A year and a half ago, as I noted at the time, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) “agreed to pay $9.3 million to settle racketeering and other charges arising from alleged litigation abuse in lawsuits beginning in 2000 over elephant welfare,” while “other defendants in the countersuit, including the Humane Society of the U.S., have declined to settle [with Feld Entertainment/Ringling Bros.] and remain in the litigation.” Now the Humane Society and other groups have agreed to pay more than $15 million, suggesting the ASCPA settlement was not a freak occurrence. [AP/Houston Chronicle, Charles Schelle/Bradenton Herald]
My piece on the ASPCA settlement is here and Overlawyered coverage of the long-running litigation here.
On a practical level, corporate and organizational “personhood” has worked coherently for more than a century. Will this? [Reuters, Science; earlier on corporate personhood ("established and relatively uncontroversial," and progressive in its legal implications)] A Twitter reaction: “If they get the right to air political ads they can only improve the discourse.” [@jacobgrier]
More seriously, Prof. Bainbridge provided an answer to the question both on Twitter (“We treat corporations as people because it is a useful fiction. Animals as persons is not useful.”) and then in a longer blog post, which concludes:
The problem, I believe, is that attempts to define the debate in moral or philosophical terms ignores the basic fact that the rationale for corporate personhood sounds in neither. Instead, it is based on practicality and utility. Put another way, we treat the corporation as a legal person because doing so has proven to be a highly efficient way for real people to organize their business activities and to vindicate their rights. Put yet another way, we treat the corporation as a legal person because it is a nexus of contracts between real persons. Which is something no animal can ever be.
“Even though I was always on public property when I filmed the horrors I saw outside that slaughterhouse in February, I became the first person charged under one of these ‘ag-gag’ laws.” [Amy Meyer, Washington Post, Utah]
A noted Swiss animal rights lawyer who’s campaigning for wider assignment of lawyers to represent animals’ interests “once represented a dead fish that had been caught, killed, and eaten” [Global Legal Post via John Steele, Legal Ethics Forum; title courtesy @KenParish1]
P.S. From last year (but new to us), this Jon Stewart segment on the unsuccessful PETA lawsuit against Sea World for holding whales in “involuntary servitude.”
The head of the ASPCA writes to the New York Post about my op-ed piece. To recap the particular assertion to which he’s responding, if you want to support local shelter and rescue work, you’re much better off giving locally than you are writing a check to this national group and hoping a little trickles down through grants, special projects and the like.
Another reaction: Andy Vance, Farm Progress.
I’m in this morning’s New York Post with an opinion piece about the thoroughgoing debacle the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) got itself into with a decade-long lawsuit charging mistreatment of elephants at the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circuses (earlier). Last month ASPCA agreed to pay Ringling’s owner $9.3 million to settle charges of litigation abuse. Other defendants in the countersuit, including the Humane Society of the U.S., have declined to settle and remain in the litigation.
Later in the piece I draw a parallel to the recently dismissed Hudson Farm litigation in Maryland, in which a judge lambasted Waterkeeper Alliance for shoddy litigation conduct in a Clean Water Act suit. Is it worth rethinking the whole policy, which dates back to 1970, of broad tax deductibility for suing people in “cause litigation”? Related from Ted Frank at Point of Law.
P.S. The comments section on the Post piece is more substantive than most, and includes a statement from HSUS. (& response from ASPCA head)
According to a press release from Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey circus, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has agreed to pay $9.3 million to settle racketeering and other charges arising from alleged litigation abuse in lawsuits beginning in 2000 over elephant welfare. Feld says ASPCA and others paid a plaintiff and fact witness in the case whose testimony a judge described as not credible. It says it intends to continue suing other animal-welfare groups that it has named in connection with the episode, including the Humane Society of the United States, and Fund for Animals, as well as attorneys. [more on circus's side of dispute; earlier here, here, here, here] More: John Steele, Legal Ethics Forum.
“USDA cites Harvard in deaths of 41 mice” [Boston Globe]