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The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation's preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals, is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for shooting a male bald eagle near Gaston, Oregon in late June. Total reward, including the Audubon Society of Portland's $1,500 reward offer for a conviction, now totals $6,500.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint last week on behalf of a Wyoming resident in an attempt to stop an upcoming coyote-killing contest. The "Wyoming Best of the Best" involves teams of hunters vying to kill as many coyotes as possible from sunup to sundown.
Non-hunting participants place bets on the teams they think will kill the most coyotes. The complaint alleges the event constitutes a nuisance in the form of illegal gambling, since participants wager money and the outcome is based predominantly on chance. Illegal gambling is a violation of the state nuisance statute, designed to prevent activities that put the moral integrity and safety of the community at risk.
The Rock Springs event is scheduled for this coming weekend, Feb. 3 – 4. The rules encourage people of all ages and experience to enter, including children.
Wyoming Best of the Best involves betting opportunities for most coyotes killed, biggest coyote killed, littlest coyote killed, a rifle raffle and a Calcutta—a form of betting pool where participants pick winners and the pool of funds is distributed according to a prearranged scale of percentages, to those who selected winners. Hunting participants wager $50 per person for the chance to win cash prizes and advance to the state championship for killing the most coyotes. Teams may also wager an extra $20 per team to enter the "Big Dog/Little Dog" contests, for the chance to win extra cash prizes for killing the biggest and/or littlest coyote.
The killing contest is not regulated by any government agency, hunting licenses are not required in Wyoming to kill coyotes and there is no limit on the number of coyotes a hunter may slaughter. The plaintiff worries the influx of hunters, whose goal is to win cash prizes for the indiscriminate and uncontrolled killing of coyotes, will negatively impact Sweetwater County's wildlife.
The contest also causes a serious disruption in the ecosystem leading to an unbalanced and unhealthy natural system. When coyote populations are disrupted by lethal means, younger pups have no adults to help them acquire food. This in turn causes many pups to prey on sheep and livestock. The disruption can also affect smaller predator populations by destabilizing entire ecosystems.
"Killing contests are simply blood sports," said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. "They are completely inconsistent with appropriate conservation goals or effective wildlife management. Coyotes are essential members of healthy ecosystems, not targets to be killed for 'fun.'"
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By Stephen Wells
“Progressive Farming. Family Style." It sounds like the slogan of a brand you could trust to adopt a forward thinking business style and embrace the public's growing consideration of animal welfare in animal agriculture, but a new undercover investigation blows that idyllic family farm image out of the water.
U.S. District Court to Hear Arguments for Preliminary Injunction to Halt Yellowstone Bison Slaughter
Journalist Chris Ketcham and media coordinator with Buffalo Field Campaign Stephany Seay will have their first day in court Friday when the U.S. District Court in Casper, Wyoming, hears arguments for a preliminary injunction to halt the planned Yellowstone National Park bison cull. The capture and kill operation is scheduled to start Feb. 15.
Ketcham and Seay are seeking access to the controversial bison trapping operations that lead to the slaughter of hundreds of bison. During the capture and kill operation, the park service closes parts of the park to public access. The lawsuit, filed last week, argues that the First Amendment guarantees citizens and journalists reasonable, non-disruptive access to the publicly funded national park. The court will decide their First Amendment claims separately.
“This court order is necessary to protect Stephany's and Chris's constitutional rights while the case is pending or until full and reasonable access to observe the cull can be granted," Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney Stefanie Wilson said. “Given accounts of brutality during past culls, it is the public's right to know what is happening to the cherished Yellowstone bison."
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Judge Says Lawsuit Can Move Forward for Lucky the Elephant Who Was Captured From the Wild 53 Years Ago
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals, learned Thursday that its Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit on behalf of Lucky the Elephant against the San Antonio Zoo would move forward as planned.
Judge Xavier Rodriguez of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas denied the zoo’s efforts to evade jurisdiction, finding that the plaintiffs had properly filed suit under the ESA and not, as the zoo had misleadingly argued in its motion to dismiss, under the federal Animal Welfare Act.
ALDF, with pro bono support from Dentons LLP and local Attorney Melissa Lesniak, represents three San Antonio residents who oppose the zoo’s unlawful confinement of Lucky. The suit alleges that she is being “harmed” and “harassed” in violation of the ESA because the zoo confines Lucky alone, without another Asian elephant companion, in an enclosure too small to meet her needs, with little to no shelter from the sun and on a hard, species-inappropriate substrate.
As a consequence of the judge’s ruling, the lawsuit will proceed to discovery, during which ALDF will seek access to records of the zoo’s elephant-keeping program and to conduct independent veterinary and site-specific analyses of Lucky and her enclosure.
Lucky, an endangered Asian elephant, was captured from the wilds of Thailand before her first birthday. She has spent the last 53 years at the San Antonio Zoo and has been entirely alone for the past three. Scientists assert that Asian elephants are emotionally, socially and psychologically complex animals, who recognize themselves in a mirror and exhibit higher order emotions like mourning and altruistic behavior; experts agree that elephants cannot thrive in captivity, especially when held in forced solitude.
ALDF’s lawsuit seeks to end the zoo’s unlawful confinement of Lucky and asks the court to order her retirement to sanctuary, where she can socialize with other elephants and enjoy a much larger, species-appropriate habitat.
“Lucky has served her time entertaining the residents of San Antonio,” Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said, “and deserves a happy and healthy retirement. We want her to live out her life living as an elephant should—with other elephants in as natural an environment as possible.”
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Slaughter of Up to 900 Wild Bison at Yellowstone Park Sparks Federal Lawsuit to Protect First Amendment Rights
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Jamie M. Woolsey of the law firm Fuller, Sandefer & Associates and two constitutional law professors filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of journalist Christopher Ketcham and wild bison advocate Stephany Seay, who are seeking access to Yellowstone Park's controversial bison trapping operations that lead to the slaughter of hundreds of bison. The lawsuit argues that the First Amendment guarantees citizens and journalists reasonable, non-disruptive access to the publicly funded national park.
By PETA, Center for Food Safety, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch and Government Accountability Project
A coalition of animal protection, consumer rights, food safety and whistleblower protection organizations filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the constitutionality of a North Carolina law designed to deter whistleblowers and undercover investigators from publicizing information about corporate misconduct.
The state legislature overrode a veto of the bill by Gov. Pat McCrory in June 2015 and the law took effect on Jan. 1. Under the law, organizations and journalists who conduct undercover investigations and individuals who expose improper or criminal conduct by North Carolina employers, are susceptible to suit and substantial damages if they make such evidence available to the public or the press.
According to the complaint filed today, the law's purpose is to punish those “who set out to investigate employers and property owners' conduct because they believe there is value in exposing employers and property owners' unethical or illegal behavior to the disinfecting sunlight of public scrutiny."
The plaintiffs, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Center for Food Safety, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch and the Government Accountability Project, said today that they are taking legal action because North Carolina's law “blatantly violates our rights to free speech, to a free press and to petition our government and violates the Equal Protection Clause. It places the safety of our families, our food supply and animals at risk."
The North Carolina law is part of a growing number of so-called "ag-gag laws" passed by state legislators across the country. The bills, which are pushed by lobbyists for corporate agriculture companies, are an attempt to escape scrutiny over unsafe practices and animal abuses by threatening liability for those who expose these improper and, in many cases, illegal practices. North Carolina's version is written so broadly that it would also ban undercover investigations of all private entities, including nursing homes and daycare centers. The North Carolina law threatens to silence conscientious employees who witness and wish to report wrongdoing.
Today's legal challenge is the first in the nation to make claims under both the U.S. Constitution and a state constitution. Last year, a federal court overturned Idaho's ag-gag law on the basis that it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments and in late December a federal judge ruled that a challenge to Wyoming's law must go forward, citing “serious concerns" about that law's constitutionality.
The plaintiffs' joint statement in full says:
"North Carolina's Anti-Sunshine Law seriously hinders North Carolinians' ability to know the truth about misconduct, mistreatment and corruption happening in virtually every industry, including nursing homes, factory farms, financial institutions, daycare centers and more. It's an extreme law forced on citizens over a governor's veto by lawmakers who bowed to pressure from corporate lobbyists. This law blatantly violates citizens' rights to free speech, a free press and to petition their government and violates the Equal Protection Clause. It places the safety of our families, our food supply and animals at risk and it attempts to bully and threaten those working for transparency, free speech and the public good. Our lawsuit is being brought for the sake of the health and safety of all citizens of North Carolina. We are confident the law will be found unconstitutional and that a victory in North Carolina will deter other state legislatures from repeating North Carolina's mistake."
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