Funding Justice: Cash in New York Crime Busts Goes to Fight Animal Cruelty
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 7, 2015
Animal victims of cruelty got a boost last week in Nassau County, New York when Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas pledged to use money from criminal cases to help protect animals. Forfeiture funds—the cash that criminals lose in cases—will pay for the medical care, boarding, rehabilitation, and rehoming of animals seized from harmful conditions by officers of the law in the prosecution of cruelty and the pursuit of justice. In a nod to fair play, doing so will also mean criminals, rather than taxpayers, will be footing the bill for animals abused by criminals.
Where does the money from forfeiture cases usually go? It depends on state law, but it is common to plug this money back into the system to fund other investigations.
But the cost of care for animal victims in criminal cases can, as all pet lovers can imagine, be extraordinary, especially when full-scale, life-saving procedures are required. This is often the case, given the problems of dogfighting, hoarding, and other horrific acts of cruelty.
“Municipal taxpayers should not have to pay for the senseless and criminal acts of another,” Acting DA Singas wrote in a letter sent to municipal leaders, shelter directors, and local police officials throughout Nassau County on April 28.
Acting DA Singas is also advocating for the passage of the Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill as part of her office’s ongoing efforts to prosecute animal cruelty cases. In 2013, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office started a Council on Animal Protection & Safety in the county as a forum for local government and nonprofit agencies to coordinate on efforts to curtail and prosecute animal crimes.
But helping prosecute animal cruelty cases, which this funding will do, also allows for a greater crackdown on all violence in society. “Apart from the well-established social science link between violence against animals and violence against people,” wrote Acting DA Singas, “my office has also found that vigorous investigation and prosecution of animal crimes, most specifically dogfighting, exposes gang networks, narcotics rings, weapons trafficking activity, and other enterprise crimes.”
ALDF celebrates this compassionate choice by the acting district attorney and hopes her decision will serve as a model for other jurisdictions. “This is a good policy, pure and simple,” said Scott Heiser, director of ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program. “The money from these criminal enterprises will be allocated to help prosecutors serve justice to abusers and help other victims outside the district’s drug caseload.”
Animal Cruelty? The Legal Way to Abuse a Chicken
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Staff Attorney on May 7, 2015
Many were horrified to learn of the recent “unconscionable act of animal cruelty” where four killers broke into a Foster Farms facility and massacred 920 chickens by beating them to death with a golf club and other weapons. Some wondered why, even though chickens are sentient and can feel pain, fear, and stress, they do not receive constant legal protection from harm. The U.S. legal system treats animals differently depending on how humans use those animals and whether society views that use as necessary or justified. The same animal can have different legal protections based on the context in which she is being used.
The four Foster Farms perpetrators were charged with criminal animal cruelty under the California anti-cruelty law, even though the chickens were slated to be slaughtered. While this act of killing almost one thousand chickens was considered a criminal act, the systematic, and many times inhumane, slaughter of almost 10 billion chickens every year for food is legal.
Chickens are not protected by the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which seeks to prevent inhumane slaughter by requiring some farmed animals to be rendered insensible to pain before they are slaughtered. During slaughter, chickens are shackled upside down on a moving rack and dragged through an electrified water bath that should stun them, but might only lead to paralysis. Because birds, including chickens, are not legally required to be slaughtered humanely, many are paralyzed but fully conscious and able to sense pain as their throats are slit. Some chickens are boiled alive by being dunked into a scalding hot tank of water to remove their feathers. (This practice is illegal, but not to protect animal welfare, only as a food safety violation.)
The slaughter of animals for food includes treatment that any reasonable person would consider cruel, but this treatment is not illegal under most criminal animal cruelty laws. Many states have expressly exempted the slaughter of animals used for food from their cruelty laws. Other states imply the exemption by only outlawing “unnecessary cruelty” to animals, in effect stating that slaughtering animals for food is “necessary” cruelty. But it’s not.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund believes all animals deserve protection, no matter the reasons for which humans use them, including animals raised for their meat, milk, or eggs. ALDF has sued a hatchery for their egregious abuse of chicks, supported California’s Prop 2, which outlawed cages for laying hens, and took an egg farm to court for abandoning 50,000 hens and allowing most to starve to death. We will keep fighting to protect all animals, including chickens, but the best way you can help is to adopt a compassionate plant-based diet.
Interview with Karen Joy Fowler
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 5, 2015
Primates—their legal rights and their wellbeing—are in the news more than ever. Just this month, the USDA is considering ALDF’s petition to establish new standards of care for primates used in research, and the New York State Supreme Court is grappling with issues of legal personhood for chimpanzees. Meanwhile, ALDF is fighting the University of Wisconsin’s terror tests on baby monkeys. That’s just one of many reasons we were so excited to interview Karen Joy Fowler, author of the stunning novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, this month at Green Apple Books in San Francisco.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is the story of a family’s grief after a chimpanzee who has become like family is removed and sent to a lab. “The idea for the book came from my daughter,” Karen explained. “My father worked in Indiana University when I was a child. He ran rats through mazes and he studied learning behavior.” Karen took her daughter back to the campus and later told her about the famous Winthrop Kellogg experiment which forms the basis of the novel. In that experiment, a chimpanzee named Gua was raised beside a human infant like a family member for nearly one year. Without explanation, Gua was removed from her surrogate human family and sent to the controversial, highly-secretive primate colony “Orange Park”. Karen’s daughter said “that should be your next book, mom.”
Although Karen was allowed in the rat lab as a child, she wasn’t allowed in the area where the monkeys were kept. One to a cage, the monkeys were separated; they could not touch each other. “As a small child it was clear to me that they were mad in every sense of the word. I’ll never know what was done to them but they are one of the reasons I wrote this book. I have spent my life haunted by those monkeys.”
Karen remembers Harry Harlow and his research. “He came to the lab and gave me a lemon drop. Later, when I read the details of what he was doing, it not only struck me as horrific but also–I don’t see what we’ve learned from that tragedy.” Exploiting animals in experiments is problematic, she continues. “I hope we can all agree that testing for cosmetics is an outrage. And the psychological testing I look at most in my book is not only outrageous in terms of the way the animals are treated but is also very suspect in terms of teaching us anything of value or anything we can be confident has any validity.”
Spoiler Alert: Reading this novel is a powerful experience too. It is a well-crafted story of sisterhood and brings light to the secretive world of animal testing. “The book is organized in such a way that it’s clear I intend you to be surprised about a third of the way through. My first person narrator justifies withholding this information because of the point she is trying to make – that the sister she has been telling you about is not a human child but a chimpanzee. “It’s still the story of a family, of a sister, of a lost sister.”
Writing this novel had an impact upon the author as well. “The argument I initially wished to make was that because primates are so human-like, they deserve to be treated in a more humane and human-like way. As I was writing the book, my feelings changed. I looked at more studies of animal cognition in different species. I asked myself why being human-like was the thing that mattered to me. Why did that mean that an animal deserved to be treated well? “
Premiere primatologist Frans De Waal, author of The Bonobo and the Atheist, says empathy is a primate behavior we come by naturally. “We don’t need a church, or our parents, or society telling us how to move morally through the world. With empathy as our guide, we know how we ought to behave,” Karen explains. “But we extend empathy only to those we think of like ourselves. Anyone we think of as ‘other’ we have an antipathy with, that is part of our primate nature.” We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a literary way of extending beyond that orbit of empathy to care about other species.
“As the title of my book suggests, I have come to think of one of the primary roles of literature and art being the extension of our sense of who is like us and therefore the extension of our empathy. As we read books we can think about what it would be like to be other people, to live in other cultures. I would like to go even further and have our empathy extend beyond our species. I would like a world in which we recognize that we are all completely beside ourselves.”
Chimpanzees are the animals we are closest to, genetically and in terms of recognizably human-like intelligence. But, “in the fast-moving field of animal cognition, we are learning that we have underestimated the creatures we share the planet with at every juncture and in every possible way. So in writing this book I started with a very human lens and have tried to grow beyond that.”
The painting for the cover of the book is by Congo, who lived most of his short life in the London Zoo, Karen Joy Fowler notes. “He left quite an astonishing body of work behind. I think it’s really beautiful and I hope other people think so too.”
- Sign the Change.org petition to end the unethical torture of baby monkeys at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Take action on the USDA alert (to come)
Win an Autographed Copy!
Three lucky winners will be chosen at random to receive a signed copy of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Enter now!
Runaway Carriage Horse on Streets of St. Louis: ALDF Files Restraining Order Against Reckless Industry
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on May 1, 2015
ALDF has filed a request for a temporary restraining order against the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission after yet another horse ran wild through city streets, barely averting disaster. Downtown St. Louis was met with chaos last weekend after a runaway horse named Bud charged through city streets without his driver. Bud, who is forced to pull a carriage for the St. Louis Carriage Company, was surely terrified as he desperately galloped across the city, after his driver let go of his reigns. A collision would have meant disaster for automobiles and likely loss of life for Bud or members of the public.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been fighting hard to protect the city’s carriage horses from this cruel and dangerous industry. Together with local pro bono legal counsel and the St. Louis Animal Rights Team (START), ALDF has asked the court repeatedly to force the commission to protect horses from an industry with no oversight or concern for animal and human safety. Just last week, on April 22, ALDF had filed an amended petition to the court asking for enforcement of safety guidelines. Two days later, Bud broke free from his restraints and barreled through town, as captured in the video above.
These dangerous incidents are common to companies like the St. Louis Carriage Company. In statements released by local media reports, a spokesperson for the St. Louis Carriage Company claimed Bud, a one-ton horse fleeing at full gallop, was just a rare incident of a driver abandoning his horse. But just a few years ago, a driver for the same company was knocked off his carriage by a human assailant. That horse, Harry, also made a terrified bolt down the city’s urban landscape. And a witness to last weekend’s scare claims to have seen driverless horse carriages running through the city multiple times just this year.
Horses are easily frightened and confused by traffic and sudden noises. Many accidents result from horses spooking—and these accidents have caused serious (and sometimes fatal) injuries to horses, as well as public harm and destruction to property. Last December, ALDF filed a petition on behalf of START against the commission for failing to enforce regulations (section 608 of the Vehicle for Hire Code) against the carriage industry. Public records show the commission stopped enforcing regulations (including provisions for animal welfare) in 2013. ALDF urged the commission in July 2014 to get back on the horse—so to speak—and enforce these regulations. Earlier this spring, the St. Louis University SALDF chapter (Student Animal Legal Defense Fund) also filed a request for rulemaking with the commission, asking them to strengthen enforcement of the code. After the commission failed to take action, ALDF requested declaratory judgment from the St. Louis City Circuit Court and that case is ongoing.
Carriage horses aren’t just suffering in traffic accidents, but also endure terrible neglect and overwork. They are often forced to work all day, seven days a week, rain or shine, on hot asphalt, to the point of exhaustion and under chaotic conditions. Vets sent to Brookdale Farms, where horses exploited for their labor are confined, reported that the horses were malnourished. In 2013, a horse from Brookdale Farms died during carriage rides, right after the commission stopped enforcing regulations. The next year, in 2014, an exhausted carriage horse collapsed during a parade in front of the city’s health director. The commission’s failure to enforce the Vehicle for Hire Code is putting the well-being of the public and the welfare of these horses at grave risk for fatality. The next time a horse breaks free, the result could be far worse. Disaster is just waiting to happen.
Advancing the Law for Great Apes: Legal Personhood
Posted by Justin Marceau, Of Counsel, Animal Legal Defense Fund on April 29, 2015
On April 20, animal law made an historic leap forward with the case of two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, who are being held captive for use in experiments by Stony Brook University. Justice Barbara Jaffe of the New York State Supreme Court granted a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the chimps. In doing so, the court implicitly ruled that the chimpanzees, as plaintiffs, were legal “persons”—under New York law only legal persons may have a writ of habeas corpus issued on their behalf.
Can a chimpanzee have legal rights of personhood? To be a legal person, one doesn’t need to be human. Under the law, a legal “person” includes corporations and even ships.
What does all this mean? A writ of habeas corpus –which means “bring out the body”—is a term regarding whether a person is being detained illegally. When a person is being illegally confined against their will, the law says they have to be freed. The Nonhuman Rights Project is arguing on behalf of Hercules and Leo in order to secure their release from an unlawful detainment in laboratory cages at the university. The university must now show that the chimps are not being illegally confined against their will, and justify their captivity.
In their petition, the Nonhuman Rights Project argued that chimpanzees should be granted the same protections as “persons” under habeas corpus because they show highly complex cognitive functions, including “capacity to suffer pain of imprisonment.” Thus, just as personhood should not be defined by skin color, it should also not be defined by species classification. This doesn’t mean that intelligent animals should have all the same rights as humans, but they should have the right to live their lives outside of cages. If they are released, Hercules and Leo will be sent to a wildlife sanctuary in Florida.
After the ruling was handed down last week, a spokesperson for Justice Jaffe stated that the ruling did not say a chimpanzee is a legal person, but rather that this order gives the chimpanzees, who are being represented by the Nonhuman Rights Project, an opportunity to argue their case in court. Essentially, the order shows that the court believes that chimpanzees could potentially be legal persons. Whether the court will actually give the chimpanzees the rights of a legal person is yet to be determined. Justice Jaffe removed the words “writ of habeas corpus” from the original order, so it is now an order to show cause. But this is essentially the same thing; the only difference is that the chimpanzees will not have to appear in court.
The case is moving forward. The court is scheduled to hear legal arguments between the parties on May 27th at a public hearing at the New York County Supreme Court. Eric Schneiderman, the New York state attorney general, will represent Stony Brook University, and Steve Wise, an attorney for the Nonhuman Rights Project, will represent Hercules and Leo.
Indiana “Pig Wrestling” Violates Local Anti-cruelty Laws
Posted by Sarah Hanneken, ALDF Guest Blogger on April 28, 2015
Sports involving the exploitation of animals are grotesque—and “pig wrestling” is no different. In this loathsome activity, teams of four humans chase a terrified pig around a muddy pit, attempting to catch her and carry her to the center of the rink before time runs out. The contestants dive on top of her as she runs away, grab her legs, pin her against the fence, slam her to the ground, and attempt to carry her as she struggles desperately to escape. The pig may urinate or defecate out of sheer terror while being pursued by the human contestants, generating public-health concerns as well. Under no condition would we allow a dog or cat to be terrorized or injured this way for “sport,” so why allow it for pigs? Unfortunately, this cruel pastime is scheduled to take place this summer at the 2015 Harrison County Fair (July 12-18).
Yet sections 8(d) and 19 of the Harrison County Animal Control Ordinance make it unlawful for anyone to mistreat, torment, disable, or otherwise abuse an animal. The ordinance defines “animal” broadly, as “any live, vertebrate creature, domestic or wild…” There is no exemption for pigs, meaning the law protects them as well.
Section 8(d) expressly prohibits any person from instigating or permitting combat between animals and humans. Pig wrestling is an onslaught upon a trapped and terrified animal who cannot escape the direct physical assault coming from her human assailants.
Moreover, in light of the significant amount of fear inflicted upon the animal as part of any pig-wrestling event, such activity clearly involves “torment” and, as such, is illegal under Sections 8(d) and 19.
Put simply, if the Harrison County fair board permits this event to take place, it will be breaking the law. That’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund sent a formal letter of complaint to the Fair Board, notifying them that this event is illegal.
Does Every Animal Count? Not in California
Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on April 24, 2015
120 Day Sentence Handed Down for Killing Over 900 Chickens with a Golf Club
Last fall, ALDF offered a $5,000 reward in a shocking case of animal cruelty: in California’s Central Valley, four killers broke into a Foster Farms facility through a hole in the fence and used a golf club and other weapons to massacre more than 900 chickens. The bloodbath occurred early in the morning hours of September 20 in Caruthers, just south of Fresno. However, law enforcement solved this case without resort to the reward offer. The fruits of the investigation ripened on April 15, when Gabriel Quintero, who was 18 years old at the time of the crime, was sentenced to 120 days in jail after pleading no contest to one count of felony animal cruelty and one count of second-degree burglary. The other three offenders (all males under the age of 18), face similar charges in juvenile court, where the proceedings are confidential and not subject to public scrutiny.
The depths of depravity required to beat 925 chickens to death with multiple blows from blunt instruments is difficult to comprehend—think about how long it would take to kill that many birds, even with four assailants swinging away madly. Despite the fact that these chickens were slated for later slaughter, animal cruelty in California is a serious criminal offense, and we applaud the Fresno County District Attorney for filing this case. The good work of the DA’s office notwithstanding, some might be tempted to ask: If 920 birds were killed, why was there only one charge of animal cruelty?
Under existing law, California Penal Code § 597(a), any person convicted of maliciously and intentionally maiming or killing an animal can be imprisoned for up to three years in county jail and/or fined $20,000 for felony animal cruelty. Further, California Penal Code § 597(f) expressly states that each animal harmed qualifies as separate offense. However, this sound public policy of recognizing each individual animal as a separately actionable crime only applies to endangered animals and omits both pets and animals used in food production, like chickens.
This flaw in § 597(f) is, in large part, why Quintero faced only one count of animal cruelty (there are other reasons as well, related to the application of California Penal Code § 654 and the “same act or omission” rule). The limited scope of § 597(f) accentuates our legal system’s failure to count each abused animal as a separately actionable victim. We at ALDF believe that every animal counts.
States like Florida and Oregon have already seen the light. With your help, we can change the law in California and other states with a similar rule. Please join the Animal Legal Defense Fund in demanding stronger sentences for animal cruelty crimes by signing our “Every Animal Counts” petition. By doing so, you’ll help ensure prosecutors have the tools they need to secure more meaningful sentences.
Legally Brief: 5 Ways ALDF Is Challenging Factory Farming of Animals
Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on April 23, 2015
Factory farms, where animals are raised for production of meat, eggs, and dairy, are the cause of unimaginable suffering for billions of animals in the U.S. each year. They are also a major contributor to climate change and air and water pollution. Yet factory farms are routinely exempted from regulations for animal care and environmental protection.
Here are 5 ways the Animal Legal Defense Fund is challenging factory farming’s free ride:
- Ag gag – Ag gag laws criminalize the documentation of animal abuse on factory farms. They don’t try to stop animal abuse—they try to stop the reporting of animal abuse, which would hurt the industry’s bottom line. ALDF and a broad coalition of public interest groups have filed landmark constitutional challenges to these statutes that gag free speech in Utah and Idaho.
- Antibiotics – Because of the intensive confinement and filthy conditions on factory farms, the industry recklessly doses animals with antibiotics before they get sick. But this “sub-therapeutic” dosing of animals is linked with the proliferation of “superbugs”—antibiotic resistant bacteria that pose one of the greatest health threats of the 21st century. Currently factory farms aren’t even required to label meat products to let consumers know they’re consuming potential superbugs—that’s why ALDF has petitioned the USDA to require mandatory labeling.
- Greenhouse gases – Animal agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change—that’s an incontrovertible fact established by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations. Yet, unlike the energy and transportation industries, factory farms aren’t required to limit greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why ALDF filed a first-of-its-kind petition calling on the California Air Resources Board to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from factory farms.
- Ractopamine – Despite being banned or restricted by the European Union, Russia, China, and 100 other nations, ractopamine is permitted in U.S. animal feed. Use of the drug, which speeds animal growth to slaughter weight, is cruel to animals and dangerous to humans. ALDF and the Center for Food Safety have petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to reduce ractopamine use.
- Water – As California instigates emergency water restrictions for individuals during its historic drought crisis, factory farms, by far the largest users of water, face no new restrictions. Even though a tiny fraction of consumptive water is used by urban water users, we were asked to cut our water use by 25%. Factory farms that drain nearly half of California’s consumptive water use have not been compelled to restrict their water use one iota. ALDF will petition the State Water Resources Control Board to ensure that they do.
5 Reasons to Eat for the Planet This Earth Day, 2015
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on April 22, 2015
April 22 is Earth Day—a day celebrated around the world—and reminds us to care for the planet we all share. Here are five reasons all animal lovers should “Eat for the Planet” (OneGreenPlanet’s campaign) starting today.
- Animal Agriculture Is Killing Our Planet. Industrial-scale agriculture, (the factory farming of animals for food) not only harms the billions of animals we slaughter annually in the U.S. alone, and frequently leads to violations of federal and state anti-cruelty and environmental laws, is also one of the top contributors to climate change. As our population surpasses 7 billion people, cutting animals out of our diets can help save the planet.
- Eating Animals Can Make Us Sick. From salmonella to superbugs, do you know what’s in the food you eat? The Animal Legal Defense Fund is leading the fight against factory farms with lawsuits over misused antibiotics in meat that can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, ractopamine added to animal feed, cruelty in force-fed foie gras, and dishonest marketing in supposedly “humane” meat and eggs that are anything but humane, as well as bullying from inhumane producers.
- Dolphin Safe Tuna Isn’t Safe for Anyone. Commercial fishing destroys marine ecology. Even tuna companies that claim to use “sustainable” fishing practices are still killing not only tuna but dolphins and countless non-target animals including whales and endangered turtles. You can sign ALDF’s petition to boycott tuna producers.
- Predators Are Crucial to Ecosystems. Wolf hunting and coyote killing contests hurt more than just the individuals shot as “trophies.” Reckless killing of pack-members can destroy family systems and disrupt entire ecosystems. What’s more, studies show that most livestock that die before slaughter are killed by disease, not predators.
- Better Animal Laws Means a Better Planet. Protecting the interests of nonhuman animals means setting a standard of care for our shared environment! Protecting animals means we must also protect the earth, and not destroy the wild lands used by wild animals. More people eating more eat means less room for wilderness and wildlife. Did you know in the last 50 years 50% of wild species have been extinguished? Animal agriculture is a leading cause of the sixth major extinction crisis in the history of the planet.
How will you celebrate Earth Day?
- Join in events like One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign today, which are crucial in building awareness around sustainable food choices.
- Speak out for farmed animals who are almost entirely unprotected by federal laws, and have no one but us to speak for them.
- Check out ALDF’s Cruelty-Free Resource Guide for great ways you can eat delicious cruelty-free meals that leave a light carbon footprint on our Earth.
- Purchase ALDF’s Farmed Animals & the Law brochure for tabling and advocacy events.
- Encourage coworkers and classmates to celebrate Meatless Mondays.
- Read ALDF’s review of James McWilliams’ brand new book The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals.
- Sign ALDF’s petition to Stop Ag Gag and protect animals and our First Amendment rights.
- Hug a cow: volunteer at a farmed animal sanctuary—good for the animals, good for you!
Chicago Animal Law Symposium
Posted by Chelsea McFadden, Chicago SALDF regional representative and vice president of the John Marshall School of Law SALDF chapter on April 17, 2015
On Saturday, April 4, over 70 law students and animal advocates came together to attend the first symposium of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (SALDF) Chicago regional network. At this cutting-edge event, top experts discussed hot button issues like “ag gag” laws, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, contemporary issues in Illinois animal law, the convergence of food safety law and animal protection, and the problem of police shootings of companion animals. This student-organized event took place at the Chicago-Kent College of Law and was generously sponsored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and made by possible by the collaboration of SALDF Chapters at Chicago-Kent College of Law, The John Marshall Law School, DePaul University College of Law, Northwestern School of Law, and the University of Chicago Law School.
The day’s presentations began with a moving keynote address by Anna Morrison-Ricordati, animal law attorney at AMR Law Group. She discussed social perspectives on the relationship between humans and nonhuman animals. This was followed by a lively and interactive discussion of legislative efforts to oppose the efforts of animal advocates through ag gag laws and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Odette Wilkens, executive director of the Equal Justice Alliance, explained how the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) labels a wide range of legal activism as “terrorism” and the dangerous chilling effect this has on law-abiding animal advocates. Chris Green, ALDF’s director of legislative affairs, followed with a discussion of how ag gag laws aim to control our behavior by instilling fear of prosecution and intimidating people from gathering evidence of animal abuse on factory farms.
Other presentations included one by Cherie Travis, assistant general counsel for the Cook County Sherriff’s Department, who discussed the tragic problem of dog shootings by police, particularly in Chicago. Cherie discussed the work she does training Illinois police officers, in order to prevent the use of nonlethal force against dogs. Diane Balkin, contract attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, then discussed this issue at a national level and important new legislation aimed at preventing shootings of companion animals by police.
Great presentations followed by Anna Morrison-Ricordati, Carney Anne Nasser, legislative counsel for the ALDF, Chris Berry, ALDF staff attorney, and Kelsey Eberly, ALDF Litigation fellow.
The symposium also included screenings of the new documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine, which illuminates the lives of individual animals living within and rescued from the machine of our modern world through the heart and photographic lens of animal rights photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur.
At the end of the day, symposium attendees were armed with new knowledge and new connections in the Midwest, a region where it can be difficult to advocate against factory farming interests. The day’s presentations inspired attendees to get involved in areas where animals desperately need our voices, and provided a foundation for effectuating meaningful change for animals.
5 Ways to Stay Involved in Animal Law after Graduation
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Staff Attorney on April 17, 2015
Congratulations to all those law students graduating this semester! As you move into the next phase of your life, you may be wondering how you can remain involved in the field of animal law and animal protection as a new graduate. Here are the top five ways to stay active in animal law!
- Celebrate your dedication to animal law and your school’s SALDF chapter with an ALDF lapel pin and graduation cord to wear during your graduation ceremony! Order your SALDF Graduation Packet now.
- ALDF offers new graduates a free one year attorney membership in ALDF’s Animal Law Program. The Animal Law Program works closely with law students and law professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. We do this by assisting bar association members interested in forming animal law bar sections or committees and partnering with pro bono coordinators interested in developing animal law volunteer opportunities at their firms.
- We also invite you to join our Volunteer Attorney Network! The support of legal professionals nationwide is integral to helping ALDF protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. ALDF uses volunteer attorneys to work on a variety of projects including legal research, writing legal information guides, filing amicus briefs, litigating cases, and assisting prosecutors with animal cruelty cases. Furthermore, ALDF utilizes its pro bono attorneys to assist with public inquiries involving animals.
- Sign up for the ALDF Animal Law Professional eNewsletter! The eNewsletter includes news, events, and continuing education and employment opportunities relevant to attorneys interested in animal law. (To join, select “Law Professional Newsletter” on the sign up page.)
- If you are job hunting, make sure to check out our career advice for aspiring animal attorneys and the ALDF Employment and Fellowship pages, where we post current employment opportunities at various law firms and nonprofit organizations across the country.
Good luck on the bar exam and in this next stage in your career!
A Minor Setback to Oregon’s “Every Animal Counts” Rule
Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on April 6, 2015
When animals are neglected or abused, even in large groups, each animal suffers individually. That’s why ALDF has long praised a 2012 Oregon appellate court decision holding that “every animal counts” for sentencing purposes. Under this rule, abusers will be held accountable for every animal they harm. It is judicial recognition of animals as more than mere property, and it is especially important when it comes to hoarding and dogfighting cases. Unfortunately, this rule was vacated in March—but the fix is coming down the pike for animals in Oregon very soon.
Prior to March of this year, it was settled law in Oregon that a trial court, in sentencing an offender who has been convicted of abusing multiple animals, may not merge (aka consolidate) those individual convictions. Rather, the defendant is subject to sentencing on each count involving each animal. The reason for this rule? Under Oregon law, each animal qualifies as a separate victim and crimes involving separate victims shall not be merged. Both the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court so ruled in State v. Nix. The holding that animals qualify as victims was and remains a significant development in the law that has historically treated animals as property.
However, due to a technical jurisdictional defect related to the state’s right to initiate an appeal of a sentence imposed in a misdemeanor case, on March 5, the Oregon Supreme Court vacated both Nix opinions. While this is certainly bad news, it is important keep three key points in mind:
(1) The court vacated the prior two rulings on procedural grounds that had nothing to do with the merits of the merger argument;
(2) The original two Nix opinions are, at their core, statutory construction cases and the rules and analysis employed in reaching the conclusion that animals qualify as victims have not changed one iota;
(3) While trial judges are no longer required to follow the holding in the original Nix opinions, most judges should be able to read the writing on the wall—when the next case raising this issue (minus the jurisdictional issue) is decided (and that case is already in the pipe), it is extremely likely that the Court of Appeals will reach the same conclusion as it did the first time—that animals qualify as victims. Consequently, during this interim period, defendants convicted of abusing multiple animals should not have much (if any) success in attempting to circumvent the “every animal counts” rule.
As noted by the Court of Appeals in its 2012 Nix opinion, by enacting Oregon’s animal cruelty code, the legislature’s primary concern was to protect individual animals as sentient beings, rather than to vindicate the more generalized public interests in their welfare. That conclusion is even more readily reached now, given this language from SB 6, enacted a full year after the Court of Appeals decided Nix:
“The Legislative Assembly finds and declares that: (1) Animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain, stress and fear; (2) Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize pain, stress, fear and suffering; (3) The suffering of animals can be mitigated by expediting the disposition of abused animals that would otherwise languish in cages while their defendant owners await trial[.]”
There are no sound arguments justifying a different conclusion in the next case. As such, the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision to vacate Nix due to a jurisdictional defect is, in the practical terms, only a delay in the full implementation of Oregon’s “every animal counts” rule. Stay tuned for updates once the next case is decided.
Catch Comedian Stephen Sorrentino Live in Sonoma County and Support ALDF
Posted by Dale Thompson, Development Associate on April 4, 2015
Join us April 17 at a benefit show for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, hosted by comedian Stephen Sorrentino.
Where: The new Graton Casino Resort in Rohnert Park, California.
When: Friday, April 17 at 9pm.
For Tickets: $25 per ticket – each dollar goes to support ALDF’s work to protect animals!
Before becoming a famous comedian, actor, and impressionist, Stephen Sorrentino grew up on his family’s horse ranch on Long Island, New York, where his grandfather raised thoroughbreds. Being around the dogs and horses made him an animal lover and advocate from day one. “As a child, and even more so today, I feel a strong connection to all animals because you can look into their eyes and see so much kindness. They trust us, and we have an obligation to return that kindness by taking care of them,” he says.
The desire to defend animals extended to the times his father tried to take him hunting. “It all seemed so wrong to me,” Stephen says. He would throw rocks in the bushes where he heard the deer to scare them off. This saved their lives–but did not en-“dear” him to his dad.
“I believe that in order for animals to be treated well, there needs to be systematic changes to protect them through the law,” Stephen explains. His award-winning show features 180 signature impressions, music, and humor. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster, and all proceeds will go to ALDF.
If you can’t make the performance, stay tuned for Stephen Sorrentino’s upcoming reality show that will work to expose animal abuse. The show will shed light on animal cruelty, and remind people of their responsibility to provide animals with the love and compassion they deserve.
We hope to see you April 17!
Customary Cruelty in the Farm Industry: When Animal Abuse is Legal
Posted by Kelly Levenda, Staff Attorney on April 3, 2015
You would never keep your companion animal in a wire cage for her entire life, remove her tail with heated scissors, or kill her by smashing her head on the ground. But farmed animals suffer these abuses every day. Why is this conduct not illegal?
Farmed animals have very little legal protections from cruel treatment. Most state criminal anti-cruelty laws that seek to prohibit unnecessary animal suffering exempt all “customary farming practices.” These customary farming practices are not defined by the legislature, but are practices that the animal agriculture industry commonly uses when raising animals as food. This means essentially that lawmakers allow the industry to police itself, by deciding what practices are common, and therefore legal.
I studied animal science at a top agricultural science university in preparation for attending veterinary school (but I eventually attended law school to study animal law!) During my time as an undergraduate student, I experienced how agricultural science students are taught to raise animals, and I was appalled by what I learned and saw (which included many of the practices described below). I think you would also be appalled at the practices deemed common in the animal agriculture industry.
Intensive confinement of farmed animals is customary. Mother pigs are confined indefinitely in gestation and farrowing crates so small that they cannot turn around or lie down comfortably. Hens are confined in wire battery cages, where they cannot stretch or flap their wings. Calves raised for veal are kept for their whole, short, four-to-five month lives individually tied in stalls where they are unable to turn around. Animals suffer extreme mental distress and physical abuse when they are forced to live their lives in intensive confinement.
Farmed animals commonly have their bodies mutilated without being given pain-relieving drugs or anesthesia. Producers castrate male animals by slicing open their scrotum and ripping their testicles out. Cows’ and pigs’ tails and chickens’ beaks are cut off using a heated scissor-like tool. Cows and sheep have their horns removed by a hot iron, caustic chemicals, or a knife. Many farmers brand their animals for identification using a hot iron to burn an animal’s skin and cause a second or third degree burn. These bodily mutilations cause animals immense pain.
The “euthanasia” of farmed animals is routine in the animal agriculture industry. Male chicks, who are considered a waste product of the egg industry, are dumped, fully conscious, into meat grinders and piglets are killed by smashing their skulls on the ground.
Calves born to cows used by humans for their milk are dragged away from their mothers immediately after they are born. This forceful separation is traumatic and causes severe stress for both the mother and calf. Mother cows will frantically search and call for their babies.
Because these practices are commonly used by the animal agriculture industry, they are often legal in the eyes of the law. The Animal Legal Defense Fund fights for more effective laws to protect farmed animals, and to enforce the few weak laws that do exist. If you are an attorney, you can join our fight by joining the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s pro bono network. If you are a student, you can bring awareness to these issues by volunteering at a farmed animal sanctuary or implementing Meatless Mondays in your cafeteria. If you don’t support these practices, stand up for farmed animals by adopting a compassionate, plant-based diet.
The Friendly Faces of Farmed Animals
Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on April 3, 2015
Today’s Speak Out for Farmed Animals challenge is to share the cutest picture of a farmed animal on social media! Don’t forget to use the tag #SpeakOut!
Animal advocates are rarely born. Our concern for other animals is natural, but over the years, social norms and customs that don’t consider animals’ interests take over. For most of us, we were raised thinking the exploitation of animals, particularly farmed animals, is normal.
This was the case for my brother and me. We loved dogs and cats and horses and rabbits with abandon, as children. Added to that, I always loved wolves and coyotes, chimpanzees, and gorillas. And I had an affinity for the whole animal world, from prehistoric dinosaurs to the farmed animals I saw around me in the heart of California’s dairy farms. I stopped eating animals at the age of 20, when I put the pieces together. Only later did I learn about the devastating environmental impact and health nightmares caused by animal agriculture.
But my brother’s story was different—and perhaps even more common. For years, he watched his big sister advocate for animals, and when it came to working with dogs, he supported me. As a professional athlete, he began to consider a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of cutting out saturated animal fats, and foods laden with GMOs, antibiotics, and other chemicals necessary to contain the spread of disease that always lingers in industrial animal agriculture. After a few years, he started to get really mad about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture on the planet, especially after he learned about ag gag laws that infringe on our constitutional rights.
Always an animal lover himself, things really clicked together when he had children. What messages did he want to pass along to his progeny about compassion and how to be in the world with others? If the family loved the dog so much—a sweet pit bull named Mary—and could never bear to see her suffer, why should compassion end there?
Since then, my brother has become an animal advocate, and I’m proud of him and his children. He recently took his young family to a local animal sanctuary called Animal Place, located in Grass Valley, California. They spent time petting cows and pigs and learning about hens and their highly social behavior. The challenge was, after seeing these animals as individuals as colorful and alive and sentient as their pup, could they eat animals again? The answer was a resounding “no.” He posted that challenge on Facebook and asked people who consume animal products, merely because it is what they’ve always done, to visit an animal sanctuary and see if that impacts the way they view animals and the choices they make about contributing to the industry that by the sheer numbers causes the most animal suffering bar none.
We have some other great stories about happy, rescued farmed animals from ALDF staff:
- Read ALDF Founder Joyce Tischler’s story about turkeys and Farm Sanctuary.
- Read ALDF Senior Attorney Matthew Liebman’s story about Farm Sanctuary’s Country Hoe Down.
- Read ALDF staff Kelly Levenda and Nicole Pallotta’s story about the Wildwood Farm Sanctuary.
Share your cute photos of “farmed” animals on ALDF’s Facebook and Twitter and Instagram! #speakout