MOVEMENT WATCH is an update on recent and current campaigns in the animal advocacy movement, with brief, rights-based analyses. MOVEMENT WATCH does not provide a full overview of any listed advocacy group’s work. Campaigns and news items are selected for their legal and social significance.
Thanks to our friends at Ánima for providing this document in Spanish on their web site.
Arnold Schwarzenegger signs tether ban into law. Now what?
Dogs in California must not be tethered in place for more than three hours under a bill signed into law by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.1 The proposal had the support of the California Animal Association, known to the media as “a coalition of 15 animal rights organizations.”
The law prescribes fines and jail time, effective New Year’s Day. It lists several broad exceptions, and animal control officers expressly receive wide latitude in deciding whether to impose penalties. Overall, this legal gesture is of little practical use. Realistically, we can expect that a law against tying dogs for more than three hours in a day will mean that some dogs who’d otherwise be roped will instead be stuck in sheds and basements.
Breeders aren't tying dogs to trees. Their dogs are in carriers and cages. Owners of fenced properties can continue breeding for private interests. The focus on tethering ignores the fundamental question: why humanity accepts the notion that other animals should be bred as items of commerce in the first place.
“Does your pampered pooch have what it takes to make it as a runway model?” asked the promotion for a California event, which proclaimed “Animal Law is in Fashion” and featured photos of dressed-up dogs, such as a pug wearing a tiara and captioned “Prima Donna Pugs.”
It was a dog “fashion show fundraiser” where attendees could “learn more about the field of animal law” and benefit t he National Center for Animal Law at the Lewis & Clark Law School, site of the first student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter.
Tragic Message From Boston
A September fire in the Boston Tropical Fish and Reptiles shop killed numerous snakes, frogs, and fish. Police alleged that the shop manager and two young accomplices masked their own crime by making it appear that the fire was set by animal activists, spray-painting “No more exploitation of animals" on the storefront .
It’s a story that’s tragedy on top of tragedy: animals captured, stocked as inventory, and then helpless to escape a fire set by their captors. Then there’s another jolt when animal advocates are considered suitable for framing in an arson case. The story sends yet another grave reminder of the importance of our commitment to non-violence.
Bioengineered Cats Marketed as Medical Products
A California biotech company is now selling hypoallergenic cats -- “The Holy Grail of the $35 billion pet industry,” said the New York Times. Within the next four years, Allerca plans to sell 200,000 cats annually, charging $4000 for what it calls lifestyle pets.
Customers are tested so they won’t “blame the cats” for some other allergy. “You’re not just buying a cat,” Allerca CEO Megan Young told the media. “It’s a medical device that replaces shots and pills.”
A subsidiary of Geneticas Life Sciences, which is also in the cloning business, Allerca breeds for a particular genetic make-up, eliminating from the pool those cats who carry a protein associated with human cat allergies. Young said the breeding laboratory “is at a secret undisclosed location.” No special government approvals were needed.
Licensing such manipulations would effectively condone them, so advocates shoul avoid arguing in support of regulations. When another company advertised the first cloned cats, the American Anti-Vivisection Society actually petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate pet-cloning as research under the Animal Welfare Act. The act specifies minimum handling standards and does not impede experimentation. Ironically, it was passed forty years ago to allay public concerns about pets being sold into research.
Can laws protect animals from being objects of profit? First, we must reach a moral recognition of the value of nonhuman individuals -- on their own terms. Petkeeping has been about our lifestyles since the Victorian era, when it became widely fashionable. Posing serious questions about hypoallergenic pets means looking critically about entrenched cultural customs, and the difference between love and dominance. It’s the animal advocate’s role to start asking those hard questions.
Will the Buck Stop in Adelaide?
October 2006 saw the 70th annual Marrabel Rodeo. Based in Adelaide, it’s South Australia’s main rodeo, drawing thousands. But the event committee, citing peaceful protests and the heavy work that goes into other events, may limit future rodeos to bull-riding -- putting an end to horse events such as barrel races. If this happens, the Marrabel Rodeo will end an entire category of use of horses.
Usually, activists who address rodeos focus on the extreme events -- decrying the abuse rather than questioning the use. But here, RSPCA spokesperson Emily Vatkovic was laudably articulate: "We are extremely satisfied they've decided to scrap some of the events but we'd still like to see a total ban.”
Lawmaking Under the Influence
Jim Graham, a Washington, D.C. Council member, recently proposed a law to have grocers hang signs stating that the eggs they sell “may be from caged hens."
The Humane Society of the U.S. touted the proposal as “a tremendous step forward," although in Europe, where cageless factories are now common, hens can be stored in a high-volume tier system. The vice-chair of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association says cageless factories are “the main system on the Continent and there are some huge set-ups over there with an awful lot of birds in one house."
Both the U.S. Humane Society and the Vancouver Humane Society have praised companies that buy from cage-free suppliers as "putting the chicken before the egg." Any suggestion that egg sellers put chickens before profit is misleading. So-called cage-free eggs can command well over double the price of competitors’ eggs.
True advocacy, rather than product branding, makes the case that humans can simply let birds be. Egg-free cooking is a liberating experience. That’s a sign worth posting.
In November 2005, Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. reportedly pledged to phase out the use of eggs from caged hens in their ice cream. In June 2006, however, the U.S. Humane Society said an undercover investigation revealed “shocking findings” and evidence of hens kept in appalling conditions.
This episode of public tension was brief. The company, owned by the multinational Unilever, runs a commercial saying, "Ben & Jerry's: Join our fight for small family farms." If the Humane Society could broker a deal here, there would be advertising opportunities aplenty, and mainstream support. For both parties are championing key conservative values -- including business, traditional ways of life, and the family.
And sure enough, piously advocating “the humane treatment of all animals that are involved in the production of ingredients for Ben & Jerry's,” the company agreed to change business arrangements over the next four years.
Although the ice cream is a milk-based product, the cows and their pregnancies and the fate of their calves were left unmentioned. Yet many excellent, dairy-free ice creams exist, such as Turtle Mountain’s “Soy Delicious” line. With Ben & Jerry's parading its new compassionate credentials, it’s unlikely that this media drama will do anything but increase demand for Ben & Jerry’s pricey, dairy-filled desserts.
And industry will have the last word in defining "humane" -- especially at large corporations that hire public relations managers and outside experts. It's part of the corporate duty to shareholders to continue using raw materials -- including the living ones -- in a way that augments the bottom line. And so it is that industry co-opts compassion, and makes it a marketable ingredient.
When Esbenshade Farms of Pennsylvania faced cruelty charges in August, the Associated Press covered the case, and traffic increased on Washington D.C.-based Compassion Over Killing’s Web site, which posted video evidence.
The U.S. Humane Society reportedly “bankrolled” the prosecution, calling it the first time that a U.S. egg producer has faced cruelty charges over hens’ normal living conditions.
In fact, Pennsylvania’s cruelty statute prevents nonhuman animals from being treated "wantonly or cruelly” but exempts “activity undertaken in normal agricultural operation." As a legal matter, this case doesn’t challenge egg production; it suggests instead that Esbenshade is not representative of the egg business. Ian Duncan, husbandry expert to Whole Foods Market, spoke of never seeing conditions as bad before. Unfortunately, this action signals to consumers that animal agribusiness should and will conform to industry standards, under the supervision of advocates.
After a Philadelphia-based advocacy group filed a Better Business Bureau complaint for false advertising, Kreider Farms of Pennsylvania was directed to stop referring to its “happy and well-treated” chickens.
The company must now call the chickens "contented and well-treated."
"This precedent-setting decision,” said the director of Hugs for Puppies, “marks the first time that the Bureau has ruled against an agricultural enterprise for claiming its animals are happy."
Several groups, including Farm Sanctuary, the U.S. Humane Society and Compassion Over Killing, have petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to apply the federal Twenty-Eight Hour Law to roadways. The law, enacted in 1873, requires that farm animals be taken off railroad cars every 28 hours and rested at least five hours.
Answering the petition in September 2006, the government noted that the law had been amended in 1994 to include road transport, so “additional rulemaking is not necessary.”
Farm Sanctuary then exclaimed, “the USDA formally declared that farm animals transported by truck are protected under Twenty-Eight Hour Law federal animal protection law!” But industry officials say the USDA decision is unlikely to have much impact when most routes take under 24 hours to complete.
And perhaps more than ever, we see sanctuaries and animal-advocacy groups -- small and large alike -- urging people to “limit” or “eat less” meat; and we see a constant flow of comments about factory farming, most missing the point that animal farming is the real problem. Some animal advocates speak in nostalgic terms of small or family-run animal farms. Spreading out animal agribusiness or making it more lucrative is neither animal advocacy nor environmental advocacy.
As with any addiction: Just say no.