Archive for "animal welfare"
On Monday, March 12th, the BLS cafeteria introduced its new “Meatless Monday” program. The BLS Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) worked with CulinArt, the school’s food service provider, to get this exciting new initiative off the ground. Every Monday, the fourth floor cafeteria will be serving a variety of freshly made meat-free dishes along with its usual offerings, making the first day of the week that much more bearable for the school’s many kosher and vegetarian students.
However, SALDF co-chair Cody Carlson is quick to point out that the program isn’t just aimed at students with dietary restrictions: “Meatless Mondays are a great way for students who aren’t interested in going completely vegetarian to lean into eating healthier, reducing their carbon footprint, and preventing animal cruelty simply by passing on the meat one day a week. With convenient, affordable, and most importantly, tasty options available at the Café every Monday, it couldn’t be easier.”
Dana Wolfe, ’12, a committed omnivore, agrees. “I spent my 1L summer working for the Street Vendor Project, where I fell in love with kebabs, dumplings, and jerk chicken,” she told the Advocate. “But I know that not eating meat is certainly better for the environment. ‘Meatless Mondays’ are an easy way to remind myself every week of the bigger social and environmental impacts my food choices have.”
Wolfe’s fellow Meatless Monday participants include Oprah Winfrey, Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Padma Lakshmi, and Al Gore. The program was initiated in 2003 by a partnership between Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for a Liveable Future.
Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer has also advocated for the adoption of Meatless Mondays at New York’s public schools. “We can’t legislate – nor should we – what people eat, but we can offer people smart food options so they can make informed decisions,” he said on NPR recently.
Since it began three weeks ago at BLS, Meatless Monday dishes have included polenta with black bean salsa ($3.95), quinoa and vegetable curry ($4.95), savory vegetable Panini ($5.95), French Onion soup ($4.40/lg), and grilled vegetable barley salad ($2.95).
Last week, SALDF teamed up with CulinArt to get the word out by serving free samples of some of the new foods you can expect to see. SALDF also encouraged bolder students to take the “Meatless Monday pledge.”
“We’re really grateful to the folks at the Café for listening and responding to student concerns,” says Carlson. “By joining the many schools that participate in Meatless Mondays and continuing to work with us to get rid of eggs from battery caged hens, the team at the BLS Café have affirmed our school’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.”
Photos courtesy of Cody Carlson and BLS SALDF
This week, cafeteria catering giant Bon Appetit Management Co. made an unprecedented commitment to animal welfare that will raise the bar across the entire food service industry. Bon Appetit caters to over 400 U.S. corporations, colleges, and universities, and says that starting in 2015, it will no longer source any food from hens in battery cages or pigs in gestation crates. If they follow through, tens of thousands of animals will be spared lives of intensive and protracted confinement. Bon Appetit is also expanding its purchasing requirements for animals raised without subtherapeutic antibiotics and hormones, and that are allowed to engage in some natural behaviors.
Helene York is Bon Appetit’s director of strategic initiatives. She announced their new commitment yesterday on CivilEats.com, explaining that “[g]ood animal welfare isn’t just about the animals. It’s about starting to dismantle a system that has enormous costs for our society, including the loss of medically important antibiotics, the pollution of our air and water from animal waste, and horrible working conditions in factory farms.”
The problem, she notes, is that Bon Appetit uses 800,000 lbs. of bacon alone every year. The company is such a large consumer of animal products that there might not currently be enough humane-certified meat, milk and eggs out there to reliably meet its enormous demand. York’s hope is that by making this commitment, producers big and small will feel secure enough to make the switch to more humane operating systems. “The best chance for change,” she states, “is to stop waiting for everyone else to make the first move. We’re committed to shifting production practices in the marketplace one way or another.”
Kudos to York and the folks at Bon Appetit, but what about their competitors? Companies like Culinart – which manages BLS’s 4th floor cafeteria and caters most of our school functions – could learn a lesson or two. On a company level, Culinart has failed to implement any meaningful animal welfare standards. Last year, BLS SALDF worked independently with our school’s director of dining services to introduce cage-free eggs. Unfortunately, that commitment was dropped when Culinart switched egg suppliers this fall.
That puts our school among a dubious minority. Sixty-four percent of college cafeterias currently provide cage-free eggs [pdf]. Additionally, nearly a hundred university cafeterias celebrate “Meatless Mondays” by providing expanded vegan options once a week. For law students on the go, these improvements make eating a tasty, healthy, and humane diet that much easier.
I’m glad there are leaders out there like the folks at Bon Appetit, and hope to see them meet and exceed their goals. Meanwhile, the humane train is coming, and Culinart needs to get on board. If they don’t, we ought to find a food service provider who has.
By day, Steven M. Wise practices “animal slave law” — a term he coined himself. But he is best known for his writings “about a world that doesn’t exist” — a world in which nonhuman animals are no longer viewed as property, but as persons.
That might sound crazy, but as one student commented when Wise visited BLS on November 11, U.S. law treats corporations as persons — so why not nonhuman animals?
Wise’s lecture, held at the Subotnick Center, was hosted by adjunct animal law professor Mariann Sullivan, and co-sponsored by BLSPI and the BLS Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF).
“While most of us are trying to figure out ways to work within the current legal framework, which regards animals as mere property with little to no legally recognizable interests of their own, Steve is assembling the building blocks for a future where this is no longer necessary,” said SALDF co-chair Cody Carlson.
“He refers to this as ‘legal personhood,’ but I think soon we’ll be referring to it as ‘common sense.’”
Wise is the director of the Nonhuman Rights Project, which has spent the last six years crafting legal arguments to change the way the law treats nonhuman animals.
“There is a great, thick, high legal wall that separates humans from everyone else,” said Wise.
The Nonhuman Rights Project seeks to break down that wall, by looking to the oldest, most elastic source of law: the common law.
Why not the constitution? Because Roe v. Wade already established that young fetuses are not persons, so courts would likely use that precedent to determine that nonhuman animals cannot attain legal personhood, Wise said. He believes it is unwise to ask for legal rights for animals that human beings themselves have not attained.
To illustrate the promise of the common law, Wise told the story of James Somerset, a slave who used the common law writ of habeas corpus to successfully contest his imprisonment. Wise hopes that a judge would find it to be “just as odious” to take an orca from the wild and put it into a tank as it was to imprison James Somerset based on his race.
The Nonhuman Rights Project intends to begin filing cases in 2013 to begin establishing legal rights for nonhuman animals, focusing first on the animals with the strongest cognitive abilities. This list may include great apes, bottle-nosed dolphins, African gray parrots, and other animals with “an excess of autonomy.”
The Project has everyone from sociologists to scientists to computational biologists working to determine just the right animal to defend and just the right judge to hear the first case.
Wise finished his lecture with a clear message before opening it up to questions from the audience: “We shall prevail. Nonhuman animals are going to get rights. The end.”
“For me, the main takeaway was the role common law can play for progressive activists,” said Carlson, “since as he pointed out, it provides broad discretion to create judge-made law, and is intended to adapt to evolving social mores. Considering that our legal system is still grounded in pre-Darwinian thinking, this is a welcome avenue for modernization.
Anyone interested in performing legal research for the Nonhuman Rights Project on a volunteer basis should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Brooklyn Law School students concerned about public health and animal welfare have a new reason to be proud of their school. Responding to growing student concerns, Brooklyn Law School recently joined the majority of university campuses offering cage-free eggs in their dining hall. Conventional eggs — produced by chickens crowded in barren wire “battery cages” — are still being offered, but students may now request cage-free eggs at no additional charge and take comfort knowing that their eggs were produced by hens with enough room to turn around, spread their wings, and stand on solid ground.
BLS’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) worked with dining hall staff to introduce the new menu item, and we commend the crew for taking a big step in the right direction.
Although cage-free doesn’t mean “cruelty free,” the difference is night and day.
“Confining hens in barren wire cages is one of the most inhumane abuses perpetrated to animals,” says Josh Balk, Outreach Director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Each of these hens gets less space than a single sheet of paper on which to live for their entire life.” Every time a student elects to substitute cage-free eggs, she will spare a hen about 72 hours of profound suffering in one of these battery cages.
Battery cage facilities currently comprise over 90% of the egg industry, but that number is quickly slipping as more consumers and food service providers transition to cage-free eggs, including 64% of college cafeterias [pdf]. Many students prefer cage-free eggs for their animal welfare benefits, noting that battery cages have already been banned in California, Michigan, and the European Union. Other students cite food safety concerns, such as the higher rates of salmonella associated with battery cage egg production.
For students who share these concerns but are not yet ready to transition to a healthy vegan diet, remember to say “cage-free, please” next time you find yourselves grabbing a quick pre-class breakfast. And don’t forget to thank the dining hall staff for making our school a healthier and more humane place to be.