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LMA & WORC Lawyer Clubs Industry With Radical Animal ?Rights? Beliefs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Tuesday, 21 December 2004

Tribe Wants to See Animals Get Legal Standing So They Can Sue Cattlemen

After explaining that his clients, the Livestock Marketing Assn. (LMA) and the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) don't like the idea that the animals going through auction markets might be slaughtered or turned into meat, attorney Laurence Tribe then said under different circumstances some of his cattle producer clients might become vegetarians.

Cattlemen were rather stunned when Sally Schuff, Washington Bureau chief for Feedstuffs (Dec. 13, 2004), revealed some of the things Laurence Tribe said on the steps outside the Supreme Court.  Tribe is the lead attorney for LMA & WORC in the lawsuit against the cattlemen's national beef check off and had just left the courtroom.  Nothing too unexpected had happened inside the court room.

But what Tribe said outside on the steps, captured by Schuff on tape, was not only stunning but revealing.  Tribe said of his cattle producer clients that, "It bothers them that even though the product they sell is live cattle - cattle that they've cared for, that sometimes they don't want to see them slaughtered..."

Tribe said the check off "sees every herd of cattle as just so much pre-slaughtered beef.  That "bothers" his clients, noting "a lot of these people are kind of humane."  They "don't want to see their animals treated as nothing but meat," Tribe told Schuff and other reporters.  The check off, because of its association with meat, "is a fundamental insult to their humanity."  While the LMA has been the most vocal group opposing the check off, the WORC was a party to the original suit.  Several R-CALF affiliates signed on to a friend of the court brief.

Tribe is a nationally known constitutional attorney.  He's argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court, was involved in the Gore election case in 2000 and has represented the Clintons.  He's the Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor on Constitutional Law at Harvard.  In short, he's a guy the top echelon political liberals turn to, someone the LAG (Liberal Activist Groups) could rely on.

Eyebrows went up when LMA announced months ago that they had hired such a high profile defender of the liberal elite to argue their case.  Why would he take enough interest in this case and how much money would it take to get him?  But the question of whether LMA could possibly have that kind of money and, if not, who else is contributing funds, is just part of the puzzle.

Indeed, some research into Tribe's involvement with animal "rights" is extremely revealing.  It turns out the remarks indicating that his LMA & WORC clients had humane concerns about the livestock industry and might even have vegetarian leanings are certainly compatible with Tribe's own stance.  In fact, Tribe refers to animals as "nonhuman animals."

The question is why LMA and the WORC would associate themselves in any way with someone who believes animals should be able to sue humans in court and should not be classified as property at all?  How could a livestock service group associated with mainstream agriculture despise its customers to the extent of hiring an attorney who uses their case to promote vegetarianism on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court?  And how do cattlemen feel about the commissions they pay at livestock auctions being used to hire lawyers to attack cattlemen's livelihoods; to imply there is something wrong with the meat business?  Will cattlemen be asking these questions of their local LMA member auctions? 

So how has Tribe expressed his views on animal "rights" in the past?  He gave a speech in Boston in 2000, "Ten Lessons Our Constitutional Experience Can Teach us About the Puzzle of Animal Rights: The Work of Steven M. Wise" (Feb. 8, 2000 posted on  Tribe explored the ways the Constitution could be used to give "rights" or at least increased protection for animals.  The occasion was his commentary on a book called, "Rattling the Cage" by Steven M. Wise (Perseus, 2000), an animal "rights" attorney and teacher of animal "rights" law at Harvard.  Calling Wise's book "wonderful," Tribe said he, "shares his outrage at the grotesque way that human cultures have treated and continue to treat animals..."  Exploring Constitutional grounds on behalf of animals, he said, "Broadening the circle of rights-holders, or even broadening the definition of persons, I submit, is largely a matter of acculturation... our legal system could surely recognize the personhood of chimpanzees...

"Recognizing the animals themselves by statute as holders of rights would mean that they could sue in their own name and in their own right.  Then Steven's Jerom [the primate chronicled in the book] could file suit as a plaintiff.  Such animals would have what is termed legal standing.  Guardians would ultimately have to be appointed to speak for these voiceless rights-holders..."

On another tack, Tribe noted that "constitutional law... sometimes confers protection by identifying and prohibiting wrongs, rather than by bestowing rights, and it can prohibit those wrongs in terms that are sweeping enough to provide a shield..."

Are you getting a good picture of what LMA's lawyer has in mind for the future of animal agriculture?  How could R-CALF's affiliates and the WORC swallow that?  But wait, there's more.

Tribe also said that since the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishments, it seems "well-suited to the problem of cruelty to animals," though even he doesn't think current judges or justices are ready for that concept.  While cattlemen do not condone "cruelty" to any animal, it seems reasonable to assume Tribe's definition of cruelty -- and certainly Wise's - would encompass a lot of what we term management and husbandry.  Especially in light of Tribe's next suggestion, the avenue he thinks is,  "best suited of all."  The Thirteenth Amendment states, "Neither slavery or involuntary servitude shall exist in the United States."  Speaking of the primate in the book, which is kept in a cage, Tribe said, "Clearly, Jerom was enslaved."  While not suggesting today's judges would so read the Thirteenth Amendment just yet, he said that the law includes devices for protecting values without conferring rights on new entities - "by identifying things that are simply wrong."

Tribe warned animal "rights" advocates against methods that appear to blame Western religions as the culprit in helping rationalize "self-serving subordination" of the rest of the animal kingdom, as he appears to have felt Wise's book does.

"But I think it is a mistake to tie the protection of non-human animals so tightly to anything that might be understood as anti-religious or anti-spiritual.  Making that link can obviously alienate scores of potential allies."  He must have been reading the election results regarding the "red states" in his spare time.

Tribe's conclusion, after examining ten possible legal avenues for gaining legal "rights" for non-human animals, if not at least gaining further protection for them, laments his lack of a solution.  Although it would appear his appearance before the Supreme Court for LMA & WORC certainly conjured up the limelight for him to espouse his views in the meantime..

"I certainly haven't solved the problem of how best to persuade others to share one's deep intuition that chimps and dolphins and dogs and cats are infinitely precious - like ourselves - and that it is unjust, that it is obscene and evil to treat them as things that anyone can really own."  He went on to say he doesn't "own" his dog.  He can't really think of owning a dog - they and the dog Annie are "kind of family."

"How do we persuade people that these creatures have rights and must be allowed, through others as their spokespersons, to press moral claims?"

No doubt he envisions attorneys as those spokespersons, as well as their agents pressing moral claims.  Heaven help us if Tribe finds a chimp or a dog or a cow that can write and has a checkbook.  Of course, the problem is that there are plenty of emotionally-driven liberals bankrolling organizations working on these issues.  And now the LMA is lending the credibility of a national livestock service organization plus R-CALF affiliates and the WORC to these animal "rights" advocates.

One thing is for sure.  LMA has brought to everyone's attention a man with a mission contrary to everything most cattlemen believe.  And the man Tribe so admires and whose book he calls wonderful minces no words.  In an interview with Satya, a magazine devoted to vegetarianism and "animal advocacy," attorney-author Wise talks of laying the intellectual foundation that will "compel judges" to make that shift in thinking from "nonhuman animals as things to nonhuman animals as persons."  Decrying the "worse and worse conditions for animals in the U.S., "whom we thoughtlessly consume for food," Wise predicts people's concern over "abuse" of animals added to "inevitable environmental degradation" will create a backlash that will drive at least some "factory farming out of business."

Sounds like just the sort of philosophy R-CALF's allies "Public Citizen" and "Consumers Union" espouse.  To what lengths will organizations like LMA and R-CALF go to find allies?

Into what world have our auction market people ventured?

I know some good market men who must be shaking their heads...or turning over in their graves.

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