ALDF's "Ask Joyce" column appears in each issue of The Animals' Advocate, ALDF's quarterly publication.
I saw an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show about puppy mills and cried my eyes out. Why aren’t these places outlawed, and what can I do to help?
We should all thank Oprah for helping to expose the long-term suffering of hundreds of thousands of dogs who are held prisoner in U.S. puppy mills. But, here’s the kicker: puppy mills are legal, and the wealthy industry that profits from them lobbies hard to keep it that way. While there are both federal and state laws that could potentially help, they are full of loopholes and under-enforced.
Puppy mills are commercial "factories" where the "product" is puppies and dogs are treated as machines. The "breeding" dogs are kept in overcrowded wire cages for their entire lives with little, if any, human contact or veterinary care. If the puppy mill is outdoors, the dogs are unprotected from the cold of winter and the heat of summer. They live with the stench of their own urine and feces and, if the cages are stacked on top of each other, the dogs on the lower level are hit with excrement from above as well. When the puppies are eight weeks old, they are cleaned up and shipped off for sale. Some die; many arrive sick.
The simplest way to assure that you are not supporting puppy mills is: don’t buy puppies. Puppy mill puppies are sold in pet stores, on the internet, and in newspaper classified ads. Don’t be fooled by ads telling you that the puppies were lovingly raised by a family. A good rule of thumb is that people who profit from keeping animals in a state of misery will often be willing to lie about how they treat those animals. Adopt from your local humane society or shelter. If you are interested in a particular breed, ask the shelter to notify you when a dog of that breed has arrived. Also, check with rescue groups of the breed you are interested in. And don’t forget the mixed breeds; they make wonderful, healthy companions. If you want to actively oppose puppy mills, get online and educate yourself about the issue. Forward that information to family members and friends who are thinking about buying a puppy, and write letters to the editor of your local newspaper.
Puppy mills exist because the American public unwittingly supports them with the almighty dollar. They will disappear only when the economic incentive is gone.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund would never be able to use the law to
advance the interests of animals without the support of legal
professionals nationwide. In this first of a series of spotlights,
ALDF’s Animal Law Program salutes attorney Gabriela Sandoval.
For Gabriela Sandoval, nothing is more important than helping those in need. And as part of ALDF’s volunteer attorney network, she is putting her skills to work. This Denver-based attorney recently helped draft an amicus curiae brief ALDF filed on a companion animal custody case, for example.
Even in her teens, Gabriela knew that her life would involve fighting on behalf of the exploited. Deep in Maine’s North Woods as part of an Outward Bound wilderness program, she realized that the flora and fauna around her deserved protection, and her career path was set soon afterward as a Colorado State University freshman. Attending environmental ethics, philosophy, and politics courses, Gabriela knew she would become a legal advocate representing the interests of non-human animals and the environment. "I’m still not exactly sure how I didn’t feel it or see it before, but when I finally came to face the reality of the exploitation and abusive practices in which we as humans were engaging with regard to animals, I was filled with motivation to help protect them," she says. "Not necessarily because I loved this animal or that animal – that wasn’t the point. The point was that I felt there was an opportunity to protect those who needed the most protection and who endured the greatest suffering."
For Gabriela, helping to alleviate this suffering meant making more humane, conscientious choices – and studying law. "My drive to enforce the animal protection laws, push for new progressive animal legislation, and engage in animal advocacy is the reason I went to law school," she says. "During law school, what I already knew had been reconfirmed. I wanted to pursue a career working toward progressive legal rights for animals."
Children, too, benefit from Gabriela’s legal expertise, and she sees a distinct parallel between children’s rights and animal rights. "Historically, children were viewed as property, without any rights of their own," she explains, noting that the same is true of non-human animals. "Animals have individual needs. They too have interests. By virtue of the fact that they can suffer, they too deserve protection and representation. Like children, animals are easily victims of abuse and exploitation. Too often the abuse goes unnoticed because of the simple fact that they can’t call out for help. Abuse goes unnoticed because people are misled and misinformed."
"ALDF is very fortunate to have the support of and opportunity to work with legal professionals like Gabriela," says Pamela Hart, director of the Animal Law Program. "The time and expertise she and hundreds of volunteer attorney members contribute make it possible for ALDF to further our mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interest of animals through the legal system. Their efforts have a direct impact on animals, whose lives we are diligently trying to protect."
Gabriela regards her contributions as essential to who she is. "The way I see it, if I feel strongly about something, I need to try to do something about it," she says. "If I don’t, I fear that I only become part of the problem. While the work I do with children and on behalf animals may be the most difficult and often emotionally draining, it’s also, interesting, complicated, and most rewarding."
You can learn more about Gabriela Sandoval and her practice, the Rocky Mountain Legal Center for Child & Animal Welfare, by visiting www.childandanimalaw.com.
To become a member of ALDF’s Animal Law Program and assist animals as part of our pro bono network, please complete and return our Attorney Membership Application.
Despite all that ALDF’s hometown of Cotati, California, has to offer, I have opted to live in Berkeley, where I have ready access to the Bay Area’s best vegan donuts, best vegan brunch, best produce, best vegan horror movie potluck, and best vegan soul food. (OK, admittedly, some of those are in Oakland, but that’s next door to Berkeley...).
One of the downsides of living in Berkeley, however, is that I have a very long daily commute. I spend at least two hours of the day in my car (it’s a hybrid, so the gas consumption isn’t as bad as it could be). As a result, I end up listening to a lot of music and a lot of podcasts to keep myself from driving off the Richmond Bridge in a fit of road rage.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite animal-themed podcasts. Each of these podcasts is available for free through iTunes. For the less technically-inclined readers, more info about podcasts and how to download them are available here: Mac or Windows.
I know that there are other great vegan and animal protection podcasts out there that aren’t listed below, so please use the comment feature if you’d like to recommend a good podcast that I’ve missed.
As much as I enjoy all the podcasts listed here, my favorite is Animal Voices. With almost 250 shows archived online, Animal Voices has covered just about every animal topic imaginable. What I love most about the show are the incredibly sophisticated and in-depth interviews that the show’s host, Lauren Corman, conducts. Lauren is a doctoral student in Environmental Studies, and her interests lie in cultural studies and critical theory. Those interests are reflected in fascinating shows such as: Literature and the Postcolonial Animal; Feminism, Animals, and Science; Animal Liberation, Critical Theory, and the Left; New Media and Animal Life; Cows, Colonialism, and Capitalism; When Species Meet; and Animal Rites.
In addition to these theoretical topics, Animal Voices also covers practical and strategic questions of animal activism, including activist burnout, direct action, and legal reform. The pair of shows entitled Animal Rights in the Courtroom and the Classroom (Part 1; Part 2), featuring Tamie Bryant, Gary Francione, and Bob Barker, will be of particular interest to ALDF members.
(On a side note, Animal Voices has also interviewed several of the other podcasters I recommend in this blog, including Erik Marcus and Bob and Jenna Torres. I told you they were thorough!)
Veg Talk is an interview-based podcast hosted by longtime vegan activist and author Erik Marcus. Prior to starting Veg Talk at the beginning of this year, Erik hosted the long-running Erik’s Diner podcast, one of the very first vegan-themed podcasts (maybe the first), featuring news items, Erik’s commentary, and interviews with members of the animal protection movement. Veg Talk has featured interviews with Bizarro artist and vegan advocate Dan Piraro, farmed animal activists Paul Shapiro and Nathan Runkle, and vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, among others.
For those interested in making the transition to veganism, I highly recommend the series of shows that Erik recorded to coincide with Oprah’s 21-day vegan cleanse experiment. Over the course of those three weeks, Veg Talk covered every topic of concern to new vegans in an easy and accessible way, from cookbooks, to supplements, to grocery shopping, to ethics.
Vegetarian Food for Thought
Vegetarian Food for Thought is hosted by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, founder of Compassionate Cooks and author of The Joy of Vegan Baking (the cinnamon rolls are awesome). Colleen has covered a variety of topics, including how to cook without eggs, why vegans need to be conscientious about getting enough B12, and what ten nutritious vegan foods you should be eating (Part 1 and Part 2).
Colleen has also done many shows responding to common questions people ask about veganism, from "Where do you get your protein?" to "What’s wrong with free-range eggs and 'humane' meat?" Perhaps these are questions you yourself have, or maybe you just aren’t sure how to respond to them when they are asked of you. In either case, Colleen’s podcasts are a great resource for thinking about these issues.
One unique feature of Vegetarian Food for Thought is Colleen’s reading of animal-themed short stories and essays in their entirety. Among my favorites are The Anarchist: His Dog by Pulitzer Prize winner Susan Glaspell, Beyond Lies the Wub, by brilliant sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, and Pig by famous British author Roald Dahl.
Vegan Freak Radio
The Vegan Freak Radio podcast is hosted by Bob and Jenna Torres, authors of the popular book Vegan Freak, which offers lots of practical advice to new vegans, while celebrating the virtues of being a "freak" in a society that exploits animals so ruthlessly. (As the Dalai Lama put it, "It is no sign of mental health to be well-adjusted to an insane world." Or in the words of the punk band Propagandhi, "I consider it a measure of my humanity to be written off by the living graves of a billion murdered lives."). Bob is also the author of Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights.
Vegan Freak Radio features conversations between Bob and Jenna, commentary on news stories, the occasional interview, and phoned in questions and comments from listeners. Bob and Jenna are avowed abolitionists in the vein of Gary Francione (hear their recent interview with him here), so Vegan Freak Radio is often highly critical of animal welfare reforms that operate within the traditional paradigm of animals as property. I can’t say I agree with everything they say (I can’t say that for any of these podcasts), but the show is always entertaining, funny, informative, and challenging. And thoroughly laced with profanity.
Rural Route Radio
While the four previous podcasts approach animal issues from a decidedly liberationist (or at least welfarist) perspective, Rural Route Radio comes at the issues from the perspective of agriculturalists. Host Trent Loos is a sixth-generation rancher from Nebraska. Rural Route Radio doesn’t focus solely on animal agriculture, but several of its shows have dealt with animal issues, including the episodes Let’s Talk About Meat, Let’s Talk About Arkansas Poultry, The Purpose of Animals, and Caring for our Animals. Without a doubt, the show is in favor of raising and slaughtering animals for their flesh; it defends abhorrent confinement practices as "humane" and maligns animal rights and animal welfare groups. But, to its credit, the show often interviews animal protection advocates and gives them a (more or less) fair opportunity to present their side of the story. I highly recommend the episode featuring Nathan Runkle of Mercy for Animals. Rural Route Radio offers an important perspective that animal advocates ignore at their peril. Listening to voices from within the industry can ensure our outreach efforts are effective, accurate, and well-informed. Of course, we should never take industry at its word, but knowing how its constituents think and what they say can only work to our benefit.
I hope you’ll consider subscribing to these podcasts and listening to them on the way to work or school, or while you do chores around the house or brainless tasks at work. Doing so is a great way to dedicate a small portion of each day to thinking about, and ultimately acting on, issues and questions related to animal liberation.
As was widely reported, the Spanish Parliament became what is believed to be the first national legislative body to adopt the principles of the Great Ape Project, which includes the right to life, protection of individual liberty, and a prohibition on torture.
Although as the reports note, Spain is an odd first nation to have passed such legislation, given it has next to no great apes within its borders. But this is still a very significant step towards broader recognition of the principles of the Great Ape Project, and animal rights more generally, within the international legal community.
Animal shelters and other animal protection organizations may gain
temporary custody of animals who have been rescued and evacuated from
the fires sweeping through California.
Shelters without the resources to house large numbers of animals can
adapt and use foster care forms developed by the Animal Legal Defense
Fund’s Criminal Justice Program as part of a foster care program to
establish temporary foster homes for the animals.
Instructions for using ALDF’s foster care agreement and application forms
Sample foster agreement
Sample foster care application