Friday, October 31, 2008

University of Quebec in Montreal to host Canada's first International Animal Law Conference

The title of the conference will be: "The animal, within the sphere of humans’ needs." It is set for May 21-22, 2009 and is being organized by the International Research Group in Animal Law (GRIDA).

According to conference facilitator Martine LaChance: This international event deals with a wide range of topics or research issues related to the legal condition or welfare of animals. Although it is mainly a scientific activity of legal nature, the aim of the conference is to welcome researchers from other disciplines - such as biology, ecology, philosophy and sociology -, all concerned with the use and exploitation of animals by human beings, sources of animal sufferings they wish to avoid or, at the very least, minimise.

GRIDA is calling for papers for this inaugural event. If you are interested, please contact for details!

Here's an interesting tidbit...

According to The Animal Legal Report:

An association founded by animal welfare and animal-rights activists is gearing up to compete directly with the veterinary profession's largest membership body, the American Veterinary Medical Association. It's called the Humane Society Veterinary Association. It will offer alternative programs to the AVMA's business insurance programs. HSUS President Wayne Pacelle predicts many veterinarians will flock to HSVA because its philosophy mirrors their own welfare thinking, as long as they're not saddled with a need to buy AVMA insurance plans.
Source: Brakke Consulting, Inc. 10/24/2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Washington state judge refuses to allow prosecution in scalded monkey case

By Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter

EVERETT — An Everett District Court judge this morning ruled against an animal-rights advocate who sought to file a citizen's complaint against three former employees of an Everett animal-testing lab who allegedly sent a monkey through a cage washer, scalding the animal to death.

Read the rest of the article here.

Shame on Judge Roger Fisher.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No qualified immunity for police in 7th Circuit dog shooting case

Great case was just handed down from the 7th Circuit! Here's the blurb and link from today's Illinois State Bar Association's "ISBA E-Clips":

Viilo v. Eyre, No. 08-1627 (10/27/08). Appeal, E.D. Wisc. Appeal dismissed.
Ct. of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to consider defendants-police officers' appeal of Dist. Ct.'s denial of their motion for summary judgment alleging qualified immunity in plaintiff's sec. 1983 action alleging 4th Amendment violation arising out of defendants' shooting of plaintiff's pet dog during search of plaintiff's home. Record contained factual dispute as to whether said shooting was necessary, and defendants otherwise had notice that unnecessary killing of pet dog could constitute "seizure" within meaning of 4th Amendment.

Commentary from me: Yippee! (Ok, not the most scholarly of commentary, I admit...) Seriously, I am very encouraged by the 4th amendment decisions that have been coming down, pretty much unanimously around the country for about a decade now, that the shooting of a companion animal does constitute a seizure within the meaning of the 4th amendment and police can't hide behind the shield of qualified immunity to defend their (at best) insensitive and thoughtless actions. The city of San Jose and Santa Clara County ultimately paid more than a million dollars in the infamous Hell's Angels case and another California city paid more than $500,000 in Fuller v. Vines (see Viilo for cites). Other cases have resulted in a few 6, and a number of 5, figure awards or settlements.

Hopefully, if enough of these suits really start to pull in big numbers then perhaps THAT will persuade municipalities and police departments not to rely on what I like to call the "Kujo defense." ("Your honor, I know the dog was 15 years old, toothless and blind, but he was charging straight toward me, growling and baring his fangs...") I realize not all police officers are rogue cops (please, no angry emails). But some are. I see this in my practice all too frequently. At least several times a year someone comes in with a story of how they and their dog were minding their own business, in their own home, when the cops bust in for some (usually misplaced) reason and shoot the family dog just because it was there and they figured they could get away with it.

If anyone reading this blog happens to know who represented Viilo, please ask them to call me. I would love to stay posted on what happens as the case heads back down to trial court.

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to one of Megan Senatori's animal law students for letting her know about my blog post. Congrats to Megan and best wishes for the trial!

Humane groceries: Can you trust labels like 'cage free'?

Animal advocates have known for years that labels like "cage free" or "free range" may not necessarily mean what the label would lead the average consumer to believe. The mainstream media is noticing too. To wit: today's article by Dan Fritz in the Christian Science Monitor.

Cat Food Recall

Mars Petcare US is issuing a voluntary recall of a limited number of bags of Special Kitty Gourmet cat food sold in Wal-Mart due to potential Salmonella poisoning.

The affected states are:Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Here's the whole press release.

While the Menu Foods case probably leaps to mind, keep in mind here that Salmonella (although still dangerous of course) is a far cry from the contaminants in the Chinese-manufactured products. Hopefully, this recall comes in time to keep any animals from getting sick or dying.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Champion of the underdog

By Jane Mundy
The Lawyers Weekly
October 31, 2008

Ottawa lawyer Terry Green has overcome more obstacles than most: He became blind as an adolescent when he developed Stickler syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that causes detached retinas.

He has been an advocate ever since.

Click here to read more about how adversity became a natural segue to advocacy for Canadian animal lawyer Terry Green.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The straight poop: NYC gets serious about dog doo

Ok, this story ran a few days ago, but I thought it would make good Sunday reading...

This past week, New York City more than doubled its fine to dog owners who don't clean up after their animals: from $100 to $250. It's the first time the fine has gone up since the infamous "pooper scooper law" took effect thirty years ago. Read more in this NY Daily News article by Richard Schapiro.

While $250 may be a stiff enough penalty to persuade folks in most other cities to pack a plastic bag for walks, this is New York City we're talking about. Call me a skeptic (after all, I am a native New Yorker), but I'm not so sure it's gonna work.

If the City REALLY wants to get serious about tracking down offending poopsters and their owners, it oughta consider "Poo Prints", a new program apparently being offered by a Tennessee DNA laboratory. The basic idea is that everyone in a neighborhood, town or [insert geographic region here...] would be required to get their dog's DNA on file in the lab's registry. Then, any stray poop found on a street can be sent to the lab, analyzed and matched to an owner. Voila!

Really, could I make this up? I'm not even gonna try to take credit for finding this one. Thanks to Doug Powell of Kansas State's AnimalNet for unearthing this gem. (Doug, I have no idea how you find these things, but keep 'em coming!)

Of course, being a former journalist, I felt compelled to do a little more digging on this important news story. And unbelievably, according to likewise hard-hitting piece of journalism in the Holeycheese weblog, (photo courtesy of same), a city in Israel began a test program for poop identification last month. (How did I miss that?!)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Iowa: Firing and Lawsuit in Pig Abuse

Published: October 24, 2008

A company said it fired the manager of a hog farming operation where workers were videotaped abusing pigs, and six were charged this week with crimes. Read (a little) more in this quick NY Times update.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Animal rights activist criticizes UW research

By: Estephany Escobar
The Daily Cardinal
October 23, 2008

Members of the Primate Freedom Project held an educational session on animal rights for students, faculty and community members at the UW-Madison Law School Wednesday.

Rick Bogle, founder of PFP and member of the board of the Alliance for Animals, was the keynote speaker for the event. Lynn Pauly, director of the Alliance for Animals introduced Bogle as an active participant in research and protests against animal testing.

Read more about this conference - which gives a shout-out to Wisconsin animal law colleague Leslie Hamilton - by clicking here.

Pet Rescue loses license

By Christy Gutowski
Chicago Daily Herald
October 23, 2008

After years of complaints, state officials for the first time have suspended the license of a controversial Bloomingdale animal shelter as its director faces criminal charges.

Pet Rescue lost its license Oct. 16 after the Illinois Department of Agriculture cited it for a fourth violation. The shelter must wait one year before applying for a new license.

Read more about this case - which also gives a shout-out to fellow animal law attorney Cherie Travis, who's been working with the former shelter volunteers to provide evidence to prosecutors - by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Feeling Pawsome

So far, everything I've heard about last week's animal law conference at Lewis & Clark is that it was a great success. Don't believe me? (Yes, perhaps I am a little biased...) Here's a review by Mariah Summers from a local paper, the Willamette Week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Michael Vick to enter plea to state dog fighting charges in Virginia
October 21, 2008

SURRY, Va. (AP) -- Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick plans to plead guilty to state dogfighting charges in a move that could qualify him for an early release from federal prison.

Surry County Circuit Court administrator Sally Neblett says a hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 30 on a motion from Vick's lawyers to permit him to enter his plea via video conference from the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is serving a 23-month term on federal dogfighting charges.

Read the rest of the article here...

Monday, October 20, 2008

States crack down on mills in the name of puppy love

The Carnivore’s Dilemma

The New York Times Sunday Book Review published another review yesterday about the latest book taking a hard look at the beef industry. Doesn't come to the vegan (or even vegetarian) conclusion that most people reading this blog might hope for... but I think it's worthy of pointing out because it shows a growing willingness for the mainstream press to write about - and mainstream readers to contemplate - food production and choices in ways that were reserved for the butt of jokes and snide comments barely a decade ago. As other blog posts have suggested, I personally think that's progress. Slow perhaps, but progress nonetheless.

Anyway, click here if you would like to read Michael Shae's review.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New animal law firm opens in Oregon!

Ok, not sure if this story wasn't found by Google for a few days or if it's really been a few days since I've run a Google search...

but as the 16th Annual Animal Law Conference comes to a close in Portland, Oregon today, it seems especially appropriate to say congrats and good luck to Laura Ireland Moore, as she embarks on the next chapter in her life: forming a new private practice focusing on animal law.

I first met Laura in about 1999 when we were both in law school. I had submitted an article written for an advanced crim law seminar about making better use of forfeiture laws to prevent animal cruelty to the 1st annual writing competition at Lewis &Clark law school's new Animal Law Journal. When a L&C envelope came back in the mail a few months later, it was pretty thin. I was already steeling myself for the worst - "at least I tried... a lot of people get rejected..." as I opened the envelope. Much to my surprise, not only did the journal accept the article - I actually won the $500 first prize. (That was a lot of money back then and, unfortunately, still seems to be a lot of money most months...) I met Laura, via phone, during editing for that journal. The student editor originally assigned to the article had the unfortunate penchant of editing mistakes into my writing. I called Laura, who was editor-in-chief, if memory serves. She resolved the issues timely and professionally. As time passed, I came to realize that's just her M.O..

Upon graduating, Laura became the first executive director of the National Center for Animal Law (now the Center for Animal Law Studies) after persuading the powers-that-be at the law school to turn her vision into reality. During her tenure, the Center offered classes with regionally and nationally-known animal law attorneys, clinics with actual cases for students to tackle, as well as annual moot court competitions and conferences that offered not only great learning opportunities but became the hottest social events in the animal law community.

This past Fall, Laura turned her attention to building a private practice. She is joined by a law school friend, Holly Gibbons. The pair have acquired the practice of former Waldport mayor and animal law attorney, Scott Beckstead. Scott practiced in Waldport for 14 years; he made national headlines about six years ago for the jury verdict he got on behalf of a family whose dogs were poisoned by a neighbor. The $135,000 award is the highest ever in an animal law case.

Scott now runs an HSUS horse sanctuary in Oakland, Oregon. Anyone who knows Scott knows that, while he is a sharp attorney, he just loves horses way more than practicing law. It's a dream job for him. Meanwhile, a collaboration with ALDF has brought fresh ideas to the re-tooled Center for Animal Law Studies. And another passionate animal law advocate, longtime ALDF attorney Pam Frasch, has taken over the reigns (pun intended) at CALS.

Lots of changes and very exciting! Best wishes to everyone!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Animal-rights activists acquitted after charged with being too close to seal hunt

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Five animal-rights activists charged with getting too close to seal hunters off Canada's east coast were found not guilty Friday after a judge ruled it's "extremely difficult" to determine whether the group breached a 10-metre buffer zone.

Click here for the rest of the story....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Retired surgeon ups the ante on solving the pet overpopulation crisis

A retired surgeon and inventor is apparently going to offer a $75M prize to whoever can find a safe, reliable, one-time, non-surgical means of sterilizing cats and dogs.

Again, not precisely animal law. But if it's true, this could go a long way toward alleviating welfare problems for companion animals. Read more in the USA Today story by Sharon L. Peters here...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chimps: Not Human, But Are They People?

Here's a shout-out to "Wired" for a great feature yesterday on the debate over whether to extend the status of "personhood" to chimpanzees.

As Brandon Keim writes: "It's a controversial position. If being a person requires being human, then chimpanzees, our closest primate relative, are still only 98 percent complete. But if personhood is defined more broadly, chimpanzees may well qualify. They have self-awareness, feelings and high-level cognitive powers. Hardly a month seems to pass without researchers finding evidence of behavior thought to belong solely to humans." Click for the rest of the feature.

Keim also referenced Hiasl, the West-African-born-then-captured-but-rescued-from-research chimp. Hiasl, who was taken from Sierra Leone in 1982, faced a bleak outlook when, at age 26, his shelter ran out of money and he was going to be sent to pharmaceutical research. Hiasl's plight made global headlines last year when an activist tried to persuade the Austrian courts to declare him a "person" so she could be appointed his guardian. When her bid failed, she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights. As near as I can figure out, it is still pending. (If I'm wrong, please let me know.)

Why enforceable pet trusts are important...

Here's a story out of Alabama demonstrating what happens when states either don't permit enforceable pet trusts (which Alabama does, actually: Ala. Code 1975 Sect.19-3B-408), or animal owners don't take advantage of them.

Fortunately, it looks like there will be a happy ending for these 32 cats. Thanks to ISBA animal law committee colleague and venerated Illinois estate planning attorney Lin Hanson for the heads-up on this article from today's Opelika-Auburn News.

Companion animals and emotional damages

Efforts to win the right to recover non-economic, or emotional, damages for injury or death to a companion animal is sort of like the Holy Grail for many animal law attorneys in private practice. As the Computer Desktop Encyclopedia defines it, "[a] very desired object or outcome that borders on a sacred quest."

Anyone who's ever enjoyed a friendship with a cat or a dog or a horse (or any other animal they've befriended for that matter) will tell you, intuitively, losing a companion animal is not like losing any other item. Not even a "valuable" item like a car or a home. But the legal system has turned a blind eye to that value since the beginning of recorded legal history - if not the entire history of human civilization. Persuading courts to see that value - and mind you I'm just talking about genuinely recognizing the value of animals to their owners, not acknowledging the value of an animal's life to itself or (heaven forbid...) taking animals out of property status - is one of the great challenges facing animal law today.

As I've blogged before, the hard-fought expansion of other rights is worth studying: civil rights, women's rights and, most recently, gay/lesbian rights. For example, in 1999 the Vermont supreme court became the first in the country to rule that same-sex partners have the right to the benefits of marriage, even if not the title. Slowly but surely other states began jumping on board, and even going a step farther. Massachusetts legalized such unions in May 2004. California's supreme court did likewise this past June, and it has already surpassed the Bay State in the number of gay couples wed. Connecticut became the 3rd state to recognize same-sex unions when its state supreme court overturned the ban this past Friday.

Now, Vermont once again may lead the nation on another social issue. A case is presently pending before the Vermont Supreme Court on the issue of whether individuals can recover non-economic damages for the death of their companion animals. Robert and Susan Goodby filed suit after their two cats died due to toxic medication. The Vermont Supreme Court heard the Goodby case on Sept 25th and a decision is expected within the next few months. Click here if you would like to listen to the oral arguments (scroll down to 2:00 p.m.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Judge OKs $24M for cats, dogs sickened by pet food

Associated Press
By Geoff Mulvihill

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge Tuesday approved a $24 million settlement for owners of dogs and cats who were sickened or died after eating pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman clears the way for U.S. pet owners with claims to start receiving checks next year. A Canadian judge has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 3 to determine whether the settlement can also apply in that nation.

Read the rest of the article here...

(For an explanation of why I am not particularly impressed with this settlement, despite its dollar value, see the Tuesday, August 26, 2008 entry.)

Humane farming and fashion

A charming tale from UK's Times Online Wednesday about one wool designer that's not out to fleece anyone, including her sheep.

Read Lisa Armstrong's article about "Knitwear that looks good and feels good" (in more ways than one!) by clicking here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Elephants and text-messaging

Ok, not exactly sure this is animal law... but here's one novel effort to use 21st century technology to ease a longstanding conservation problem:

Kenya is the first country to try elephant texting as a way to protect both a growing human population and the wild animals that now have less room to roam. Click to read more about this AP/CBS News story here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Animal Cruelty round-up

When I heard something on the radio yesterday about 55 malnourished horses found on a ranch in California, I thought it would (sadly) make a good blog entry. When I ran a Google search for more information, I (yet more sadly) got a slew of results for cruelty cases pending around the country.

Sad, yes. But on the other hand, it is good to see that the legal system is paying an increasing amount of attention to a very longstanding problem.

So... if you have the stomach for it, here's what's going on around the U.S.:

Beverly Hills, California: Trial dates were set Friday for a former Beverly Hills mayor charged with animal cruelty involving 184 dogs and cats seized at her Rialto rescue shelter three years ago.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: A North Side man is accused of feeding meatballs laced with glass and nails to his neighbor's dogs because he was upset with their constant barking.

Huntington, West Virginia: The owner of a residence where five dogs were rescued and three other animals were found dead appeared before a judge Thursday regarding health code citations. Cruelty charges are also pending.

Near Tallahassee, Florida: A Thomas County man was charged with animal cruelty Wednesday after officials found four badly deprived pit bulls chained in his yard.

Montgomery County, Maryland: A man was charged Wednesday with nine counts of animal cruelty after a dead horse and several neglected horses were found on his property.

Ventura County, California: Three family members were arrested Wednesday on charges of felony animal cruelty after humane investigators found 55 malnourished horses on their ranch.

Friday, October 10, 2008

PA enacts sweeping puppy mill and kennel reforms!

Governor Rendell signed HB 2525 into law! Yeah! (Read more here.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Maybe this time will be the charm...

The H.S.U.S. filed suit today against United Egg Producers, the nation's largest egg industry trade association, and two major egg producers. The suit alleges that the defendants mislead consumers with false advertising that its certification program is an "animal welfare" program, when in reality, the suit contends, the birds are kept in some rather deplorable conditions.

Kinda reminiscent of the old ALDF v. Provimi Veal case. (Can't find a good, general google link for it, but it's 626 F. Supp. 278 (Mass. 1986) if you really want to look it up.) Hopefully though, more than two decades later, the mindset of this country - and its judiciary - have changed enough to be more receptive to this sort of claim.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Court clears cull by suffocation

Here's an unfortunate ruling from Scotland, courtesy of Doug Powell at Kansas State University's Animal Network, an international agricultural food safety listserv. This is the link to the original story, although I cut-and-pasted the article in its entirety since I was having some problems getting the link to work at first:
08 October 2008

The High Court yesterday upheld the legality of new rules allowing chickens to be killed in their thousands by slow suffocation in the event of a widespread bird flu outbreak. A judge ruled that the government was entitled to use "ventilation shutdown" as a last resort.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Why are you reading this blog?

Most authors don't tell their readers to stop reading their work. But if you haven't read much (or anything) about the stock market today... please... take whatever time you would spend reading this blog (or more) and read up on that instead. The Dow dropped below 10,000 for the first time in about four years - and even CNBC's "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer is openly warning some investors to get out of the stock market. Thank you.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Well, that one you should win easily"

That's according to my mom, during our weekly Sunday evening conversation tonight, in reference to a suit I filed recently. I had sent her a link to a little blurb that first ran in the Chicago Sun-Times a couple of weeks ago about Zamboni, the dog who was paralyzed (and ultimately put down due to increasing complications) after he apparently slipped on construction debris that landed in his backyard from the construction site next door.

Thanks, Mom. I'll have to let the judge know...

Lawsuit filed over dog poop

Yes, you read that right. Thanks to Springfield, Illinois colleague Ted Harvatin for pointing this one out. It may not be the NY Times Sunday Magazine, but you can't beat this State Journal-Register article for enjoyable weekend reading. Cheers!

Friday, October 03, 2008

C'mon Arkansas...

One of the remaining minority of U.S. states where animal cruelty is still only a misdemeanor may change. Several attempts to upgrade animal cruelty to felony status have failed in Arkansas over the past few years. In what appears to be a creative compromise effort for the next legislative session, the new bill would create the category of "aggravated animal cruelty", which would be a felony, for more severe cases. It would also upgrade the misdemeanor penalties for other cases.

Perhaps most notably, the proposed measure also would make cockfighting a felony. Last I checked, only about three states did not have laws on the books prohibiting cockfighting (although I vaguely recollect at least one state enacting a ban fairly recently).

Read more in this article by Andy Davis of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

CORRECTION: Thanks to blog reader Tracy H. for pointing out that the ban on cockfighting has finally reached all fifty states, although it is not yet a felony across the board. Read more on the last state to ban the bloodsport, Louisiana, in this August Times-Picayune article by Ed Anderson.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Animal law flavor of the day: pet custody

Boy, when the media becomes fascinated with a topic, it just gets played all over the place. I can't even count how many "pet custody" stories I've seen in the last few months (or calls I've gotten from reporters who only want to know if I'm handling one of those cases at the moment). Not that it's a bad thing, of course, to shine the spotlight on this topic. I wish I could the spread the spotlight to some other animal law-related topics, but better something than nothing!

Anyway, click here for CNN's latest feature by Hannah Seligson on pet custody battles, and a shout-out to two Washington state animal law practitioners interviewed for the story, Adam Karp and Lorrie (Elizabeth) Elliott!

Massachusetts on the verge of upgrading penalties for dog fighting

If you want to engage in dog fighting, right now Massachusetts is a good place to do it. It ranks among the lowest in the country in meaningful penalties for conviction of that misdemeanor.

But there's a bill on Gov. Patrick's desk that could change that. H.B. 1527 would upgrade the crime to felony status. Two professors at the Massachusetts School of Law offered this guest column in yesterday's Daily News Tribune on why the Governor should sign the measure.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why animal advocates should oppose California's Proposition 8

California's Proposition 8 - in case you've been living under a rock these past few months - would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. It's a ballot initiative coming up in this November's election for California voters, and it would reverse a fairly recent ruling by the California Supreme Court holding that the state's constitution protects the rights of same-sex couples to marry. It's been generating passionate debate both pro and con, and money has apparently been pouring in for months to support the ban and turn back the clock.

What does that have to do with animal law, you ask?

Well, I was watching the Ellen DeGeneres interview on Jay Leno last night... when at one point the interview took a momentarily thoughtful turn. DeGeneres quipped that she couldn't understand how her and Portia (de Rossi, actress and DeGeneres' longtime domestic partner-recently-turned-spouse) sitting on the couch watching "Dancing with the Stars" could really be a threat to anyone. She suggested - paraphrasing here - that instead of sending in money to support hate, anyone with funds to contribute to a cause should consider sending financial aid to support the recent Hurricane victims. (Which I thought was a good point, in and of itself.)

But DeGeneres made me think about something else too.

It's just as important for animal advocates to take a position on Prop 8 as it is on the also-pending welfare measure, Prop 2 (which I will get to in a moment). Animal advocates historically have been a fairly liberal group of folks so I am probably preaching to the choir here. But in case you are inclined to vote against protecting gay marriage in California (or even simply support that position but live elsewhere in the U.S. or the world), please take a moment to consider this: social movements do not exist in a vacuum.

There is strength in numbers. To put it plainly - because I have a meeting in about an hour and don't have time to think of a more politically correct way to say this - if animal advocates show empathy and interest in gay issues now then hopefully, once gay rights are better protected, that segment of society can feel a little more settled and turn its resources to helping the remaining less-protected segments of society.

Consider as well that no matter how much you may personally feel that the sheer volume of animal suffering really ought to be a number 1 priority for the planet (and yes, I agree with you personally), the reality is that most people - straight, gay or otherwise... - don't share that view of the universe. Most people are people-centric. And it is simply unlikely that this planet will truly see a change in how animals are treated until it irons out all of its "people mistreatment" problems.

If you vote in California, please vote NO on Prop 8.

Now let's talk about California's Proposition 2. Prop 2 is another ballot initiative scheduled for the November 4, 2008 elections in that state. If passed, it would ban three types of confinement farming: veal crates for baby calves, battery cages for hens and gestation crates for pregnant pigs. Again, in case you've been living under a rock, the concern is that current farming standards allow animals to be confined so tightly that their cages do not even permit them to freely turn around, lie down, stand up or even fully stretch their limbs. As with Prop 8, Prop 2 is generating a lot of fierce debate. Those in favor argue, briefly, that reducing at least some suffering now is better than waiting to eliminate all suffering at a future point. Those opposed argue that it will be costly to implement, raise costs for consumers and could result in greater reliance on imported foods that might pose a greater health risk.

Oddly though, some of the strongest opposition to Prop 2 comes from within the animal rights community. The hard-core perspective fears that palliative measures will only placate people into feeling better about animal suffering and thus dampen and delay any impetus to really address the problem. This viewpoint was thoughtfully (as always) articulated by well-known animal rights professor Gary Francione last spring. In one of his blog posts he relates a story about going to a local market where a meat vendor sells organically-raised, locally-slaughtered animals. One shopper remarked she felt better about buying meat there and the vendor apparently described the animals as "dear friends". Francione expresses the oft-repeated concern that Prop 2 and other so-called "happy meat" efforts are leading the country backward in the effort to address animal suffering.

While anecdotally I can certainly see how those sorts of random comments might lead to those fears, I don't believe that reality bears those fears out. The fact is, this country has been improving - albeitly slowly - its animal welfare laws since Henry Bergh started championing the cause during the 1800's. The U.S. has also become increasingly more receptive to discussing the idea of granting at least some basic rights to animals in just the past few decades alone. (In fact, other countries are even farther along that path than the U.S., although that topic could fill multiple other blog posts alone.) If the hard-core view were accurate, there would have been no progress beyond the first, early animal welfare laws. And that's just not how history unfolded.

I, for one, do believe that it is better to reduce at least some suffering now. I don't believe it will delay further reductions; in fact, I tend to think it heightens awareness and actually leads to further progress. (Although admittedly, I don't have statistics handy to back up that belief either.)

So if you vote in California, please vote NO on Prop 8 and YES on Prop 2.

If you've made it this far down in the post, thanks for reading my rant all the way through. And I really do have to get back to work now.