Category Archive: Trial Lawyers

  1. Is PETA SLAPPing the Internet?

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    PKA syringe picPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) doesn’t like it when other people — including us, through our PETA Kills Animals project — point out that the world’s most notorious animal liberation group kills large numbers of dogs and cats in its Virginia animal shelter. Last year, state records show that PETA killed nearly 90 percent of the pets in its care, bringing its total body count to over 29,000 since 1998.

    Recently, The Huffington Post published an essay by a PETA critic who pointed out PETA’s hypocritical slaughterhouse-like operations. And like commenters on a controversial article are wont to do, some Huffington Post commenters posted unverified, most probably false, and fairly extreme claims in response to the article. (They certainly weren’t backed up by official state records, as ours are.)

    People on the web are often wrong, like some of PETA’s claims against animal agriculture. And we get why PETA would be peeved that people are spreading false rumors about them — the animal liberation movement has spread some false ones about us. Factual accuracy isn’t the internet commenter’s strong suit.

    So how did PETA respond? Not by announcing that it would cease its killing of animals, that’s for sure. Instead, PETA called its attorneys and filed a petition against the Huffington Post, demanding the personal information of certain anonymous commenters.

    The tactics resemble those of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), in which a corporate entity (that can afford expensive lawyers) sues or takes steps toward suing a speaker (who probably can’t) to chill speech against the corporate entity. The commenters are likely just Joe Schmos, while PETA has an annual budget of over $30 million, so it can afford creative and expensive attorneys—just as it could afford to find more homes for adoptable pets, if it so desired.

    Even if PETA’s claims have merit as to the particular statements cited in this case, the suit may be designed to chill those who wish to oppose PETA publicly. PETA’s message is: We won’t just baselessly sue on behalf of killer whales, we’ll now take steps toward suing no-name internet commenters’ pants off for getting their facts wrong. Either way, this shows how damaging the revelations that PETA kills dogs and cats are to the group.

    We know we won’t be silenced. The truth is that PETA kills hundreds of dogs and cats every year. It’s there for anyone to see, in black and white on government records.

  2. PETA Meets Two Judges, Loses Two Cases

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    One of the goals of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is to grant animals the same legal rights as people, but this foolish quest suffered double setbacks this week. PETA is no stranger to losing in the courtroom—like its frivolous case claiming that Sea World’s performing whales were slaves or a not-at-all-frivolous case involving a breach of confidentiality that a jury found cost a police officer his job—but it added two new defeats to its list, one in California and one in Kansas.

    In California, a judge ruled against PETA’s lawsuit attacking California’s “Happy Cows Come from California” dairy marketing campaign. The judge found that “experience and knowledge substantiate that dairy farmers … adhere to some of the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S.” PETA’s record on animal welfare is killing over 90 percent of the pets in the group’s care in each of the past six years, so it’s understandable that the group might not recognize high welfare standards. (After all, animal welfare, a science, is not at all like animal rights ideology.)

    In a U.S. District Court in Kansas, a judge found that PETA cannot force Kansas State Fair organizers to let the group publicly display a profane and graphic anti-meat propaganda video. PETA won’t be denied a booth, but people who want to see the video will have to seek it out. Even so, an anti-agriculture group will still have more access to an agriculture fair than any pro-agriculture group would probably have at an animal rights event.

    PETA’s “press sluts” tactics might get it in the news, but thus far the group has little to show for it. And now courts are joining pop idols like Lady Gaga in telling PETA to get lost.

  3. PETA in Double Court Trouble?

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    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is taking to America’s courts to give animals legal “rights.” You might remember the utterly frivolous lawsuit filed by PETA against Sea World, which argued that the park’s famed killer whales were in fact “slaves” under the 13th Amendment. A federal judge in California held a hearing in that case yesterday, and reports suggested he was rightly skeptical of PETA’s arguments. Experts predict PETA will fail, but winning isn’t entirely the point: PETA just wants news hits, and it has won plenty of them.

    And elsewhere, PETA just lost a (legitimate) case in a Florida court. A former police officer sued PETA, claiming the group violated a confidentiality agreement. A jury found that that breach cost the officer his job, and awarded the ex-cop $155,000. PETA can’t seem to win in the court of public opinion—and apparently it isn’t doing so well in real courts, either.

    Should we gloat? Sure—but we should also recognize that in the long run, PETA wants cows to have legal standing to sue ranchers, dogs to have standing to sue their owners, and mice to have standing to sue AIDS researchers. If PETA wins, this will be a lucrative racket for PETA’s legal staff, but a bad prospect for those of us who don’t believe that “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”

    Scarily, as our Executive Director Rick Berman told CNN’s Global Public Square blog last week, these radicals actually have a lot more backing than you might think:

    While this is the next generation, the animal rights philosophy has already manifested itself in positions of power. Cass Sunstein, who runs the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has written that animals should be given standing to sue humans in court (presumably with taxpayer funds for court-appointed lawyers).

    “[A]nimals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives, to prevent violations of current law,” Sunstein has written. “Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf.”

    The American people don’t want to give PETA lawyers tax money to “represent” Bessie in ruining Old MacDonald, and they certainly don’t think that whales are slaves. Hopefully, the federal judiciary has more sense than at least one high-ranking federal bureaucrat and will treat the Sea World suit as the joke that it is.

  4. Federal Court Tramples Three-Ring Legal Circus

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    We’ve been following the campaign that animal rights groups have been waging for nearly a decade in federal court against Feld Entertainment, parent company of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Animal rights activist groups claimed that the world’s largest circus was abusing elephants, but a federal court dismissed the complaint. The radicals may have hoped that an appeal would keep their dream of ending the circus (and zoos, and livestock farms…) alive, but the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., upheld the dismissal Friday, ruling the plaintiff in the case did not have standing to sue.

    Standing is the legal principle that governs who can sue for any particular damages claim. In order to have standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he suffered actual damage (injury), that the conduct of the defendant caused that injury (causation), and that a decision in the plaintiff’s favor will correct or compensate the damage done (redressability).

    However, the lower court went further, finding that the various animal rights groups bankrolling the complaint had paid Tom Rider, the lead accuser, $190,000 over the course of the lawsuit. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan wrote at the time:

    Beginning in December 2001 and continuing until at least the beginning of 2008, the organizational plaintiffs made payments to WAP [the Wildlife Advocacy Project] for the purpose of funding Mr. Rider. While FFA [The Fund for Animals]/HSUS (Mr. Markarian) testified that it was not certain whether WAP used its “donations” for other purposes as well, this testimony is undermined by the documents underlying FFA/HSUS’s “donations,” which indicate that the money was specifically for use in connection with this litigation. FFA/HSUS’s testimony also is questionable given that in 2003, plaintiffs’ counsel, Ms. Meyer, specifically sent an email to the representatives of the organizational plaintiffs, including Mr. Markarian, requesting funds to support Mr. Rider’s advocacy efforts regarding the elephants and the lawsuit, and expressly suggesting that the funds for Mr. Rider could be contributed to WAP so that they would be tax deductible.

    Those findings prompted Feld Entertainment to file a countersuit under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in February 2010. (Who says the animal rights movement can’t act like a racket?) That suit is still active, although it could be a while before it’s resolved.

    When asked by The Washington Post what he thought about the appellate ruling, one of Feld’s attorneys said, “Feld Entertainment is the target today and some other businesses are going to be targets tomorrow, and at some point it has to stop.” He’s dead-on.

    Hopefully, Feld’s RICO lawsuit will cause the animal-rights extremists to think twice next time—but we wouldn’t count on it. PETA, after all, went after Ringling Bros. in 2005 for allegedly infiltrating the organization (hypocrisy much?) and saw that suit dismissed. PETA and other animal rightists also claimed in a 2003 lawsuit against the San Diego Zoo that elephants were better off dead than in captivity. And just last week PETA filed a lawsuit against Sea World claiming that they were keeping killer whales as “slaves.” Thank goodness the courts have seen these lawsuits for what they are—a tactic for activists to harass organizations they don’t like. Too bad taxpayers also end up footing much of the bill for these frivolous lawsuits.