Why does a discussion about animal rights and welfare have a place on a site like Daily Kos that is dedicated to progressive politics? Because the extension of moral consideration to animals falls squarely in the progressive tradition. Why recreate the wheel when others have stated it more eloquently than me:
Other animals, which, on account of their interests having been neglected by the insensibility of the ancient jurists, stand degraded into the class of things... The day may come when the rest of animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789).
With that philosophy in mind, join me under the fold for This Week in Progress for Nonhuman Animals.
A California slaughterhouse that was the subject of an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) agrees to pay $500 million settlement under a federal fraud statute.
The HSUS investigation made national headlines in 2009 and showed cows too weak to walk to their own slaughter. (Warning: graphic video.) These cows were beaten and in some instances battered with a fork lift to carry them through the line.
That cows were too weak to walk to their own slaughter indicates that they were being very poorly treated. At the very least, the cows were not receiving proper supervision and veterinary treatment. At the worst, they were sick from an unnatural diet of corn (which causes liver disease), beatings, and/or grueling transport crammed in the back of a semi-truck with no breaks for food, exercise, or water. (Federal law only requires such breaks every 28 hours during transportation but carries virtually no penalties and was last enforced in the 1960s.)
This case was not about animal cruelty, however. Neither animals nor guardians fighting on their behalf have the power to enforce animal cruelty laws directly. Instead, this lawsuit was rooted in two federal laws. One federal law prohibits the slaughter of "downer" cattle unless they have been set aside and inspected by USDA agents. This law is in place not so much to protect the animals but to protect human consumers from adulterated meat that might cause mad cow or other diseases. Because the slaughterhouse was breaking those rules and selling meat to the USDA for use in government programs like school lunch, the HSUS and later the Attorney General sued to recoup money under the Federal False Claims Act.
A week before Thanksgiving, an animal advocacy group is accusing Butterball of abusing and neglecting turkeys at some of its facilities.This is the second time in a year that Mercy for Animals has uncovered acts of cruelty and poor conditions for animals at a Butterball facility. A 2011 investigation resulted in state officials raiding the animal facility and two workers pleading guilty to felony cruelty charges.
The activist group Mercy For Animals said an undercover investigation into several Butterball operations in North Carolina found evidence of cruelty and neglect. Hidden camera footage (warning: may be disturbing) shows turkeys being thrown and dragged by their wings and necks, kicked on the ground and with open sores.
Although cruel conditions in American factory farms are all too common, raids by government officials and cruelty charges at all (nonetheless felony ones) are very uncommon. "Standard and accepted agricultural practices" are exempted from almost every state animal cruelty law, even if those practices cause unnecessary or unjustified suffering. This legal exemption is compounded by a cultural and political aversion to prosecuting animal cruelty on farms -- farmed animals are treated like dollar signs by most farmers and violently slaughtered in the end anyway.
A sad occurrence. Whatever excuse we have for treating farm animals like commodities cannot apply to our treatment of dogs -- members of the family for millions of Americans. Dogs in puppy mills are kept in cages and continually breed puppies for sale by "breeders" in local newspapers, on the internet, or at pet stores. Please adopt your pets from an animal shelter. Six million pets die each year waiting to be adopted in overcrowded shelters. Also, please spay and neuter.
NEW YORK — Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a complaint with the U.S District Court of Northern California against New York-based Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG) for false advertising. The lawsuit alleges that HVFG, the largest foie gras producer in the nation, violated the federal Lanham Act and California’s False Advertising and Unfair Competition Laws by claiming to be “the Humane Choice” while using inhumane practices.For those of you unfamiliar, foie gras means "fatty liver" in French. It is produced by force-feeding ducks over the course of a month. This force feeding causes the liver to swell to about 8-12 times its normal size. The process induces liver disease which means the liver is no longer able to clean toxins out of the duck's system. The liver also crowds out other organs making it difficult to breath or even walk. Calling the production of foie gras "humane" is a joke and constitutes false advertising under the law.