The Pitfalls of Serving as Activist Attorney and Client: Should We Give A Hoot?

by Michelle C. Pardo

You may have heard the well-known proverb, “a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client.” It stands for the concept that while individuals in our country are free to represent him or herself in a criminal or civil trial – acting pro se – many caution that this is not the wisest course.

The issue is even more precarious when an attorney attempts to participate as a fact witness in a case he or she has brought. Rule 3.7 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (a rule substantially echoed in many jurisdictions) states that “[a] lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness.” This rule applies absent certain narrow circumstances, such as the testimony relates to an uncontested issue or the nature and value of legal services. The reason for the rule is straightforward: combining roles of advocate and witness can prejudice the court and the opposing party and create a conflict of interest between lawyer and client.

Friends of Animals, an animal rights organization headquartered in Connecticut, recently was called out by a federal judge in Oregon when its in-house counsel, Michael Harris, tried to serve as a declarant in support of Friends of Animals’ summary judgment motion. The declaration was intended to establish the requisite “injury in fact” for Friends of Animals’ members to establish a critical element of “standing” – the threshold inquiry that permits a litigant to have an injury remedied by the federal courts.  Continue reading The Pitfalls of Serving as Activist Attorney and Client: Should We Give A Hoot?

“Fake Meat” Discussed at Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting

by John M. Simpson.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), a prominent non-governmental organization in the U.S. representing farm and ranch families, held its annual meeting earlier this month in New Orleans.  Among the topics discussed (in addition to the address by President Trump), was the increase in “alternative protein” production, namely meat-like substances that are derived from plant ingredients or that are cell-based and grown in a laboratory from animal cells.  Plant-based “meat” products (e.g., “tofurky”) are currently available at retail.  Cell-cultured “meat” products are not yet available but could be seen in 2019. Continue reading “Fake Meat” Discussed at Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting

Federal Judge Finds PETA Investigative Technique Unlawful

by John M. Simpson.

The animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has been known to utilize “undercover” video and other methods in conducting investigations of animal enterprises.  One of those techniques was recently found unlawful by a federal district court.  PETA v. Tri-State Zoological Park of W. Maryland, 2018 WL 5761689, No. 1:17-cv-02148 (D. Md. Nov. 1, 2018). Continue reading Federal Judge Finds PETA Investigative Technique Unlawful

Animal Welfare or Anti-Semitism?

By John M. Simpson.

The New York Times recently reported on an interesting (and unsettling) animal law development in a European Union member country.  According to the report, an area of Belgium – Flanders – adopted a law that eliminates any religious exception to the otherwise generally applicable animal welfare law requirement that an animal harvested for food be stunned prior to slaughter.   The law took effect as of the first of the year, and is similar to a measure adopted in the Belgian region of Wallonia that will take effect in September. Continue reading Animal Welfare or Anti-Semitism?

PETA’s Attack on Seafood Restaurant Backfires

By John M. Simpson.

Last fall, we reported on a situation in Baltimore, Maryland, in which a local, family-owned seafood restaurant decided to resist a campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against steamed crabs.  PETA purchased a billboard advertisement in which a Maryland crab proclaimed “I’m ME, not MEAT.  See the individual.  Go Vegan.”  PETA believes that crabs feel pain and that the method of boiling them alive is inhumane.  Since crabs are invertebrates, whether they feel pain or just demonstrate a reflex action is debatable.  The science is not conclusive on this point.

Seeing PETA’s move as an assault on the entire Maryland crab industry, a local establishment which has sold steamed crabs for decades decided enough was enough, stood up and took the animal rights group on. Continue reading PETA’s Attack on Seafood Restaurant Backfires

International Fur Bans Continue: Serbia Ends Chinchilla Farming

by Michelle C. Pardo

Serbia joins the ranks of European countries that have enacted bans on fur farming.  Serbia’s Animal Welfare Act legislation passed in 2009, with a 10 year phase out period on farming.  The Act makes it illegal to keep, reproduce, import, export and kill animals only for the production of fur.  Efforts to delay or reverse the ban proved to be unsuccessful and the ban went into effect on the first of the year.  Serbia’s fur farming centered on raising chinchillas, which are native to Northern Chile and known to have extraordinarily dense and soft fur.  While both the long-tailed and short-tailed chinchilla are listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, chinchillas are still commercially bred.  Serbia joins a number of countries that have banned fur farming or sales, including Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom.  More countries have bans on their parliamentary agendas.  Animal and environmental activists have long advocated for bans on fur farming due to animal welfare and environmental “sustainability” issues.

However a recent study commissioned by the International Fur Federation and Fur Europe found that natural fur biodegrades rapidly even in landfill conditions without oxygen as opposed to fake fur which did not biodegrade at all.  The study results, announced last summer, note that synthetic fashion materials contribute to plastic pollution and directly challenge claims made by environmental activists who claim that fur production is an energy consumptive process.

Fur bans are not only trending in Europe.  In 2018 the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban the sale of fur clothing and directed the City Attorney’s office to draft an ordinance outlining the ban.  The LA City Council will have to approve the ordinance and have it signed by the mayor before it becomes law.  The LA ban will likely have exemptions for fur trapped by California Fish and Game license holders and for fur worn for religious purposes.  Some in the fashion industry have debated whether fur bans are only the first step in an activist agenda to ban the sale of leather and wool.  Sustainability has become the “buzz word” in the fashion industry as more companies feel pressures to source their goods from raw materials that generate environmental, social and economic benefits while not using too many resources or causing pollution.



The Latest in PETA’s Crustacean Crusade

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently filed a complaint alleging animal cruelty at a Maine lobster processing plant. PETA claims that an undercover video recorded at the processing plant shows lobsters being dismembered while still alive, causing them unjustifiable pain and suffering. Maine’s animal cruelty statute prohibits killing an animal by a method that does not cause instantaneous death, and also prohibits injuring, torturing, or intentionally mutilating an animal. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 1031(1)(B), (1)(D). PETA notes that other companies use alternative methods for killing lobsters instantly by using high water jets or electro-stunning devices.

PETA has tried and failed at this before. When PETA previously filed a complaint about alleged animal cruelty of lobsters by another Maine processing plant, the district attorney refused to prosecute, finding that Maine’s animal cruelty laws were not intended to cover invertebrate species like lobsters and crabs. Maine’s statute defines “animal” to include “every living, sentient creature not a human being.” Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 1011. This could explain why PETA now cites to research purporting to show that lobsters can feel pain—i.e., are sentient. If PETA can convince this prosecutor that lobsters are sentient and therefore covered by Maine’s animal cruelty act, perhaps its complaint could get past step one this time.

This is only the most recent chapter of PETA’s crustacean crusade. In addition to its previous lobster cruelty complaint, it also unsuccessfully sought to erect a roadside marker dedicated to lobsters who died when a truck crashed at that location, and purchased a billboard in Maryland trying to dissuade people from eating crabs. One seafood restaurant fought back by erecting its own pithy billboards and engaging in a social media campaign promoting consumption of crabs, as previously blogged about here.

PETA Weighs in on Live-Animal Mascots

By John M. Simpson.

In typical fashion, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently called for an end to live animal mascots at collegiate sporting events.  This was apparently prompted by a “meet and greet” between the competing football teams’ animal mascots prior to the January 1, 2019 Sugar Bowl.  Continue reading PETA Weighs in on Live-Animal Mascots

Eighth Circuit Upholds Trump Administration’s Scuttling of Packers and Stockyards Act Rules

By John M. Simpson.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently denied a petition for review of the Secretary of Agriculture’s actions to withdraw interim final and proposed regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA).  Organization for Competitive Markets, et al., v. Dep’t of Agriculture, et al., No. 17-3723 (8th Cir. Dec. 21, 2018).  The  interim final and proposed rules had been issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Obama Administration in late 2016 but were scuttled by the Trump Administration.  Continue reading Eighth Circuit Upholds Trump Administration’s Scuttling of Packers and Stockyards Act Rules

FDA Reports on Antimicrobial Drug Use in Food-Producing Animals

By John M. Simpson.

On December 18, 2018, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb, M.D., announced the issuance of the FDA’s 2017 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals.  As the Commissioner noted, the health issues posed by antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are a significant problem.  Antimicrobial resistance is “the ability of a microorganism (bacteria, virus, fungi, parasite) to resist the effects of a drug.”  Therefore, “[o]ptimizing how medically important antimicrobial drugs are used and limiting their use to only when necessary to treat, control or prevent disease will help to preserve the effectiveness of these drugs for fighting disease in both humans and animals.”  Continue reading FDA Reports on Antimicrobial Drug Use in Food-Producing Animals