LEGAL PRECEDENTS

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:

A June 23 U.S. Supreme
Court ruling in an unrelated case that
states hold sovereign immunity against
suits filed by individuals under federal
law in state courts appears to reverse, by
implication, a verdict favorable to animals
rendered by the Mississippi State
Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
Overturning a 1997 ruling by
the Chancery Court of Oktibbeha
County, the Mississippi Supreme Court
and Court of Appeals on April 22 reinstated
a case filed by In Defense of
A n i m a l s and the National Greyhound
Adoption Network, seeking custody of
12 ex-racing greyhounds who were
acquired by Mississippi State Univers
i t y from the Greenetrack raceway in
Eutaw, Alabama. IDA and NGAN held
that the deal violated the federal Animal
Welfare Act. The USDA Animal and
Plant Health Inspection Service reportedly
cited MSU for neglecting Animal
Welfare Act recordkeeping requirements.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruling
of June 23 was presaged by Texas
district judge Joseph Hart’s June 13 verdict
that People For the Ethical
Treatment of Animals and Voice For
A n i m a l s cannot sue Texas Tech
University to stop allegedly cruel animal
research because, as a state institution,
Texas Tech enjoys sovereign immunity.
Hart also held that P E T A, the A n i m a l
Protection Institute, and Voice for
A n i m a l s could not show harm to themselves
resulting from the experiments,
and therefore lacked standing to sue.
Two other late April verdicts
of note struck at the political clout of
hunters––in other nations.
On April 27, in Kenora,
Ontario, Justice Erwin Stach ruled that
the Ontario Federation of Anglers and
H u n t e r s and the Northern Ontario
Tourist Outfitters failed to show how
reinstating spring bear hunting, cancelled
by Ontario Natural Resources
Minister John Snobelen, would benefit
the public interest.
One day later, the European
Court of Human Rights ruled against a
1974 French law that obliges owners of
50 to 150 acres of rural property to join
local hunting clubs and permit hunting
by any club member. The law is reportedly
enforced in about a third of French
rural municipalites. The court held that
the law violates property rights and the
right of free association, and unjustly
discriminates against small landholders,
since owners of large tracts are exempt.
But in another reversal of concern,
the British High Court on June 9
ordered Northumberland stipendiary
magistrate Neville White to reconsider
an October 1998 verdict in which he
refused to convict antifur protester Diane
Selvanayagum, 30, of violating a 1997
injunction against harassing mink farmer
Peter Harrison, because even though
Selvanayagam was improperly close to
Harrison’s farm, she did so as part of a
lawful, peaceful protest.
Reported The Daily Telegraph,
“The High Court ruling has raised fears
that the way is now open for court
injunctions to be taken out under new
anti-stalking laws to stifle public demonstrations
against controversial activities.”
Two other potentially problematic
rulings were issued back on March
10, by U.S. District Judge Earl Britt in
North Carolina and Justice Nancy
Mossip of Ontario, Canada.
Citing the 4th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals verdict in a case
involving Right To Life Inc., Britt held
that the North Carolina law requiring
political action committees to make full
financial disclosure is unconstitutional,
and that the pork industry front group
Farmers For Fairness therefore need
not disclose how much it spent to defeat
former state representative C i n d y
W a t s o n, a Republican known for her
strong anti-pollution position.
Mossip held that although the
Grey-Bruce Humane Society is an affiliate
of the anti-hunting and anti-trapping
Ontario SPCA, it is not bound by
Ontario SPCA policies, and that hunting
dog trainer Ross Trask of Sauble Beach
and trapper Pete Van Aalst may therefore
serve on the Grey-Bruce humane
society board. Their eligibility was challenged
by Grey-Bruce Humane Society
members Gerry and Lore Weinberg.
Trask and Van Aalst apparently
could have been excluded if the GreyBruce
humane society had its own antihunting
and anti-trapping policies and
membership requirements.
The Toronto Humane Society
in 1987 barred from the board anyone
working in the fur, animal research,
meat, pet, and animal entertainment
industries, along with people who hunt,
trap, or fish, and also barred their
spouses. In 1991 THS also barred from
general membership anyone not eligible
to serve on the board, along with anyone
living more than 37 miles from Toronto.
The restrictions were all
repealed, however, after the Toronto
mayoral committee on community and
race relations agreed with I n d i g e n o u s
Survival International, the F u r
Institue of Canada, and the Fur Trade
Association of Canada that they discriminated
against indigenous people,
and recommended that the Toronto
pound contract be revoked if the restrictions
continued.
THS was soon dominated by a
faction which in 1992 convinced the
Toronto city council to scrap an antitrapping
bylaw, and since then has narrowly
focused on dog-and-cat work.

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