Ongoing News and Information
Livestock Farmers Feeling the Pressure
There are many pressures on livestock farmers today. Many of these pressures are not the typical economic and resource challenges faced by all businesses, but additional political pressures related to antibiotic use in food production.
Setting aside the politics, all scientific risk assessments published to date have shown a negligible risk to human health from resistant bacteria resulting from food animal antibiotic use.
Those that argue against the use of any antibiotics in livestock raised for food should consider that animals not treated for and exhibiting residual effects of illness are more likely to cause foodborne sickness in humans.
Further, failure to prevent or treat animal illness causes unnecessary animal suffering and death. It’s also important to note that infectious diseases occur in both modern animal confinement facilities as well as in outdoor group housing situations.
Every farm with animals is both a maternity hospital and a day care. Animals need medicines at times, just like kids do. This becomes a moral and ethical issue. At what point will we deny treatment? It’s not right to withhold veterinary care from animals. Antibiotics for animals are needed because illnesses can move quickly through populations and livestock cannot “stay home” when they are sick.
“Meat without drugs” or “antibiotic free” meat may lead to very negative consequences to animal health. In fact, meat produced without drugs may very well mean “animals without medicine.”
A relatively new area of scientific inquiry is the question of whether animal health is quantitatively correlated with public health risk. Slogans promote the concept that “healthy animals make safe food” and it is a concept we all “feel” good about. However, the research is just beginning and much more is needed. One interesting study showed an increase in human illnesses from non-resistant bacteria caused by eating broiler chickens with residual effects of illness due to denial of antibiotics.
Farmers and veterinarians are committed to maintaining the public’s
trust by promoting and documenting appropriate use of all medicines used
for animals raised for food. Learn more at http://www.hurdhealth.com.
Animal Rights Activists Ordered to Pay Legal Fees
On March 29, 2013, a U.S. District Court judge found against the Animal Welfare Institute and two of its lawyers. They must pay for bringing frivolous, unreasonable and groundless lawsuits using the Endangered Species Act (ESA). (The animal rights plaintiffs used a paid plaintiff who was determined by the court to be a liar.)
Feld sought legal fees against all of the parties and lawyers involved in the case against it. The court said attorney fees are "warranted, jointly and severally against all plaintiffs under the ESA." Also, it said that a lawyer and her law firm by "clear and convincing evidence" violated appropriate legal standards and must be sanctioned!
Feld had argued, from the beginning of this case which started in 2000, that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that plaintiffs had engaged in frivolous, unreasonable, and groundless conduct. TRUE! The result was Feld receives attorney fees under the ESA! (The litigation is now in its 13th year and includes over 500 court docket filings, a six-week trial and two appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.)
The court also said that the animal rights plaintiff's counsel and her law firm were jointly and severally liable for Feld's attorneys' fees regarding a portion of a motion to compel. The animal rights law firm had refused to provide financial information regarding an individual plaintiff's relationship with the animal rights groups.
The Endangered Species Act is critical to this case. The ESA has a section which allows private citizens to have an opportunity to "…vindicate their rights and to ensure citizen enforcement of important federal policies." One court has said, however, that bringing "frivolous suits" undermines citizens bringing legitimate suits and if frivolous, scarce judicial resources are wasted.
The court found that the animal activist groups brought a law suit against Feld that was "…from the beginning, frivolous and vexatious. There was no legal or factual basis on which to find Rider or API had standing to bring this action."
Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue in the very first instance and falsely paid an individual to claim that he had standing. The court was very harsh on the plaintiffs when it said, "…they either knew or reasonably should have known that they did not have sufficient facts to establish standing and therefore that the claim was groundless from its inception." (There is a real lesson to be learned from this assertion.)
This further explains the court accusing the lawyers of providing false and incomplete information to the court and forcing Feld and the court to spend years and resources to handle this case.
Sanctions against HSUS were also sought regarding being jointly and severally liable for all attorneys' fees. There are numerous disputed factual and legal issues regarding HSUS' status in this case. Because Feld had not made sufficient arguments against HSUS, the court declined to deal with HSUS' participation in the context of a motion to strike, and the result was that HSUS was not at this time held jointly and severally liable for legal fees. However, Feld can refile a motion to go after HSUS for legal fees.
In addition to the court concluding Feld is entitled to recovery of its legal fees, it left open the question to what is an appropriate amount -- so this story is still not over. The parties were to file a joint status report on how to proceed by April 15, 2013. Feld claims it has spent over $20 million so far to defend in this case. One animal rights plaintiff has settled with Feld and paid $9.3 million.
The three ring circus continues because Feld has filed a lawsuit against the animal rights plaintiffs and their attorneys alleging that their conduct in this law suit violated the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act.
There are many lessons to be learned from this ESA fee decision. Case…
Court Refuses to Dismiss Poultry Farmer’s Suit Against EPA
Poultry and livestock farmers scored a win when a federal court rejected efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to dismiss a case brought by West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Alt had challenged an EPA order demanding that she obtain a Clean Water Act discharge permit for ordinary stormwater runoff from her farmyard. Despite EPA’s recent withdrawal of the Alt order, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ruled that the case should go forward to clarify for the benefit of Alt and other farmers whether, as EPA contends, discharge permits are required for “ordinary precipitation runoff from a typical farmyard.”
“EPA seems to have believed if it withdrew the order against Ms. Alt, the court would dismiss her lawsuit,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The tactic failed because the court recognized EPA wasn’t changing its underlying legal position, but just trying to avoid having to defend that position.”
Alt filed suit against EPA in June 2012 after the agency threatened her with $37,500 in fines each time stormwater came into contact with dust, feathers or small amounts of manure on the ground outside of her poultry houses as a result of normal farm operations. EPA also threatened separate fines of $37,500 per day if Alt failed to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for such stormwater discharges.
Alt responded with a lawsuit challenging the EPA order. AFBF and the West Virginia Farm Bureau intervened as co-plaintiffs with Alt to help resolve the issue for the benefit of other poultry and livestock farmers. EPA withdrew its order in December 2012, about six weeks before briefing on the legal issues was set to begin. The same month, five environmental groups, including Waterkeeper Alliance, Center for Food Safety and Food & Water Watch, moved to join the lawsuit on the side of EPA.
In opposing EPA’s motion to dismiss, Alt and Farm Bureau argued that farmers remain vulnerable to similar EPA orders, because EPA stands by its contention that the Clean Water Act statutory exemption for “agricultural stormwater” does not apply to stormwater from the farmyard at a concentrated animal feeding operation. The court agreed, noting that “[t]his Court’s ultimate decision on the merits will benefit all parties, including EPA and many thousands of farmers, by clarifying the extent of federal CWA ‘discharge’ liability and permit requirements for ordinary precipitation runoff from a typical farmyard.”
“Ms. Alt has courageously taken on EPA not just for her own benefit,
but for the benefit of other farmers,” said Stallman. “She
refused to back down from her principles despite the best efforts of EPA
and environmental groups. We are pleased that the court agreed that the
stakes are high for all poultry and livestock farmers and this issue should
OIG Audit Results Are In
|© 2007 Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation|