Thursday, August 6, 2015

News Briefs and Updates August 6, 2015

 SAOVA Friends,

Chimps are still property and not legal persons. Last week New York Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe rejected a claim that two chimpanzees in a New York research laboratory have a right to bodily liberty. The Nonhuman Rights Project had filed a petition for the two chimps, Hercules and Leo, for a writ of habeas corpus freeing them from unlawful imprisonment.  In her decision, Jaffe stated, "some day [such campaigns] may even succeed," because the status of "legal person" doesn't necessarily equal "human being." But for now, she said, she has to follow precedent set in a case from December, when another New York judge upheld the longstanding principle that "legal persons" have duties and responsibilities to go along with rights — duties and responsibilities that chimps can't perform.

The chimpanzees at the center of the case will no longer be used for research. A spokeswoman for Stony Brook told reporters that the research project had concluded several weeks ago and the chimps would no longer be used for any research at the university. She said the court ruling did not impact the timing of the animals' retirement.

Following Judge Jaffe’s ruling, Steven Wise posted, “That’s one small step for a judge, one giant leap for the Nonhuman Rights Project in its fight for the fundamental rights of nonhuman animals. The Nonhuman Rights Project is greatly encouraged by Judge Jaffe’s opinion. However, we intend to appeal her judgment to the First Department and then, if required, go again to the Court of Appeals.”

Thank you for reading. Cross posting is encouraged.

The world not only belongs to those who show up, it's controlled by the best informed and most motivated.

Susan Wolf
Sportsmen's and Animal Owners' Voting Alliance
Working to identify and elect supportive legislators

In a letter to US Fish and Wildlife Services Director Dan Ashe, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) asked that the bird be removed from its listing under the ESA in the wake of a recent report that suggests the species is rebounding.  A recent aerial survey by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Association found an estimated 29,162 lesser prairie chickens, an increase from 19,643 in 2013 and 23,363 in 2014. The Fish and Wildlife Service has said the “threatened” listing last year was the result of a steep decline in the bird’s population in recent years. Five states are home to the lesser prairie chicken: Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

“Strong evidence exists indicating the dramatic rise in the lesser prairie chicken’s population can primarily be accounted for by increased rainfall in the habitat area,” Moran wrote. Moran also cited conservation efforts by local officials in the lesser prairie chicken’s habitat area for the population rebound.

The Kansas congressional delegation helped pass an amendment to the Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, H.R. 2822, on July 7. That bill could be voted on after Congress returns from its August recess in early September. In June the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a Moran amendment that would bar enforcement of the listing, attaching it to a $30 billion measure to fund the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency.

July 30, 2015 Rep. David Rouzer (NC-7), Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to examine the federal and state response to avian influenza.  Identified as one of the worst animal disease outbreaks the U.S. has ever experienced, the disease infected more than 220 farms in 21 states. As a result, nearly 48 million chickens and turkeys have been depopulated and millions of dollars have been spent to aid in response efforts. Members heard from representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state officials who have taken part in the response effort and discussed the successes and challenges of the process.

“The impact of the avian influenza outbreak has been devastating, and it is essential that we learn from the outbreak this past spring and put in place the proper steps to minimize the impact of a possible outbreak in the Southeast when the temperatures decrease this fall. Today, we heard what was done right during the response and where there are still opportunities for improvement. As we continue our oversight, we will certainly consider any suggestions to modify our policies in order to expedite and improve the efficacy of our animal disease response capabilities. I want to thank our witnesses for testifying today and for providing their insight on this very important issue,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer.

“The outbreak of this highly pathogenic disease is one of the worst we have ever seen in the U.S. It is absolutely vital that USDA and vulnerable states are prepared to respond quickly if this outbreak returns in the fall, as is expected. Both USDA and the states have put forth great effort to isolate this disease and mitigate loss these past few months, and I thank them for their hard work,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway.

Written testimony provided by witnesses from the hearing and the archived webcast can be found at this link

A federal judge ruled Monday that an Idaho law making it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities violates the right to free speech. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled Monday that the statute violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, marking the first time a court has declared such a law unconstitutional. Six other states have similar rules, including Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah.

Lawmakers in 2014 passed the statute — dubbed the ag-gag law — after Mercy for Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal-rights group, released a video showing workers at Bettencourt Dairies in Hansen abusing the cows. A coalition of nonprofit groups sued, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and Center for Food Safety, claiming the law criminalizes whistleblowing and violates freedom of speech.

“The effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment. Indeed, private party media investigations, such as investigative features on 60 Minutes, are a common form of politically salient speech.” U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote in his 29-page ruling.

ALDF’s complaint also challenged the state’s violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Judge Winmill wrote, “ALDF has come forward with abundant evidence that the law was enacted with the discriminatory purpose of silencing animal rights activists who conduct undercover investigations in the agricultural industry. Under the Equal Protection Clause, not to mention the First Amendment itself, government may not grant the use of a forum to people whose views it finds acceptable, but deny use to those wishing to express less favored or more controversial views.” (Mosley, 408 U.S. at 96). Although the State may not agree with the message certain groups seek to convey about Idaho’s agricultural production facilities, such as releasing secretly recorded videos of animal abuse to the Internet and calling for boycotts, it cannot deny such groups equal protection of the laws in their exercise of their right to free speech. Far from being tailored to a substantial governmental interest, § 18-7042 classifies activities protected by the First Amendment based on content. Therefore, under the Equal Protection Clause, it cannot stand.”
Sources:  Idaho Statesman ; Agri-Pulse ;
Case No. 1:14-cv-00104-BLW Memorandum Decision And Order

A federal court has upheld a city of Phoenix ordinance banning retail sales of dogs and cats in stores unless the pets come from animal shelters or nonprofit rescues. Puppies ‘N Love, which has a store at Paradise Valley Mall and other Arizona locations, sued the city arguing the 2013 ordinance was unfair and violated the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In his opinion, U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell wrote, “Puppies ‘N Love appears to be an exemplary pet store. The store avoids buying from puppy mills and works hard to ensure that its puppies have been raised in a humane and caring environment. No doubt, the burden of the Ordinance will fall hard on the Puppies ‘N Love store in Phoenix. But the Court’s place is not to judge the wisdom or fairness of the City’s decision to pass the Ordinance. Rather, the Court may judge only whether the Ordinance conflicts with the constitutional provisions Plaintiffs have cited. There being no conflict between the Ordinance and the United States and Arizona Constitutions, the Court must uphold the Ordinance and grant summary judgment for the Defendant City of Phoenix and the HSUS.”

Maureen Beyers, a Phoenix attorney representing the Humane Society of the United States in the case, welcomed the ruling. “The ruling is a great victory, not just for the city of Phoenix, but also for the Humane Society of the United States, which has worked tirelessly to help municipalities throughout the U.S. enact these laws (and defend challenges to them) to stem the trade of puppy and kitten mill animals and decrease animal euthanasia and overpopulation,” said Beyers, one of the Osborn Maledon attorneys who worked on the case.

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