Australian State Gets Tough With Animal Rights Trespassers

by John M. Simpson.

On November 13, 2019, the Parliament of New South Wales passed legislation aimed at dealing with the increasing threat to farmers and their operations posed by animal rights activists in Australia who have taken up physical property trespassing as a tactic to get their various points across.  The measure, entitled the Right to Farm Bill 2019, increases the criminal penalties for aggravated trespass and creates a new offense for inciting aggravated trespass. Continue reading Australian State Gets Tough With Animal Rights Trespassers

House Passes Bill Amending “Crush Video” Prohibition

by John M. Simpson.

On October 22, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 724, entitled the “Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act” or “PACT Act.”  The measure would retain the existing prohibition in 18 U.S.C. § 48 on the creation and distribution of “crush videos” but would also criminalize an intentional act of animal crushing.   Continue reading House Passes Bill Amending “Crush Video” Prohibition

Court Rejects Tofurky’s Request for Preliminary Injunction to Halt Enforcement of Missouri’s Meat Advertising Law

By Michelle C. Pardo

We previously blogged about the case of Turtle Island Foods, et al. v. Mark Richardson, 2:18-cv-04173, pending in federal court in the Western District of Missouri. Turtle Island Foods, doing business as The Tofurky Company (“Tofurky”) which produces plant-based products, together with The Good Food Institute (an organization founded in part by Bruce Friedrich, former director of PETA’s vegan campaigns), sued Missouri prosecutors over its 2018 amended meat advertising law. The law requires that in order for a product to be labeled as “meat” it must come from “any edible portion of livestock, poultry, or captive cervid carcass or part thereof.” Mo. Rev. Stat. § 265.300(7). Under the amended law, plant based products, such as Tofurky’s veggie burgers or sausage, would be deemed to be misleading unless the labels contain an appropriate qualifier such as “plant-based,” “veggie,” “lab grown,” or “lab created.” Lab-grown or cultured meat products (also referred to as “clean meat”) is a new technology in which meat is grown from in vitro animal cell culture instead of from slaughtered animals. These products have not yet debuted in the marketplace. Continue reading Court Rejects Tofurky’s Request for Preliminary Injunction to Halt Enforcement of Missouri’s Meat Advertising Law

Buttonwood Park Zoo Defeats Endangered Species Act Lawsuit

by Michelle C. Pardo

We previously blogged about an Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit which pitted an animal rights activist against the Buttonwood Park Zoo (owned and operated by the City of New Bedford, Massachusetts). The zoo’s two elephants, Emily and Ruth, approximately 55 and 61 years old, respectively, have spent the greater part of their lives at Buttonwood Park. In 2017, longtime zoo patron Joyce Rowley, an animal rights activist who runs Friends of Ruth & Emily, an organization “dedicated to retiring Asian elephants Ruth and Emily from Buttonwood Park Zoo,” brought a lawsuit in Massachusetts federal court against the zoo. Rowley claimed that the zoo was committing an illegal “take” of the elephants when it failed to provide them with, among other things, adequate veterinary care and socialization, including a failure to protect one of the elephants from its more aggressive elephant companion. Her requested relief included confiscation of the elephants and relocating them to an elephant “sanctuary.” Continue reading Buttonwood Park Zoo Defeats Endangered Species Act Lawsuit

Update on Elephant Habeas Corpus Case

by John M. Simpson.

We recently reported on a case in which an animal rights group, the Nonhuman Rights Project,  sought habeas corpus relief for three Asian elephants maintained in a zoo in Connecticut.  The Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment and ruled that the plaintiff had no standing  because the elephants themselves had no standing. Continue reading Update on Elephant Habeas Corpus Case

First Import Permit Issued for Sport Hunted Threatened Lion Trophy

For the first time since the United States protected lions under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) in 2016, the Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) has issued a permit to allow an American sport hunter to bring back parts of a lion he killed on a trophy hunt in Tanzania.

Before 2016, lions were not protected by the ESA, so sport hunters could bring lion trophies back to the United States without a permit. While the timing may have been coincidental, in January 2016, months after the 2015 high-profile incident in which a Minnesota dentist killed Cecil the lion during a trophy hunt, however, FWS extended ESA protection to lions. The sub-species of lions found in central and West Africa was listed as endangered and the sub-species found in southern and East Africa (including Tanzania) was listed as threatened. The threatened sub-species, Panthera leo melancochaita, has larger numbers and is considered less vulnerable than the endangered sub-species, Panthera leo leo.

When a species (or sub-species) is listed as “endangered” under the ESA, certain activities with regard to that species are prohibited without a permit from FWS. Those include import/export, “take” (which includes harm, hunting, shooting, killing, trapping, capturing, etc.), transport in interstate commerce, and sale or offer for sale in interstate commerce. 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a). While these prohibitions only expressly apply to species listed as “endangered,” as opposed to “threatened,” the ESA also provides that the Secretary of the Interior may by regulation extend some or all of those prohibitions to any species listed as threatened. That is what the Secretary of the Interior did with Panthera leo melancochaita – issuing a specific regulation, 50 C.F.R. § 17.40(r), which applies all of the “endangered” prohibitions to the “threatened” populations of lions, and requires a threatened species import permit for the import of all specimens, which includes sport trophies.

To obtain a threatened species import permit, the applicant must demonstrate that the permit is for a defined set of purposes: (1) scientific purpose; (2) the enhancement of propagation or survival of the species; (3) economic hardship; (4) zoological purposes; (5) educational purposes; or (6) incidental taking. 50 C.F.R. § 17.32. It might seem counter-intuitive, but FWS anticipates granting permits to allow the import of sport hunted lion trophies on the basis that sport hunting of the threatened species could “enhance the propagation or survival” of the species hunted. On a FWS webpage, (https://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/sport-hunted-trophies-lions.html), the agency advises trophy hunters: “In your permit application, we are looking for information demonstrating how your import will help improve the status of lions in the wild.” For example, the hunting license or trophy fees paid could be used by the safari outfitter, guide, land owner, etc., in a way that provides a conservation benefit to the species hunted (e.g., habitat improvement efforts, anti-poaching efforts, etc.).

Applications to import hunted lion trophies will now be reviewed on a case by case basis. FWS has a webpage devoted to advice regarding import of hunted lions that includes a list of factors the agency will consider when evaluating permit applications. It also includes a link to the IUCN Species Survival Commission document entitled “Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives.” That document sets out guidance about how trophy hunting can “creat[e] incentives for the conservation of species and their habitats” and, according to FWS, “provides useful principles, which, considered in conjunction with our permit issuance criteria, aid the Service when making findings and determinations regarding import of hunted animals.” (https://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/sport-hunted-trophies-lions.html). This suggests that sport hunters who wish to apply for a permit to import lion trophies should review the IUCN document and incorporate its guidance into the hunter’s application.

Will California Be the First to Ban Fur Sales Statewide?

by Michelle C. Pardo

The California legislature has passed a bill to ban the sale of new fur products anywhere within the state. The bill would make it unlawful to “sell, offer for sale, display for sale, trade, or otherwise distribute for monetary or nonmonetary consideration a fur product, as defined, in the state.” AB 44 (as amended). Should Governor Gavin Newsom sign AB44, California would be the first state in the nation to enact such legislation. Los Angeles, San Francisco, West Hollywood and Berkeley already have fur bans in place. Illegal items would include fur from undomesticated animals, including mink, rabbit and coyote.  The legislation excludes certain products, such as pelts or skins preserved through taxidermy, animal skin that is to be converted into leather, and fur products used for religious or traditional Native American tribal, cultural or spiritual purposes. The bill carries civil penalties. Continue reading Will California Be the First to Ban Fur Sales Statewide?

UK Advertising Standards Authority Bans PETA Ad As “Misleading” and Lacking Substantiation

by John M. Simpson.

On September 4, 2019 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which describes itself as “the UK’s independent advertising regulator,” upheld a challenge to an advertisement  that had been displayed for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on the side of buses in February 2019.  As the authority described it, the ad “included the text ‘Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes.  Wool is just as cruel as fur.  GO WOOL-FREE THIS WINTER PeTA.’  Beside the text was an image of a woman with the neck of her jumper pulled over her face.”   Ten complainants challenged whether the claim “wool is just as cruel as fur” was misleading and could be substantiated.  ASA upheld the challenge and ruled that the ad “must not appear in its current form” and “told PETA not to use the claim ‘wool is just as cruel as fur’ in [the] future.”  Continue reading UK Advertising Standards Authority Bans PETA Ad As “Misleading” and Lacking Substantiation

Goodbye Big Food, Hello Lawsuit: Animal Rights Group Files Case Over Dairy Product Marketing

By:  Michelle C. Pardo

Known for its “Dairy Done Right” marketing campaign, Tillamook County Creamery Association (“Tillamook”), which produces dairy products like cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter, is the latest target of a consumer fraud lawsuit filed this week in Oregon state court (Multnomah County). Animal rights group Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is co-counsel to four Oregon residents and a class of similarly situated consumers who claim Tillamook uses deceptive representations when advertising and marketing its dairy products, which is likely to confuse or mislead customers. Continue reading Goodbye Big Food, Hello Lawsuit: Animal Rights Group Files Case Over Dairy Product Marketing

Connecticut Appellate Court Denies Habeas Relief for Elephants

by John M.  Simpson.

On August 20, 2019, a panel of the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Appellate Court officially released a decision affirming the dismissal of an action that had been brought seeking habeas corpus relief for three elephants maintained at a zoo in Goshen, Connecticut.  Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. R. W. Commerford and Sons, Inc., No. AC 41464 (Conn. App.  Aug. 20, 2019).  The petitioner Nonhuman Rights Project sought to represent the elephants as their “next friend” seeking to vindicate what was described as the animals’ “common-law right to bodily liberty.”  The lower court dismissed the case on the grounds that petitioner lacked standing and, alternatively, that the petition was “wholly frivolous.”  Continue reading Connecticut Appellate Court Denies Habeas Relief for Elephants