Activist Watch (Sarah Hubbart) By Sarah Hubbart
Sarah Hubbart is the communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

Using the Legal System to Target Farmers

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

When it comes to using the law to put an end to animal agriculture, there are so many ways for lawyers to go about it. In addition to the important work of trying to get our incredibly weak animal protection laws enforced, […] — it’s time somebody sued those who are causing all these harms. And with all these clever, young, passionate lawyers coming up, it looks like somebody is going to. Let’s hope they all get rich.”

I just happened to be perusing the vegan blog “Our Hen House” when the above paragraph leapt out at me. In a post dated August 15, the animal rights bloggers encouraged aspiring lawyers to embrace litigation on behalf of animals as a mainstream, and financially viable, career path.

And while I previously wrote about the evolution of animal law in November 2011, I think the subject is worth mentioning again. And it remains debatable whether the ideology that they promote is actually “mainstream” or not.

Indeed, the size and scope of animal law programs has exploded over the past decade. Lawyers on staff with vegan organizations such as Compassion Over Killing now lecture at well-respected law programs including UCLA.  The Humane Society of the United States partners with law schools to promote animal law by offering a fellowship that allows recent graduates to practice animal law at the organization for a year following graduation.

The agriculture industries shouldn’t underestimate the ultimate goal of activists armed with legal expertise. As the “Our Hen House” bloggers put it so succinctly, their aim is straight forward: “using the law to put an end to animal agriculture”.

There are a variety of tactics that lawyers can use to advance animal rights. Some push for legal “personhood” for animals or seek to change animal “ownership” to “guardianship”.

(If one species were to achieve legal “personhood”, we would face a slippery slope, since many of those advocating for legal rights for animals don’t believe those rights should be dictated by the animal’s perceived intelligence but on its “intrinsic value” as a being.)

We are also seeing animal rights groups partner with environmental lawyers to further their agenda.

Case in point: in July, the Humane Society of the United States served notice of its intent to sue 51 farms representing six major pork production companies for alleged unreported releases of ammonia. Notably, HSUS is not claiming actual environmental harm but paperwork violations of EPA's emissions reporting rule. (And this has to do with improving animal care how?)

Regardless of whether it actually files any lawsuits, HSUS seeks to malign the reputation of all pork producers in the eyes of the public.  These sorts of legal battles could have a far-reaching impact on everyone who raises, owns, or eats animals.

And you can bet that HSUS and other animal rights groups  will be all too happy to the snap up the  next generation of lawyers as they graduate from the growing number of schools that offer animal law programs.


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