The Washington Post reported on a lawsuit in Oregon that could have ramifications for the animal personhood movement, filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). A horse, formerly named Shadow, now re-named Justice, was found to be severely underweight and ill at a veterinarian exam last year. Its previous owner pled guilty to criminal neglect last summer.
Now, the ALDF has filed a lawsuit against the former owner, in the horse’s name. The lawsuit is claiming negligence and is seeking $100,000 in damages for pain and suffering. Animal personhood could have sweeping and disastrous effects on biomedical research, agriculture, and pet ownership.
There have been numerous previous attempts to obtain legal personhood for nonhuman primates (NHPs), and more recently, elephants. The elephant personhood lawsuit in Connecticut has so far been a failure for animal rights activists, though the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is seeking a review of the Superior Court Decision. Many readers will remember the infamous “monkey selfie” case, brought by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which ultimately failed to grant copywrite rights to nonhumans.
Matthew Liebman, Director of Litigation at ALDF, told WaPo that he hoped this case would be different: “There have been a lot of efforts to try to get animals not only to be protected but to have the right to go to court when their rights are violated. Those haven’t found the right key to the courthouse door. And we’re hopeful that this is the key.”
However, animal law experts, like Richard L. Cupp, a Pepperdine University law professor, have argued that these types of personhood lawsuits are extreme and dangerous. If any animal protected under Oregon’s anti-cruelty law can have a lawsuit filed on their behalf, animal litigation could overwhelm the courts. Cupp expounds on the point, “Once you say a horse or dog or cat can personally sue over being abused, it’s not too big a jump to say, ‘Well, we’re kind of establishing that they’re legal persons with that.’”
WCWP and R+FP Connections to Lush Cosmetics
Each year Lush Cosmetics announces a Lush Prize Shortlist of organizations that support animal-free testing. Those listed are in the running for a $50,000 funding award from Lush Cosmetics. The 2018 Prize Shortlist states, “The Lush Prize only funds complete replacement of animal testing. Nominees are asked to declare any recent involvement in animal testing or use of animal products such as Fetal Calf Serum, animal cells etc. Some nominees may still use animals in some way but have expressed their desire to replace their use.”
Under the “lobbying” section of the short list, it is perhaps unsurprising to see PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department. However, also listed under “lobbying” is Rescue + Freedom Project (R+FP) and the White Coat Waste Project (WCWP). R+FP, formerly the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP), claims to be concerned with the adoption of research animals after they are retired from research. WCWP claims to be centered on what they deem “wasteful” federal spending on animal research.
Lush Cosmetics, a private company that made $1.2 billion dollars at the end of their 2017 fiscal year, bill themselves as an animal rights friendly company. In fact, they feature a video with Beagle Freedom Project on their website. What’s more, Lush currently funds direct action groups with their own money. NABR encourages readers to note, when possible, funding sources for groups opposed to biomedical research with animals.
NIH RFI for Advancing Sepsis Research, PETA Campaign Alludes to De-Funding Researcher
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a Request for Information (RFI) on July 23 entitled, “Strategies for Advancing Sepsis Research Supported by NIGMS.” This RFI, as noted in the title, is being supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Dr. Judith Greenberg, the Deputy Director of NIGMS, released a statement on this RFI as well.
The stated goal of this RFI is to, “obtain feedback, comments, novel ideas and strategies that address the challenges and opportunities in sepsis research to accelerate advances in detection of and treatment for this condition.” Among the information requested is the, “utility of current animal models, including the possible use of research organisms other than the standard mouse models.” Responses will be accepted through August 31 and can be submitted here: https://www.research.net/r/RFI_Advancing_Sepsis_Research.
The timing of this RFI is interesting considering PETA’s recent campaign of harassment against sepsis researcher Rajesh Aneja at the University of Pittsburgh. On August 8, PETA alluded that their campaign had something to do with Aneja losing NIH funding. However, the NIH grant in question ended. NIH did not pull or revoke any funding.
This type of targeting CAN happen to you and your institutions. NABR is a resource to help fight back against animal rights extremist falsehoods. As a member, you can count on NABR to assist you should you ever have the misfortune of extremist targeting.
Defense Authorization Act Includes Animal Use Language for DoD
President Donald Trump signed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 5515) into law on August 13. The Act includes a section which PETA claims restricts the Department of Defense (DoD) to using animal models for trauma training, only when absolutely necessary:
“The Secretary of Defense shall use medical simulation technology, to the maximum extent practicable, before the use of live tissue training to train medical professionals and combat medics of the Department of Defense…The use of live tissue training within the Department of Defense may be used as determined necessary by the medical chain of command.”
The language included in the NDAA is unlikely to affect the DoD’s common best-practices for trauma training. Groups like PETA have been pushing forfederal legislation like the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act (H.R. 1243) for several years. The BEST Act would ban the use of live animals in all trauma training in the United States military altogether. However, the BEST Act currently has no traction in Congress, having been immobile in the House Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities since March 23, 2017.
PETA Attacks Researcher Christine Lattin (Again)
PETA went on the offensive (again) against Louisiana State University (LSU) researcher, Christine Lattin, for her use of birds. Lattin’s research with sparrows has centered on how to “improve our understanding of the impact of stress on animals and humans.” More specifically, her research focuses on how different neurotransmitters and hormones help the sparrows deal with varied life and survival stressors. Many of you will remember that Lattin was targeted by PETA for her work in 2017 while she was a researcher at Yale.
The piece against Lattin was re-posted on August 14 on PETA’s Twitter page. PETA also re-tooled an old web page, changing the contact information from Yale to LSU. This may be an indication PETA is gearing up for another public relations campaign against Lattin at her new institution.
When Lattin was under attack at Yale in 2017, NABR President Matthew Bailey came to her defense in a Wall Street Journal piece. Additionally, Speaking of Research offered a detailed rebuttal piece, challenging PETA’s allegations point-by-point.
Research!America has rolled out a novel bipartisan civic engagement initiativethat is providing $1,000-$3,000 grants to student science policy groups. The goal is to better engage the next generation of scientists in the public policy process and impressing upon policymakers the importance of science in the 2018 midterm elections. The grants can be used for “lab tours, roundtable discussions, and policy briefings with candidates; host community science events and Pub Nights; support social media engagement including Twitter chats; conduct media outreach; and organize webinars highlighting the benefits of federally funded research.”
This initiative is born from the necessity to get researchers, particularly young researchers, involved in the public policy process to protect and promote their work. Lawmakers take input from the scientific community seriously, however researchers are often reluctant to engage in the policy process and share their work. Research!America’s civic engagement initiative is a creative way to incentivize communication with legislators that the research community needs.