In 2002 Congress made clear that the Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”) protects birds, but the USDA has not issued bird-specific Animal Welfare Act regulations in the ensuing 18 years, much to the chagrin of animal rights groups. But their luck may be changing.
by Michelle C. Pardo
We previously blogged about the animal rights’ movement’s attempts to convince various U.S. courts to allow animals the same rights as people in the court system. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s (PETA’s) failed “monkey selfie” case, an effort to convince a federal court to rule that the crested macaque had standing under the Copyright Act, was not only dismissed, but earned PETA a sharp rebuke from the Ninth Circuit, when the court determined that the activist group seemingly employed Naruto the monkey as “an unwitting pawn it its ideological goals.” Now PETA has taken its “animal personhood” crusade internationally. Continue reading This Little Piggy Went to Court
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?
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
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
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.
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”
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
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
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