Welcome back to another edition of the Policy Corner! There have been many policy developments in various sectors of late; below are three recent items that could signal a larger change in attitude towards nonhuman animals more broadly.
Back in March, two California activists were acquitted of misdemeanor theft charges related to their rescue of two Cornish-cross chickens off the back of a transport truck in 2021. They successfully argued that they had a right to rescue the chickens, who were both unsurprisingly in extremely poor health. Their success in arguing for their right to rescue came shortly after another acquittal of Direct Action Everywhere activists who rescued a piglet from a Smithfield Farms facility.
Both of these cases seemed like longshots, considering how successful the animal agriculture industry has been in silencing activists who seek to expose their practices. Many jury members may be learning about common practices on farms for the first time, and understanding how few protections farmed animals actually have. For those who are unfamiliar with the workings of industrial farming, it can be surprising and upsetting to hear about how the animals are treated, and the extent of their commodification. We’ll see how similar cases play out in the future, but it’s very exciting to see signs that things could be shifting for activists who rescue farmed animals from the industry.
In an earlier Policy Corner, we discussed Happy the elephant who lives at the Bronx Zoo. There is a new development in her situation that could lead to a broader policy change in New York City. City Councilmember, Shahana Hanif, introduced a bill that would ban elephant captivity in NYC. If passed, this would be the first elephant captivity ban in the country, and it would mean that Happy would be relocated to a sanctuary. This article from The City notes that “sanctuary” is not defined in the bill, and it’s worth noting that sanctuary is still a form of captivity–although there is no question that Happy’s current captive environment would be greatly improved by her transfer to an established elephant sanctuary. We’ll provide an update on how the bill fares in a future edition.
More news out of California: Assembly Bill 829, the Animal Cruelty & Violence Intervention Act, has passed its first hurdle to becoming law, having passed unanimously in the Assembly Public Safety Committee. The bill acknowledges the link between violence against nonhuman animals and violence against humans, as well as the growing mental health crisis in California. It expands criteria for court-mandated counseling for crimes involving violence to animals, with the overall goal of stopping the continuation and escalation of violence. ASI was involved with this bill, writing a strong letter of support that demonstrated the link between violence against animals and domestic violence, and other crimes against vulnerable populations. ASI, of course, has been a leader in this area of research. Acknowledging this link is central to creating a safer world for humans and nonhumans alike.
Author: Anna Balser – ASI Policy Volunteer. Anna holds a MS in Anthrozoology from Canisius College, where she primarily focused her studies on sanctuary regulation, public policy, and animal ethics. After living on the west coast for the past seven years, Anna recently relocated to upstate New York, where she is the Education Manager at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. She loves helping people question their assumptions about farmed animals and think deeply about interspecies relationships, always with the goal of building a more compassionate world. She is thrilled to be working on the Policy Corner this year.