Like the other volumes in Greenhaven’s Issues on Trial series, Animal Welfare concisely relates the statutory issues and judicial decisions related to four recent legal cases through a series of articles and related documents. In this book, all issues relate to the perception of the rights and legal standing of animals, and each of the four sections is introduced by a case overview.
The volume begins with an examination of Primate Protection League v. Tulane Educational Fund (1991), which was a landmark case allowing for legal recourse on the behalf of animals. The case involved what became known as the Silver Spring monkeys, subjects of experiments at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH researchers sought to study the relationship between sensory feedback and movement, which involved surgically severing the monkeys’ nerves. This volume explains how the experiment was perceived by some, including one of the co-founders of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who infiltrated the lab to document the monkey’s plight, as animal cruelty. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found the treatment of animals to be something different from the treatement of personal property and in the decision, Justice Marshall wrote that animal welfare could be addressed by lower courts. A legal brief penned by Kenneth Starr, well before his Clinton investigation, argues that animal welfare activists do not have proper standing to seek recourse on behalf of animals they do not own.
If the Silver Spring case established that groups of individuals could sue on an animal’s behalf, Cetacean Community v. George W. Bush (2004) pushed for animals as named plaintiffs. The Cetacean Community refers to "all whales and dolphins" rather than a group of people united in protection of those animals. Much of the documentation for this case is concerned with questions of violation of he National Environmental Policy act (NEPA) and associated environmental legislation.
The third of the four cases, New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals et al. v. New Jersey Department of Agriculture (2008), deals with the vagaries of language. In an attempt to combat factory farming, the state of New Jersey sought to regulate the humane treatment of animals. The resulting guidelines put forth by the state Department of Agriculture allowed for "practices routinely taught in veterinary schools", a clause that animal rights activists claim is an umbrella statement allowing for a number of questionable and painful practices undermining the essentially protectionist spirit of the law. While the accounts of docking and debeaking will be rough reading for sensitive students, this is a case that will be of particular interests in rural areas with farming families.
In Winter, Secretary of the Navy v. Natural Resources Defense Council (2008), national defense as represented by military training exercises is pitted against animal welfare. Sonar training exercises carried out by the Navy along the Californian coast are now believed to disorient whales and dolphins in the area. The U.S. Supreme Court found the need for national security justified the risk to marine life. Justice Roberts’ majority opinion and Justice Ginsburg’s dissent are both included here, and those two articles could easily be contrasted to show the diversity of opinion on the Court.
Like the other Issues on Trial books, the content is appropriate for advanced high school students studying government and the judicial system or, in this case, animal rights. For the most part, the articles are adapted judicial opinion, legal briefs and journal articles, much of it written by law school students, with some nonprofit organizational literature and coverage from the popular press. There is a comprehensive organization directory, bibliography of books and periodicals and an index. Recommended for high school libraries.