Tag Archives: Animal Activist

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

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. Continue reading Animal Activist Leader Steps Down In Advance of Multiple Criminal Trials

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