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Doris Lin

Animal Protection Views Hold Up Nomination of Cass Sunstein

By July 1, 2009

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Obama's pick for head of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, is coming up against some hurdles because of his animal protection views. Sunstein is a Harvard Law professor, who used to be a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

According to GovernmentExecutive.com:

In May, nine farm and ranch groups that produce products such as milk and veal -- including the American Farm Bureau Federation -- wrote to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and others to "express concern" about three academic papers in which Sunstein urged regulation of animals used in industries, including agriculture.

Roberts spoke to Sunstein, who said that he has no plans to regulate animal agriculture. That's too bad, because it needs to be regulated. If not for animal rights reasons (many animal activists believe in promoting veganism, not reforms), at least for environmental reasons.

Sunstein has been involved in the animal protection movement for a while. He has co-edited a pro-animal book titled, "Animal Rights, Current Debates and New Directions" (Buy Direct). A May, 2003 article in E Magazine about the increasing popularity of animal law stated, "Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago argued that animals regarded as property can still have rights under the law and that 'our culture is much more interested in protecting animals than our laws are.'" In a 2004 article in Time magazine about the same subject, Sunstein was quoted as saying, "There is a universal agreement that animal suffering matters. Even those who think they despise the notion of animal rights think that suffering and cruelty are problems." Sunstein has also reportedly stated that animals should have standing to bring lawsuits, and that hunting for sport should be banned.

But is Sunstein a "radical animal rights supporter," as the National Review would have us believe? If he is, he hasn't gone public with his views. The idea of banning sport hunting is not radical, because it would still allow hunting for food. The pros and cons of allowing standing for animals to sue has been discussed by legal scholars, and a federal court held in 2004, "nothing in the text of Article III explicitly limits the ability to bring a claim in federal court to humans," although it refrained from giving whales and dolphins the right to sue in that particular case.

It's very possible that Sunstein's views on animals are just an excuse to hold up the nomination. Republicans are being accused of holding up approximately two dozen appointments in the Obama administration. Senator Bernie Sanders, (I, VT) said, "You are trying to make the administration as crippled as you possibly can by limiting the number of people you have."

Sunstein has said, "[Y]ou're going to see more people practicing law who are committed to the well-being of animals. And that's going to have a huge impact." Whatever the reasons behind the delay, I hope Sunstein will be appointed shortly, and I hope having an animal advocate in the Obama administration does have an impact.


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July 1, 2009 at 5:06 am
(1) Albert says:

I think our Founding Fathers would have been stunned that anyone would think anything other than a human could bring a claim to a court.

Why is there an insistance to diminish the place of man, the only creature capable of rational thought. The human race did not scratch and claw its way out of mud and misery to be cast there again! This is madness!

My Response to the PeTA Cowards

July 1, 2009 at 4:57 pm
(2) NorCal Cazadora says:

Re: “The idea of banning sport hunting is not radical, because it would still allow hunting for food.”

1. What do you think “sport” hunters do with the animals we kill? The vast, vast majority eat them. Leaving an animal to rot where you shot it is illegal in many states, and anathema to most hunters. Even hunters who may choose which animal to shoot based on the antlers they’d like to see on their wall STILL EAT ALL THE MEAT BELOW THE SHOULDERS. The notion of hunters who hunt just to kill is a grotesque caricature exploited for the sake of furthering the animal-rights agenda.

2. The term “sport hunter” was established a century ago to distinguish us from market hunters – people who hunted animals to sell them to restaurants and other consumers. “Sport” does not mean we hurl bullets into furry creatures for the hell of it.

3. The idea of banning hunting IS radical given that 78 percent of the public supports hunting (Source: Responsive Management, 2006), and 96.8 percent of the public eats animal flesh (Source: Vegetarian Times, 2008).

July 1, 2009 at 8:54 pm
(3) Doris says:

Albert, the courts already allow non-human entities to bring lawsuits: corporations, ships, estates, etc.

NorCal, if the vast majority of hunters eat the animals they kill, they have nothing to worry about from Cass Sunstein.

July 1, 2009 at 9:43 pm
(4) NorCal Cazadora says:

If that’s the case, then there’s a problem with definitions here, because “sport hunting” is what American hunters do – we do not hunt for a living.

July 2, 2009 at 12:11 am
(5) Albert says:

Ms. Doris,

That is true, but in that instance they are legal entities acting at the behest of rational beings. And the legal actions are brought about as relief for humans by humans. What is being implied is that the animals would be a ward of the legal system acting at the behest of an animal. Since an animal is not a rational being it would leave it to the humans… I think I’m going in circles here… The point is, until a dog can argue in front of the US Supreme Court, it isn’t a rational creature.

Laws are made on a rational basis for rational beings.

Game Reserves, High Fence Hunting What are the Facts?
High Fence Hunting

July 2, 2009 at 1:09 am
(6) Albert says:

Ms Doris,

I forgot to thank you for being polite and allowing me to post comments. All too often we forget in the midst of typing to be gracious. I made a comment on my Blog about your courtesy to me.
Best regards,
Real Men Hunt
We build a Pirogue!

July 3, 2009 at 3:54 pm
(7) Molly says:

It has always been puzzling to me that there are humans who think that respecting nonhuman animals diminishes humans (such as is suggested in Albert’s comment). All life is dependent on each other and connected. All creatures are important. Therefore, the health and well-being of all animals is important.

July 5, 2009 at 5:15 pm
(8) Albert says:

Ms Molly,

I would like you to see how you phrased you rejoinder.

“there are humans who think that respecting nonhuman animals diminishes humans.” I don’t think you can infer that from what I said. I wasn’t nor did I talk about respect for life or animals. My main thrust was respect for the difference, and that is rationality. Everything we talk about here is based on the assumptions of rational discourse. We are the only rational animal so it follows that only we can discuss this.

You see, if we weren’t rational we wouldn’t be having this conversation, we would be fighting for survival like every other animal.

Your logic construct at the end is fauulty too. “All creatures are important.” OK I can go with that. Draft horses are important to the organic farmer, guard dogs are important to Marines, lab rats are important to scientists and the humans waiting for treatments. They are also important to me as food, entertainment, photography subjects, and to you as beaytiful birds, and galloping horses, and as companions. So now it is subject to perspective.
Their health and well being is important too. To what degree? Cruelty Bad. Starvation bad, but not as bad as hunting. Killing animals bad, but ok if we are talking about plague infested mice. Uhhh, who makes the rules?

You made the assumption, wrongly, that I don’t respect animals. That’s pretty far from the truth. I might hunt a hog today, then risk my life rescuing a fledgling bird blown from its nest in the middle of a tropical lightning storm. (Guilty of both counts on the same day!

But I respect the human rational mind more.

Best regards,

August 4, 2012 at 11:06 am
(9) Doris Gahler says:

Just how reducing cruelty to animals “diminish humans” ??? One would think that to the contrary it elevates the ethical consciousness of humans to what it should be. It is the unfeeling, brute animal torturer who debases what to be human should be !

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