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
by John M. Simpson.
On June 3, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted in part and denied in part cross-motions for summary judgment in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) had brought against the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, et al. (APHIS). Humane Soc’y of the U.S. v. Animal and Plant Health Insp. Serv., et al., No. 1:18-cv-00646 (TNM) (D.D.C. June 3, 2019). HSUS’s FOIA request was for site-inspection reports and other inspection records for specific animal dealers and exhibitors who are subject to regulation by APHIS under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Continue reading HSUS Gets Mixed Result in D.C. FOIA Case
by Michelle C. Pardo
We previously blogged about a legal challenge to Missouri’s amended advertising law that regulates what products are permitted to use the term “meat”. Nebraska is the latest state to consider legislation that aims to define what can be marketed and sold as “meat”. This year, Nebraska lawmakers will consider a bill that defines meat as “any edible portion of any livestock or poultry, carcass, or part thereof.” Excluded from the definition of meat: “lab-grown or insect or plant-based food products.” (Yes, you read that right. Edible insects are apparently on trend and being promoted as an “efficient, sustainable source of protein and nutrients”). Continue reading Animal Rights Activists v. Big Agriculture: Who Gets to Claim Ownership of the Term “Meat”
by John M. Simpson.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), a prominent non-governmental organization in the U.S. representing farm and ranch families, held its annual meeting earlier this month in New Orleans. Among the topics discussed (in addition to the address by President Trump), was the increase in “alternative protein” production, namely meat-like substances that are derived from plant ingredients or that are cell-based and grown in a laboratory from animal cells. Plant-based “meat” products (e.g., “tofurky”) are currently available at retail. Cell-cultured “meat” products are not yet available but could be seen in 2019. Continue reading “Fake Meat” Discussed at Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting
By John M. Simpson.
The New York Times recently reported on an interesting (and unsettling) animal law development in a European Union member country. According to the report, an area of Belgium – Flanders – adopted a law that eliminates any religious exception to the otherwise generally applicable animal welfare law requirement that an animal harvested for food be stunned prior to slaughter. The law took effect as of the first of the year, and is similar to a measure adopted in the Belgian region of Wallonia that will take effect in September. Continue reading Animal Welfare or Anti-Semitism?
By John M. Simpson.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently denied a petition for review of the Secretary of Agriculture’s actions to withdraw interim final and proposed regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA). Organization for Competitive Markets, et al., v. Dep’t of Agriculture, et al., No. 17-3723 (8th Cir. Dec. 21, 2018). The interim final and proposed rules had been issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Obama Administration in late 2016 but were scuttled by the Trump Administration. Continue reading Eighth Circuit Upholds Trump Administration’s Scuttling of Packers and Stockyards Act Rules
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
by Michelle C. Pardo
On November 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the two Agencies will jointly oversee the production of cell-cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry (referred to by some as “clean meat”). This announcement follows October meetings between the two Agencies and stakeholders about issues related to regulatory oversight for this new technology, including issues related to potential hazards in production.
In an official statement:
“the Agencies are today announcing agreement on a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to USDA oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. USDA will then oversee the production and labeling of food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.”
The Agencies noted that this joint oversight takes advantage of the FDA’s and the USDA’s respective experience with new food technologies, living bio systems, and regulation of livestock and poultry products for human consumption. The Agencies and the Administration have taken the position that no new legislation on this topic is necessary. While many in the meat industry had presumed that the two Agencies would share regulatory oversight, the respective roles were not defined prior to this announcement. Cell-cultured meat companies seemed to have favored the FDA as the primary regulatory agency, while those that raise livestock and poultry for slaughter tended to favor the USDA taking the lead.
Some traditional meat companies have criticized cell-cultured meat technology as “fake meat”. We previously blogged about a lawsuit challenging state laws that limit what type of product can be labeled as “meat”. (“What’s Your Beef: Legal Challenge to Missouri’s Meat Advertising Law) https://blogs.duanemorris.com/animallawdevelopments/tag/clean-meat/. Whatever the products marketed and sold to consumers are eventually called — be it “cell-cultured food products”, “clean meat”, “lab grown meat”, “synthetic meat” or “in vitro meat” — this technology is bound to spark further debate among stakeholders in the food industries, the scientific community, consumers, and animal rights activists.
The public comment period on this issue is extended until December 26, 2018.
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