Tag Archives: Animal Activist

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?

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

Animal Activist Leader Steps Down In Advance of Multiple Criminal Trials

by Michelle C. Pardo

The leader and co-founder of West-coast based animal activist group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), Wayne Hsiung, announced yesterday that he will be stepping down from his leadership position at DxE and explained to his followers “why that’s a good thing.”  DxE had become known for its “open rescues” — essentially stealing farm animals in order to “liberate” them — and mass arrests of the activist participants.  In these raids, activists openly enter farms, usually at night, and “rescue” animals.  They often videotape the incident and release it to various media forums.  DxE’s “Organizer’s Handbook” states that the activists involved do not hide their identities so as to avoid being compared to “criminals, vandals and terrorists.”  DxE has also favored storming into restaurants and yelling at patrons about eating meat and entering grocery stores and climbing into food cases to protest.   One particular disgusting protest involved a DxE activist covering herself in feces at a San Francisco grocery store to protest that eggs come from laying hens that allegedly sit in their own waste.   Many of DxE’s members have boldly embraced these extremist techniques even if they involve criminal activity, such as trespassing or stealing.  Former leader Hsiung has asked fellow activists before such raids if they are “comfortable” with the possibility of doing jail time.

Hsiung may soon be speaking to his followers from prison.  As the result of multiple raids on farms in North Carolina, Utah, and California, Hsiung, along with other activists, was arrested and charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors.  Hsiung has stated that he faces from 85 to 100 years in prison for these criminal activities.  Various media reports have indicated that trials in these jurisdictions will take place before the end of 2019.  We will be sure to update you about the verdicts in those cases.

Several years ago, DxE was plagued with accusations of racist, sexist and homophobic behavior among activists and were roundly criticized for not policing sexual harassment within the organization.  One former member stated that a sexual abuser remained in a leadership position in DxE and the victim was pressured into staying silent about her concerns and accepting apologies.

In various social media posts, Hsiung stated that he has stepped down “as felony trials approach” “to make sure we continue to grow.”  Hsiung urged his supporters that DxE “has no single ‘head'” and that new leadership is ready to step up and lead the organization.  In his August 7, 2019 blog post, regarding DxE members going to prison, Hsiung proclaimed “Bring it on! We’ve got 10 more ready to step up.”  Hsiung has since turned the leadership reins over to DxE member Almira Tanner.  While Hsiung will not maintain any leadership position, he stated that he will remain a “rank-and-file organizer” and even suggested that he may volunteer for a political campaign “and try to inject animal rights into the 2020 race.”  If that happens, query whether it will be executed better than the DxE disruption at Senator Kamala Harris’s speech on June 1, 2019 — where a DxE activist rushed the stage and grabbed the microphone from the Democratic senator.  In the wake of bad press on this disruption, former leader Hsiung penned an apology note to Harris (posted on DxE’s website) entitled “I Messed Up.  So did DxE.”  https://www.directactioneverywhere.com/theliberationist/2019/6/18/i-messed-up-so-did-dxe.  Whether DxE’s “mistake” turned into “an important learning experience” is yet to be seen.

 

 

 

 

Animal Activist Group Loses “Right to Wilderness” Lawsuit

by Michelle C. Pardo

If you thought animal and environmental activists had already pushed the envelope far enough in the world of federal court litigation, think again.

This week, an Oregon federal judge ruled that a group of plaintiffs – made up of animal and environmental activist organizations and individuals – do not have a constitutional “right to wilderness” and dismissed with prejudice their lawsuit which sought to force the federal government to cease policies that contributed to climate change that, in turn, harmed plaintiffs’ enjoyment of nature and wildlife.   ALDF et al. v. United States, (6:18-cv-01860-MC)(D. Oregon). Continue reading Animal Activist Group Loses “Right to Wilderness” Lawsuit

The Beef Goes On: Tofurky Challenges Arkansas Meat Labeling Law

by Michelle C. Pardo

Tofurky goes to court – again. On July 22nd, Turtle Island Foods (doing business as The Tofurky Company) filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Arkansas against the Arkansas Bureau of Standards to challenge the constitutionality of an amended Arkansas law that prohibits “purveyors of plant- or cell-based meats” from using the words “meat” and related terms like “beef,” “pork,” “roast,” and “sausage.” See Ark. Code Ann. § 2-1-305. Violations of the law, which goes into effect on July 24, 2019, may be punished by civil penalty up to $1,000. Counsel for Tofurky includes animal activist group Animal Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU Foundation, and The Good Food Institute, a Washington, DC based advocacy group (whose founder previously ran vegan campaigns for PETA). All of these organizations previously teamed up with Tofurky to challenge Missouri’s amended meat advertising law. Continue reading The Beef Goes On: Tofurky Challenges Arkansas Meat Labeling Law

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.

 

 

Animals and Politics: Traveling Exotic Animal Ban Reintroduced

by Michelle C. Pardo

On May 21, 2019 Representatives Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and David Schweikert (R-AZ) introduced the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA), a bill that would amend the federal Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the use of exotic and wild animals, including lions, tigers and elephants, in traveling performances.  The bill had previously been introduced in 2017. Continue reading Animals and Politics: Traveling Exotic Animal Ban Reintroduced

The Case of the Austin Blind Salamander

By Michelle Pardo

Question: What do you get when you cross an Austin Blind salamander, a Barton Springs salamander, a golden-cheeked warbler, and a Texas highway project?

Answer: An Endangered Species lawsuit.

On February 28, 2019, environmental advocacy group Save Our Springs (SOS) and frequent litigator Center for Biological Diversity (Center) sent a 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue letter to the Texas Department of Transportation (TexDOT), the US Department of Interior and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit pursuant to the  Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The ESA is a federal law that prohibits the “taking” of threatened and endangered species, 16 USC § 1538; “take” has means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, would, kill, trap, capture or collect (or attempt such conduct).

The environmental groups claim that the construction of the MoPac Intersections Project, a federally-funded highway project for which the TexDOT is the lead agency, risks an illegal “take” of three endangered species. According to the city of Austin’s official government website, the Austin Blind Salamander gets its name because it does not have “image-forming eyes”, a result of living in its dark, underground habitat in the waters of Barton Springs. The aptly-named Barton Springs salamander shares this same habitat. The other critter named in the potential lawsuit – the golden-cheeked warbler – was one of the eight endangered species protected by the first major urban habitat plan in the country. The groups claim that tree removal due to construction impacts the warbler’s nesting and foraging behaviors. Continue reading The Case of the Austin Blind Salamander

Animal Rights Activists v. Big Agriculture: Who Gets to Claim Ownership of the Term “Meat”

by Michelle C. Pardo

We previously blogged about a legal challenge to Missouri’s amended advertising law that regulates what products are permitted to use the term “meat”.  Nebraska is the latest state to consider legislation that aims to define what can be marketed and sold as “meat”. This year, Nebraska lawmakers will consider a bill that defines meat as “any edible portion of any livestock or poultry, carcass, or part thereof.”  Excluded from the definition of meat: “lab-grown or insect or plant-based food products.” (Yes, you read that right. Edible insects are apparently on trend and being promoted as an “efficient, sustainable source of protein and nutrients”). Continue reading Animal Rights Activists v. Big Agriculture: Who Gets to Claim Ownership of the Term “Meat”

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?