Tag Archives: Michelle C. Pardo

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.

 

 

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?

International Fur Bans Continue: Serbia Ends Chinchilla Farming

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.

https://www.wearefur.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Desintegration_Factsheet.pdf

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.

 

 

Asian Elephant Case Against Buttonwood Park Zoo Continues

by Michelle C. Pardo

An Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit against the City of New Bedford will continue after a federal district judge in Massachusetts denied the defendant’s efforts to dismiss plaintiff Joyce Rowley’s lawsuit.  The City of New Bedford runs the Buttonwood Park Zoo, which has been home to two Asian elephants, Ruth and Emily, for decades.  Plaintiff Rowley runs an organization called Friends of Ruth & Emily Inc., which is dedicated to retiring Asian elephants Ruth and Emily to “a warm climate sanctuary to live out their days in peace, dignity, and freedom”.  In the last 25 months, it’s “Go Fund Me” page has raised just $10,025 of the requested $25,000 “to get justice” for the elephants. Continue reading Asian Elephant Case Against Buttonwood Park Zoo Continues