Part I: Madeline Alcott, Petit Vour
Madeline Alcott is the founder of Petit Vour, a luxury vegan beauty box subscription and boutique. Former nomadic teacher, Madeline’s business came to life after many years of green beauty enthusiasm and a dream of creating the ultimate ethical beauty destination.
Part II: Matthew Liebman, Free Candy the Chimpanzee
Matthew Liebman is a senior attorney in the litigation program and works on all aspects of ALDF’s civil cases, including investigating reports of animal cruelty, conducting legal research, developing new legal theories, and appearing in court. He has litigated cases including ALDF v. Conyers, which resulted in the rescue of more than 100 dogs from a North Carolina hoarder; ALDF v. Keating, in which seven horses were saved from starvation; and Animal Place v. Cheung, which seeks justice for 50,000 hens abandoned without food by egg farmers. Matthew’s writing has appeared in the Animal Law Review, the Journal of Animal Law, the Stanford Environmental Law Journal, and the Animal Legal & Historical Web Center. With Bruce Wagman, Matthew co-authored A Worldview of Animal Law, which examines how the legal systems of different countries govern our interactions with animals.
Before coming to ALDF, Matthew clerked for the Honorable Warren J. Ferguson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Matthew graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School in 2006 and with highest honors from the University of Texas at Austin in 2001 with a degree in philosophy. While a law student at Stanford, Matthew co-founded a chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund and was an active member of Animal Rights on the Farm, where he worked on campaigns against factory farming and vivisection. He lives with his human companion and their five feline companions Kitty Kitty, Ollie, Emma, Spider, and Niecey.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and it’s time for It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me today.
Ho! Thanksgiving’s rolling right in and it’s a favorite time for me –I don’t know about anybody else. I think for a lot of vegans, it’s a very important holiday. And I want to say that we own it or we’re starting to take it over. It’s an interesting time where, for most people in the United States, this is a time to display the flesh right in front of everyone on the table. Which is why it’s such an important holiday for vegans. Many people have their own Thanksgiving events or go to others. Or they make their own dinners. It’s also a time that really highlights the dynamics with family members. So I’m wishing you very well, a very happy holiday. Maybe later on in the program we’ll talk a little bit more about Thanksgiving.
I want to bring on my very first guest. It’s somebody that I met not too long ago at the VegNews Comfort Shindig, celebrating VegNews relaunching. We’re really excited about VegNews and everything that they’re doing, and I met a lot of fabulous people there.
And I met Madeline Alcott. She is the founder of a company called Petit Vour, a luxury vegan beauty box subscription and boutique. She’s a former nomadic teacher, and her business came to life after years of green beauty enthusiasm and a dream of creating the ultimate ethical beauty destination. Hi, Madeline, and welcome to It’s All About Food.
Madeline Alcott: Hi. Thank you for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s nice to connect with you again.
Madeline Alcott: I remember meeting you at that VegNews party, and you’re making me hungry just thinking back to it. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles] Yeah. There were a lot of great things. I spoke to Jay Astafa last week on this program actually. He was the chef who created all of those great little bites, the little burgers, and the little grilled cheese and tomato soup. Really fun things.
Madeline Alcott: So good. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Now we’re not really going to be talking specifically about food. Maybe there’s some candies –we’ll find out– related to your beauty box. I’m not really sure. But something I like to tell all of my listeners, especially when it comes to personal health care products, I prefer to use products on my body that I would eat. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: Because there are so many synthetic materials in personal care products today. Our skin is our largest organ; it takes everything in.
Madeline Alcott: Absolutely. Yeah. It is very important to sift through all the ingredients. There are many benefits to shopping vegan and non-toxic. It’s not only better for the animals and the environment, but also for our health.
Caryn Hartglass: Now let’s talk about the name of your company. How do you pronounce it?
Madeline Alcott: We say “Petty Vore”.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. An American version. And it just sounds like Petit Four.
Madeline Alcott: Very American version. [chuckles] Yeah. Most of our subscribers are American so, you know. I came up with the name… really, it all happened within a twenty-four hour span where we came up with this idea for the business. The name, the logo, everything just sort of fell into place. At the time, I was working at this adorable little children’s toyshop in Baltimore. I was always fiddling around with this Petit Vour toy.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm.
Madeline Alcott: So as I’m working at this shop, my mind is elsewhere. Dreaming about having my own vegan business. The idea just popped into my head because it made a lot of sense to me. I wanted to have this little box of treats. Our treats are not really edible; they’re beauty products. But I thought Petit Vour really described the pretty box of samples that would offer just a taste. The crème de la cruelty-free. So we threw in a v for vegan as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Crème de la cruelty-free. That’s sweet. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Well, what is exciting about this is that you couldn’t have launched a business like this certainly not twenty years ago, ten years ago, maybe not even five years ago. And this just shows all of the new vegan businesses that are popping up to fill all of our desires, all of our needs.
Madeline Alcott: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. You can start your own business nowadays. We have all the tools online, and all you need is an idea. Something unique that really fills a need in the market. And preferably a really wonderful team as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but there weren’t many vegan products available until very, very recently. I used to run a major vegan festival in Manhattan.
Madeline Alcott: Oh wow.
Caryn Hartglass: From 2002 to 2006. I did one a year and we had five to ten thousand attendees. It’s a great event. But it was really a struggle to get exhibitors because there just weren’t that many.
Madeline Alcott: No.
Caryn Hartglass: And now there are so many.
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah. There’s a new standard nowadays. Back when I was in college, we had very few options if you wanted green beauty. And now you can actually have makeup that’s good for you, and it’s beautiful and luxurious, and it performs just as well or better than its conventional competitors. So I’ve been so impressed with the discoveries that we’ve made.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So tell me about this little box and how do you decide what goes in it?
Madeline Alcott: So each month we have a box that features new brands, new products. Every subscriber will fill out a beauty profile when they sign up, so their boxes are curated to meet their needs and preferences. But every single subscriber receives about the same mix. So you could expect one skin care item, one hair care, one makeup item, one perfume or body care item. Always just a nice, well-balanced mix that has about $35-$40 total value. Typically that’s four products ranging from sample to full size. It’s nifty and fun to dive in.
Once you really get a good feel for the products, you can go onto our site, review them, shop with Petit Vour and you’ll always get 20% back in store credit. It’s a really affordable way to explore luxury vegan beauty.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm. And in addition to the subscription, do you sell some of these products?
Madeline Alcott: Yes, we sell all of them. So you can hop onto our site. We have every single product we feature plus more. Like this month in our November box, we’re featuring a product by One Love Organics. But if you go onto our site we have all of the vegan products by One Love Organics. So you can buy the full size of the product you tried in your box. You can explore more as well.
Caryn Hartglass: So do you have any idea how many vegan makeup companies there are right now?
Madeline Alcott: Oh, total? [chuckles] It’s a lot more than you would think. A lot of them are under the radar, for sure. I actually had this grand list of cruelty-free brands, and it was creeping up past a thousand.
Caryn Hartglass: Whoa!
Madeline Alcott: Yeah, there are tons. And then I would have a new list of those brands, which are vegan friendly, and I would sort of shrink it down a little more. And then of those brands which are non-toxic; shrink it down a little more. Now, we’re able to be very picky and really look at performance as well as product aesthetics.
Though there are tons available, we’ve try to sift through all the clutter and make it really effortless for anyone to explore vegan, non-toxic beauty. We really wanted to cater to a broader audience than just the vegan community. In order to do that, we knew that aesthetics and performance had to have a pretty significant role.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. So people can just come to your site and say, “Oh, I want one of these little boxes”, and they may not even know or care that it’s all made from plants.
Madeline Alcott: Right. Absolutely. Yeah, and we’re fine with that. It’s actually really exciting. People will email and they will be like, “I’m not vegan, but I saw your pink box and I was really curious. So I subscribed. And now I’m just totally hooked on your vegan mascara.” And we’re like, “Great.”
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…
Madeline Alcott: That’s amazing! It’s wonderful to hear that people are switching from Dior to Lilly Lolo.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Is that the brand of the mascara?
Madeline Alcott: Yes. The Lilly Lolo vegan mascara. It is absolutely one of our top sellers.
Caryn Hartglass: And what’s wonderful about it? I’ve never tried it, and I just may have to pick that up right after this program. [laughs]
Madeline Alcott: Oh gosh, it’s awesome. It’s made with clean ingredients of course, and it doesn’t flake. It stays put. I use it pretty much every day, and it volumizes and lengthens the lashes. Not in a pho lash sort of way but just the perfect amount of drama for every day. So I really love it, and my eyes are very finicky because I have contacts. And that mascara is wonderful for me. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, that’s good to know because I wear contacts too. I wear the gas permeable kind and they’re really sensitive to stuff. I get the “contact attack” from time to time.
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Well, I just learned something. I learned where I’m getting my next mascara. That’s right. Now, does this focus mostly on women? Are there men’s care products too?
Madeline Alcott: Well, a lot of our skin care and body care can be used by men and women. It’s more of an aesthetic preference. So I think a lot of our skin and body care can go both ways easily. Like my boyfriend uses all of the products and he loves them. And I love getting his perspective as well. Really, I think most things in the shop can be for anyone. It’s just a matter of personal preference. We haven’t specifically made a men’s box, but it’s certainly something we’d like to do in the future.
Caryn Hartglass: Great, okay. Do you have something special for the holidays?
Madeline Alcott: Yes, we do. We have a luxury edition holiday box coming out very, very soon. We’re planning to launch sometime in the first week of December, maybe around the 7th or 8th. But it is extraordinary. We’ll be featuring just top-notch brands. I guess I could give you a little hint and say one of those brands will be Josh Rosebrook. And we are really thrilled to bring his line into the shop.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, and what does Josh Rosebrook make?
Madeline Alcott: Josh Rosebrook is based out of Palm Springs, and I actually had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times. He makes hair care and skin care. A very, very pure product that just smells wonderful. I feel like they’re almost like therapeutic. They smell so good and earthy. They smell earthy but not in a crunchy way. I think a lot of folks will be excited to discover this line and find out that they’re totally green. And that they use responsibly sourced ingredients.
The hair care especially is wonderful because it can be tricky convincing shoppers to go from their drugstore go-to brand to a non-toxic hair care brand. Because hair is such a big deal to everyone. But Josh Rosebrook does have some really wonderful hair care that smells good and will make straw feel like silk. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles] Okay. I’m looking at your website right now, and you really have a lot of different brands here. Now are all the brands vegan brands? Or some of them have vegan products but other products are, well…
Madeline Alcott: Actually, a number of brands are cruelty-free and vegan friendly. Like for instance Lilly Lolo is one of our favorite brands and 100% pure. They are certainly mostly vegan, but they still have a couple non-vegan products we don’t feature. But they’re so vegan friendly, and it’s really awesome to feature their vegan products because it can make shopping vegan really effortless as opposed to going to each individual site and figuring out which ones are vegan and which ones aren’t. So we do enjoy our vegan friendly partnership a lot.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I just discovered the 100% pure lipstick, which they don’t call lipstick because it’s more like a glossy thing. But I was very happy when I discovered them and they’re really great. As the weather gets colder, the lips get chapped and this is the kind of lipstick that I like to have to give me a little color and keep me from getting chapped.
Madeline Alcott: It’s an essential.
Caryn Hartglass: And lipstick especially. You’re eating it! [chuckle] You don’t even realize it. But you put it on your lips, you’re eating it.
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s important that it’s clean. I’ve heard of some disastrous ingredients in lipstick.
Madeline Alcott: Yeah, I think I was reading the book No More Dirty Looks and they had a really good tip that I kept in the back of my head. Whenever somebody is trying to switch to green beauty, it might feel really overwhelming.
So a good idea is to just start with the products that you use all the time. For a lot of us, that’s chapstick and deodorant and body soap. Just start with the basics that you put all over your body that really get into your skin –especially lip products because you eat them. Start with those and try to swap them out early and then products that you might use on rare occasions. You don’t necessarily need to throw them out. Just when you need to replace, go for the green upgrade.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Well, this is great because I’ve been vegan since 1988. It’s been a long time.
Madeline Alcott: Wow.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Believe me, makeup was one of the hardest things. I never had a hard time eating because there are fruits and vegetables. That’s the easy part for me. But when it came to makeup –and I’m a performer and I needed to have different kinds of makeup– it was a big challenge for a long time. And I’m still kind of confused because I never really found a mascara that I really, really liked. So I’m sincere when I say next mascara I’m going to check out Lilly Lolo. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: Yeah. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, are there more things… I see handbags on your site.
Madeline Alcott: Yeah. We just actually launched our lifestyle section and right now we have a very small selection of Matt & Nat vegan handbags. But come spring that section will grow significantly. And we’ll be bringing in more products by Matt & Nat as well as their new –I don’t know if they’ve announced it on their social media, but they’re going to be launching a shoe line and we’ll be bringing in their shoes as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. I’m also looking… you have candles.
Madeline Alcott: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And I don’t know if everyone knows this, but not all wax is plant-based.
Madeline Alcott: No, and a lot of it is petroleum based plastic when you light it. These are not just vegan: they burn clean. And that was really important to me because I love lighting candles, and it can be hard trying to find brands that are transparent enough for my liking. We just added Woodlot and LITE+CYCLE; a little while back we added By Rosie Jane. All of these candles I have made sure are very, very clean. There are no synthetics in these candles. No synthetic fragrance. So no headache.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. It’s hard. Like I just said, the lipstick some of us may use, we eat it. And the candles that we burn we breathe. It’s just some basic stuff that we take for granted and never even consider. And these are some simple things; especially for people that have health issues and can’t pinpoint what it is that’s causing inflammation and aggravation. You really have to get down to basics. What am I putting in my body? What am I putting on my body? What am I breathing in?
Madeline Alcott: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: It could be a candle. Okay, the thing that I have been frequently challenged with is fragrances and perfumes. Do you have some of those on your site?
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah, we do. I just hopped on my site too. [chuckles] Yes, we do, and we’ll soon be adding another line called Strange Invisible, which makes luxury non-toxic perfumes. But right now we carry My Daughter Fragrances and Vert Mont Perfumery. And a couple of our lines just launched new perfumes like Kahina Giving Beauty and Lina Hanson. So our perfume line is small but wonderful ’cause it’s growing.
Right now our top-selling non-toxic perfume is Joyful by My Daughter Fragrances. And a lot of people are just blown away that it’s made by safe ingredients because it smells as yummy as something you’d find at Sephora but it’s not. [chuckles] It’s made in Canada and by a really wonderful company that we trust. It smells delightful.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it has sandalwood in it. Anything that has sandalwood I love.
Madeline Alcott: Mm.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you have samples of fragrances like this?
Madeline Alcott: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Because it’s expensive. $85 I’m looking at here on the site, and it would be good to get a sniff of it before I went for the bottle.
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah, absolutely. We have samples of all of the perfumes and pretty soon we’ll also have samples of all of our luxury skin care as well. It’s definitely something that I want to have readily available for anyone that might be curious to try one of our products. Because it is quite an investment. You don’t really want to spend $85 and then feel kind of iffy about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Madeline Alcott: You want to feel confident with your purchase so…
Caryn Hartglass: Now what’s in conventional perfumes that we should be concerned about?
Madeline Alcott: The scary thing is with perfumes they don’t have to tell us what is in their perfume. They can just say “fragrance” or “perfume”, and that can stand for a hundred toxic ingredients. That’s what makes it so unsettling. We just don’t know, and they don’t have to tell us anything. Phthalates are very common in conventional perfumes. I think they’re just a number of the dirty dozen ingredients that you can find in perfumes. A lot of folks are very sensitive to synthetic fragrance. It’s something we try to avoid.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just blown away that they don’t have to label some things. Are some of these cancer causing or they’re suspicious as? ‘Cause they couldn’t use them if they’ve known…
Madeline Alcott: We usually use the Environmental Working Group as our guide. So whatever ingredients are visible to us, we search every single ingredient on EWG to make sure it’s non-toxic. A lot of ingredients in conventional perfumes are cancer causing.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, crazy.
Madeline Alcott: So it would have a 9 or an 8 or a 10 on EWG which is very bad. The red zone. We always try to play it safe. Synthetic fragrance is always something that we’re super wary of.
Caryn Hartglass: I wonder how they find out what’s in these things. Other than testing to see what’s in them.
Madeline Alcott: Oh, EWG?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Madeline Alcott: I believe that it’s up to the company to submit the information. Like skin care ingredients will be visible and the EWG has access. But I don’t believe perfumes are on the EWG unless they happen to have the ingredients listed.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you’re going to need to- I was going to say we need some sort of petition or campaign to get fragrance people to divulge their ingredients, but the easiest thing to do at this point is to support the green vegan varieties that are upfront about what’s going on.
Madeline Alcott: Exactly. For any brand that might sort have be on the sense of being green or not really green enough– one thing that excites me and hopefully we can do more of in the future is work with those brands to have cleaner products. And really like as an incentive, we would feature them to our audience and sell them in our shop. But we want to have standards and we want to stick to them. But it would be great to be able to work with brands to really clean up their products.
Caryn Hartglass: Mm. Other than being green, do you know what some of the ingredients that are animal sourced are that we might find in fragrances?
Madeline Alcott: Muck, animal muck. Sometimes leather is used in perfumes.
Caryn Hartglass: Leather!?
Madeline Alcott: Yeah. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: Distilled leather. Aside from muck, I’m not really sure. I usually go for the perfume oils that use plant extracts and floral essences. I look for ingredients that I recognize and can find in nature that are good signs. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well, this has been fascinating for me. I know holidays come along. It’s very tempting when we’re in stores, there are all these promotional gifts and special items and perfumes; and personal care products are very popular gift items. But I recommend thinking twice about grabbing any of those for yourself or as for gift items.
Madeline Alcott: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: If you really care for the people that you’re giving them to.
Madeline Alcott: Yeah. And now there are many more lovely options that you can feel good about.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. So what are you doing for Thanksgiving?
Madeline Alcott: My partner and I are going to be driving to Arkansas tomorrow. We’ll be out a little outside of Little Rock, but that’s where I have some relatives with this country house. And we try to all connect there every Thanksgiving. Like all my cousins, aunts and uncles. It’ll be a really big gathering. We’ll be playing outside a whole lot, hiking, and I’ll be bringing my vegan dishes.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. So it’ll be a mixed meal for herbivores and omnivores.
Madeline Alcott: Yes, and we the vegans always bring tons of food to share because the vegan curious will want a couple bite for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely, and that’s the best way to win people over: with delicious, beautiful food.
Madeline Alcott: Oh, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Man, it was a pleasure talking to you. I’m definitely going to spend more time on your site. I hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving-
Madeline Alcott: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: -and maybe I will see you at the next Comfort Food Shindig somewhere. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: Oh, definitely. Count me in. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles] Okay, take care. Thanks for joining me. Bye-bye.
Madeline Alcott: You too. Bye. Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. That was Madeline Alcott with Petit Vour, and you can find more about Petit Vour at petitvour.com. That’s p like Peter, e, t like Tom, i, t like Tom, v like Victor, o-u-r dot com. Lots of fun, great gift ideas there. All right, let’s take a very quick break and then we’re going to get back and talk about some very important issues. Stay with us.
Transcribed by HT, 5/26/2016
Transcription Part II:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you’re listening to the second part of our show today, It’s All About Food, and I’m going to bring out my next guest. We had him on the program recently in August, and now he’s back to talk about some other very important issues. Matthew Liebman is a senior attorney in the litigation program and works on all aspects of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s civil cases, including investigating reports of animal cruelty, conducting legal research, developing new legal theories, and appearing in court. Matthew, welcome to It’s All About Food.
Matthew Liebman: Thanks for having me back.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well, thanks for stepping in at the last minute because we were going—originally scheduled to speak with your colleague, Carter Dillard, and I’m glad that you’re here, and we’re going to talk about a few things, I think, that are going on at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, but the first thing that was brought to my attention has to do with Candy, the chimpanzee. Can you fill us in on that?
Matthew Liebman: Sure, yeah, Candy is a 50-year-old female chimpanzee who spent virtually her entire life in captivity and not only captive but isolated from all other chimpanzees for at least the last 40 years. She’s currently in a barren cage at a facility in Baton Rouge that’s an amusement park called Dixie Landin’, and the owner keeps her by herself, and for an incredibly social and intelligent species like chimpanzees, that’s inhumane, to say the least. So the Animal Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of two local Louisiana residents and a Louisiana animal rights organization, has filed a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act to rescue Candy and have her moved to a sanctuary that can give her the kind of care and attention that she deserves.
Caryn Hartglass: My understanding is that you lawyers have to be very clever in order to reach a goal using our current legal system, like finding little ways to open the door a little bit more to reduce the exploitation that goes on and that is actually legal.
Matthew Liebman: That’s right. So in this case, there was a recent, recent change in the law that empowered us to bring this lawsuit, and as people may know, animals, as far as the law is concerned, are generally considered property, but there are laws here and there that do start to recognize the kinds of inherent value that animals have. And one of those statutes is the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits anyone from treating animals—at least those animals that are listed as endangered—in ways that interfere with their natural behavioral patterns. And so in this case, up until very recently—up until September—there was a rule that extended the protections of the Endangered Species Act to chimpanzees in the wild, but it carved out an exemption for captive chimpanzees, and so there was nothing we could do to bring the protections and the rights granted under the Endangered Species Act to protect captive chimps. But thankfully the agency that oversees the statute realized that it doesn’t have the legal authority to make those kinds of distinctions, and in September extended the same protections to captive chimps, and so we said, obviously, Candy is confined in a way that interferes with her natural behavioral patterns that causes her injury, that causes her to suffer, both physically and psychologically, and so we’re using the protections of the Endangered Species Act to sort of carve out some protections for Candy.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve got all these different questions popping into my head. So do you know what was the motivation behind changing the Endangered Species Act? What triggered someone to say, oh, the captive chimps, we really shouldn’t have them as an exemption?
Matthew Liebman: Yeah, well, the Endangered Species Act itself hasn’t been changed. The change is in how the Fish and Wildlife Service has interpreted the statute.
Caryn Hartglass: Why did they change their interpretation? Who was behind that?
Matthew Liebman: Well, that was a coalition of organizations that filed a petition essentially pointing out that the agency didn’t have the authority to draw lines between captive and wild animals, and given the way that Congress wrote the Endangered Species Act, it should apply equally. And I think the agency saw the petition, saw comments that were submitted on the petition, like ones that we at ALDF submitted, and agreed that it ought to abolish the split listing.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, chip, chip, chip—we have to chip away at all of these things to really get to a better place. Now how did Candy get to where she is today? What was she involved in as a young chimp?
Matthew Liebman: She was actually purchased in 1965 when she was six months old by the family of the person we’re suing now—this is a man named Samuel Haynes Jr., and his family has owned amusement parks in Baton Rouge for a couple of generations. In 1965, the family purchased Candy from just a breeder in New York and kept her as essentially a family pet for a couple of years, and then as she got older and more unwieldy, they moved her to their park, which at that time was called Fun Fair Park. They had her doing tricks—riding a tricycle, the kind of circus tricks you would imagine at an amusement park in the 1968. She did that for a few years until about 1971 and then was just put in a cage and stayed there. That cage was about the size of a large dog kennel—ten feet by four feet by six feet, so incredibly small. She was in that cage for 20 years until 1990, and then she had a slightly larger cage built where she lived for another 10 years and then was moved to the cage she’s in now where she’s been for 15 years. And for that entire duration, she’s been by herself.
Caryn Hartglass: You know, I’m just sitting here thinking of the word amusement park, and for someone like Candy, there’s no amusement.
Matthew Liebman: No. A friend of mine came up with the term abusement park, which I think is much more appropriate.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Wow. Okay, so what’s, what do you think is going to happen?
Matthew Liebman: Well, we’re optimistic. The Endangered Species Act is one of the most robust statutes protecting those animals who are unlucky enough to be endangered, and so we think we have a very strong case on the law. We have two incredible plaintiffs—a woman named Cathy Breaux and a woman named Holly Reynolds—who have both been working on Candy’s cause and campaigns to free her for more than 30 years. So we are really optimistic that once this case gets before a judge that we’ll be in a good spot, but time will tell.
Caryn Hartglass: So, chimpanzees are considered an endangered species?
Matthew Liebman: They are, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And don’t we have chimpanzees in laboratories for animal testing?
Matthew Liebman: Well, we do. There’s been other developments on that as well. In 2013, the National Institutes of Health announced that it was going to essentially cease funding biomedical research that involves chimpanzees, which is an incredibly significant development. The United States is one of only two countries in the world that conducts biomedical research, or invasive biomedical research, on chimpanzees. There was a caveat to that announcement in 2013, which was that they had some sort of strict guidelines for research they would continue to still fund, and they were going to maintain a colony of 50 chimpanzees just in case they needed them for research. Just last week, they announced that they were going to go the rest of the distance and stop funding it entirely and not maintain a colony of 50 chimpanzees. So all the federally owned chimpanzees are going to be sent to sanctuaries, and there won’t be any more federal funding for invasive research on chimpanzees. There’s still some research that’s conducted on chimpanzees that’s not federally funded, and those chimps aren’t owned by the federal government, so the NIH decision won’t affect those, but this is definitely a huge step in the abolition of the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research.
Caryn Hartglass: I understand now, so if it’s not related, if their work isn’t related to the NIH, they can do whatever they want.
Matthew Liebman: Yeah, although those will also—now that chimps are listed under, or captive chimps are listed under the ESA—those, anyone proposing to do research that actually harms these animals will need to at least apply for and receive a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service before they can violate the Endangered Species Act.
Caryn Hartglass: I was reading, about a week ago, this story about Candy was in the New York Times, and I just thought it was interesting how they kind of focused on the fact that she smokes.
Matthew Liebman: Yeah, you know, that’s one of tragic parts of this is she’s confined in a cage, but there’s no real barrier from the public and no signage or anything, and people will actually throw lit cigarettes into her cage, and she’ll pick them up and smoke them, and the facility just seems to find that to be a joke rather than sort of the real threat to her health that it is. And the other thing that they do is instead of providing her with water, which chimps obviously need, they give her Coke to drink, so she smokes cigarettes and drinks Coca-Cola, and that’s been one of the aspects of it that people have picked up on because they I that’s so intuitively upsetting that this social animal that should be thriving with members of her own kind and eating fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking water is sitting alone in a concrete cage drinking Coke and smoking cigarettes.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just wrong from so many angles, and—where people would be amused that a chimp would want to drink Coke and smoke cigarettes, it’s like, “Oh, they’re just like us,” but then if we thought they were just like us, why would we want to keep them in a cage?
Matthew Liebman: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: It doesn’t make sense ever.
Matthew Liebman: Yep, yep. And it does seem to be on the way out. I mean, with the announcement from NIH, with the fact that the captive chimps are also listed under the ESA now, with the fact that the federal Animal Welfare Act requires that anyone exhibiting these animals provide them with an environment that’s suitable to their psychological well-being, I think is all suggesting that these animals are much more than property, and we can’t do what we want with them just to amuse ourselves.
Caryn Hartglass: And where would Candy go, if they let her go?
Matthew Liebman: She would go to a wonderful sanctuary in Louisiana called Chimp Haven, which has offered to take Candy. I actually visited there about eight years ago, right before I started at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and toured their facility, and it’s amazing—outdoor, naturalistic enclosures where these chimpanzees really have the opportunity to be chimpanzees again. They have, I think, close to 200 chimpanzees on site, full-time veterinarians, and animal behaviorists, and a whole host of people ready to provide Candy with the life that she’s been denied for so long.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I wish the best for Candy, and not just for Candy but for all chimps because, as we were talking about earlier, once improvements are made, it’s good for all, and then there’s an opportunity to make things even better as you continue to chip away at the laws to make it harder and harder to exploit any sentient being.
Matthew Liebman: Yeah, and I think these cases, and the language of the Endangered Species Act recognizes an implicit right of animals to sort of exist in their own context, to be who they are. There is a prohibition on what the statute calls “harassing animals,” and that’s been interpreted to mean anything that interferes with their natural behavior, so I think there’s an implicit right to autonomy, an implicit right for these animals to act in ways that’s consistent with their capacities, and, you know, when humans deny that, that’s a violation of their rights.
Caryn Hartglass: When you come from the perspective that we do, I find that some of these laws are kind of ridiculous. So, we have the Endangered Species Act, but if we can breed millions of animals, and they’re not endangered, then we can do whatever we want with them.
Matthew Liebman: Yeah, it’s unfortunate that there’s selective appreciation of how—what animals are and their right to exist on their own. Just as we sort of don’t say, humans shouldn’t have rights just because there’s a lot of us, we shouldn’t make the same arguments for animals, so the fact that a cow or a chicken or a pig is not endangered doesn’t mean we have a right to do with them what we will. But for various reasons, the law has decided to focus on those animals who have threats to their very existence, and certainly extinction is a unique kind of harm, and we should avoid it, but I think from a moral philosophy perspective, it doesn’t make sense to only protect only those animals who are endangered, and we ought to recognize that even non-endangered animals deserve compassion and rights.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, can we talk about some other things that the Animal League is working on?
Matthew Liebman: Sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so in August we talked about the ag-gag law that was overturned in Idaho—was it Idaho?
Matthew Liebman: Yep, Idaho.
Caryn Hartglass: Are there any new updates on that?
Matthew Liebman: We just got a, the judgment from the court, so when we talked in August, the court had just issued its decision, which is a 29-page analysis of the law and conclusion that this law, which essentially makes it a crime to do an undercover investigation at a slaughterhouse or a factory farm, that that statute was unconstitutional. And obviously we were excited about that. Just last week, we got the judgment, which essentially gives effect to the decision and permanently enjoins the state from enforcing the statute, and so, as of now, it’s legal to conduct an undercover investigation in Idaho thanks to the lawsuit. It still remains to be seen whether the state is going to appeal that decision, and if they do, we are certainly ready to fight it all the way up to the Ninth Circuit and to the Supreme Court if it goes that far.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, great. I was also reading on your site that you’re suing the USDA to label foie gras. Are you working on that or are you familiar with that one?
Matthew Liebman: Yeah, I am familiar with it. It’s not one of my cases, but essentially this is a lawsuit that would require the USDA to put warning labels on foie gras, which as your listeners may know, is a delicacy, but it’s produced by force-feeding ducks and geese so much that their liver balloons to several times its normal size. And this is, medically speaking, the induction of a disease in the liver—it’s fatty liver disease that these farms are inducing in birds and then turning around and selling at exorbitant prices. And so given that this is a product from a diseased animal, it ought to bear some kind of warning to consumers to notify them of that fact.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s very clever. I mean, it’s crazy the things that we will eat. I would like to think that people, if they knew really what foie gras was, would think twice at least about eating it.
Matthew Liebman: Right, yeah, and we have laws that prohibit the sale of adulterated meat, and that includes meat that comes from a diseased animal. Just because the disease is the whole purpose doesn’t make it any less diseased.
Caryn Hartglass: No, but if they had a good marketing campaign behind them and a French name, they might be able to sell that diseased food.
Matthew Liebman: That’s right, and in fact that’s another lawsuit that we’ve done in the foie gras battle. There’s a place called Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York that was advertising their foie gras as the humane choice. And anyone who knows anything about how foie gras is produced knows that there’s nothing humane about it, so we sued them under false-advertising law, and they ultimately decided to remove that term from their marketing.
Caryn Hartglass: Did they have any basis—were they doing anything different that they thought made it more humane?
Matthew Liebman: No, and you know, foie gras, the foie gras lobby likes to portray itself as this sort of artisanal, local, small-scale endeavor, but the fact is that foie gras farms are for all practical purposes, factory farms. We’re talking about thousands and thousands of animals being treated like objects, and that’s no different from factory farming as far as I’m concerned.
Caryn Hartglass: I lived in the south of France in the early nineties, and I had a friend who was classic French, and he believed in all of the French culinary traditions, and he would smirk and sneer at my vegan dishes and all of the things that I would talk about, and he was absolutely convinced that the geese and ducks that were being force-fed with a tube down their throat enjoyed it.
Matthew Liebman: Yeah, we hear that a lot from their side, and I think it’s cognitive dissonance or an echo chamber, but all the veterinarians who we speak to about this issue certainly say that it can be immensely painful for the animals, and undercover investigations at these farms, which anyone can find on YouTube, exposes that lie.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we have a few minutes left. Can you tell us what other interesting things you’re working on?
Matthew Liebman: Sure, so I’ve got—well, let’s see. One of my other cases is another Endangered Species Act case concerning an orca named Lolita, who has been confined in a small tank at a place called the Miami Seaquarium for more than forty years. She was captured in the wild off of Puget Sound in Washington when she was just a few years old and then sold to this facility that’s kept her in what would for us equate to virtually a bathtub. She’s been there for decades. So we filed a suit under the Endangered Species Act because her pod is listed as endangered—the population that she comes from is an endangered species. So this is a similar case to the one I talked about with Candy, and that case is currently pending, so that’s another one of the areas we’re working on. We do a lot of captive wildlife issues as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Who names these nonhuman animals? Candy and Lolita?
Matthew Liebman: Yeah, you know…I don’t know where they come up with it.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know, but they sound like abused women names to me.
Matthew Liebman: They do, they do, and maybe that’s not accidental. Anyone who’s read Carol Adams and The Sexual Politics of Meat knows that patriarchy and animal abuse often go hand in hand.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, anything else?
Matthew Liebman: Sure, let’s see—what are some of the other cases…. We have the ag-gag fight is ongoing, as we talked about in Idaho, but we also have our case in Utah. So that case is wrapping up discovery, and we’re hoping that we get a little bit of movement on that case in the near future. People who want to stay up to date on that case and any of the others that I talked about, including a lot of cases that involve veganism and factory farming, you can sign up at our website, which is www.aldf.org, and we’re on all the usual social-media sites—we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. People can learn how they can keep up with our cases and get involved themselves on anything from captive wildlife to dog and cat shelters to puppy mills to captive wildlife cases.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s a great site; there’s a lot of wonderful information, and you’re doing great work.
Matthew Liebman: Thank you so much.
Caryn Hartglass: What I want to know now is what are you doing for Thanksgiving?
Matthew Liebman: Oh, we’re going to a vegan Thanksgiving—some friends of ours host vegan Thanksgiving that we’ve been to for the last four years. So I’m in charge of cocktails and a pie this year. My partner is going to be making some veggies as well. And I’ll probably make up a batch of seitan, but yeah, vegan Thanksgiving with some close friends and…should be fun.
Caryn Hartglass: And have you visited www.barnivore.com to check out all the alcoholic beverages that are vegan-friendly?
Matthew Liebman: I have, yes. I love that site.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s a very useful resource. That’s probably one of the last things people think about where you can find animal ingredients, but yes, they are there, unfortunately.
Matthew Liebman: Yep, unfortunately.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, Matthew, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food again and on short notice. It was great to get updated on all of these great campaigns. Thank you so much.
Matthew Liebman: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me back.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, have a great Thanksgiving.
Matthew Liebman: You too, take care.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. All right, that was Matthew Liebman of the Animal League—the Animal Legal Defense Fund, yes, thank you very much. Go to www.aldf.org for more.
We just have a few minutes left, and yeah, it’s Thanksgiving. The thing that I’m excited about is we monitor what pages are visited on our nonprofit website, www.responsibleeatingandliving.com, and our Thanksgiving recipes have been getting lots and lots of hits, lots of traffic, and that’s exciting because more people want to know how to make delicious plant-based foods. Either they’re vegan or they want to eat more plant foods or maybe people are having a dinner and they know that there are vegans coming. Whatever it is, it’s good, and I’m thrilled to know about it, and if you haven’t decided what you are doing for Thanksgiving, or if you are looking for some plant-based items, we do have some wonderful recipes; some of them are traditions in our family. Right there at the front of our website, www.responsibleeatingandliving.com, you can see our Thanksgiving celebration feast, and there’s lots of recipes that are listed there.
The other thing I want to mention is we went to the Anti-Fur Society conference this past weekend, and we filmed a bit of the fashion show that went on. And this was a fashion show of US and international designers that are making cruelty-free clothing made from fabrics that don’t come from animals. And some of these outfits were stunning, and we made a little video, and again you can go to www.responsibleeatingandliving.com and watch that. It’s really fun, and you can check out all of the new designers that are creating some beautiful, beautiful clothing to show once again, everybody, we do not need to exploit, harm, kill, and torture nonhuman animals for food, for clothing, for personal care products; we can all lead a very happy, beautiful life in luxury, if we choose to, without exploitation.
Thank you very much.
I wish you all a very lovely Thanksgiving if you are celebrating it. And the best thing to do is to think about the things that you are grateful for. That’s what Thanksgiving is about, and I think it’s something that’s great to do absolutely every day. When we realize the things that we are grateful for—not the things that we want and the things we can’t have and the things that other people have that we want; no, no, no—the things that we have that we can be grateful for, it feels so good. So I’m sending that out to you. Let’s all tune in some love here and during the week and be grateful for what we have. And have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Kris McCoy 1/29/2016