Tag Archives: John Simpson

Update on Elephant Habeas Corpus Case

by John M. Simpson.

We recently reported on a case in which an animal rights group, the Nonhuman Rights Project,  sought habeas corpus relief for three Asian elephants maintained in a zoo in Connecticut.  The Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment and ruled that the plaintiff had no standing  because the elephants themselves had no standing. Continue reading Update on Elephant Habeas Corpus Case

UK Advertising Standards Authority Bans PETA Ad As “Misleading” and Lacking Substantiation

by John M. Simpson.

On September 4, 2019 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which describes itself as “the UK’s independent advertising regulator,” upheld a challenge to an advertisement  that had been displayed for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on the side of buses in February 2019.  As the authority described it, the ad “included the text ‘Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes.  Wool is just as cruel as fur.  GO WOOL-FREE THIS WINTER PeTA.’  Beside the text was an image of a woman with the neck of her jumper pulled over her face.”   Ten complainants challenged whether the claim “wool is just as cruel as fur” was misleading and could be substantiated.  ASA upheld the challenge and ruled that the ad “must not appear in its current form” and “told PETA not to use the claim ‘wool is just as cruel as fur’ in [the] future.”  Continue reading UK Advertising Standards Authority Bans PETA Ad As “Misleading” and Lacking Substantiation

Connecticut Appellate Court Denies Habeas Relief for Elephants

by John M.  Simpson.

On August 20, 2019, a panel of the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Appellate Court officially released a decision affirming the dismissal of an action that had been brought seeking habeas corpus relief for three elephants maintained at a zoo in Goshen, Connecticut.  Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. R. W. Commerford and Sons, Inc., No. AC 41464 (Conn. App.  Aug. 20, 2019).  The petitioner Nonhuman Rights Project sought to represent the elephants as their “next friend” seeking to vindicate what was described as the animals’ “common-law right to bodily liberty.”  The lower court dismissed the case on the grounds that petitioner lacked standing and, alternatively, that the petition was “wholly frivolous.”  Continue reading Connecticut Appellate Court Denies Habeas Relief for Elephants

Bid By Humane Society International To Get Information On Sport Hunters Fails

by John M.  Simpson.

On August 15, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered a partial summary judgment upholding a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to withhold certain information pertaining to sport hunters from records produced pursuant to a  Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Humane Society International (HSI).  Humane Soc’y Internat’l v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., et al., No. 16-720 (TJK) (D.D.C. Aug. 15, 2019).    HSI is an organization related to the animal rights organization Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  HSUS has long been known for its opposition to sport hunting. Continue reading Bid By Humane Society International To Get Information On Sport Hunters Fails

9th Circuit Rejects Animal Rights Organization’s Claim That a Bengal Tiger is an “Individual” Under FOIA

by John M. Simpson.

Yesterday, in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, et al., ___ F.3d ___, No. 18-16327 (9th Cir. Aug. 12, 2019), the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a summary judgment of the Northern District Court of California holding that a Bengal tiger is not an “individual” within the meaning of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).   The case had been brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) denied ALDF’s request for expedited treatment of its FOIA request for records concerning an inspection request regarding a tiger named “Tony.”     Continue reading 9th Circuit Rejects Animal Rights Organization’s Claim That a Bengal Tiger is an “Individual” Under FOIA

DOT Clarifies Enforcement Priorities Concerning Air Travel With Service Animals

by John M. Simpson.

On August 8, 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (Enforcement Office) issued a Final Statement of Enforcement Priorities Regarding Service Animals (Final Statement).  This action apprises the public of DOT’s “enforcement focus with respect to the transportation of service animals in the cabin of aircraft” which DOT regulates under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).  Last year, DOT initiated an advanced notice of proposed  rulemaking under the ACAA to respond to concerns expressed by individuals with disabilities, airlines, flight attendants and other stakeholders about the need for a change in DOT’s service animal requirements.  Recognizing that the rulemaking process can be lengthy, DOT also issued an Interim Statement of Enforcement Priorities to give notice of how the statute would be enforced during the rulemaking process.  While “not legally binding in its own right,” the August 8 Final Statement provides the public with “greater transparency” with respect to the interpretation and enforcement of existing requirements by the Enforcement Office, based upon the comments that the agency has received from the public. Continue reading DOT Clarifies Enforcement Priorities Concerning Air Travel With Service Animals

8th Circuit Reverses Restitution Order In Eagle Feathers Sale Case

by John M. Simpson.

On July 26, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a decision in United States of America v. Sheldon Tree Top, No. 18-1816 (8th Cir. July 26, 2019), a criminal case that had arisen under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 668(a) and the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(1), 3373(d)(2).  Defendant pleaded guilty to selling eagle feathers in violation of the Eagle Protection Act, and the Lacey Act count was dismissed.  Defendant was sentenced to six months imprisonment and one year of supervised release.  As a condition of supervised release, the district court ordered that defendant pay $5,000 in restitution.  Defendant appealed and challenged the restitution order, and the Eighth Circuit reversed. Continue reading 8th Circuit Reverses Restitution Order In Eagle Feathers Sale Case

Baltimore Seafood Restaurant Continues to Needle PETA

by John M. Simpson.

We have reported previously (here and here) on an ongoing back and forth between animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, a seafood restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland.  PETA started it with a billboard advertisement in which a Maryland crab proclaimed “I’m ME, not MEAT.  See the individual.  Go Vegan.”  Jimmy’s responded with its own billboard asserting:  “SteaMEed crabs.  Here to stay.  Get Famous.”  Jimmy’s also trolled PETA on Twitter with humorous effect with hashtags like “#SteamThemAll.”  This tactic reportedly had the effect of boosting Jimmy’s sales. Continue reading Baltimore Seafood Restaurant Continues to Needle PETA

Significant U.S. Supreme Court FOIA Decision Likely To Complicate Activist Agendas

by John M. Simpson.

As many lawyers representing animal-related businesses regulated by U.S. federal government agencies can attest to, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation by animal activist interests has become what amounts to a cottage industry.  Animal activist groups are prolific in their FOIA requests to various federal animal-related agencies — such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates animal exhibitors and researchers under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) — for information on the persons and entities subject to USDA regulation.  This quest for business information typically unfolds as follows:  a business will mark its internal commercial and financial information “confidential” when submitting it to the agency in connection with an agency proceeding; the information is then requested through FOIA; the agency withholds it under FOIA Exemption 4; and then the fight becomes whether the release of the information will inflict “substantial competitive harm” on the submitter.  This all changed today with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, No. 18-481, Slip opinion (U.S. June 24, 2019).  Continue reading Significant U.S. Supreme Court FOIA Decision Likely To Complicate Activist Agendas

Maine’s Top Court Rules Harvesting Seaweed Is Not “Fishing”

by John M. Simpson.

Animal rights enthusiasts have a knack for pushing the envelope in their various arguments that legal rights should be recognized for a wide variety of animal species.  For example, it was reported recently that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) tweeted in connection with World Oceans Day that “Oysters and other bivalves are animals who deserve our consideration.”  Against this backdrop, a recent decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine raised an interesting issue.  Ross v. Acadian Seaplants, Ltd., 206 A.3d 283 (Me. 2019), presented the question whether “rockweed,” a species of seaweed in Maine that grows in the intertidal zone, is owned by the adjoining upland property owner who owns the intertidal soil in fee simple or is held in trust by the state through the jus publicum for the public to harvest. Continue reading Maine’s Top Court Rules Harvesting Seaweed Is Not “Fishing”