Tag Archives: PETA

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.

 

 

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”

PETA Jumps the Shark with Steve Irwin Tweets

by John M. Simpson.

As recently reported by the BBC,  and by other media outlets, PETA went off the rails on Friday by disparaging the name of Steve Irwin on the occasion of what would have been his 57th birthday.  Irwin was a wildlife conservationist, enthusiast and television performer well known for his interesting and often breath-taking interactions with wildlife, crocodiles in particular.  Irwin died in 2006 after a fatal interaction with a stingray during a wildlife program shoot. Continue reading PETA Jumps the Shark with Steve Irwin Tweets

PETA Animal “Shelter” Continues to Show High Rate of Euthanization

by John M. Simpson.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights organization well-known for attention-grabbing tactics, often inserts itself into a wide variety of issues to promote its views.  In the past several days, PETA complained about performer Big Boi wearing a fur coat during the Super Bowl; complained that the character “Little Bo Peep” will be portrayed with a shepherd’s crook in the animated feature Toy Story 4; and insisted that wildlife art be displayed on President Trump’s Wall (if it is ever built).  Continue reading PETA Animal “Shelter” Continues to Show High Rate of Euthanization

PETA’s Attack on Seafood Restaurant Backfires

By John M. Simpson.

Last fall, we reported on a situation in Baltimore, Maryland, in which a local, family-owned seafood restaurant decided to resist a campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against steamed crabs.  PETA purchased a billboard advertisement in which a Maryland crab proclaimed “I’m ME, not MEAT.  See the individual.  Go Vegan.”  PETA believes that crabs feel pain and that the method of boiling them alive is inhumane.  Since crabs are invertebrates, whether they feel pain or just demonstrate a reflex action is debatable.  The science is not conclusive on this point.

Seeing PETA’s move as an assault on the entire Maryland crab industry, a local establishment which has sold steamed crabs for decades decided enough was enough, stood up and took the animal rights group on. Continue reading PETA’s Attack on Seafood Restaurant Backfires

PETA Weighs in on Live-Animal Mascots

By John M. Simpson.

In typical fashion, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently called for an end to live animal mascots at collegiate sporting events.  This was apparently prompted by a “meet and greet” between the competing football teams’ animal mascots prior to the January 1, 2019 Sugar Bowl.  Continue reading PETA Weighs in on Live-Animal Mascots

Court Dismisses Challenge to USDA’s Failure to Issue AWA Avian Regulations

By John M. Simpson

Earlier this week, a federal district court in Washington, D.C., dismissed an action brought by animal rights organizations challenging the failure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue animal welfare regulations specific to birds under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).  American Anti-Vivisection Soc’y, et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of Agriculture, et al., No. 1:18-cv-01138 (TNM) (D.D.C. Dec. 10, 2018).  While finding that the plaintiffs had pleaded sufficient facts to establish Article III standing to sue, the court rejected their substantive claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA):  (i) that USDA’s failure to promulgate regulations applicable to birds was “agency action unlawfully withheld;” and (ii) that USDA’s decision not to issue the standards was arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.  Continue reading Court Dismisses Challenge to USDA’s Failure to Issue AWA Avian Regulations

PETA Language Pointers Generate Controversy

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights organization known for attention-grabbing publicity stunts, recently launched a new campaign to rid the English language of idioms that the organization regards as offensive to animals.  Analogizing the matter to the use of “racist, homophobic  or ableist language,” PETA claimed that replacing phrases such as “bring home the bacon” with alternatives such as “bring home the bagels” would remove “speciesism” from daily conversations.   Continue reading PETA Language Pointers Generate Controversy

Voters Approve Two Key Animal-Related Ballot Initiatives

By John M. Simpson.

Two animal-law-related measures of note were passed during the recent mid-term elections.

Proposition 12.  In California, voters approved Proposition 12 which establishes new standards for the confinement of certain farm animals.  The measure sets new minimum requirements for farmers as to space for egg-laying hens and calves raised for veal (to be adopted by 2020) and for breeding pigs (to be adopted by 2022).  The standards apply, not only to eggs, pork and veal produced in California but also to such products imported into the state and produced elsewhere. Continue reading Voters Approve Two Key Animal-Related Ballot Initiatives