Courts in New Jersey, Illinois upholds hunter harassment statutes

In separate cases appellate courts in New Jersey and Illinois have upheld statutes
designed to prevent anti-hunting activists from using protests to disrupt hunting.

In the New Jersey case, three New Jersey residents were represented by Anna
Charlton and Gary Francione of Rutgers Law School. Their lawsuit contended that
the statute unconstitutionally restricted the three resident’s right to free
speech. By restricting where and when the activists could protest against hunting,
the lawsuit argued, the state of New Jersey was unconstitutionally impinging
on their right to express their views to hunters.

The appellate court upheld the statute so long as it is used to establish standards
on the time, place and manner of anti-hunting protests rather than being used
to quash all anti-hunting protests altogether. As the court put it,

[t]his construction places a reasonable limitation on the reach of the Hunter
Harassment Statute in that it circumscribes the area where protesters may
not be free to express their anti-hunting ideas, while preserving areas outside
the immediate proximity of the hunting grounds for that purpose . . . By defining
interference as a form of physical impediment, coupled with the general and
specific intent requirements that solely implicate conduct, the statute is
not an overboard regulation of First Amendment rights.

In the Illinois case, a court there granted an injunction to the Woodstock
Hunt Club in Woodstock, Illinois, to bar members of the Chicago Animal Rights
Coalition from protesting on the road outside the club using megaphones, air
horns, sirens and other noisemaking devices. Chicago Animal Rights Coalition
member Steve Hindi was arrested in 1996 for flying a motorized paraglider over
hunters in order to scare away geese. Hindi was arrested and eventually sentenced
to probation for violating the hunter interference statute.

Previously the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a portion of the hunter interference
statute that unconstitutionally regulated the content of anti-hunting protests,
but upheld the portion of the statute that set time and place restrictions on
anti-hunting protests.

Which seems like an excellent compromise to me. Certainly animal rights activists
should have the right to protest hunting and to communicate their opposition
in public. On the other hand, this right to protest can be accommodated while
also preserving the right of hunters to hunt without activists intentionally
disrupting them.

Harvard Law School Adds Animal Rights Course

Just weeks after Gary Francione threw in the towel on the Rutgers Animal Law
Clinic after blaming the supposed conservative, anti-animal rights environment
on American campuses, one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools
announced that for the first time it will offer an elective class focusing on
animal rights.

Harvard Law School will offer its first animal rights course next year. Harvard
went out and hired animal rights activist attorney Steven Wise to teach the
new course. Wise, a past president of the Animal Legal Defense Fun and current
president of the Center for Expansion of Fundamental Rights has litigated numerous
animal rights cases at the state and federal level.

In its press release on the course, Harvard Law School quotes extensively from
the course description of the class written by Wise, which bears repeating:

[students will] learn that non-human animals are not legal persons and have
no legal rights. They do have a small number of legal protections. We will
review some of these protections and delve into the difficulties of attaining
standing to litigate in the interests of nonhuman animals. However, for the
last 25 years, demands that at least some other animals be given at least
some fundamental legal rights have been rising.

We will discuss the sources and characteristics of fundamental rights, why
humans are entitled to them, why nonhuman animals have been denied them, whether
legal rights should be limited to humans and, if not, what nonhuman animals
should be entitled to them under the common law, and to which legal rights
they should be entitled. Finally, we will examine in detail the arguments
for and against the entitlement of chimpanzees and bonobos to the common law
rights to bodily integrity and bodily liberty.

The last paragraph is especially interesting since the stated purpose of Wise’s
Center for Expansion of Fundamental Rights is to extend fundamental rights to
chimpanzees and bonobos.

Although a few other law schools offer courses on animal rights, Harvard’s
decisions could pave the way for the widespread adoption of animal rights courses
across the country. As Pamela Frasch, who teaches an animal law course at Northwestern
School of Law of Lewis and Clark College, told the Associated Press, “Everybody
I know that teaches animal law was absolutely thrilled to hear that Harvard
was going to offer it. It’s just reality that if Harvard is going to teach
it, that other schools that might have looked askance at it as a legitimate
area of study might take another look.”

Alan Ray, Harvard Law School’s assistant dean for academic affairs, defended
the course by saying, “It took a 13th Amendment to the Constitution for
us to outlaw slavery at a time when people were treated as property because
of the color of their skin. There are occasions in the law for taking a very
fundamental look at the treatment of other living things.”

With Princeton’s hiring of Peter Singer and Harvard’s hiring of Wise,
the day will not be too far off when our universities will find scientists on
one end of campus victimized by animal rights terrorists while legal professors
on the other side of campus teach students that the violent activists are simply
modern day abolitionists.

Rutgers Animal Rights Law Clinic Calls It Quits

Gary Francione recently announced
that the |Animal Rights Law Clinic| would be shutting its doors. Although
Francione says he remains committed to the animal rights cause and will
continue to work and speak on animal rights-related issues, Francione
cited the difficulties in running a law clinic along with changes in the
animal rights movement for his decision to close the clinic.

On the latter claim, Francione
wrote in a prepared statement that:

…the American animal rights movement has collapsed and has embraced
a welfarist ideology in which I have no intellectual or professional interest.
I openly (and quite happily) acknowledge that my views are out of step
with a “movement” many of whose leaders and members are not even vegans
or vegetarians, and that seeks primarily to make animal use and treatment
more “humane” … if the “movement” does not embrace as part of its baseline
ideology that the property status of animals is morally indefensible,
then it seems unlikely that the legal system, which has also become more
conservative over the past decade, will conclude otherwise.

On the problems involved
in maintaining the law clinic, Francione complained, “The burden is
exacerbated in these reactionary times as I am forced to waste more and
more time responding to the efforts of animal exploitation organizations
and conservative legislators who do not believe that a state university
ought to have such a Clinic.”

Being one of those people
who questions whether a state university should have such a clinic, it is
good to see pressure against animal rights activists paying off (and legitimate
pressure at that, as opposed to the threats and acts of violence favored
or condoned by so many in the animal rights movement).

On the other, hand Francione’s
claim that the animal rights movement has become a bunch of wishy washy
animal welfarists does not seem to square with recent events. On the one
hand, of course, the most successful animal organizations have always
been (or at least been perceived as) welfarist organizations. But this
has not stopped the most vocal and most fanatical of the strictly rightist
groups from intensifying their activities. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is certainly as strong
as ever, and Animal Liberation Front activity seems to be on the upswing
with the widespread attacks on fur farms and the recent attack at the
University of Minnesota.

If Francione’s view were correct,
it would certainly be something to celebrate but I think he is being a
bit premature in declaring that the animal rights movement in America
has “collapsed.”

The ASPCA's road to animal rights

The Capital Research Center, a conservative-oriented group that tracks charity and philanthropic groups, recently issued a report documenting the |American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals|’ gradual shift away from a strictly animal welfare position to what is now almost a traditional animal rights organization.

The ASPCA, of course, is the oldest humane association in the United States, and is famous for its support of animal shelters. But since Roger Caras became president of the group in the early 1990s the ASPCA move closer and closer to the animal rights community. Caras has, for example, come out in opposition to meat eating saying “nothing is worse than reducing a living creature to a steak or chop wrapped in cellophane.” In its Animal Watch newsletter, the ASPCA has urged readers at Thanksgiving to “save” a turkey “instead of serving one.”

More alarmingly, Animal Watch has encouraged its readers to visit the Rutgers University Animal Rights Law Center web site. The law center seeks to have animals legally recognized
as persons. The ASPCA has also gotten firmly behind the “Pet Theft” issue and supporter various legislative proposals to make it more difficult
for medical researchers to obtain lab animals from pounds (animal rights
activists are convinced that large numbers of pet animals are stolen by
pounds specifically to be sold to medical researchers.) The ASPCA has
also endorsed various anti-Hunting and anti-Trapping legislation, including
those that would make it more difficult and expensive to deal with predators
that threaten endangered and protected species.

The Capital Research Center recommends
people concerned about animal welfare donate their money to local shelters
rather than national organizations such as the ASPCA.


From Animal Welfare to Animal Rights. Daniel T. Oliver, August 1998.