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
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.
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
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