In Defense of Unborn Lambs

Animal rights activists in Great Britain and elsewhere are launching new protests against astrakhan, lambskin derived from lambs that are killed shortly after birth and, activists claim, in some cases before they are born.

Astrakhan is produced in Uzbekistan from the karakul lamb. An individual pelt can bring Pounds 330 to 45 and a coat made from the material can fetch Pounds 3,500-4,500 according to the Times of London.

PETA’s Sean Gifford told The Times,

The fur trade is a violent, bloody business but these skins are particularly gruesome. Upwards of 4 million lambs are slaughtered every year for these coats. A ewe can usually have four births in a lifetime. The first three lambs are slaughtered after they are born. But the mother is butchered 15 to 30 days before giving birth to the fourth lamb. The unborn lamb is then ripped from her belly. Its skin has not had a chance to develop so it is softer and more highly valued.

Some suppliers of astrakhan deny that the ewe is slaughtered before birth. The Times quotes Andrea Martin of the British Fur Trade Association saying,

Karakul sheep and lambs provide an important source of food as well as other income from skins and wools. In Muslim areas, including Uzbekistan, slaughtering methods for animals are governed by strict religious principles intended to assure humane treatment of animals. Allegations of mistreatment and induced abortions make no sense.

What is the relevance of the “induced abortion” claim? The Times claims, for example, that,

Astrakhan was in limited use three years ago but fell out of vogue after Stella McCartney, the British designer, rounded on her friend Madonna for having an astrakhan coat, telling her she was “wearing a fetus”. She has never been seen in public in it since.

If you’re comfortable with wearing a quote made from animal skin, exactly what does the gestational age of the skin matter? Are there people out there who actually think, “I have no problem wearing lamb skin from a two-day old lamb, but killing the lamb before its born is simply unethical?”

Makes no sense (which is why McCartney and Madonna probably find it to be a logical position — or perhaps it conflicts with Maddona’s kabbala beliefs!)


Aborted lambs are fashion victims. Maurice Chittenden, The Times Online, March 6, 2005.

A New Fur Controversy. New York Metro, March 28-April 4, 2005.

Criminal Proceedings Move Forward Against Ralph Hahnheuser

After numerous delays, an Australia court found there was sufficient evidence to move forward with a criminal trial against animal rights activist Ralph Hahnheuser. Hahnheuser is accused of adding pork products to the feed of a shipment of sheep intended for the Middle East.

Hahnheuser has admitted that he did so, but nonetheless told the Australian court that he plans to plead not guilty to the charges.

The statute Hahnheuser is being charged under requires that the government show he spiked the feed in order to cause an economic loss through public awareness. Hahnheuser maintains his client was only motivated by the welfare of the sheep and did not intend to cause an economic loss to those shipping the sheep.

The next scheduled hearing in the case is on July 26.


Protestor to stand trial over sheep contamination. ABC News Online, April 23, 2004.

Animal liberationist on trial. The Standard (Australia), April 24, 2004.

Australian Activists Goes to Court Over Interference With Animal Export

Ralph Hahnheuser, who has for years been a spokesman for Australian animal rights group Animal Liberation (SA), appeared in court in January to answer charges of contaminating the feed of sheep intended for export.

Hahnheuser was arrested on November 20 after he added ham to a feedlot used by 70,000 sheep intended for export. Most of the sheep were intended to export to Middle Eastern countries where there are strong religious taboos against eating pork.

In interviews, Hahnheuser has said he is proud of his actions which he says were necessary to highlight issues surrounding live export of animals. In November he told the Sunday Mail,

This is the action we needed to have in relation to live exports. It’s drawn international attention. It’s going to be fascinating what the courts make of all of this.

Well, under Australian law knowingly feeding animal products to sheep or cattle is punishable by a fine of up to $24,000 and/or two years in jail. So, given that Hahnheuser readily admits his actions, it would seem likely that the courts will make swift work of it. At his court appearance, the prosecutor in the case told the court it would seek $1.4 million in compensatory damages.

Hahnheuser is not stranger to legal problems, having been involved in at least 10 criminal or civil cases over the years by his own admission.


I’m no economic terrorist. Chris Pippos, Sunday Mail (South Australia), November 30, 2003.

This act of sabotage costing $50,000 a day. Alison Rehn, The Advertiser (Australia), November 21, 2003.

Sheep trade activist in court. Eve Lamb, The Standard (Australia), January 8, 2004.

Federal Judge Rejects Fund for Animals Lawsuit Over Hunting of Threatened Animals

On July 31, 2003 U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler dismissed a lawsuit brought two years ago by the Fund for Animals aimed at stopping the importation of threatened sheep from abroad.

The case centered around Argali sheep which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classifies as endangered in every country except Mongolia, where it is listed as threatened. Since it is listed only as threatened rather than endangered, hunters in the United States have been travelling to Mongolia to hunt the animals and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been issuing permits allowing hunters to import the carcasses of the animals they kill back into the United States.

The Fund for Animals sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arguing that this practice was a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit claimed that the USFWS was violating its own rules by allowing a proposed rule for dealing with the import of argali to stay in effect for a decade, and that the argali sheep should be listed as endangered rather than threatened.

As Michael Markarian said in a Fund press release in April 2002,

It is unconscionable that hundreds of animals in this imperiled species have been killed simply so wealthy American trophy hunters can add more heads to their collections. The USFWS has acted illegally and irresponsibly by granting hundreds of import permits, by not soliciting public comment, and by leaving this proposed rule in limbo while the argali population continues to decline.

If the lawsuit had been successful it could potentially have affected other international game hunts, but Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the Fund and other plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. In addition Kessler ruled that even if they had standing, the Fund and other groups failed to demonstrate they would likely succeed on the merits of their case saying that the plaintiffs,

. . . failed to meet their burden of demonstrating that those choices, which can only be made by the governments of Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Tajikistan, have been or will be made in such a manner as to reduce the sport hunting and killing of argali.

In fact there is evidence that when the United States previously banned imports from Tajikistan, the government did not limit sport hunting, and the killing of argali continued by virtue of non-U.S> citizens and increased poaching.


Anti-hunters dealt legal setback. New York Post, August 10, 2003.

Hunt and protect? Amanda Onion, ABCNews.Com, May 7, 2003.

SCI wins major victory for hunters. Arizona Outdoorsman, August 7, 2003.

Court Rules in Favor of Imperiled Argali Sheep. Press Release, Fund for Animals, April 4, 2002.

PPL Therapeutics Plans to Cull Sheep

PPL Therapeutics, which in 1996 made world news with the cloning of Dolly the sheep, announced in July that a downturn in its fortunes would lead it to cull most of its flock of 3,000 genetically modified sheep.

PPL Therapeutics produced the first transgenic sheep in 1991. The sheep are genetically modified to express recombinant Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (AAT) in their milk. AAT was to be used to treat lung disorders, but in June drug company Bayer announced that it was ending its three year partnership with PPL Therapeutics on trials of AAT.

PPL Therapeutics does plan to keep some of the sheep for possible future breeding programs.


Thousands of sheep face cull after drugs trial shelved. Ananova, July 15, 2003.

Dolly firm to cull its sheep. The BBC, July 15, 2003.

Is Milking a Cow Just Like Rape?

The Washington Post ran an interesting article this month about animal rights protests at universities that target animal agriculture departments.

The Post focuses on 19-year-old biology major Liz Noppinger who enrolled in a class at the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources that involved raising lamb. Noppinger, who is a vegetarian, grew so attached to the lamb that she paid $70 to buy it and sent it to a friend’s farm. As Noppinger told University of Maryland student newspaper The Diamondback,

The person in charge didn’t tell us that they could be slaughtered. Some of the stuff is kind of gross … It’s painful to [the sheep]

Noppinger is among 1,100 students, faculty and staff who have signed a petitioned circulated by campus group Coalition for Animal rights calling for an end to the course and the university’s sheep raising. The activists consider the tail docking and castration of the lambs to be mutilation. Coalition for Animal Rights chapter President Kaya Hansen told The Diamondback,

By mutilating and slaughtering lambs for a class, the university is clearly going against the moral judgment and simple common sense of students.

But the anecdote that really jumps out from the pages of the Post is a one-paragraph summary of a protest that took place at a California university,

Protesters at the University of California-Davis targeted the display of livestock at the agriculture college’s annual “Picnic Day,” some decrying the milking of cows as a form of rape, school officials recall.

Anyone who has anymore information about that protest, please e-mail me at [email protected]

Castration of lambs sparks campus outcry. Katy Devlin, The Diamondback (University of Maryland), April 24, 2003.

Students protest livestock breeding. Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post, June 1, 2003.