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Published: Mon, 19 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2018 12:52:45 -0400


Report Warns EU Member State Food Regulations Could Stall Growth

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 07:45:00 -0500

A combination of the impending Brexit and the apparent spread of lousy national food regulations across European Union member states is threatening the growth of Europe's borderless markets in food. That's the conclusion of a new report released last week by FoodDrinkEurope, an industry lobbying group. The EU, as a bloc, has no shortage of awful food laws. For example, Europe's so-called "kebab war" ended late last year only after the EU agreed to let makers of spit-cooked meat use phosphates in their food. But the FoodDrinkEurope report, Implementing the EU Food & Drink Industry Ambition for Growth & Jobs, argues that Brexit and other national regulations are making for a "difficult and uncertain climate" that threatens the "well-functioning Single Market" in Europe. "The Single Market is one of the EU's greatest achievements," the report declares, "but renationalisation, different interpretations and 'gold-plating' of EU laws increasingly lead to barriers for food and drink companies within the Single Market." (Gold-plating is a derisive term that refers to EU laws that are strengthened and become entrenched when EU member nations adopt them as their own.) Food and beverage makers in Europe have been skittish over the looming Brexit and what it will mean for companies that market food and drink both in the Britain and on the continent. But the apparent growth of regulations within EU member countries poses a separate—and perhaps greater—challenge. The FoodDrinkEurope report highlights some of these challenges, including discriminatory national food taxes that have been made under the guise of combating obesity. But there are countless others. In England, EU rules have contributed to food prices that are nearly twenty percent higher than they should be, as a recent report detailed. The EU has an 83-page definition for "Prosciutto di Parma," which I bemoaned here recently. Italy, birthplace of prosciutto, also has (as the headline of one of my columns last year put it) many crappy new food laws. In Portugal, a new law mandates that all public buildings that serve food—prisons, hospitals, schools, and the like—provide vegan food choices. And in Switzerland, the government has banned restaurants from boiling live lobsters for their customers. Speaking as someone who knows a thing or two about lobster, this is an incredibly stupid law. Lobsters likely lack the ability to feel pain. The law was based on the converse of that premise. While the Swiss law doesn't ban lobsters, it will probably make them more expensive, could make customers less likely to order them and, in turn, will make restaurants less likely to buy and serve them. In that way, the Swiss law will resonate beyond the country's borders; it's exactly the sort of law the FoodDrinkEurope report cautions against. Still, the Swiss lobster-boiling ban could have been worse. It was only adopted after another measure—"to ban all lobster imports to the country"—was scrapped. Swiss animal-rights activists are now seeking to ban imports of foie gras. Europe's food and beverage industry is the bloc's largest manufacturing industry, responsible, according to the FoodDrinkEurope report, for more than $1.3 billion in sales and employing more than four million people. It's the EU's largest employment sector and the world's largest food and beverage exporter. It's not difficult to imagine that a combination of overly burdensome EU regulations, a growing number of lousy national food laws in EU member countries, and a post-Brexit climate that includes trade barriers between Britain and the EU could combine to cause serious harm to the region's food and beverage industry. That outcome is one that should be avoided at all costs.[...]

Virginia Can Do More to Improve Animal Welfare

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 12:00:00 -0500

"If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog," goes an old saying mistakenly attributed to Harry S. Truman. In fact, Truman once gave away a cocker spaniel puppy that had been given to him, earning him the enmity of dog-lovers across the country. Lawmakers in Virginia will face a slightly different test of their sympathies this year when the General Assembly takes up numerous animal-welfare bills. Among them is a measure (SB 28) proposed by Republican state Sen. Bill Stanley, which would prohibit giving state funds to any organization that conducts "medically unnecessary" research on animals that causes "significant pain or distress." The bill was prompted by revelations about experiments at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center that induced heart attacks in dogs and puppies and forced them to run on treadmills. "Some of the experiments are known to inflict severe pain in the dogs and puppies—some are as young as 6 months—while withholding pain relief," a Times-Dispatch story reported in October. Stanley also has introduced SB 32, which would create a state database listing Virginia residents convicted of felony cruelty to animals. The list would be publicly available—and therefore helpful to those who offer rescued animals for adoption. Republican Sen. Richard Stuart has introduced the same measure under a different bill number, SB 212. Democratic Del. John Bell is introducing a measure (HB 646) to restrict tethering—i.e., tying a dog up outside. Last year Bell introduced a broader measure that was killed in subcommittee on a voice vote, after some frankly ludicrous objections (e.g., what about sled dogs?). This year's more narrowly tailored bill prohibits leaving animals tethered during freezing or dangerously hot weather, when the owner is off the property, and at night—and it makes exceptions for work animals. It also prohibits certain types of tethers, such as those that are too short, or heavy chains. As one animal-welfare advocate pointed out, this still lets owners leave animals penned up in small enclosures such as chain-link cages, exposed to bitter cold or punishing heat. But it's a step forward—the modest sort of step most likely to pass a legislature that prefers incremental change to the radical kind. Democratic Del. Mark Levine has introduced HB 425, which forbids people convicted of animal cruelty to own companion animals, and requires them to attend anger-management or similar treatment unless a court finds they no longer present a danger to animals or to others. Another measure (HB 593), introduced by Del. Wendy Gooditis, creates a felony offense when someone who has been convicted of animal cruelty in the past five years kills a horse through cruelty or malicious neglect. Other measures address the business end of animal welfare. For instance, Democratic Del. Jennifer Boysko has introduced HB 270, which lets localities prevent pet shops from selling animals from breeders. Democratic Del. Dawn Adams (who beat Manoli Loupassi in the 68th District and who will become the state's first openly lesbian delegate) has introduced HB 713, which prohibits commercial dog breeders from keeping dogs in cages with exposed wire floors. A couple of measures (HB 79 and HB 94) require boarding establishments to ensure that an employee is present during group play. There are still other measures—such as ones forbidding dogs from riding on your lap while you drive (SB 97) and allowing pets in wineries (HB 286). Space prevents an exhaustive recitation of them all, but animal-welfare groups such as the SPCA will be happy to give you a rundown. The ones mentioned above, however, probably qualify as the most important. It's worth noting legislators don't often pull ideas for new legislation out of thin air: Most bills are prompted—by a constituent's request, or a news article, or concerns raised by state agencies, the business community, or nonprofits. That does not make all legislation, ipso facto, worthy of passage: Just because the umbrella industry asks the state to ban p[...]

Court Kills Most of Idaho’s Law Against Secret Farm Recordings

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 08:00:00 -0500

Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that parts of Idaho's "ag gag" law are unconstitutional. The court upheld, in part, a U.S. District Court ruling from 2015 that found the Idaho criminal law runs afoul of the First Amendment. Ag gag laws are on the books in seven states. As the Ninth Circuit explains, these laws "target[] undercover investigation of agricultural operations [and] broadly criminalize[] making misrepresentations to access an agricultural production facility as well as making audio and video recordings of the facility without the owner's consent." Proponents of the Idaho law, including lawmakers, argued it was intended to "quash investigative reporting." A person convicted of violating the law faced up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The case decided last week, Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden, saw several animal-rights and free-speech groups, including the ALDF and ACLU, join with others to sue Idaho in an effort to overturn an Idaho law that makes it illegal to snoop on agricultural producers. The 2014 law was drafted by the Idaho Dairymen's Association, which was unhappy when video taken by an animal rights group, Mercy for Animals, revealed abominable mistreatment of dairy cows in Idaho. Does this decision throw open the doors of agricultural operations in Idaho to trespassers of all sorts? Hardly. "If, as Idaho argues, its real concern is trespass, then Idaho already has a prohibition against trespass that does not implicate speech in any way," the Ninth Circuit ruling notes. I discuss the case (and ag gag laws more broadly) in my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable. I also organized more than a dozen fellow food-law faculty from around the country to sign on to an amicus brief in support of the ALDF and its fellow plaintiffs. And I attended oral arguments in the case in Seattle in May, which I wrote about here. In our brief, we argued in favor of the value of the information that undercover investigations provide to consumers by making that information available within the marketplace of ideas. As the court rightly notes, "undercover investigative reporting... has brought about important and widespread change to the food industry, an arena at the forefront of public interest." The good news in last week's the Ninth Circuit ruling is that the court effectively overturned the Idaho law. The court found that two key parts of the Idaho law—one prohibiting a person from misrepresenting themself to enter an agricultural production facility, the other banning a person from making audio or video recordings of a production facility—are unconstitutional. But the Ninth Circuit reversed the lower court, upholding the part of the Idaho law that criminalizes the act of obtaining agricultural production facility records by misrepresentation. Supporters of ag gag laws did find a silver lining in last week's ruling. "The big news in this decision is that lies or false speech can be 'criminalized' if made 'for the purpose of managerial gain or material advantage or if such speech inflicts a legally cognizable harm,'" writes Farm Futures columnist Gary Baise, an attorney and farmer. But opponents of Idaho's law—and ag gag laws in general—should find much more to like in last week's ruling. "The Ninth Circuit's decision in ALDF is an important victory for consumers," says Mahesha Subbaraman, the appellate attorney who drafted ands submitted the amicus brief on behalf of me and the other food-law scholars. "The decision ensures that consumers will continue to reap the benefits of investigative journalism directed at exposing the true conditions of food production."[...]

States Partner to Sue Massachusetts, California Over Costly Livestock Bans

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 08:00:00 -0500

Earlier this week, thirteen states, led by Indiana, sued Massachusetts in federal court, seeking to overturn a Bay State law that makes it illegal for a business operating in the state to sell veal, eggs in the shell, or pork which it "knows or should know" comes from an animal which was confined in a small cage or crate. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, argues the Massachusetts law oversteps the state's powers under the U.S. Constitution. It follows on the heels of a similar lawsuit filed last week by many of the same states—this one led by Missouri—against California, which has a law similar to that found in Massachusetts. Both suits are asking the Supreme Court, typically a court of last resort, to take up the case directly. The question the Supreme Court is being asked to address, ultimately, is whether lawmakers in any one state—here, Massachusetts and California, respectively—may dictate how farmers in other states raise livestock. These state laws are no doubt ripe for challenge. "If voters in my home state make the mistake of adopting the law, a federal court should strike down the law as an unconstitutional power grab on the part of Massachusetts," I wrote last year, months before voters in the state adopted the constitutionally defective (if well-intentioned) law. "Massachusetts's efforts to regulate farming in other states constitute extraterritorial commercial regulation in violation of the Commerce Clause," reads the lawsuit filed this week. "This extraterritorial regulation will increase the costs of producing and marketing farm commodities nationwide, including for farmers and consumers in Plaintiff States." If this pair of lawsuits rings a bell, you've been paying attention. Six states sued California in federal court over the same state law in 2014. But that suit was thrown out of court that same year. The court determined the states lacked standing, which requires an injury, traceable to the actions of a defendant, which a court may rectify. A finding that a plaintiff has standing is a prerequisite courts must find before agreeing to hear a case. The court found the plaintiff states could not prove the states (rather than, say, their residents) had suffered any injury because of the California law. However, in dismissing the lawsuit against California, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller noted that injured farmers in the states that had sued are exactly the sort of people who would have standing to sue. "In short, the wrong people made the right arguments," I noted at the time. Will the Supreme Court take up the current lawsuits? The issue may well hinge, again, on standing. I'm a firm "maybe" on whether the current lawsuits will withstand challenges to the standing requirement. In the Massachusetts case, one standing claim echoes the one that was rejected by the federal court in California: that the states have "standing on behalf of their farmers and consumers, all of whom will suffer significant effects from the Massachusetts law." But the states also claim in the same lawsuit to have standing "because their agencies and instrumentalities own and operate farms and sell regulated commodities on the national market as part of a supply chain that reaches Massachusetts." That's a far better argument. In support of its claim, the suit cites Purdue University, a public state university in Indiana. "Purdue University sells livestock in Indiana and to nationwide meat distributors who then resell the products to retailers, some of whom are presumably located in Massachusetts," it reads. I think the argument that the Massachusetts law would make it more difficult for Purdue to sell to distributors who resell products to retailers in Massachusetts is a strong argument for standing. But the argument that "some" of these retailers "are presumably located in Massachusetts" is a far weaker, far more nebulous argument. I've urged farmers and other producers and consumers who are themselves harmed by these laws—t[...]

Goat Yoga Gets Baaaaaa-nned

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 16:12:00 -0500

Good, old-fashioned goats and the ancient Hindu practice of yoga are two things that don't seem to go together.

(image) And yet, last year, a small farm in Corvallis, Oregon started offering classes that combined the two. Goat yoga is exactly what it sounds like: the practice of yoga in the presence of goats.

Soon these classes had a 900-person waiting list for an hour of ritual calisthenics with a bunch of horned ruminants. Within a year, the unlikely trend had spread across the nation.

"We would go through the different asanas and the different flows," explains Amanda Bowen, a goat-yoga instructor with GoatToBeZen in Maryland, "and the goats will come around and interact with people as we're doing the class."

And then the unstoppable force of goat yoga locked horns with the immovable object of the Washington, D.C. Department of Health. When Congressional Cemetery Director Paul Williams applied for a livestock permit in the District of Columbia, he was greeted by four lawyers "ready to throw every curve ball they possibly could at me to prevent goat yoga."

But goat springs eternal. Since Manchester, CT. reversed its ban late last summer, the only place in the country where risk-averse municipal bureaucracies are undermining this fitness-to-farm trend threat is the nation's capital.

Produced, shot, narrated, and edited by Todd Krainin.

J.S. Bach, BWV 536 Prelude and Fugue in A Major, performed by James Kibbie
J.S. Bach, BWV 546 Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, performed by James Kibbie
Front Porch Sitter, by Audionautix

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The Ninth Circuit's Foie Gras Blunder

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a District Court ruling that had struck down California's dumb and unconstitutional foie gras ban. The plaintiffs are already planning their appeal. Technically the ban is back, but the law won't be enforced while the appeal is pending. "It is unprecedented and unconstitutional that the California legislature can dictate how New York farmers care for their animals, produced in compliance with New York's strict animal welfare laws, and processed under federal inspection," said Marcus Henley, manager of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a co-plaintiff that's based in New York State, in an email to me this week. "States have the right to protect their citizens from inhumane and substandard products," said Paul Shapiro, spokesperson for The Humane Society of the United States, which wrote an amicus brief in support of the state law, in an email to me this week. "Rather than continuing to fight a losing battle, foie gras agribusinesses should join the 21st century and accept that the vast majority of Americans find violently force-feeding ducks simply too much cruelty to swallow." To Shapiro's credit, he predicted this outcome to me in 2015. While that prediction seems long ago, this case has been winding its way through the courts now for around five years. The plaintiffs, led by an association of Quebec-area foie gras producers and Hudson Valley, had argued that California has no authority to regulate out-of-state and international foie gras producers. But a federal court rejected those arguments, determining in 2012 that such "vagueness, Dormant Commerce Clause, and preemption arguments [we]re 'unlikely to succeed on the merits.'" Ultimately, a U.S. District Court held in 2015 that the law was preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), which governs, among other things, poultry-product "ingredients." The Ninth Circuit decision last week disagreed about the ingredients issue and overturned the lower court's ruling. "The PPIA prohibits states from imposing requirements on ingredients that contradict federal regulations," Reason's Scott Shackford wrote last week, in a post that nailed the details of the court's reasoning. "But this foie gras ban technically regulates a process, the manner by which the foie gras is made. Therefore, the judges ruled, the California law does not come into conflict with the PPIA at all." "In our case, there can be no question that California imposes a requirement on the primary ingredient in my clients' USDA-approved foie gras products—i.e., that they may not contain any force-fed foie gras—which is a requirement that is 'in addition to or different than' those under federal law and is therefore preempted," said California attorney Michael Tenenbaum, who represented the plaintiffs in the foie gras case, in an email to me this week. "The last time the Ninth Circuit tried this—i.e., reversed a district court's preemption finding in an effort to save a misguided state ban on USDA-approved products on the ground that 'states are free to decide which animals may be turned into meat'—it was reversed, 9-0, by a Supreme Court opinion that said (literally), 'We think not,' as it would allow states to 'make a mockery' of federal preemption," Tenenbaum says. (Case link added for reference purposes.) Tenenbaum and Shackford are correct in their facts and analysis. Ultimately, though, this case isn't about statutory interpretation or ingredients or processes or the PPIA. This is a case—plain and simple—about a farmer's right to raise animals that consumers want to eat, and a big bully of a state working hand in hand with animal rights activists to impose its vague and burdensome laws on other states, and even other countries. No state should have such power. Thankfully—hey!—the U.S. Constitution ensures no state has such power. But these federal courts have so far missed that point. In 2015[...]

Judges Dump Foie Gras Back off California Menus

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:20:00 -0400

(image) Hide your foie gras, California restauranteurs! A panel of judges with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has restored a law that bans serving or selling the gourmet product if it was produced by force-feeding birds.

The ban took effect in 2012 in California but was suspended by a judge in 2015. The judge ruled that federal regulations under the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) pre-empted a state-level ban.

Fancy restaurants rejoiced, but supporters of the law pushed on and appealed. Today three federal judges determined that the ruling in 2015 was in error. The PPIA prohibits states from imposing requirements on ingredients that contradict federal regulations. But this foie gras ban technically regulates a process, the manner by which the foie gras is made. Therefore, the judges ruled, the California law does not come into conflict with the PPIA at all.

That ruling is essentially a weirdly technical distinction, since it effectively bans foie gras as an ingredient anyway by banning the process used to make it. Read the ruling here.

Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin has written extensively on this fight here. ReasonTV also explored the animal rights claim that force-feeding ducks and geese is cruel. That's the justification been used to implement the ban. Watch below:

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Unconstitutional State Food, Agriculture Crackdowns Spur Congress to Act

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Earlier this summer, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Calif. Wisc.) introduced a bill that could dramatically change the ways states tax and regulate interstate commerce, including commerce in agriculture and food. The bill, known as the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017, would bar states from regulating or taxing many businesses that don't physically operate within their borders. The bill is intended to rein in "certain State impositions on interstate commerce." It declares "a State may tax or regulate a person's activity in interstate commerce only when such person is physically present in the State during the period in which the tax or regulation is imposed." But wait. Doesn't the Constitution already prohibit states from regulating interstate commerce, via the Commerce Clause (and its corollary, the dormant Commerce Clause) and the Fourteenth Amendment? You bet! But states increasingly ignore those edicts. Take Massachusetts, where voters in November adopted Question 3. The law, which won't take effect for at least a couple years, bans "the sale of eggs, veal, or pork of a farm animal confined in spaces that prevent the animal from lying down, standing up, extending its limbs, or turning around." The law applies not just to farms in Massachusetts but also to "farms located in other states," notes one recent report. As I wrote last year, the law "impose[s] unwise, harmful, costly, and unconstitutional standards for raising a host of livestock animals." Though the Massachusetts law imposes the same restrictions on businesses in every other state that it imposes on businesses in Massachusetts, that doesn't make the law fair. It makes it unconstitutional. "The state may well be allowed to regulate many facets of agriculture within its borders," I wrote last year. "But it has no such authority to regulate the way livestock is raised in other states." The bill introduced by Rep. Sensenbrenner is a direct threat to the Massachusetts law. While Massachusetts voters clearly erred in choosing to adopt this unconstitutional law, they're not alone. California voters adopted a similar law earlier this decade. Both states' laws, which I discuss together here, are just the sort of unconstitutional laws Rep. Sensenbrenner's bill is intended to eradicate. Indeed, it appears the origins of Rep. Sensenbrenner's bill stem directly from battles like these over food and agriculture. "[The new bill] is likely related to a fight between states that has been progressing through the courts," reads a good National Law Review analysis of the bill, which compares it to a narrower Sensenbrenner bill that stalled last year. "California has a law that requires eggs sold in California to be laid by hens in cages that are of a specific size. Missouri and other states sued to invalidate California's law, but lost in the 9th Circuit and certiorari was denied by the US Supreme Court on May 30, 2017." Unsurprisingly, the bill has strong supporters and vehement detractors. Animal-rights and animal-welfare groups are in the latter camp. "We're all for neutering pets," Paul Shapiro, vice president for policy engagement with the Humane Society of the United States, told me by email this week, "but we don't know why Mr. Sensenbrenner wants to neuter the states and strip their ability to protect their own citizens." The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bi-partisan group that represents state lawmakers across the country, says the bill is "one of the most coercive, intrusive, and preemptive legislature measures ever introduced in Congress." The National Governor's Association, which also opposes the bill, issued a joint statement with the NCSL saying the measure would hinder states' power to tax. But many conservative, libertarian, and business groups support the bill., helmed by libertarian CEO Patrick Byrne, says the bill would [...]

Stossel: Save the Rhinos!

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 09:30:00 -0400

Poachers massacre rhinos for their horns. Some are carved into ornaments. Some are ground up and sold as medicine. Just one can sell for as much as $300,000.

Entrepreneur Matt Markus co-founded the company Pembient to save rhinos. His plan is to 3D-print fake rhino horns that are indistinguishable from the real thing. He will then flood the market with the cheap fakes, and drive the price so low that poachers have no reason to kill rhinos.

Markus says: "When things are abundant, people don't kill, fight, or steal."

Free markets are often the best way of protecting the environment. South Africa once tried something similar by legalizing rhino farming and the sale of horns within the country. The rhino population quadrupled in just two decades.

But in 2008, South Africa banned sales of rhino horn again. Poaching shot up.

Now outlets like BBC say "the rhino could be extinct within 10 years."

Sounds like an emergency. One would think that the people who want to preserve wildlife would love Markus's idea to save rhinos.

But they hate his idea. Watch the video to see John Stossel confront a representative of the Humane Society about its opposition to Markus's plan.

Produced by Maxim Lott. Edited by Joshua Swain.

Horn Maker documentary footage from Juliette Marquis / Horn Maker, LLC. More info at

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Loving Animals to Death: Rules to 'Protect' Animals Often Put Them At Risk

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 00:01:00 -0400

We need to sell more rhino horns, quickly. That may be the only way to save rhinos from extinction. Today, rhinos vanish because poachers kill them for their horns. Businesses turn their horns into ornaments or quack health potions. Some horns sell for $300,000. No wonder poachers risk their lives for one. How do you fight an incentive that strong? Flood the market! That's a solution suggested by Matthew Markus. Markus's biotech company can make artificial rhino horn in a laboratory that's virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Put enough of that lab-grown horn on the market and supply and demand will bring the price way down. Then poachers won't risk getting killed trying to steal real rhino horn. "One way to devalue something is to create a lot of it," said Markus. "When things are abundant, people don't kill." South Africa tried a mild version of this solution once. For 20 years, they made it legal to own rhinos and sell their horns. Poaching dropped because legal rhino farming took away the poachers' incentive. Rhino farmers bred rhinos and protected them. Once in a while, they'd put rhinos to sleep with tranquilizer darts and saw off their horns. The horns grow back. The rhino population quadrupled. Win-win. But animal welfare activists are never happy with any solution that involves profiting from nature. South Africa banned sales of rhino horn again. Poaching rose 9,000 percent from 2007 to 2014, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Now South Africa is considering legalization again, but they will have to fight the NGOs. Some, like Humane Society International, even oppose sale of that artificial horn. They asked the U.S. government to block a shipment of a sample of rhino DNA that might have created better artificial horn. I confronted the Humane Society's spokeswoman about that. Our interview will be one of the first videos for my new project: "Stossel on Reason." I will post videos weekly on Facebook, Twitter and Reason TV. We start this week. In this first story, the Humane Society's Masha Kalinina passionately argues against re-legalizing rhino farming and the sale of artificial horn. "This is dangerous! Absolutely dangerous for rhinos and their survival," she says. "This is greenwashing an illegal activity... The problem is that people still see animals as commodities, natural resources for their use!" Yes. And why is that a problem? I eat eggs and chicken, and I drink milk. More chickens and cows are alive because people like me pay for them or what they produce. Kalinina replied: "Are we really going to farm every single animal on this planet so we can continue endlessly supplying this bloodlust and thirst of people to consume wildlife products?" Give me a break. Farming isn't "bloodlust." South African farmer John Hume says each of his 1,500 rhinos has 12 acres of land in which to run around. Every two years he trims their horns. That procedure is painless enough that even environmental groups perform it on wild rhinos to discourage poachers. The Humane Society claims legalization won't stop poaching. Kalinina points out that elephant ivory trading was once made partly legal, and it "started up a new carving industry in China." Demand increased when supply increased, she said. But that was hardly real legalization. Just a few one-off sales were allowed. To really bring down the price, you'd need a consistent supply of cheap horns. Artificial horn could provide that. The Humane Society rejects that solution. Instead, they run ads that say rhino horn is not good medicine. It's fine to try to educate people, but legal rhino farming and artificial horn are much better ideas. People respond faster to price signals than lectures from the Humane Society or regulations that impoverished African nations barely enforce. The NGOs' solution has failed. Hunting bans[...]

Brickbat: What the Fur?

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The Berkeley, California, City Council has banned the sale of fur clothing. The ban was spearhead by the Berkeley Coalition for Animals. Coalition founder Jay Quigley says fur is inconsistent with Berkeley's values.

Brickbat: Hunting Them Down

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Domonique Yatsko, 9, was so proud when she killed her first deer in Ohio, her family had a photo of her with the eight-point buck put on a sweatshirt. But when she wore the shirt to school, she says one of her teachers "yelled at" her, told her killing animals was "not what we do" and demanded she take the shirt off. But Superintendent Catherine Aukerman says the teacher merely told her the shirt was upsetting other students and asked her to take it off. Aukerman says the girl was mistaken if she thought the teacher yelled at her.

Anthony Bourdain on Sichuan Peppers, Sex, Eating Dogs, and Political Correctness

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 08:30:00 -0500

From Iran to to Hanoi to rural New England: Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown on CNN has covered a lot of territory, like No Reservations before it. More than 15 years since his best-selling memoir Kitchen Confidential gutted New York's culinary underbelly, the former junkie and chef continues not to give any fucks. Bourdain has also just published Appetites (Ecco), his first cookbook in over a decade, co-authored with longtime collaborator Laurie Woolever. New Zealand–based writer Alexander Bisley reached the traveler and chef by phone the day after the Electoral College confirmed Donald Trump as president of the United States, and Bourdain talked about how Sichuan peppers are like sex, whether animal-rights activists have any sense of humor, and how the "utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes" is a problem. This interview has been condensed and edited for style and clarity. Bisley: What concerns you about Trump? Bourdain: What I am not concerned about with Trump? Wherever one lives in the world right now I wouldn't feel too comfortable about the rise of authoritarianism. I think it's a global trend, and one that should be of concern to everyone. Bisley: You're a liberal. What should liberals be critiquing their own side for? Bourdain: There's just so much. I hate the term political correctness, the way in which speech that is found to be unpleasant or offensive is often banned from universities. Which is exactly where speech that is potentially hurtful and offensive should be heard. The way we demonize comedians for use of language or terminology is unspeakable. Because that's exactly what comedians should be doing, offending and upsetting people, and being offensive. Comedy is there, like art, to make people uncomfortable, and challenge their views, and hopefully have a spirited yet civil argument. If you're a comedian whose bread and butter seems to be language, situations, and jokes that I find racist and offensive, I won't buy tickets to your show or watch you on TV. I will not support you. If people ask me what I think, I will say you suck, and that I think you are racist and offensive. But I'm not going to try to put you out of work. I'm not going to start a boycott, or a hashtag, looking to get you driven out of the business. The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we're seeing now. I've spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good. Nothing nauseates me more than preaching to the converted. The self-congratulatory tone of the privileged left—just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition—this does not win hearts and minds. It doesn't change anyone's opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us. We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we've done. Bisley: In your Brexit episode of Parts Unknown, Ralph Steadman, who illustrated Appetites eye-catching cover, said "I think human beings are still stupid." Does that explain T[...]

Can Egg Producers Recover from November's Great Fall?

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 07:00:00 -0500

Supporters of animal agriculture—of the sort that can feed people inexpensively and on a large scale, at least—are reeling after two stinging defeats last month. The first blow came in Massachusetts, where residents voted to adopt Question 3, which mandates a minimum cage size for raising livestock on farms in the state, around the country, and around the world that sell eggs, pork, and veal in Massachusetts. That law effectively means chickens, pigs, and veal calves must be raised in a "cage-free" environment. The second blow came with the defeat of an appeal in federal court challenging a similar law in California. The purpose of the California law is to "to prohibit the cruel confinement of farm animals." Similarly, the Massachusetts law is intended to "to prevent animal cruelty." The latter also claims that caged livestock "threaten the health and safety of Massachusetts consumers, increase the risk of foodborne illness, and have negative fiscal impacts on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." But a closer look shows it's these two laws, in fact, that may harm the health of livestock and humans and wreak negative economic consequences. As I described in a column this summer, "'cage-free' hens are typically raised in aviaries—large, cramped egg-laying warehouses in which hens are more likely to attack, kill, and eat one another, and hens and livestock workers are more likely to become sick." If that sounds grim, it is. "In short, liberating hens from cages—and holding them in aviaries—doesn't necessarily make them, or the workers who handle them, any healthier," wrote the New York Times's David Gelles, in an eye-opening piece earlier this year that pierced the halo surrounding cage-free eggs. Notably, research backs up Gelles's expose. If the health benefits of mandating cage-free eggs are questionable at best, the financial benefits of doing so appear to be nonexistent. As Wired reported earlier this year, in an excellent article that's worth reading for the great flow chart alone, shifting from caged to cage-free methods poses a host of existential perils for many farmers. For farmers who want (or are forced) to make the switch, the costly transition will take years—a decade or more, in many cases—to achieve. Egg prices rose last year after a massive outbreak of avian flu. But the price some farmers charged for a dozen eggs had already doubled in California in 2014, as its cage-free law was set to take effect. As these charts show, the days of eggs serving as cheap protein available to the masses could be ending. If that happens, then we'll have foolhardy regulations to blame. Unlike the Massachusetts law, California's applies to egg-laying hens but not to pigs or veal calves. Like the Massachusetts law, the California law violates the dormant Commerce Clause, as I explain here. That issue had been at the heart of the California lawsuit case. Last month, though, the Ninth Circuit Court upheld a 2014 lower court ruling that the plaintiffs—attorneys general from six egg-producing states—did not have standing to challenge the law. I agree with the plaintiffs on the premise behind the challenge, but with the Ninth Circuit's ruling on the standing issue. "In short," as I wrote in 2014, "the wrong people made the right arguments." But that doesn't mean that law—or the new Massachusetts law—could or should withstand a court challenge. "Large egg producers certainly could file an action like this one on their own," wrote Ninth Circuit Court judge Susan Graber. That's something supporters of the Massachusetts and California laws are ready for. "Some agribusiness interests may want to force states like California and Massachusetts to allow the commerce in su[...]

Massachusetts Voters Could Have Egg on Their Faces

Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:00:00 -0400

Voters in Massachusetts will decide this November whether to impose unwise, harmful, costly, and unconstitutional standards for raising a host of livestock animals. Critics have rightly issued dire warnings. "This November, without even realizing it," writes veterinarian Dr. Nancy Halperin, "Massachusetts voters may be voting to ban importation of eggs, veal, and pork." The purpose of the state's ballot measure is to phase out animal confinement measures that supporters of the initiative claim "threaten the health and safety of Massachusetts consumers [and] increase the risk of foodborne illness" in the state. The Massachusetts law effectively mimics the California egg law, but also adds veal calves and pigs to the mix. The California law is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by Missouri and other states. The case was appealed in 2015, after a federal judge ruled the plaintiffs lacked standing. I've previously urged livestock farmers—who undoubtedly have standing—to seek join the lawsuit. The proposed Massachusetts law would make it "unlawful for a business owner or operator to knowingly engage in the sale within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of any" eggs in the shell, veal, or pork (the latter two in meat form, rather than in, say, a can) if the business owner or operator "knows or should know" that the animal in question "was confined in a cruel manner." The proposed law goes on to define cruel conditions as ones that "prevent a covered animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending the animal's limbs, or turning around freely." If voters in my home state make the mistake of adopting the law, a federal court should strike down the law as an unconstitutional power grab on the part of Massachusetts. The state may well be allowed to regulate many facets of agriculture within its borders. But it has no such authority to regulate the way livestock is raised in other states. In a 2014 piece on a related California egg law, I explained why it's both problematic and unconstitutional for one state to dictate standards for others. "If California may dictate standards for raising animals in other states, then any state—in keeping with the hypothetical, let's say Iowa—could pass a law that prohibits, say, farmers from raising crops in drought-stricken areas," I wrote. "The justification? It's not a good use of water, and water should be conserved (rather than exported in the form of produce) in times of drought. Since California is in the midst of a decade-long drought, then that rule would effectively bar California crops from Iowa. If a handful of other states followed, then the rule could doom California agriculture—including, for example, the state's enormous wine industry." But federal courts seem loathe to tell states they can't do something unconstitutional unless the court also seeks to placate agricultural control freaks by assuring these busybodies that, really, their concerns lie in an area that's preempted by federal law. Such was the message from successive federal courts in California in recent years—and in a related 9-0 Supreme Court ruling—in separate lawsuits that overturned that state's foie gras ban and its rules governing the slaughter of non-ambulatory pigs. In addition to these defects, the law is unconstitutionally vague and unenforceable. For example, how could a Massachusetts grocer know if the eggs she buys from one of tens of thousands of farms in Mexico or Iowa, the veal he buys from China, or the pork he buys from North Carolina was raised in conditions that satisfy the Massachusetts standards? What's more, how could the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which would enforce the law and issue fines of [...]