President Donald Trump signed a bill into law that makes animal cruelty, specifically intentionally seriously harming an animal in the production of so-called “crush videos,” a federal crime. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act makes so-called “crushing” or the creation of “crush videos” punishable by a fine, a prison term up to seven years, or both. The law does not apply to customary animal management practices, the slaughter of animals for food, hunting or other sport killings not prohibited by Federal law, the use of animals in research and testing, measures taken to protect life or property of a person, or euthanasia of an animal. This law is meant to cure the deficiencies in a prior federal ban on crush videos that was struck down by the Supreme Court in United States v. Stevens.
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Federal Law Outlaws Creation and Distribution of Animal Crush Videos
Bill Proposes to Automatically Delist Species from Endangered Species Act Protections
The Endangered Species Accountability Reform Act would automatically delist species protected under the Endangered Species Act from those protections 5 years and 1 month after the species is originally listed for protections.
Indiana Right to Farm Statute Challenged in Supreme Court Cert Petition
Represented by the Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic, two families have filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, asking the Court to review Indiana’s Right to Farm Act. The Petitioners assert that the statute violates the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it denies homeowners any remedy when a massive Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is sited next to their homes and spews noxious odors and particles onto their property, making it impossible for them to use and enjoy their property.
Cars, Dogs, and the Fourth Amendment
An article by Brian Gallini published in the Washington Law Review, “Suspects, Cars & Police Dogs: A Complicated Relationship,” examines the use of dogs in policing to justify automobile searches.
Eighth Circuit Affirms Denial of Preliminary Injunction for Missouri Meat Labeling Law
Upton’s and PBFA to Appeal Denial of Preliminary Injunction for Oklahoma Law
Upton’s Naturals Co. and the Plant Based Foods Association have said that they will appeal to the Tenth Circuit an order by a federal judge refusing to grant a preliminary injunction to block the enforcement of an Oklahoma law that bars plant-based foods being labeled with terms often used to refer to meat products, such as “burger.”
8th Circuit Restores Challenge to Arkansas Ag-Gag Law
The 8th Circuit has revived a First Amendment challenge to Arkansas’ ag-gag law, finding that plaintiffs do have standing under Article III because they could reasonably fear private parties would enforce the law against them. The Court of Appeals rejected an argument made in the dissent that animal advocates would need to start investigating in order to have standing.
Maine Voters Approve First-of-its-Kind ‘Right to Food’ Constitutional Amendment
During the state’s November 2 election, more than 60% of Maine voters approved Question 3, the “Right to Produce, Harvest, and Consume Food Amendment.” The state’s new constitutional amendment is the first of its type in the United States and establishes a “natural, inherent, and inalienable right to food” in Maine. While livestock farmers pushed for the ballot initiative, the Maine Potato Board, the Maine Dairy Industry Association, the Maine Veterinary Medical Association, and the Maine Foundation of Humane Societies were among the groups who opposed the initiative due to concerns for unintended food safety and animal welfare consequences of the broadly worded amendment.
PETA Files Suit Challenging Refusal to Run Ads on Public Transit Buses
PETA has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Maryland transportation company’s refusal to run one of the organization’s ads on its buses. The company had denied an application to run PETA’s “No One Needs to Kill to Eat” ads advocating the closure of animal slaughterhouses. The complaint alleges violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Five-year Legal Battle Over Attorney Statements about Tigers Concludes with Significant Implications for Social Justice Attorneys
Landry’s, Inc. and the Landry’s Houston Aquarium settled a widely-publicized five-year legal battle over allegedly defamatory statements that the Animal Legal Defense Fund, attorney Carney Anne Nasser, and activist Cheryl Conley made on social media and in press releases about the tiger habitat at Landry’s aquarium and why they were pursuing an Endangered Species Act case against Landry’s. Landry’s sued for defamation, and Defendants prevailed in a motion to dismiss, in part because the court affirmed longstanding Texas common law that attorney statements made in the course of legal proceedings are immune from defamation suits. However, the Texas Supreme Court reversed, holding that lawyer statements on social media and in press releases are not entitled to attorney immunity under the legal proceedings privilege and remanded the case for trial on the merits to determine whether Nasser made her statements with actual malice. The reversal of longstanding common law has significant implications for animal and environmental organizations and attorneys in Texas and beyond who regularly avail themselves of the media in the course of pursuing legal and legislative strategies. Rather than going to trial, the parties settled.