USDA and FDA Announce Joint Regulatory Oversight for Cell-Cultured Food Products

by Michelle C. Pardo

On November 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the two Agencies will jointly oversee the production of cell-cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry (referred to by some as “clean meat”). This announcement follows October meetings between the two Agencies and stakeholders about issues related to regulatory oversight for this new technology, including issues related to potential hazards in production.

In an official statement:

“the Agencies are today announcing agreement on a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to USDA oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. USDA will then oversee the production and labeling of food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.”

The Agencies noted that this joint oversight takes advantage of the FDA’s and the USDA’s respective experience with new food technologies, living bio systems, and regulation of livestock and poultry products for human consumption. The Agencies and the Administration have taken the position that no new legislation on this topic is necessary. While many in the meat industry had presumed that the two Agencies would share regulatory oversight, the respective roles were not defined prior to this announcement. Cell-cultured meat companies seemed to have favored the FDA as the primary regulatory agency, while those that raise livestock and poultry for slaughter tended to favor the USDA taking the lead.

Some traditional meat companies have criticized cell-cultured meat technology as “fake meat”.  We previously blogged about a lawsuit challenging state laws that limit what type of product can be labeled as “meat”.  (“What’s Your Beef: Legal Challenge to Missouri’s Meat Advertising  Law)  https://blogs.duanemorris.com/animallawdevelopments/tag/clean-meat/.   Whatever the products marketed and sold to consumers are eventually called — be it “cell-cultured food products”, “clean meat”, “lab grown meat”, “synthetic meat” or “in vitro meat” — this technology is bound to spark further debate among stakeholders in the food industries, the scientific community, consumers, and animal rights activists.

The public comment period on this issue is extended until December 26, 2018.

New York Court of Appeals Tosses Kaporos Animal Cruelty Case

by John M. Simpson

On November 14, 2018, the New York Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a mandamus petition seeking to enforce certain state animal cruelty laws against the practice of Kaporos.  The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, et al. v. New York City Police Dep’t, et al., No. 126 (N.Y. Nov. 14, 2018).   The Court of Appeals ruled that the “extraordinary remedy” of mandamus was not available because “[e]nforcement of the laws cited by plaintiffs would involve some exercise of discretion …” and plaintiffs “do not seek to compel the performance of ministerial duties but, rather, seek to compel a particular outcome.”  Id., slip. op. 2, 3 (citations omitted). Continue reading New York Court of Appeals Tosses Kaporos Animal Cruelty Case

Voters Approve Two Key Animal-Related Ballot Initiatives

By John M. Simpson.

Two animal-law-related measures of note were passed during the recent mid-term elections.

Proposition 12.  In California, voters approved Proposition 12 which establishes new standards for the confinement of certain farm animals.  The measure sets new minimum requirements for farmers as to space for egg-laying hens and calves raised for veal (to be adopted by 2020) and for breeding pigs (to be adopted by 2022).  The standards apply, not only to eggs, pork and veal produced in California but also to such products imported into the state and produced elsewhere. Continue reading Voters Approve Two Key Animal-Related Ballot Initiatives

PETA Strikes Out Again in Eleventh Circuit

by John M. Simpson.

A petition for rehearing filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was recently denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in an Endangered Species Act (ESA) case involving a killer whale (Orcinus orca) maintained by the Miami Seaquarium.  The denial left standing a significant ruling by the court under the ESA.  PETA v. Miami Seaquarium, 879 F.3d 1142 (11th Cir. 2018).  Continue reading PETA Strikes Out Again in Eleventh Circuit

Asian Elephant Case Against Buttonwood Park Zoo Continues

by Michelle C. Pardo

An Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit against the City of New Bedford will continue after a federal district judge in Massachusetts denied the defendant’s efforts to dismiss plaintiff Joyce Rowley’s lawsuit.  The City of New Bedford runs the Buttonwood Park Zoo, which has been home to two Asian elephants, Ruth and Emily, for decades.  Plaintiff Rowley runs an organization called Friends of Ruth & Emily Inc., which is dedicated to retiring Asian elephants Ruth and Emily to “a warm climate sanctuary to live out their days in peace, dignity, and freedom”.  In the last 25 months, it’s “Go Fund Me” page has raised just $10,025 of the requested $25,000 “to get justice” for the elephants. Continue reading Asian Elephant Case Against Buttonwood Park Zoo Continues

“Animal Rights Extremism” Targeted in Trump Administration Counterterrorism Strategy

by John M. Simpson

Somewhat lost in the din of current news reporting on the Supreme Court appointment controversy,  was the release of the Trump administration’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism of the United States (Strategy) on October 4.  That document makes specific reference to “animal rights extremism” as a “persistent” domestic security threat.  Continue reading “Animal Rights Extremism” Targeted in Trump Administration Counterterrorism Strategy

Seventh Circuit Rejects Horseback-Riding Injury Claims on Equine Immunity Grounds

by John M. Simpson.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently decided two consolidated appeals affirming the rejection of personal injury claims by two individuals injured while riding horseback in Wisconsin.  Both plaintiff’s claims were barred by the Wisconsin “equine immunity” statute.  Wis. Stat. § 895.481(2).  Dilley v. Holiday Acres Properties, Inc., Nos. 17-2485 & 17-2970 (7th Cir. Sept. 25, 2018).

In the first case, the plaintiff (Dilley) had been injured during a trail ride when the horse Dilley was riding interacted with another horse, reared and threw her.   Dilley, an adult in her sixties, had no horseback-riding experience and had been provided by the trail company with its most docile horse, an animal that it usually made available to children.   Affirming the summary judgment issued against Dilley by the court below, the Seventh Circuit held that Dilley’s personal injury claims fell squarely within the scope of Wisconsin’s equine immunity statute, which broadly immunizes from civil liability a person’s

“acts or omissions related to his or her participation in equine activities if a person participating in the equine activity is injured or killed as the result of an inherent risk of equine activities.”

Wis. Stat. § 895.481(2).   While Dilley argued that the defendant’s alleged negligence was avoidable and therefore not an inherent risk of horseback riding, the court disagreed:  “the statute’s enumeration of immunized risks includes the ‘potential for a person participating in an equine activity to act in a negligent manner.'”  Slip op. at 7.

Nor was the court persuaded that any of the statutory exceptions to equine immunity applied:

♦     While immunity does not apply where the provider of the horse fails to make “a reasonable effort” to determine the ability of the rider to safely ride or to safely manage the horse provided, Wis. Stat. § 895.481(3)(b), there was no dispute “that [defendants] asked Dilley about her experience, learned that she had none, and accordingly paired her with Blue, the most docile horse in their stable and the one usually assigned to small children.”  Slip op. at 10.

♦     While immunity does not cover a “willful or wanton” disregard for personal safety, Wis. Stat. § 895.481(3)(d), “[n]othing in the record supports a finding that [defendants] were aware (or should have been aware) of a ‘strong probability’ that Dilley would be harmed.”  Slip op. at 12.

♦     While immunity does not apply when the injury stems from equipment or tack that the operator who provided it knew or should have known was faulty, Wis. Stat. § 895.481(3)(a), Dilley’s only complaint was that “no one adjusted her stirrups,” not that “her stirrups — or any other equipment or tack — were defective in any way.”  Slip op. at 12.

In the second case, the plaintiff (Brown), whose case was dismissed on the pleadings, was injured in a collision with another horse during a riding lesson conducted by the defendant stable owner.  Brown brought her own horse and rode him during the lesson.   Brown argued that her case fit with in the section 895.481(3)(b) immunity exception for a defendant’s failure to safely manage the horse provided because the defendant had control over the other horse that had caused the collision.  The court rejected this argument because the defendant did not provide plaintiff with a horse:  “A horseback-riding student who brings his own horse for a lesson supplies the horse; the instructor does not.”  Slip op. at 13.  Brown in fact “pleaded herself out of the exception” by affirmatively pleading in her complaint that she “provided her own horse to be used in the private lesson.”  Id.

On the Road with Duane Morris’ Animal Lawyers

We’re hitting the road to attend exciting industry conferences that focus on animal businesses and organizations.  If you are attending, please look us up!

On September 24 through 26, Duane Morris animal law attorneys Michelle Pardo and Rebecca Bazan will be attending the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington. We are looking forward to attending the Icebreaker event at the Seattle Aquarium and a host of informative animal-related sessions.

On October 18, Duane Morris Partner Michelle Pardo will be speaking at the North American Meat Institute’s Animal Care and Handling Conference in Kansas City, MO. The Animal Care and Handling Conference for the Food Industry is the leading animal welfare educational opportunity for meat companies, their customers and those involved in the production and management of livestock and meat products. This important conference has doubled in size since it was launched in 1999 – testament to the increasing significance of animal care and handling in the meat industry.

Justice the Horse Will NOT Have his Day in Court

by Michelle C. Pardo

In August, we updated you about a lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in which a horse called Justice was the named plaintiff.  On September 17, 2019, an Oregon judge rejected the “creative” theory that an animal has legal capacity to sue its former owner and dismissed the case with prejudice, delivering another blow to various animal activist groups’ movement to open the courthouse doors to non-human animal litigants.  Continue reading Justice the Horse Will NOT Have his Day in Court