Part II: Dara Lovitz
Dara Lovitz is the author of Muzzling A Movement: The Effects of Anti-Terrorism Law, Money, and Politics on Animal Activism (Lantern Books). She is an Adjunct Professor of Animal Law at both Temple University Beasley School of Law and the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University. She was selected by the Super Lawyers Magazine as a “Rising Star.” Ms. Lovitz earned her B.A., magna cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania and her J.D. from Temple University Beasley School of Law, at which she was the recipient of both the Law Faculty Scholarship and the Barrister Award. She was selected by her classmates to be the class speaker at Temple’s graduation ceremony. Ms. Lovitz was appointed Special Prosecutor by the Lancaster County District Attorney to prosecute the pivotal Pennsylvania case, Commonwealth v. Esbenshade, in which the Elizabethtown district court determined the criminal liability of a battery-cage egg production facility owner and supervisor under Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty statute. She is a board member of Four Feet Forward, an organization that helps grass-roots animal advocacy organizations with their legal and media campaigns by offering professional services at no cost; President of Peace Advocacy Network, an organization that promotes veganism, social justice, and respect for the Earth’s inhabitants and resources; and Legal Advisory Board Member of the Equal Justice Alliance, a coalition of animal protection and other social justice organizations formed in November of 2006 to defend freedom of speech and assembly. Ms. Lovitz has written extensively in law journals and trade publications on various animal law topics with a focus on eco-terrorism and frequently presents such topics in television, radio, and podcast segments as well as at conferences across the country.
Caryn Hartglass: Hey, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Welcome back! It’s July 18th and this is the second part of our show.
Right now, I’m going to bring on our next guest, Dara Lovitz. She is the author of Muzzling A Movement: The Effects of Antiterrorism Law, Money, and Politics on Animal Activism. She is an adjunct professor of Animal Law at both Temple University Beasley School of Law and the Earle Mack School Law at Drexel University. She was selected by Super Lawyers Magazine as a rising star. Ms. Lovitz earned a BA Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania and her JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law, at which she was the recipient of both the Law Faculty Scholarship and the Barrister Award. She was selected by her classmates to be the class speaker at Temple’s graduation ceremony. Ms. Lovitz was appointed special prosecutor by the Lancaster County District Attorney to prosecute the pivotal Pennsylvania case, Commonwealth vs. Esbenshade, in which the Elizabethtown District Court determined the criminal liability of a battery cage egg production facility owner and supervisor under Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty statute. And there’s so much more about Dara Lovitz; you can read it on responsibleeatingandliving.com website. But I just want to get talking to the amazing Dara Lovitz.
Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Dara Lovitz: Hi, Caryn! Thanks for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi! So all those lawyer jokes do not apply to you.
Dara Lovitz: They don’t apply to anyone. I do take offense to all those lawyer jokes. I don’t find them fair.
Caryn Hartglass: No. But you are one person who is doing wonderful things for the world and I thank you for that.
Dara Lovitz: Oh, I appreciate that. Well, thanks for what you’re doing to educate the public on responsible eating.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup. And living.
Dara Lovitz. And living.
Caryn Hartglass: Because it’s all one package. So I’m really curious. I know about this law that came into being a few years ago and I was hoping you could kind of enlighten us a little more about it, the animal antiterrorism … actually, how does it go?
Dara Lovitz: It’s the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
Caryn Hartglass: There we go, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. I did read the law not recently but I found it a bit confusing. And I understand that there’s some kind of loose misinterpretations in it that has led to some problems.
Dara Lovitz: Yes, exactly. Generally, the law prohibits the disruption or the interruption of animal enterprises, specifically causing damage to them, either economic damage or causing fear in the workers at the animal enterprise. And animal enterprise is a very, very broad term. It includes any entity that, I guess the way I would define it is any entity that exploits animals, whether it’s for their flesh for food, their bodies for science, their skin for fiber, for leather and fur, and even entities that exploit animals for entertainment purposes; entertainment in air quotes, of course: circuses, rodeos, zoos. And technically, because the wording is so broad, it could include almost any company because almost every retail business in the United States, in some way, exploits animals or has some connection to animals so it is very broad and whom it protects. And it’s broad in the sense that it’s attacking anybody who opposes these entities for their exploitation of animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you know the history of how this law came about?
Dara Lovitz: It has so many iterations that go back to the late ‘90s. Originally, Congress was focused on environmental quote unquote radicals. And they started some laws, eco-terror laws, to combat the environmental radicals. At some point, they started to become fearful of a new burgeoning movement. And I wouldn’t say it was a new movement but it became more known, the animal rights movements specifically, when animal rights activists started to liberate animals from mink farms and fox farms. And when that happened, and economic damage started to become more widespread against animal entities, Congress put together a statute that then included animal rights activists in these eco-terror laws. So it’s had several different iterations: the Farm Animal and Research Facilities Protection Act, and then the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which became the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. So the history goes back. But the most offensive and most constitutionally insufficient statute is the current one: the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. It has become so much more restrictive; the penalties are harsher; it protects so many more entities, and it really prohibits the free speech rights of animal rights activists.
Caryn Hartglass: We live in a world that does a lot of exploitation and unfortunately, there are laws that encourage it or at least don’t prevent or discourage it. A lot of people accept it as day-to-day activity but we know what goes on in the factory farms is … I don’t even like to use the word humane because I don’t know what it means anymore. But what goes on in factory farming is horrific. What goes on with animal testing for a variety of different purposes is horrific; so much of it is unnecessary. And so we’re dealing with something that is considered acceptable to some degree in our society and so it’s really hard to fight against it and get the law on your side.
Dara Lovitz: It is. And you’re absolutely right. The way the laws are written, it’s really to protect facilities that do this. And we have animal cruelty codes; in every state there’s an animal cruelty law. And it’s really good if you’re a dog or a cat but if you’re any other animal, those animal cruelty codes do very little to protect you. In each animal cruelty code across the country, there’s a common farming exemption, which basically says that while you can’t rape a dog, and that would be animal cruelty if you did so. If you rape a cow, that’s okay because it’s part of a common farming practice; that’s what they do on farms and that’s okay. So usually livestock, agricultural animals, are protected, I mean, are not protected under these animal cruelty laws. So yeah, the laws are written with a very species-ist slant and a very industry protective slant and that’s something we’re battling and we’ve always had to battle. But this Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act takes it a step farther by saying not only do these laws protect these entities that exploit animals but if you oppose the law, if you speak out against them, if you cause economic damage to these entities that are exploiting animals, now you’ve committed a crime of terrorism. So it’s really bring this … it raises it to a very scary level with regard to civil rights.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I don’t believe in violence to achieve an end. And I know that lots of wonderful things have happened as a result of violence and lots of horrible things have happened as a result. Personally, I kind of take the Gandhi route. But there’s more to this act. It’s not just about violence; it’s about speech.
Dara Lovitz: Exactly. And you’re right to bring up violence because it does, technically, cover violence but it also covers speech; it covers economic boycotts, which is civil disobedience, non-violent civil disobedience. I would say most of the people that would be harmed by the statute are those that are part of the non-violent movement to educate the public about what happens on these facilities, what these entities are doing. The problem with it, the Constitutional problem with it, is it covers non-violent speech activities, which are Constitutionally protected. And technically, the animal rights movement has been a non-violent movement in principle, the principles of our hymns and like you said, the Gandhi route. It really is about non-violence; it’s non-violence to all creatures, human and non-human. So this definitely targets more so a non-violent group for non-violent activities.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Now, since the most recent revision of this law came into place, ha sit been used?
Dara Lovitz: It has been applied. The big one that’s been applied and … it was applied in California, in the Buddenburg case. And that was challenged and ultimately, those charges were dismissed because the police and law enforcement and, I guess, the district attorney or the U. S. attorney who was filing the charges, wasn’t specific enough. So it was thrown out not because the AETA is un-Constitutional but because the charges against the alleged criminals, the animal rights activists in this case, were not specific enough and you have to be very specific when you’re filing criminal charges. More importantly, the big case is the Animal Enterprise Protection Act’s application to the Shack 7 Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty, a non-violent animal rights group that was trying to expose the horrors that were taking place behind closed walls of the Huntington Life Sciences, which is the largest animal testing lab in Europe and had a branch in New Jersey of the United States. So that was where it was the most offensive because six activists, six animal rights activists who are non-violent and did nothing … well, there was no direct evidence that any of them did anything illegal. They were thrown in federal prison for an aggregate of about 23 years so each one served a couple of years in prison.
Caryn Hartglass: But wasn’t there some … I am remembering this goes awhile back. I remember there was some explosion or something in a parking lot or something in California?
Dara Lovitz: Oh, possibly.
Caryn Hartglass: Some pharmaceutical company or something like that related to this case? I’m digging into my vague memories.
Dara Lovitz: I’m wondering if it was part of the Walter bond. Yeah, and I’m not sure. I don’t know what happened with the prosecution because I didn’t hear anything further about that. Yeah, there were bombings and then there was an arson attack but again, I don’t know much about the prosecution and I don’t believe the AETA was challenged on a Constitutional level for that. The AEPA, its predecessor, was challenged Constitutionally and made its way to the Supreme Court for the Shack 7 case but the Supreme Court denied … in other words, they said, “We’re not going to hear this case and we’re not going to decide on it” and that basically upheld the highest court, which is the 3rd Circuit of the United States, their affirmation that the AETA was not un-Constitutional.
Caryn Hartglass: So is there anything happening to change this law or things we should really be concerned about with regards to it at this point?
Dara Lovitz: I think the concern is what I stated, that the Constitunion being rewritten to prevent equal rights for animal rights activists. As far as what to do to change it, the Equal Justice Alliance is a great nonprofit that working to undo the harm of it. I think a Supreme Court challenge would be a good route. We wrote a position paper for Dennis Kucinich, who was very supportive of repealing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and unfortunately, he’s no longer able to help us in that regard. So it would be great if we could find another Congressperson who would be willing to spearhead the effort to repeal it.
Caryn Hartglass: I guess we just don’t know because it’s out there so broad. We just don’t know when someone might decide to use it against something really innocent.
Dara Lovitz: Right. And honestly, a lot of people say, “Well, I’m scared because I’m trying to get people to stop buying this product and will my economic boycott result in a conviction under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act?” I truly believe that if they used it against us in a very obvious way, in a way that’s very obvious for us that we have free speech protection, then it would get knocked down. So I think the police and law enforcement will be selective and are going to be selective in how they use it; they’re not going to convict us for standing outside and passing out flyers and causing economic damage in that way. So I think the more it looks like free speech activity, the safer we are. While the AETA technically might apply to the activity, if law enforcement actually uses the AETA to convict us I think that would be a huge PR problem for them and it would give a really good Constitutional challenge to the AETA. I don’t know if law enforcement will want to present that opportunity for us to then challenge them Constitutionally and say, “See, this is why it’s unacceptable.”
Caryn Hartglass: Free speech.
Dara Lovitz: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: And then the other one are these Ag- Gag bills. Boy, that’s almost a tongue twister. Ag-Gag. Ag-Gag bills. Agriculture Gagging bills. Can we talk a little bit about that because they seem to be cropping up all over the place?
Dara Lovitz: Yeah. And for years, a couple of states had similar laws. Ag-Gag Bills, that’s what we call them; obviously, they’re not known by the industry that way. They basically prohibit the recording, or they criminalize, the recording of video or pictures at an agricultural facility, where animals are being used or raised or killed for food. And it just creates a new criminal act; a new code specifically for people who do this and it obviously targets animal rights activists who have made a good history of going on to factory farms and other facilities to take video footage and then disseminate that footage to the public, or use that footage in an animal cruelty case against the actual facility. So it’s really targeting, again, the animal rights movement. So a couple of states have had them on the books for a while. And most recently, Utah and Iowa added Ag-Gag bills and other states try all the time to get them passed and they don’t pass. So thankfully, we’re only dealing with maybe about five states total that have them.
I think the issue is twofold. I hate the fact that it targets the animal rights movement. Again, here’s another law that says animal rights activists can’t do what they’ve been doing in the way that they need to educate the public and stop the harm that’s happening to animals in facilities. The other issue is that it is a public health concern. I think … I hope you find with your audience, generally, people want to know the origin of their food, where their food comes from …
Caryn Hartglass: Well, let’s just stop right there. I mean, that’s part of the problem in the food industry today because most Americans don’t care what’s in their food.
Dara Lovitz: Is that what you found?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I think my audience cares but I don’t think most people care.
Dara Lovitz: Yeah. Or they don’t want …
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway, I interrupted your train of thought there. I’m sorry.
Dara Lovitz: Oh, no, that’s okay. Maybe I’m more optimistic about it. I think people want to be educated, generally. You know, with that pink … was it the pink slime?
Caryn Hartglass: Pink slime. But that’s just because all of a sudden the media was harping on pink slime. People have no idea what’s in their food but they started getting hysterical about pink slime because the media told them about it. But if they cared, they would know that it’s not just pink slime. Pink slime’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the horrible things that are in people’s foods.
Dara Lovitz: Yeah. I guess I was hoping that the public outcry about that was proof that the public does care. But I don’t know; you’re in a better position than I to know that. I guess, in the end, I was hoping that … What I don’t like about these bills is they prohibit more information from getting to the public. So any videos that support the pink slime argument or any videos that support that pigs are cruelly treated before they wind up on your plate as ham, those videos would not be disseminated to the public. I, personally as part of my journey to become a vegan, videos were huge for me; seeing the suffering. And I could hear about it but I’m a visual learner and that’s just the way I roll. But seeing the images, in pamphlets, and then watching videos, was so instrumental in my transition from an omnivore to a vegan. I think it’s important. I think those videos are important. So it’s not just important for animal rights and for veganism but also just for public health; making the public aware of where their food is coming from. It can’t hurt.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I really believe in those things. I think they’re very important. And I think we need to se them more frequently and then maybe people would be more concerned. But they’re not as concerned because they don’t hear enough. Occasionally, they’ll hear something in a 5-second sound byte or something on television. But if they heard it everyday, all of a sudden it would kind of be elevated in their list of things to worry about.
Dara Lovitz: Definitely. And if we get the right video produced the right way and we can disseminate it on Facebook or something and have people watch it. Or let the Today Show cover some 2-minute segment that we can show. But again, those videos would not be published because the those videos won’t be taken because of these Ag-Gag bills.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I know the people are still doing undercover footage of different facilities. Have these bills, do you know, have they been used to prosecute anyone?
Dara Lovitz: Not that I know of because I actually don’t think anyone’s been caught yet in the states where they exist. And let’s hope that we keep it that way.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Interesting, I was speaking with Sue Coe a few weeks ago and she’s done a lot of incredible artwork. She said that her … One of her strategies, I don’t even know if she realizes it’s a strategy, but she’ll talk to people and ask if she can … people who work inside these facilities with animals and she’ll ask if she can draw them. And is there anything in the law that says you can’t do paintings or drawings of what’s inside?
Dara Lovitz: Is she … Is she drawing … Oh, I thought … I’m sorry I misunderstood. Is she drawing the people that work there?
Caryn Hartglass: No. She’s drawing anything she sees in the facility.
Dara Lovitz: Let’s see … Yeah, that could technically … It depends how broadly the statute is written. But if it’s … A lot of the time it’s saying things like, “Recording images.” Technically, by writing it down you’re recording the image.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s a recording, yeah. But it’s not clear, I guess, which particular facility it’s in because it’s artist rendering but it’s really an interesting way the way she gets into these facilities because they basically just invite her: “So, are you just drawing?” And she says, “I can show you what I’m doing.” I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the images that are in her newest book, Cruel, but very fascinating work.
Dara Lovitz: Oh, that sounds great. And that might be a little different; if they’re inviting her into the premises for the purpose of recording then I think she would be clear.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, sometimes we have to be a little clever this way rather than …
Dara Lovitz: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway, what’s going on is horrible. And clearly the laws, in many instances, do not support what I think is really right and just.
Dara Lovitz: Right. We’re battling a bunch of people and lawmakers who just don’t see it the way we do and that’s tough; they have power. And frankly, the lobbying industries, the lobbying groups who represent these industries that’s tough on animals and exploit animals are so powerful and have so much money; unfortunately, that money goes a long way with influencing lawmakers.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just curious. You teach animal law at two schools, two schools of law. What does that consist of, animal law?
Dara Lovitz: It talks about the conflict between laws that take into consideration the interests of humans and how they can balance the interest that’s non-human, animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I’m imagining that people coming from different perspectives would present these courses in varying different ways.
Dara Lovitz: Yes, there is a lot of variation. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has a wonderful resource for animal law professors. We could technically all teach the same course the way we’d want too. But there’s a lot of leeway and I think we all put our personal spin on the way we teach the course. I know some animal professors don’t show videos; they don’t show videos of animal cruelty. They feel like it’s imposing horror and violence on the students and putting students in an uncomfortable position, having to watch them as part of the class. I’m the other way. I think videos are so powerful. I show them in class. I usually give them warning. But I also ask my students in the beginning of the class whether they’ve watched any violent movies like Gladiator, Saw, or Hostel. My feeling is, if they’ve been able to expose themselves to human suffering in these fictitious movies, of course; but if they’re okay watching blood and guts in the human context, in the movie, then they should be, in my mind and maybe my logic is flawed, but they should be okay with watching blood and guts on video when it’s about animals. Now, the difference is one if fictitious and one is real. And it’s hard for me to logically get over that issue but …
Caryn Hartglass: I think that’s part of the problem. I think because we view so much violence, fictitious or otherwise, it makes us really numb to the reality of it.
Dara Lovitz: It really does; we’re very desensitized. However, I find that people seeing video images of animal suffering are affected by it; they’re not desensitized to it. And that’s …
Caryn Hartglass: That sounds hopeful.
Dara Lovitz: That is; it’s hopeful. So anyway, the point is I do show videos to my animal law students and not every animal law professor does it. So we really do teach our classes with a very personal touch. But thankfully …
Caryn Hartglass: Do you know, are all animal law professors vegans or are they coming from different points of view?
Dara Lovitz: No. Yeah, they’re not. And you know, I battle this all the time. I’ll be invited to speak at animal law conferences and the lunch, the free lunch that’s given to faculty, has turkey wraps and tuna sandwiches and it’s … look, I’ll speak personally from the Pennsylvania perspective. The Pennsylvania Bar Association or the Pennsylvania Law Bar Institute has me speak and their position is animal law isn’t animal rights law. It’s animal law so technically, it includes lawyers who are defending farmers and lawyers who are defending breeding facilities; and technically, that’s true. So no, animal law is not animal rights law and animal law professors are not all vegan nor do they all teach from an animal rights perspective. And I, personally, am not allowed to teach animal rights. The deans in both law schools have been very specific that I’m to teach a very neutral animal law.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, that was my next question: how do the deans handle what you’re doing?
Dara Lovitz: Yeah, that’s it. They see who I am and they read my biography and that’s the first warning I get is “This is not a chance for you to stand on a soap box and preach.” And it’s very important that you allow … And I think that’s important because the students, and this is what the deans have said, they want to feel comfortable; they don’t want to think, “I’m not a vegetarian. I’m not a vegan; therefore, if I attend this class and speak in class, the professor will penalize me for my views” and that cannot be. I’ve been very careful about teaching the course very neutrally. The grading is completely anonymous. And in class, I do bring in our industry arguments. I realize that when I talk, I talk with a bit of an advocacy slant. I know that it comes out; it can’t not come out. It’s so a part of me; it’s so ingrained in me the way I discuss things.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, we all do.
Dara Lovitz: Yeah. And that might not be fair to the other students who don’t necessarily agree with me on that position so I always make sure that I have the industry perspective represented, either I have students go to their websites, the Animal Agriculture Alliance website, or I’ll have a speaker come in who can give a position opposite of mine. So I try to make it as balanced as possible.
Caryn Hartglass: Have some of the students come to you outside of class to find out more about being vegan?
Dara Lovitz: Yes. I also, and this is a little … I hope you don’t think this manipulative but I always come to class with vegan cookies or vegan cakes, something that I’ve made. Because it’s a night class and my justification is, “You’re tired; you need sugar. You need something to stay up.” So I usually bring vegan desserts.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, manipulation; I support it. Why not?
Dara Lovitz: Yes. So a lot of times students are asking me for recipes or they want to know how did I get this to taste like this without butter or dairy. So there’s a little bit of vegan outreach that I try to do subliminally. And …
Caryn Hartglass: The most effective vegan outreach is by mouth. Vegan people make delicious food.
Dara Lovitz: I think so. I think it’s been helpful. And honestly, the videos have really helped the students see what they’ve never been exposed to before. I usually have at least a student or two go vegan after the course, which is so validating for me. And again, because I’m teaching the course from a very neutral position, it’s them just taking information and taking it a little bit further.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you have some favorite videos? Favorite may not be the right word but the videos that are the most provocative, most compelling.
Dara Lovitz: I’ve used Farm To Fridge the past two semesters, which I think is a Mercy for Animals DVD. It’s about 12 minutes long and I show most of that. I used to show Earthlings but one of my students pointed out and it didn’t even occurred to me but there’s a science portion of Earthlings and the scientists look like they’re from … the video footage must be from the ‘70s. The scientists are wearing Coke bottle glasses and they look so dated. The students’ interpretation of that was, “Well, if there’s no modern footage, how do we know this stuff is still going on?” So yeah, I didn’t think about that. And I like the ’70s style so maybe … but after I realized so I stopped showing that. I also show a lot of clips from sharkonline.org. Shark the group has some good clips on rodeo cruelty. I find little clips here and there that I find that are effective for the students. I try not to make it too long; it depends what the issue is. And honestly, Jon Stewart, the Daily Show, has some funny clips. I like to show them as well to lighten the mood so the students don’t think that every time I turn off the lights in the classroom something horrible is about to come on.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, that’s important. All right, we have about 10 minutes left and I thought we could touch on the things that you’re working on. I know in New York City we have one of the tourist attractions. Mayor Bloomberg, of course, thinks it’s a very important tourist attractions and that’s the horse-drawn carriages. Do you have them also in Philadelphia?
Dara Lovitz: We do, unfortunately.
Caryn Hartglass: How do you feel about that? Have they been there a long time? I don’t remember seeing them.
Dara Lovitz: Yeah. That’s a good question because people who defend them say, “It’s part of our tradition.” In fact, it wasn’t until the late ‘70s, with the Bicentennial Celebration, that the mayor brought them back to Philadelphia; otherwise, they weren’t part of our quote unquote tradition in Philadelphia. They weren’t a historical part of Philadelphia. And of course, that was the way of transportation centuries ago. That was how they transport, I understand that. We have very narrow streets in some parts of the old city, which show little … there are these little metal iron things where you wipe your foot from the horse dung. This clearly was a horse-traversed town but not for years and years. And the horse-drawn carriage industry as a touristy thing in old city just came in the late’70s. But they are a pretty big part of the old city, Independence Hall, in that area.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, when I think of New York City horse-drawn carriages don’t come to mind; they’re not on my list of anywhere near the top. I’m thinking about culture, Broadway, the arts, Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Opera, all of the great museums, all of the great food, the Statue of Liberty and on and on and on. Horse-drawn carriages are just like some little speck that isn’t really important. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal and yet it is. In the grand scheme of things I, personally, prefer talking about the factory farming of animals because there’s so many more that are involved. It’s true that there aren’t many numbers involved when it comes to horse-drawn carriages but it’s something that’s very visual and definitely unnecessary. And where are we in this movement of getting rid of it?
Dara Lovitz: Getting rid of factory farming?
Caryn Hartglass: No, getting rid of horse-drawn carriages.
Dara Lovitz: Okay. Yeah, and to your point it is a single-issue campaign. My nonprofit group, Peace Advocacy Network, generally avoids this. We really do try to promote veganism and educate about veganism. But it’s so obvious in Philadelphia and frankly, we’ve been able to get a lot of people to read our literature on veganism, who show up to our horse-drawn carriage demos. So we’ve used it as a way to do vegan outreach as well. I know that sounds a little counter-intuitive but there are a lot more Philadelphians who are opposed to the horse-drawn carriage industry than are vegans. So we can interest them in horse, to understand why it’s cruel to horses, and then educate them about animals that are also subjected to cruelty. In Philadelphia, we had this Councilperson who is very supportive of the industry. A lot of his campaign dollars came from the horse owners. There are two main companies that run these horse-drawn carriages. He is now out of office. And we have someone new who is pretty liberal and progressive and we’re so hoping that our letters and our efforts are going to be instrumental here. We’ve already drafted a ban. We have legislation at the ready. We have dozens and dozens of signatures from business owners because we know that’s where the money and the tax paying comes from, the business owners in old city Philadelphia. So we have letters from them, supporting our efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages; we have constituents. So we really are trying to create a very strong campaign to get this ban passed. And we recently have an accident, where a horse got spooked, surprise surprise, and bolted and then a car hit the horse and the horse became injured and the car driver was injured, which really is what gets the media’s attention, when the human is injured. Horses are injured everyday that they’re out there on the street and nobody covers it but the second a human is involved then the media get on to it. So we have a demonstration scheduled this Sunday to bring light to that accident and why horse-drawn carriages are just unacceptable and unwelcome in Philadelphia anymore.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I’m just taking a big deep breath here. There’s so much that we need to do and I never understand why people support exploitation, pain, suffering, and cruelty. So let’s all breathe together.
Dara Lovitz: Yeah, these are the things that keep us active as activists.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup. I mean, what else would we do? Gosh. I like to think about that. If we weren’t doing this work, what an incredible world this would be. And let’s see. So you have a nonprofit, Peace Advocacy Network. What’s going on there and who takes advantage of that?
Dara Lovitz: We have a couple of missions and we believe they’re all interconnected. One is to promote veganism; another is to promote social justice; and the third arm of it is protecting the Earth’s resources. We believe environmentalism, social justice, and veganism are all interconnected. And we have separate campaigns. We have an LGBTQ campaign for social justice. We have a human trafficking campaign and feeding the hungry. But they’re related to veganism. They’re related to compassion, and peace, and non-violence. And I think the environmental connections, I don’t need to explain as much with veganism. So we have a bunch of different campaigns running at the moment. We try to … People will show up at our gay rights demonstrations and they have no exposure to veganism and we’re able to give them some literature to help them understand or we’ll have a social event after the demo at a vegan restaurant. We connect all these issues because again, it has to do with compassion. Species-ism is not so far from homophobia and it’s not so far from these other social justice issues out there. With regards to feeding the hungry, we have contributions of fruits and vegetables to lower income neighborhoods because we believe we need to give them access. Right now, they have access to Burger King and the McDonald’s and that’s about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. About racism and homophobism and species-ism, sexism, I get it; I get that they’re all connected. But unfortunately, I think those who decide they’re being exploited under one of those somehow tend to want to slip into some hierarchy and feel that their issue is not the same as another issue and that you’re insulting them by saying that it is. I remember protesting at a Ringling Bros. circus event outside Madison Square Garden and there were people that were really annoyed when we tried to connect the issue of human slavery to animal exploitation and they were really insulted.
Dara Lovitz: I run into that too, with circus demos and we have a big placard that does make the comparison. I understand that it’s a very deep and personal topic and the people who are offended are usually ones who don’t think about animals very respectfully and they think that they’re being compared to animals, which to them is an insult. I, personally, would love to be compared to these brave sentient creatures, whom we’ve exploit and they love us unconditionally for some reason.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, isn’t that amazing? That’s what they do and how do they do that? Love unconditionally? It’s just something we really need to learn how to do.
Dara Lovitz: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Is that why the animals are here to teach us that?
Dara Lovitz: I don’t know. They’re here to teach us something.
Caryn Hartglass: We’re not getting it.
Dara Lovitz: Yes, we’re not getting it. And yeah, I do find that once in a while. And you have to be very careful because I don’t want to lose audience members. I don’t want to lose people who might be open to our message otherwise, if we didn’t use that rhetoric. So we try to be very careful when we’re toeing that line.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we just have a few minutes left and I’m just looking in things I might talk to you about. And one of them that’s talking to me right now is breed discrimination. What is that and what are the animal laws related to that?
Dara Lovitz: Breed discriminatory laws are typically laws against certain breeds in towns; they’re really not, for the most part, they’re not statewide. It’s a town ordinance that says you can’t have a pit bull or you can’t have a Rottweiler within the city limits. And sometimes, it’s not saying you can’t have them but it’s saying that if you do, you have to have them muzzled in public or you can’t let them out, you can’t let them out of a leash in a public area. There are all kinds of restrictions and they’re specific to the breed of the dog, as opposed to just saying if your dog has bitten someone, regardless of its breed, then you have to muzzle the dog. That’s different; that’s the dog law and it’s pretty accepted across the country but it’s vague as to the breed; whereas these bred discriminatory laws say that if it’s a pit bull, if it’s a Rottweiler … and there are about, a lot, maybe a dozen different dog breeds that are criminalized specifically. And what’s ridiculous is that law enforcement has no clue what a pit bull is versus another non-pit animal. They’re so bad at identifying. There are so many studies done showing them images and the officers have to identify what’s a pit bull and what’s not and the fail rate are ridiculous. So it’s not even enforceable; these laws aren’t enforceable but they’re also just so harmful to pit bull owners. And they think people with pit bull would agree they’re such generally friendly dogs. There are pit bulls that attack just like there are Jack Russell terriers that attack. It all has to do with behavior and discipline and background, the history of the animal. It’s so ridiculous that a whole breed should be discriminated against one that’s…. It’s really dog specific not breed specific as to whether a dog is violent.
Caryn Hartglass: Sure. We have the same problem with human beings, okay? There are some who cause a lot of problems. What do we do about them? Okay, we just have a minute left. Anything you want to share with us before we sign off?
Dara Lovitz: Well, I really appreciate the time to discuss these issues. I encourage people to check out the Equal Justice Alliance and learn as much as you can about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Anytime that there’s a broadcast, an email, saying, “Contact your Senator. Contact your Congressperson. Now’s the time,” do it. I think those things go a long way. And I just hope your listeners take action when they have opportunities to do so.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup. It’s up to each one of us individually; do as much as you can.
Thank you so, Dara Lovitz, for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Dara Lovitz: Thank you, Caryn. Take care.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, have a great day. And thank you to all my listeners for joining me today. I’m Caryn Hartglass. Check out my website, resopnsibleeatingandliving.com. And have a very delicious week and please stay cool.
Transcribed by Diana O’Reilly, 3/29/2013