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Fur-Free, Faux, and “Faux”

Fashion You didn’t think I’d let New York Fashion Week go by without a blog post, did you? One of the hot topics this year has been fur-free fashion; designers Chanel and Nina Ricci, among others, had runway models strutting their “faux” stuff. In addition to the fashion models, celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and a certain Kardashian sister have been showing off some high-quality faux fur, too.  Although I don’t have any faux fur in my own wardrobe, I offer you this cruelty-free fashion alternative: Impostor, the creator of ultra-chic, animal-friendly designs. What I especially like about Imposter is that each product has the IM Impostor logo on it, which makes it easily identifiable as faux. Also, partnering with Farm Sanctuary, Impostor has committed to giving a “royalty share” to animals from each Imposter-branded product. The Law It’s a lot easier to wear faux fur these days, thanks to a wonderful piece of federal legislation that was passed in 2010. The Truth in Fur Labeling Act ensures that when you buy something made with faux fur, you’re getting what you think you’re getting. Prior to the Act, any items with a price tag under $150 did not require labeling at all. What’s worse, things labeled as “faux fur” – such as the trim on a winter jacket – often consisted of real fur, from animals such as raccoon dogs who, despite a resemblance to raccoons, actually are members of the dog family. And before 2000, an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States revealed that more than two million dogs and cats each year were being killed in China and other parts of Asia for the fur trade: domestic dog and cat fur was finding its way into the United States on unlabeled clothes items. Advocacy Wanting to learn more about initiatives to promote fur-free designs and the use of faux fur? Check out the Fur-Free Campaign by the HSUS. In addition to its investigations and efforts towards protective legislation, the HSUS works with designers and students to promote fashion-forward, fur-free thinking. With the fur industry killing more than fifty million animals each year, we need to eliminate this market by spending our consumer dollars elsewhere. Lucky for us, many of the fashion world’s top designers and rising stars agree. Finally, a word about seal fur. By now, I think everyone has heard about the annual commercial seal hunt in Canada. Horrific. It was during a 1987  trip to the then-U.S.S.R.  that I first learned about seal fur’s status in the fashion world. Last summer, I had a conversation about that trip with photographer Nigel Barker at the...

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Protecting American Horses

Along with the morning report on weather and ski trails, each day during our stay in Jackson Hole, I picked up the Jackson Hole Daily paper, intrigued by the local news as much as national current events. The local paper had some fantastic front-page pics of local wildlife, including one of some bighorn sheep having a skirmish with each other on the National Elk Refuge. A long way from city life and the urban culture I know best, I’m always impressed by how much towns like Jackson Hole appreciate wildlife and place it in the spotlight. A front-page story that was unfolding while we were spending our time on the slopes was the first Summit of the Horse conference that was being held in Las Vegas that week. Despite its name, this conference was hardly in any horse’s interest. Rather, it was big-business all the way: ranchers, breeders, and lawmakers were gathering to discuss wild horse round-ups and strategies for reviving the slaughter and processing of horses for food. Ugh. Wild Horse Round-Ups Thousands of beautiful wild mustangs and other horses live on government land, which is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.  Round-ups are the Bureau’s answer to population management. However, with each round-up, many frightened and frantic horses die, and pregnant mares spontaneously abort. While the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act supposedly offers protection, the Bureau over the years has reduced the open range for wild horses by 20 million acres. And horses subjected to the brutal round-up operations face helicopter stampedes where they are removed from the land and herded into government holding facilities. The lucky ones might be adopted; but because there are so many horses and not nearly enough homes, many end up being sold outside of the U.S. for slaughter. The Bureau of Land Management needs to find a new, non-lethal way to “manage”; and the horses need some of that 20 million acres back. Horse Slaughter for Consumption In 2007, the last three horse slaughterhouses in the United States were closed. However, thousands of American horses still are transported in atrocious conditions for the purpose of  slaughter, so that their meat can be sold in other countries (such as Mexico, France, Belgium, and Japan) for human consumption. It may surprise you to find out that it’s actually only illegal in TWO states to slaughter horses for human consumption; and, with the economy hurting small farmers and big business alike, there’s movement on the state level to revitalize the slaughter industry here in the United States. Despite legislative efforts such as the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, and the more recent Prevention of...

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Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act
Jan10

Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act

The Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act (AETA) is a law that many people don’t know exists. Nevertheless, the law raises some substantial constitutional concerns. The AETA makes it a crime for anyone to use force, violence, and threats “for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise.” An animal enterprise is any setting that involves animals — a pharmaceutical company, a medical laboratory, a university, or even a retail pet store. Primarily, what’s at stake is an individual’s right, under the First Amendment, to free speech. While it’s important to note that the right to free speech is not absolute, the judicial constraints on speech are very limited (i.e., fighting words), and any restrictions based on viewpoint (content-based) are not tolerated. So, unless the speech of an individual presents a “clear and imminent” danger, the speech should still fall within the protection of the First Amendment. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and proponents of the AETA will bring up that, in addition to categories of speech that are unprotected, the Court has established that “time, place, and manner” restrictions on expression may sometimes be warranted. For example, protests outside medical clinics have some lawful restrictions placed upon them, as does approaching people and distributing leaflets inside airports. Restrictions also may be initiated through legislature: just last month, Washington D.C.’s City Council deemed it unlawful for protestors outside private residences to wear masks and to conduct protests after 10pm. While these restrictions may seem quite reasonable, the vagueness of the AETA, unfortunately, creates the possibility of its use against citizens who are simply exercising their right to voice dissent, without their ever being directly involved in carrying out activities that cause economic damage or disruption. And the penalties of being labeled a “domestic terrorist” can be severe. In the seminal case United States v. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (2006), seven individuals were charged with violating the AEPA (at the time, still titled the Animal Enterprises Protection Act) and some of them received long prison sentences because of the enhanced charge. In addition to First Amendment concerns raised by the law, concern that the law violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment remains a hot topic of debate. While it is undeniably important to protect businesses, their employees, and affiliates, the right to express alternative viewpoints is a cornerstone of our democracy. Even more tragic than any potential economic disruption would be the silencing — out of fear of prosecution — of those who would otherwise lend their voices to the animals that so desperately need our help. For a comprehensive look at this law, check out the book Muzzling a Movement, by Dara...

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Animal Hoarding

The Animal Legal Defense Fund identifies animal hoarding as the number one animal cruelty crisis facing companion animals in communities throughout the country.  ALDF, similar to other sources offering statistics, states that up to 250,000 animals — mostly cats and dogs — suffer from neglect and abuse as a result of animal hoarding each year.  However, because hoarding situations often have to reach extremes before anyone knows about them, many cases go unreported. The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium lists the following characteristics as common in all hoarders: Having more than the typical number of companion animals Failing to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact the failure has on the animals, household, and humans living in the conditions Persistence in accumulating animals More than just a matter of how many animals a person is keeping, it becomes a matter of his keeping more animals than he is able to care for.  As a result, the animals suffer from severe malnutrition, illnesses and infections that are not given the medical attention they require, and death. In terms of legal protection, companion animals generally are protected from abuse and neglect by each state’s criminal cruelty statute.  However, these statutes usually include intent as a requisite element for prosecution.  For this reason, dealing with animal hoarders who are, by definition, in denial of the effects of their hoarding behavior, becomes problematic. To date, two states have attempted to address animal hoarding directly through the revision of the existing statute or the creation of an altogether new one: Illinois added the definition of a companion animal hoarder to its criminal statute and now includes mandated counseling; Hawaii created a new statute that tried to more clearly define animal hoarding by focusing on the number of animals found on the scene. While changes in the law are laudable, an integrative approach that also addresses some of the more unique aspects of animal hoarding is worth considering.  In places where community courts and mental health courts are available, these might be a more effective means of addressing the problem and preventing recidivism.  Without counseling and follow-up visits, hoarders are almost certain to return to their destructive behavioral patterns.  Rather than focusing on punishing the individual, the key to ending the cycle of suffering is getting the individual the help he needs.  At the same time, we also need to help law enforcement officers so that they are better prepared to recognize and handle animal hoarding situations. A good example of how we can do this is the Safe...

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Visit to Ironwood Pig Sanctuary

Have you ever given a pig a belly rub?  Have you ever hugged a pig and had him cuddle back?  Some of you may remember my blog last July about my visit to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Maryland: that was when I first experienced pig-love.  This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a sanctuary completely devoted to rescued pot-bellied pigs, The Ironwood Pig Sanctuary. Along with my husband Seth, my parents, and a group of law students who are members of the Animal Legal Defense Fund student chapter, we took the drive about forty minutes northwest of Tucson to tour the sanctuary and meet some of its amazing residents. Ironwood is home to more than six hundred pigs (yes, you read that right!) who were abandoned, neglected, abused, or unwanted.  Many of the recent rescues have come to the sanctuary because of home foreclosures; and the sanctuary frequently takes in pigs from loving caregivers who had to give up their pigs because of HOA restrictions. You don’t have to spend much time with these animals to remember how much as a kid you loved “SOME PIG” Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, and how you (no longer a kid) rooted for Babe when the odds were stacked against him in the sheep-herding competition.  Pigs are cute.  Pigs are intelligent.  Pigs can be super-affectionate.  And, as I found out today, sometimes they can be shy.  Whether a pig is a pot-bellied piglet or a whopping 600-pound hog, he’s going to melt your heart.  Just ask George Clooney, whose pot-bellied pig Max lived to be eighteen years old. I also learned today that, although pot-bellied pigs are usually around as companion animals, they’re considered “livestock” in some jurisdictions.  Having livestock status has a huge impact on an animal in terms of legal protection.  As it is, there are few laws that offer any kind of protection to animals. On the state level, each state has its own animal cruelty statutes; on the federal level, there is the Animal Welfare Act.  However, livestock are among the animals excluded from these laws. In fact, about 98% of animals are virtually unprotected by existing laws.  Still, I’m optimistic that we will see changes in our laws and the treatment of all animals, especially when I visit a place like Ironwood and meet people who are so dedicated to giving animals a voice as well as a helping hand. Thanks so much to Mary and all the sanctuary staff for welcoming us and taking time out of their already busy day to show us around! Cruelty-Free (Piggy-Free) Tips! Love your bacon? Try Smart Bacon.  Sausage? Try...

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Wildlife & Prop 109 in Arizona

Election Day is coming, and here in Arizona there’s a proposition up for vote which warrants a “cruelty-free” post.  Proposition 109 is the Arizona Hunting & Fishing Amendment.  The proposal would give a constitutional protection to the right to hunt in Arizona.  Naturally, I’m not at all pro-hunting; but even for those who might think hunting has its place in American culture, there’s something wholly un-American about this proposed legislation.  So if you have some friends who might be leaning towards supporting this measure, here’s the full scoop. By making hunting, fishing, and harvesting wildlife a constitutional right, the State Legislature would have exclusive authority to enact laws regulating these activities. I’ve already blogged about the potential pitfalls of our regulatory system, in which regulators wind up essentially regulating themselves (see my entry about the egg industry).  In this case, powerful lobby groups would become even more powerful, because the individual citizen basically gets ousted under the new scheme.  If Prop 109 passes, the citizens of Arizona will have literally voted away their own rights to make decisions down the line via ballot initiatives.  Among other things, Prop 109 will allow the government to establish hunting and fishing as a means of “managing” wildlife populations; the proposition itself also will become a means of  “managing” citizen involvement in decision-making about our own environment.  Whoa! On Tuesday, November 2nd, Arizonans will be asked to cast their vote for wildlife…  and for their own right to have a say in future decisions about wildlife and environmental concerns.  Let’s all make sure to show up at the polls on Tuesday.   And, just as important, explain to friends and family in the upcoming days — especially those who may not be as persuaded by the awe-inspiring glance of a coyote or mountain lion — why they should do the same.  NO on Prop 109! I’ll be participating this evening in a phone banking event, where a group of us will be calling Arizona voters about this proposition.  So if you’re in Arizona and a member of The Humane Society of the United States, you may be hearing from me later tonight...

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