Tag Archives: ALDF

No Meating of the Minds: Settlement Reaches An Impasse In Missouri Meat Advertising Lawsuit

By Michelle C. Pardo

We previously blogged about the case of Turtle Island Foods d/b/a Tofurky Company, et al. v. Richardson, 2:18-cv-04173-NKL, pending in the Western District of Missouri and the parties efforts to settle the lawsuit since late 2018.  The lawsuit, brought by the plant-based food producer and the advocacy group, The Good Food Institute (Executive Director, Bruce Friedrich, was the former leader of PETA’s vegan campaigns) and represented by the animal rights group Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)and the ACLU of Missouri Foundation, filed a status report this month informing the court that “the parties do not believe that additional time will allow for resolution of the impasse.  The parties are grateful for the Court’s patience as they attempted to reach a final settlement agreement.”  The Joint Status Report also asks the court to resume the litigation that was originally filed in August of 2018, the day after the Missouri statute went into effect.

The case, which has received widespread media and industry attention, sought to challenge Missouri’s first-in-the-nation meat advertising law that prohibited companies from “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from livestock or poultry.”  Mo. Rev. Stat. § 265.494(7).  The plaintiffs allege that the statute is unconstitutional and argue that it was not enacted to address consumer confusion, but rather to protect and favor the agriculture industry.  Plaintiffs claim that the law is overly broad and that no plant or cell-based producer can determine whether their food labeling would leave them exposed to criminal prosecution.  This is despite the fact that the Director’s Office of the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) issued guidance to plant-based and cell-based producers on how to modify their labels to avoid referrals for criminal prosecution.  MDA indicated that it would not refer products with labels that contain, for example, prominent statements that the product is “plant based”, “veggie”, “lab grown” or a comparable qualifier.

Tofurky products include terms such as “burgers”, “chorizo style sausage”, “slow roasted chick’n” “hot dogs” and “ham roast”, some of which are coupled with qualifiers such as “veggie”, “plant-based” and “vegetarian”.

ALDF, an animal rights organization representing plaintiffs, has stated that the law “stifles innovation” from cell-based producers.  Cell-based or lab-grown meat has been touted as an industry game-changer in overhauling the way in which animal protein products are developed and provided to consumers, though none are commercially available yet.  Ironically, Washington, DC-based plaintiff, The Good Food Institute, has stated that the Missouri law is unnecessary because “misbranding is already prohibited by federal law.”  But animal and environmental activist groups have frequently litigated consumer fraud lawsuits against animal protein producers, despite the fact that the producers’ labels and advertising have complied with federal law, rejecting arguments that federal preemption invalidates their lawsuits.

The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Mike Deering has disagreed with the animal activist group and plaintiffs’ position:

The legislation does not stifle technology, but it ensures the integrity of our meat supply and reduces consumer confusion. . . The use of traditional nomenclature on alternative products is confusing to consumers and weakens the value of products derived from actual livestock production.”

Two months after the complaint was filed, the plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction, alleging that they face irreparable harm absent preliminary injunctive relief. Tofurky’s harm, plaintiffs allege, is the conundrum the amended statute presents: risk criminal prosecution or change the way Tofurky does business by creating specialized marketing and packaging for the state of Missouri or refraining from selling products in Missouri entirely, both of which create additional cost and potential market disadvantages.

The parties had commenced settlement negotiations in late 2018 and had been providing the court with monthly status updates about their progress.  The court has not yet issued a scheduling or other order resuming deadlines in the case.

 

 

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

“What’s Your Beef”? Legal Challenge to Missouri’s New Meat Advertising Law

by Michelle C. Pardo

Animal rights and environmental activists have long led the charge into federal and state courts with consumer fraud actions challenging representations made about animal products, ostensibly arguing that consumers are misled by animal welfare claims on labels, but often with the ultimate goal of removing from a label something that the activists fear is influencing consumers’ purchase of an animal product.

Missouri’s new, first-in-the-nation law (amending its prior meat advertising law) prohibits companies from “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested livestock or poultry.” Mo. Rev. Stat. § 265.494(7). This amendment may put animal and environmental activist groups on their heels as it changes the way that products not derived from animals can be labeled.

Continue reading “What’s Your Beef”? Legal Challenge to Missouri’s New Meat Advertising Law

Court Narrows Lawsuit Challenging Withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule

by Michelle Pardo

Last week, a federal district court in the Northern District of California granted in part and denied in part the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental and animal rights organizations which sought to challenge the USDA’s withdrawal of a rule requiring new standards for raising, transporting and slaughtering organic animals.  Center for Environmental Health, et al. v. Perdue (No. 3:18-cv-01763-RS, N.D. Cal.).  The plaintiffs, various organic and environmental groups, together with the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, had sued the federal government over its withdrawal of a hotly-debated and commented upon Rule that proscribed animal welfare standards for livestock and poultry.  Continue reading Court Narrows Lawsuit Challenging Withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule

A Horse is a Horse (Of Course) . . .But a Plaintiff?

by: Michelle C. Pardo

“Justice” (formerly named “Shadow”) is an American Quarter Horse who had been subject to neglect by his prior owner. According to a complaint recently filed in state court in Oregon, the horse was left outside, underfed, and suffered from a variety of serious medical problems, including frostbite, trauma and infection. After complaints by a neighbor, the former owner surrendered Justice to a rescue organization back in March of 2017 and thereafter pleaded guilty to criminal neglect.  The owner also agreed to pay restitution to the equine rescue organization for the costs of Justice’s care incurred prior to the plea. Media reports indicate that the owner paid more than $3,700 in restitution, was sentenced to three years probation, and may not possess any pets or livestock for five years (and only after completing 96 hours of community service). Typically, as disturbing as such court cases may be, that is the end of a legal proceeding involving animal abuse or neglect.

Justice’s story, however, has a “Part Two”. Justice is suing his former owner for negligence and has filed a lawsuit in his new name in a county court in Oregon. Continue reading A Horse is a Horse (Of Course) . . .But a Plaintiff?