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January 29, 2020 What's New at TIPS

Pro Bono on Maui: A Memorable TIPS Public Service Project at Leilani Farm Sanctuary

By AJ Albrecht and Daina Bray

On October 18, 2019, during the TIPS Fall Leadership Meeting, 18 TIPS members and their guests rolled up their sleeves for a public service project at Leilani Farm Sanctuary in Haiku, Hawaii. The project was organized by the TIPS Animal Law Committee (ALC) and the Law In Public Service Committee (LIPS).

Leilani Farm Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that saves animals previously destined for slaughter or that have been orphaned or harmed by hunters. On eight acres in beautiful up-country Maui, the sanctuary is home to rescued chickens, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, ducks, turkeys, geese, deer, donkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, cats, tortoises, and swans.

Working Hard for the Animals

Before beginning work, the group toured the sanctuary, cuddling chickens, turkeys, and geese; brushing goats and donkeys; and feeding carrots to rabbits and guinea pigs. Laurelee Blanchard, founder of the sanctuary, shared the story of her journey from corporate America to founding the nonprofit sanctuary. After learning of the cruelties of factory farming, Laurelee became vegan and has dedicated her life to caring for animals.

For a project that was later described by LIPS Cochair Hilary Fox as “the hardest we’ve ever worked on a LIPS project,” participants gave both of the sanctuary barns a thorough cleaning. This involved removing the used hay, shoveling out the accumulated muck underneath, transporting the hay and waste to compost piles, and spreading clean hay. Throughout the project, the intrepid workers were harried by affectionate butting from Nancy the goat, who was excited by the commotion and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. The volunteers were rewarded by leaving behind two inviting barns full of new hay that the animals promptly explored, and knowing that the group had been a big help to Laurelee and her regular volunteers at the sanctuary.

Legal Issues Affecting Farmed Animals

For the legal portion of the day, TIPS Council Member Daina Bray and ALC Chair-elect AJ Albrecht—who both work for Mercy For Animals, the largest dedicated farmed animal protection group in the world—gave an overview of legal issues affecting farmed animals. Despite the almost incomprehensible numbers—with over nine billion land animals killed in the United States for food every year—Daina shared that farmed animals receive very little protection under the law. The two federal laws designed to protect farmed animals apply only to limited circumstances in the animals’ lives (during transport and slaughter) and are undermined by excepting large groups of animals and by a lack of adequate enforcement. On the state level, although one might expect that state anti-cruelty statutes would provide protection, the vast majority of states—including the states where most farmed animals live—exempt farmed animals from anti-cruelty protections on the sole basis that the act at issue is deemed to be an “accepted,” “common,” “customary,” or “normal” farming practice. Given that common practices on factory farms include acts that cause great suffering like debeaking, tail-docking, and ear-notching without anesthesia, these exceptions remove from the definition of cruelty many of the activities that otherwise would be prohibited by these laws.

AJ updated the group on current policy issues affecting farmed animals, including the spread of laws limiting the most extreme forms of confinement of farmed animals, namely the use of battery cages for hens, gestation crates for sows, and veal crates for calves. Since 2002, by either legislation or ballot initiative, 12 states have adopted laws against one or all of those cruel practices. Several states, including California, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts and—most recently—Michigan, have gone further and adopted extraterritorial laws that not only prohibit some or all of these extreme confinement practices within their borders, but also ban the sale of animal products produced elsewhere that use such practices. AJ also informed attendees about the current legal battles being waged—through legislation, agency regulation and litigation—around the use of words like “meat” and “milk” to describe plant-based products on food labels. The market share of plant-based products, while still small compared to the traditional animal-product sectors, is rapidly growing and attracting legal pushback from the animal agriculture industry.

Many thanks to TIPS for its ongoing commitment to public service, which provides an avenue for TIPS members to do good in the world and to get to know each other in fun new settings. Join LIPS and the ALC if you’d like to participate in future public service projects. Learn more about Leilani Farm Sanctuary and donate at

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By AJ Albrecht and Daina Bray

AJ Albrecht is the TIPS Animal Law Committee’s chair-elect. As senior policy advisor and counsel at Mercy For Animals, she oversees the organization’s U.S. policy initiatives. Albrecht is based in Maplewood, New Jersey, and can be reached at [email protected]. Daina Bray is a member of the TIPS Council and a past chair of the TIPS Animal Law Committee. As general counsel of Mercy For Animals, she advises on all legal issues that arise in the organization’s programs and operations. Bray is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and can be reached at [email protected].