Volume 17, Issue 2 (Spring 2011)
Ed Newcomer, Marie Palladini & Leah Jones
Historically, in prosecutions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), to prove the element “knowingly” the government only had to prove that a defendant intentionally killed an animal that turned out to be endangered or threatened, not that the defendant knew the identity of the species or the endangered or threatened status of the animal when it was killed. Jury instructions to this effect were repeatedly upheld. Then, in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court for McKittrick v. U.S., the federal government, unprompted, unnecessarily, and without explanation, said that it would not use this jury instruction in the future because the instruction did not properly explain “knowingly.” The U.S. Department of Justice subsequently issued a directive to its attorneys to that same effect. Now, there is a self-imposed rule in ESA prosecutions requiring prosecutors to prove that a defendant knew the animal was endangered or threatened at the time it was “taken” or killed. This Article discusses ways in which this change conflicts with the established law and its impact on ESA prosecutions.
The legal system generally does little to protect animals, and one aspect of its inadequacy is a matter of formal structure: under United States and Canadian law, animals are not legal “persons” with an independent right to the protections of the legal system. There are calls to expand the status of animals in the law by providing them with legal standing, the right to be represented by a lawyer, and other formal protections. But, in a way, some of this has happened before. There is a long history, primarily from the medieval and early modern periods, of animals being tried for offenses such as attacking humans and destroying crops. These animals were formally prosecuted in elaborate trials that included counsel to represent their interests. The history of the animal trials demonstrates how, in a human-created legal system, legal “rights” for animals can be used for human purposes that have little to do with the interests of the animals. This history shows us that formal legal rights for animals are only tools, rather than an end in themselves, and highlights the importance not just of expanding formal protections, but of putting them to work with empathy, in a way that strives (despite the inevitable limitations of a human justice system in this respect) to incorporate the animals’ own interests and own point of view.
Debra L. Muller-Harris
Cases involving cruelty to animals are currently handled by the traditional criminal courts. These courts, however, are not effective at punishing animal abusers or protecting animal victims. Although all states have laws criminalizing various forms of animal cruelty, the reality is that most cruelty cases are not prosecuted; even when cruelty cases are successfully prosecuted, punishments are weak. This Comment proposes the creation of an Animal Violence Court, using juvenile animal abusers and adult hoarders as ideal candidates for a pilot animal cruelty justice system. The Animal Violence Court will provide for the ongoing safety and care of animal victims, will work to rehabilitate offenders, and will require long-term monitoring of offenders by the court. Modeled after similar problemsolving courts, the Animal Violence Court will improve upon the current criminal justice system, rehabilitate offenders, and protect innocent animals, sending a clear message that animal abuse will not be tolerated.
For many consumers, farm animal welfare matters. To ensure the well-being of farm animals, consumers often pay premium prices for animal products with humane labels. Because “organic” is an example of a label presumed to convey information about animal husbandry practices, animal products with this label may offer an alternative to products from animals that were raised “conventionally” on large, industrialized farms with minimal welfare protections. The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and enacting regulations require that organic animals be able to engage in natural behaviors. However, many of the requirements are general and thus result in significant variations in livestock living conditions, confounding consumer expectations of uniform organic production and high standards for organic farm animal welfare. This Comment discusses the background of organic regulations, including issues with their application in the areas of organic dairy and egg production. Next, this Comment analyzes aspects of organic regulations as applied to organic laying hens and organic pigs. Finally, this Comment suggests ways to make organic regulations more quantifiable and thus more enforceable so organic animals are able to engage in natural behaviors.
Sharon L. Nelson
This Selected Annotated Bibliography assembles legal and social literature that examines the link between domestic violence and animal abuse. Drawing from an ever-growing body of written works dedicated to the issue, the Bibliography presents the works that are most informative and useful to the legal community. These include case studies, current and proposed legislation, and social services guides that address the occurrence of and response to the animal cruelty-family violence correlation. In doing so, the Bibliography creates a resource that will prove helpful to a variety of legal practitioners, law makers, and professionals within the criminal justice system, and will serve as a tool to promote further understanding of the patterns of abuse that often concurrently victimize both humans and animals.
Jenny Keatinge & Richard Myers, Authors