug-father-article-image-500px

Another shocking exposé has come to light about horrific animal cruelty at a supplier for Tyson Foods, Inc (one of the largest producers of pork, beef, and chicken products in the nation). Employees at West Coast Farms were caught kicking, throwing, and slamming piglets into the ground, among other physical abuses. Through West Coast Farms, Wyoming Premium Farms, and other suppliers, Tyson uses gestation crates, in which pregnant sows are unable to ever turn around, lie down comfortably, or take more than a step forward or backward. Many U.S. states ban gestation crates and numerous animal experts consider the crates inhumane

At the beginning of the year, ALDF filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding false and deceptive claims about Tyson Food, Inc’s self-proclaimed industry leadership of animal welfare. The FTC responded by assuring ALDF that it would give the concerns expressed in the complaint “full consideration and appropriate attention” and by noting that policing the truthfulness of environmental claims like those made by Tyson is an agency “enforcement priority.” A few months later, ALDF became aware of animal cruelty convictions stemming from abuse at a Tyson supplier—called Wyoming Premium Farms—and brought the convictions to the FTC’s attention.

Then, on some date before July 2013, Tyson changed the animal welfare claims on its website, removing references to industry leadership but making alternative claims about the company’s “Animal Well-Being” responsibilities. As part of its website changes, Tyson now highlights an “Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel” and “FarmCheck” supplier auditing program, misleading consumers regarding Tyson’s actual lack of animal welfare commitments.

Despite the website changes, Tyson’s deceptive practices remain, and are in fact exacerbated by the new language. The claims that Tyson now makes target consumers concerned about animal welfare—and express Tyson’s commitment to its “moral and ethical obligation[s]” of caring for animals. These claims are in stark contrast to the actual abuse behind Tyson’s meat products, as evidenced by the recent revelation of an undercover video at yet another Tyson supplier: Oklahoma’s West Coast Farms.

The important government interests at stake raise ALDF’s petition to the FTC above a run-of-the-mill agency complaint. On top of its interest in improving consumer information to ensure efficient markets, the federal government has repeatedly expressed serious interests in protecting animal welfare. By interfering with consumer choices concerning these important governmental interests, Tyson’s deceptive advertising harms society in ways that interfering with traditional types of consumer choices does not.

Because the new video of West Coast Farms highlights a pattern of Tyson supplier abuses—directly counter to a reasonable interpretation of Tyson’s revised animal welfare claims, which, again, focus on suppliers—ALDF requests that the FTC vigorously investigate and commence enforcement against Tyson.

47 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Troubled Turkey on Your Table?


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on November 26, 2013

turkey-and-guest-2-CC-ianelwood

Turkey and guest talk at Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, November 2013. (CC Ian Elwood)

Forty-five million turkeys will be served in American homes this Thanksgiving. Turkeys suffer terribly to adorn our holiday tables: after being given growth hormones that make them so heavy their legs can’t hold them, crammed into dark, miserable spaces, their beaks and toes chopped off without anesthesia, they are then sent to slaughter. But turkeys are not even protected by basic federal regulations on humane slaughter, and they do not have to be rendered senseless before being hung upside down, having their throats slit, and being thrown (dead or alive) into a scalding tank to remove their feathers. In some factories turkeys are slaughtered at rates of up to 1,500 an hour.

This pathetically inadequate oversight of U.S. slaughterhouses raises urgent questions about animal welfare and food safety. That is why ALDF sent a formal letter yesterday to key Congressional representatives along with Tom Vilsack, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), calling upon Congress and the USDA to do their jobs by evaluating flawed slaughterhouse inspection programs. Last August, under USDA pilot programs, federal inspectors were replaced with factory farm industry representatives, allowing the industry to inspect its own animal products. Not surprisingly, there has been an enormous surge in meat recalls and undercover exposés of criminal animal cruelty.

If animal cruelty isn’t enough to make you think twice about the turkey on your Thanksgiving table, you should know what’s been fed to the animals before slaughter.  In the U.S., most turkeys are fed ractopamine—a hazardous feed additive that forces birds to grow lean meat more quickly by increasing heartbeat and contracting cardiac tissue. The drug forces the animals to expand at an abnormally rapid rate prior to slaughter and is so dangerous it is banned in Russia, the European Union, and China.  In fact, a Mother Jones article last week speculated that the shortage of gigantic Butterball turkeys this year is likely to due to a nearly global ban on ractopamine.  Yet still the U.S. has failed to ban the drug.

Turkeys fed ractopamine likely live every waking moment in a hyper-vigilant state, as if a semi-truck is yards away from running them over. Other side effects include more “downer” animals, muscular skeletal tremors, and broken limbs. That is why last month, ALDF, along with the Center for Food Safety, filed a lawsuit against the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to disclose records about the extent to which ractopamine is used in poultry production.

Protection of the animal agriculture industry—with its dreadful physical and psychological impacts on animals—is nothing to be thankful for! Want to be kind to animals and gobble healthily this Thanksgiving? Here’s how:

How You Can Help

5 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Legally Brief: “Extreme” Animal Exploitation


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on November 21, 2013

In pursuit of the next new thing, the next thrilling adventure, the next risky endeavor, some are turning to extreme animal sports like running from bulls. These spectacles are brought to us by a company known as Great Bull Run, LLC, a business ventured started by two former attorneys who tired of their profession and decided to dip into animal exploitation to make a profit. Their company tours the country, offering these dangerous and cruel events as “sport.”

Last week, The New York Times quoted the Great Bull Run’s chief operating officer, Rob Dickens, as saying “we need to crank up the danger,” even though two people had just been injured in a recent Georgia bull run put on by his company—one with a pelvis broken in several places after being severely trampled by a bull. And only two weeks ago, the Californian city of Lake Elsinore denied a permit to the company, citing safety issues. ALDF has been a vocal opponent of these events from the beginning.

Entertainment or abuse? Running of the bulls in Pamplona Spain, on January 27, 2008. (CC Mike Brice)

Entertainment or abuse? Running of the bulls in Pamplona Spain, on January 27, 2008. (CC Mike Brice)

To “crank up the danger,” some participants taunted, slapped, and otherwise egged on the bulls to make the experience more thrilling—and dangerous. “It is a truly dangerous event where runners could get seriously injured,” Dickens said to a Georgia reporter.

Why are the bulls running? These caged, frightened animals have often been used in rodeos, and are transported to the “event,” where they are clearly confused, unhappy, and irritated. I don’t see the sport in provoking innocent animals, just to get a thrill from their distress and their resulting panic.

This event places stress on these animals, and their fear is exploited in the run. Human safety isn’t much of a concern to the Great Bull Run, either. In fact, the thousands of participants ready to egg on distressed bulls have to sign liability waivers. The U.S. events are inspired by the Spanish bull runs, such as Pamplona, which have killed at least 15 people; dozens are injured every year. There’s no skill, no athleticism, and no honor in this event. This isn’t a sport, it’s people seeking a cheap thrill at the expense of animals and their own safety.

As an avid lover of the outdoors, I’m all about trying new things, taking risks, and… grabbing life “by the horns,” so to speak. But the choice to risk your own safety shouldn’t involve animal exploitation. If people really want an “extreme sport,” try running a double marathon for animals, like ALDF’s own William Rivas-Rivas did earlier this year. Just leave the animals out of it.

8 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Animal Book Club Interview: Mark Hawthorne


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on November 20, 2013

ALDF’s Animal Book Club is so excited to bring you an interview with author Mark Hawthorne. Mark’s latest book Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering is on sale now! Buy the book from this great independent book seller.

Bleating Hearts has already received wide-ranging praise as the most comprehensive compendium of animal exploitation thus far produced. This illuminating book removes the veil of shadows that hide many of the ways animals are harmed. However, the book also includes a message of hope and concrete ways for each of us to take action to improve the lives of animals! Don’t forget to check back next week for a special review and discussion of Bleating Hearts, and a giveaway for three lucky winners!

Look for Mark’s blog and more information about Bleating Hearts as well as Striking at the Roots at Mark’s website: markhawthorne.com

2 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Welcome Vaughn Maurice!


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on November 19, 2013

Vaughn-MauriceWe are excited to welcome Vaughn Maurice as our new Director of Development. In this role, Vaughn utilizes his lengthy experience in community outreach, leadership, program development, public speaking, and philanthropy to help ALDF provide the best possible legal advocacy for animals. He draws upon a great wealth of creative and analytical skills to make a positive and progressively-responsible impact upon the organization, and serves as a liaison between donors and staff.

Prior to his work at ALDF, Vaughn served as general manager of Dogs for the Deaf, a nonprofit organization that rescues dogs and trains them to assist hearing impaired people. While in that Oregon-based office, he managed a staff of 31 and significantly increased revenue for that organization. Vaughn also served as executive director of the St. Tammany Humane Sociey in Louisiana. In Louisiana, Vaughn also volunteered on a successful campaign to end cockfighting in that state (the last state to do so). Vaughn has also worked in various development roles for the American Red Cross for more than thirteen years.

Vaughn and his dog Lucy (who “barks in Korean”) are a welcome addition to the ALDF office! Having worked previously with the likes of Ian Somerhalder and Joanna Krupa, Vaughn and Lucy bring a star-studded potential to animal advocacy.

Our Development department has also seen a few other changes recently. William Rivas-Rivas is transitioning to a new role as Director of Philanthropic Gifts, and we wish Loretta Hartwell, our former Development Associate, a safe journey as she transitions to her new role as a mother!

3 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Looking Back at the 2013 Animal Law Conference


Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on November 14, 2013

This October, the Animal Legal Defense Fund co-hosted the 21st Animal Law Conference at Stanford University in collaboration with the Center for Animal Law Studies. We are excited to share some of the highlights from this spectacular event that advances animal law by bringing together the top professionals in the field of animal law. With some of the world’s most innovative legal entrepreneurs also in attendance, this was definitely an event not to be missed. If you couldn’t make it to Stanford, you can still watch all the session talks, panelist interviews, and the keynote speech by renowned TV journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell. New Animal Law Conference videos are being uploaded every day, so subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified as they go live.

Jane Velez-Mitchell—a tireless animal advocate, vegan, and host of her own cable news show on Headline News—lent her expertise as the weekend’s keynote speaker, urging animal advocates to push the envelope in our cases and campaigns for animals. ALDF executive director Stephen Wells opened the event by urging the next generation of animal lawyers to take action for animals. As Steve says, “any legal system that relegates living, sentient beings to the status of mere property can never provide real justice.” And that is why it is so important for us to fight for justice for animals within the legal system, and to improve that paradigm.

Another highlight of this weekend’s events was a panel starring ALDF founder and general counsel Joyce Tischler, along with Jen Sorensen from the National Resources Defense Council, law professor Deborah Sivas, and Kathy Hessler, head of Lewis & Clark’s animal law clinic. Together, they addressed important issues in the fight to reform factory farming.

Plant-based foods were also a hot topic. Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek Foods and David Benzaquen, founder of Plant Based Solutions, joined Dr. Patrick Brown, a professor of biochemistry from the Stanford School of Medicine. Alternatives to animal testing and our ethical obligations to wildlife were other exciting topics considered during our wide variety of expert panels.

ALDF is thrilled to have had so many innovative and passionate animal advocates in attendance and teaming up with us in our fight to win justice for animals. With the help of our generous donors, and Liberty Mulkani, our conference organizer, this event was one of the great highlights of the year for animal advocates across the country!

5 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Industry on Trial: How Many More Must Die?


Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on November 12, 2013

Why would SeaWorld, a multi-billion dollar company, spend years in court fighting a $75,000 fine, even after the fine was reduced to $12,000? One reason: they don’t want to admit the truth.

orcas-at-seaworld-cc-george-article-image-500px

Captive orcas at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida on March 21, 2010. (CC George)

The truth is keeping orcas in captivity is a bad idea. For orcas—and the people who work with them—it’s not only dangerous, it’s deadly. Four people have died after entering the water with a captive orca. Others have escaped with serious injuries. Yet, despite more than 100 documented incidents of orca aggression, SeaWorld’s lawyers appeared today before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that swimming with captive orcas does not violate the Occupational Health and Safety Act—which requires employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause serious bodily injury or death. This is why ALDF asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate the other marine “abusement” parks that display captive orcas—before it’s too late.

The D.C. Circuit Court must now rule on the issue only as it applies to SeaWorld of Florida, whose employee, trainer Dawn Brancheau, was killed in 2010 by Tilikum, the largest orca in SeaWorld’s possession. SeaWorld’s vigorous defense belies the true stakes: the industry itself is on trial.

Holding orcas captive leads to aggression. SeaWorld argues their trainers are so adept at predicting this aggression, they are not at risk. In fact, SeaWorld recognized that Tilikum was dangerous when they acquired him. They knew he had killed Canadian trainer Keltie Byrne in 1991 after she fell into his pool. In 1999, they found Tilikum with the dead body of Daniel Dukes, a trespasser who entered Tilikum’s tank after the park closed. Predicting Tilikum’s aggression was not enough to protect Dawn Brancheau, whose death launched the investigation that led to SeaWorld’s fine.

SeaWorld argues Dawn Brancheau’s death was not the result of unsafe working conditions, but an unfortunate accident that can happen whenever humans interact with nature. But there’s nothing natural about keeping orcas in captivity. The risk of swimming with frustrated orcas is nothing like going for a hike or a sail; it’s more like playing Russian roulette. It’s not a question of whether orcas will attack but when.

OSHA is obligated to ensure our workplaces are safe; they should be preventing deaths, not investigating them. Yet OSHA has done nothing to prevent tragedy at Miami Seaquarium, where trainers continue to swim with and ride on Lolita, the orca who has been held captive there since 1970. For decades, the Seaquarium has held Lolita in conditions that violate the Animal Welfare Act—depriving her of space, shade, and companionship—forcing ALDF to sue for enforcement.

Will OSHA take action before another life is lost? Companies like SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium view regulatory fines as a cost of doing business. SeaWorld would rather pay a small fortune than admit they have blood on their hands. Will OSHA act before they have the blood of another trainer on theirs?

16 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Legally Brief: How to Be a Voice for the Voiceless


Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on November 7, 2013

This Election, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is hosting a week of action regarding the Animal Bill of Rights. One of the most powerful ways to lend your voice to the cause of animal rights is to speak up for animals in public forums. Writing “Letters to the Editor” is a great way to do that.

For example, in September USA Today published a letter I wrote on the potential nightmare of antibiotic-resistant bacteria spreading through factory farms. And I am a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, on topics like betrayals by the American Kennel Club, our landmark “ag gag” lawsuit against the state of Utah,  and “greenwashing” by Tyson Foods, Inc.

Opinion pages are one of the most widely read sections of newspapers. If you don’t think the issue of animal abuse is getting sufficient coverage in your local paper, or if you want to applaud a particular reporter for going in-depth to cover a case of animal cruelty, a letter to the editor is a great way to do it.

Let your community know how they can join the campaign to fight animal abuse and to honor animal victims with a clear, concise, letter to the editor. These letters are short by design, so keep it brief, respectful, and focused. If you are responding to a recent news item, you will be more successful. Explain the problem in 100-150 words, and offer a solution. You can also refer readers to ALDF for more information by directing them to our website at ALDF.org. In this week’s case, we’d love for you to tell your community how to sign the Animal Bill of Rights, and why establishing animal rights is so important to safeguarding their interests within the legal system. Help us reach one million signatures!

ALDF’s website makes it easy to write your own letter to the editor with just a few clicks.

  1. Go to the “Letter to the Editor” section of ALDF.org to locate your local newspapers.
  2. Draft a personalized letter to the editor, using talking points provided by ALDF.
  3. Provide your contact information–the editorial page will need this to run your letter.
  4. If your letter is published, email the link to info@aldf.org, or mail a hard copy to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, 170 East Cotati Ave, Cotati, CA 94931. Include your name and address along with the copy of your published letter to the editor.

If your letter is published, we’ll send you an ALDF prize pack, including a tote bag!

Don’t just read the news… make it!

11 Comments  |  Leave A Comment

Tell the World Why You Signed the Animal Bill of Rights


Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF's Online Editor on November 6, 2013

Thanks to everyone taking action for the first ever Animal Bill of Rights Week! We are making great progress in raising awareness of our Animal Bill of Rights—but we still need your help to reach our goal of one million signatures!

Chances are you signed the Animal Bill of Rights already, and watched our Animal Bill of Rights Video. Today’s action doesn’t involve signing a petition or sending a message to your lawmakers—today we are asking you to tell the world why you signed the Animal Bill of Rights. But you don’t have to be the first one! The Animal Legal Defense Fund kicked things off by gathering Animal Bill of Rights signatures at a few local events, and asking people to write down the reason why they signed. The responses were amazing!

Check out the slideshow below to see all of the responses:

Now it’s your turn! Grab a piece of paper and a marker—right now—and write down why you signed the Animal Bill of Rights. Then, hold it up in front of yourself and take a picture. Now you are ready to share it with the world! To participate just do one (or all) of the following:

If you aren’t sure how to do one of the actions above, click the link for a quick how to.

We will collect the photos and add them to our gallery during the day so you can see all the other people taking action to raise awareness about the Animal Bill of Rights. Check out photos as they come in on Facebook, and watch the #AnimalBillofRights hashtag on Twitter. Thank you for helping us get the word out to people—you are truly a voice for animals!

Spread the Word!

Help us spread thew word, share one of the following memes with your social network.

Facebook

Share this graphic with your friends to show your support for the Animal Bill of Rights. Click the following image:

why-I-signed-the-animal-bill-of-rights-web

Twitter

Retweet this message to your followers to help us spread the word about the Animal Bill of Rights. Click the following tweet:

ABR-tweet-11-6-2013

17 Comments  |  Leave A Comment