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Thursday May 29, 2014
Vegetable Heart

After six years as the Guide to Animal Rights for About.com, it's time for me to move on.

This position has given me an amazing platform to talk to the world about animal rights - a subject that I am deeply passionate about. I will continue advocating for animals, as an activist and as an attorney.

I've enjoyed your comments, your emails, and your conversations, and I do hope you'll stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

I hope to see you at protests, vegan potlucks, and conferences. I wish the best to the next person who takes over this site, to everyone at About.com, and to all of you.

For the animals,


Edited to add: You can also find me at DorisLin.com.

Diamond Sky Images / Getty Images

Animal Protection Groups Pay $15.75 Million to Ringling Bros. to Settle Lawsuit

Thursday May 29, 2014
Ringling Elephants

The Humane Society of the US, a law firm, and several other animal protection groups have paid Ringling Bros. $15.75 million to settle a lawsuit in which Ringling Bros. accused the groups of filing a frivolous lawsuit and of racketeering under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). According to the Washington Post, "Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said the settlement is covered by insurance and no donor money will go to Feld." According to Feld Entertainment Inc., the company that owns Ringling Bros., the other parties included "Fund for Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free USA (formerly the Animal Protection Institute), the Wildlife Advocacy Project, the law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, and several current and former attorneys of that firm."

The animal protection groups and a former Ringling Bros. elephant trainer brought their lawsuit in July of 2000, accusing Ringling Bros. of abusing Asian elephants, in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Nine years later, the court found that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the action. The court did not rule on the merits of the case.

In a separate decision in 2012, the court found that Tom Rider, the former elephant trainer, had been paid to participate in the lawsuit and lied about the payments. The court also didn't believe that the organizations suffered an injury that would qualify them for standing. After finding that the lawsuit was frivolous because of a lack of standing, the court awarded attorney's fees to FEI.

It is important to note that the court in 2012, again, did not rule on the merits of the case. They didn't even consider whether the allegations of animal cruelty were true:

[Feld Entertainment Inc.] did not win this case based on any findings regarding its treatment of the elephants. Rather, the court never reached that issue because it found that plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. Therefore, it is immaterial whether plaintiffs had evidence about FEI's treatment of its animals; the question is whether they had evidence of either Rider's or API's standing to bring the case.

Animal protection groups are not the only ones to accuse Ringling Bros. of abusing their animals. The circus paid $270,000 to the USDA to settle their Animal Welfare Act violations, although they admitted no wrongdoing.

While the elephants are undoubtedly mistreated in the circus, the solution is not padded bullhooks or longer chains. The elephants and all the animals in the circus have a right to live free of human exploitation. While the law does not yet recognize their rights, we can all choose not to support circuses and go vegan.

I view this case not as a failure of the animal protection groups, but as a failure of our legal system to recognize the suffering of the animals. The failure of our legal system in treating animals like property without their own standing, denying them not only justice but their day in court.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Minnesota Passes Beagle Freedom Law

Thursday May 22, 2014


Minnesota has passed the world's first law that requires laboratories to adopt out healthy dogs and cats after the research is over. The Beagle Freedom Project rescues beagles used in experiments and adopts them out to loving homes. Of all dog breeds, beagles are the most commonly used by laboratories because of their docile temperament. The Beagle Freedom Project is pursuing similar legislation in California (AB 2431) and New York (S7475).

Earlier this year, an undercover video by the BUAV showed a laboratory killing healthy cats and dogs in the UK instead of adopting them out, leading to public outrage.

While this law will save many lives, adopting the animals out will not make vivisection morally acceptable from an animal rights perspective. Animal rights is not about cage size, anesthesia or what happens to the animals at the end of the experiment; it's about animals having a right to be free of exploitation.

Learn more about the Beagle Freedom Project.

Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

Speciesist Culture

Thursday May 15, 2014

Let's be clear. You might disagree with another animal activist's tactics or campaigns. You may even believe that what they are doing is counterproductive. But do not blame the exploitation of animals on an activist who is trying to save them. That blame lies with the people who breed, buy, sell, slaughter, eat, experiment on, torture, whip, skin, imprison, wear, and kill the animals.

A popular concept in feminism is rape culture, and I'm going to call the same concept in animal rights "speciesist culture." The Women's Center at Marshall University explains rape culture:

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women's bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women's rights and safety.

One of the most obvious examples of rape culture is blaming the victim, or blaming anyone except the rapist. There may be some things that a victim or bystander can do to decrease the chances of rape, but rape is no one's fault but the rapist's.

Similarly, I'm going define "speciesist culture" as an environment in which animal exploitation is prevalent and in which animal exploitation is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Speciesist culture is perpetuated through the use of speciesist language, the objectification of nonhuman animals, and the glamorization of animal exploitation, thereby creating a society that disregards the rights of nonhuman animals. Speciesism, like racism and sexism, is the disparate treatment of individuals based on species.

I recently saw a discussion online, where two activists disagreed on tactics in a specific campaign. Activist A claimed to be on the verge of victory with negotiations with an exploiter when Activist B came in with her own campaign. According to Activist A, Activist B's campaign ruined everything. The exploiter decided to continue conducting business as usual, and the near-victory turned into defeat. A flood of criticism from many activists blamed Activist B for the continued exploitation of the animals. This - blaming the activist - is speciesist culture. We expect and normalize the exploitation. Instead of blaming the exploiter, people blame the bystander who is trying to help. We make excuses for the exploiter - "He wanted to do the right thing," is the animal rights version of "What was she wearing?"

This is not to say that we can't disagree with each other. I've had quite a few disagreements with other activists regarding campaigns and tactics. But I've never blamed another activist for the continued exploitation of animals. That would contribute to speciesist culture.

Image ©Doris Lin 2013, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Doris Lin, Esq. is an animal rights attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the Animal Protection League of NJ.

India to Ban Cosmetics Tested on Animals

Thursday May 8, 2014

White Rat
China Photos / Getty Images

India is expected to soon pass a law banning the testing of cosmetics on animals, and is considering a ban on the importation of cosmetics tested on animals.

According to The Hindu, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has started the process of the import ban, while the legislation banning domestic testing is nearing final approval. When the legislation passes, India will be the first South Asian country to pass such a ban.

The European Union passed legislation banning the sale and import of cosmetics tested on animals back in 2009, and the law took effect in 2013. The UK has banned the testing of cosmetics and cosmetics ingredients on animals since 2008. In the U.S., no such ban exists, but consumers can choose to buy cruelty-free products and boycott companies that test on animals.

India is also in the news this week for banning Jallikattu, a version of bullfighting. The ban is the result of a Supreme Court ruling that also bans bullock-cart races and using or training a bull for exhibition or fighting.

Dog Kept Alive by Veterinarian for Experiments

Friday May 2, 2014


Screencap © Doris Lin 2014, licensed to About.com, Inc.

A family in Aledo, TX, has just found out that their veterinarian has been keeping their dog for blood transfusions and experiments after they were told the dog needed to be put down and that the dog would be euthanized.

According to the Raw Story, Marian Harris was told that her dog Sid needed to be put down because of a congenital spinal defect. The Harris family arranged for the clinic to take care of the euthanasia and burial, said good-bye to Sid, and left. Six months later, former employee Mary Brewer informed them that Sid was alive and being bled for plasma and experiments. Brewer said that she quit because the animals were being mistreated.

After Sid was rescued, more allegations surfaced of "euthanized" animals being kept alive for plasma and experiments. Two other dogs have been removed from the premises.

The veterinarian, Lou Tierce, told the Harrises that he did not euthanize Sid at the time because several of his employees threatened to quit, according to The Star-Telegram. Tierce has been arrested on animal cruelty charges, and several complaints have been filed against him with the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

If true, this is one of the most bizarre and extreme cases of veterinary malpractice, ever.

May 4 - International Respect for Chickens Day

Thursday May 1, 2014

Rescued chickens at Farm Sanctuary
© Doris Lin 2008, licensed to About.com, Inc.

May 4 is International Respect for Chickens Day, as declared by United Poultry Concerns, and the month of May is International Respect for Chickens Month. The day and the month are for celebrating "chickens throughout the world and (protesting) the suffering of chickens in farming, cockfighting, experimental research, hatching projects and other activities that mistreat chickens."

If you are still eating chickens or chicken eggs, this is a good time to take a closer look at what you are doing. While chickens are horribly abused in factory farms and battery cages, the solution is not bigger cages. No matter how big the cages are, the birds suffer from being bred, bought, sold, exploited and slaughtered. Even with the biggest cages, male chicks are killed because they won't lay eggs and are the wrong breed to be profitable as meat chickens. The female egg-laying hens are killed when their egg production drops and they are no longer profitable. "Broiler" chickens are bred to be so large, they suffer from joint problems and heart disease before they are killed.

I could also tell you that chickens are very intelligent, affectionately nurture their young, and have distinct personalities, but none of this matters. The only important consideration is that they are sentient - they suffer when we exploit them.

UPC suggests doing something for chickens, such as leafletting, hosting a vegan event, blogging for the chickens, or writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. And if you're not already vegan, please go vegan for the chickens and all the other animals.

Japan Cautiously Moves Forward with Whaling Plans

Thursday April 24, 2014

Whaling in Japan
A captured whale is butchered in Japan in 2001.

Less than a month after the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan's "scientific" whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary is not very scientific and violates the International Whaling Commission's ban on commercial whaling, the Japanese government is cautiously moving forward with plans to kill whales in the Pacific Ocean.

The ICJ ruling in the case brought by Australia applied only to the Southern Ocean Sanctuary; there was no ruling on Japanese whaling in the Pacific. The whaling fleet had been scheduled to set sail for the Pacific on Tuesday the 22nd, but its departure was postponed to avoid ruffling any feathers just before U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the country on Wednesday the 23rd. They are also planning to scale back the number of whales killed, from 380 to 210. Japan is also planning to submit a new scientific whaling plan to the IWC, to comply with the ICJ's ruling, so that they can resume whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.

Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

Rabbits, Chickens, Eggs, and Easter

Saturday April 19, 2014

Day-old Baby Chicks

Ready for a kinder, gentler Easter?

If dying Easter eggs is a tradition in your family, try painting wooden eggs instead. It's a fun craft for all ages, and is egg-free and vegan! Eggs, even cage-free eggs, are the product of cruelty and exploitation.

Instead of a live rabbit, give a toy bunny or slave-free, vegan, chocolate bunny. Same goes for baby chicks.

Happy Easter to all who are celebrating!

Colin Molyneux / Getty Images

International Court Finds Japanese Whaling Illegal

Thursday April 3, 2014

Whaling in Japan
A captured whale is butchered in Japan in 2001.

On Monday, the United Nation's International Court of Justice confirmed what we all already knew: Japan's "scientific" whaling is a cover-up for their commercial whaling and violates the international ban on commercial whaling.

Japan has been commercially hunting whales for nearly 30 years under the guise of scientific research. While this judgment is long overdue, and it's great news that an international tribunal ruled against Japan on this, the door is open for Japan and other countries to kill whales in the name of science if they come up with a rigorous scientific plan and stick to it.

Leave it to me to find the cloud that goes with every silver lining.

Learn more about the court's decision here, and learn more about the commercial whaling that is going on in Iceland and Norway.

Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

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