Legal Advocacy

Our Legal Advocacy Program has been working since 2004 to use the legal system as a powerful tool to fight the systemic injustices of factory farming. We focus on creatively using existing criminal laws and civil litigation to target large-scale animal cruelty on factory farms and to protect compassionate consumers from manipulation and unfair business practices by the animal agriculture industry. Farmed animals are given almost no protection under the law, at both the state and federal levels, which makes our task that much more challenging – and important.

We’ve made great strides as we’ve confronted animal agribusiness—both its cruel practices and its unfair business practices.

Our Legal Advocacy Program has continued to grow and thrive, making progress for farmed animals.

Martin Farms Prosecution


Status: Appeal Pending

Key Date: Animal Outlook filed an appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on March 24, 2021

A 2018 investigation of Martin Farms, a Pennsylvania dairy factory farm, revealed egregious abuse of mother cows and their defenseless calves. The investigation documented “downed” cows hoisted by their hips with metal hip clamps and dragged by tractors; a “downed” cow conscious for nearly a minute after being shot in the head during a poorly attempted euthanasia; a farm manager stabbing a cow with a sharp instrument in a botched surgery; cows sprayed in the face with scalding water; cows being hit, kicked, and stomped; and cows denied the most basic veterinary care.

Despite hours of video evidence, the Franklin County District Attorney declined to pursue criminal charges for animal cruelty and neglect. In response, we partnered with local counsel to petition the court, asking a judge to review the evidence independently and order the District Attorney to pursue criminal charges.  In March 2020, the court denied our petition. We have appealed to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and await a schedule for oral arguments.


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sick chicken inside factory farm

Cooke Aquaculture False Advertising

Key Date: Lawsuit filed on June 28, 2020

On June 28, 2020, Animal Outlook, represented by the Richman Law Group, filed a lawsuit against Cooke Aquaculture for misleading and deceptive advertising in violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection and Procedures Act. The lawsuit alleges that Cooke’s advertisements that its practices are “sustainable” and “ecologically sound,” and that its salmon are “naturally raised” under “optimal” animal welfare standards constitute false advertising.

Cooke filed four separate motions trying to kill the case, but the court ruled against it on every one. On June 24, 2021, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia denied all four motions, and the case is now proceeding toward trial.

The lawsuit follows the 2019 release of Animal Outlook’s investigation into Cooke Aquaculture’s salmon hatchery in Bingham, Maine, the first-ever undercover investigation of salmon aquaculture in the United States. Our investigation revealed conditions far from “sustainable” or “natural,” including workers slamming, stomping, and slamming fish into concrete; improper veterinary practices; and filthy conditions, including fish with spinal deformities and fungal growths.

Our investigation is far from the first time Cooke has found itself in legal trouble for its irresponsible aquaculture practices which directly contradict its advertising claims. Fines and settlements totaling millions of dollars for violations of laws across multiple states, including the catastrophic release of 250,000 non-native salmon in Washington state, numerous permit violations in Maine and the illegal discharge of pollutants in multiple locations, have plagued Cooke over the past few years.

Cooke’s industrial aquaculture practices are a far cry from the wholesome, responsible image of “sustainable farming” that it actively portrays. Our lawsuit aims to stop Cooke from continuing to mislead and deceive consumers into purchasing its products.



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High-Speed Chicken Slaughter Lawsuit


Status: Currently in litigation

Key Date: Lawsuit filed on February 25, 2020

On behalf of the billions of chickens slaughtered in the United States every year, Animal Outlook, alongside the Humane Society of the United States, the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Marin Humane Society, and Mercy for Animals, sued the USDA over its reckless high-speed slaughter program.


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“Downed” Pigs Lawsuit

Status: Currently in litigation

Key Date: District Court for the Western District of New York denied the USDA’s motion to dismiss the case on June 28, 2021

As part of a coalition of animal protection groups, Animal Outlook filed a lawsuit against U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for failing to protect pigs who are too sick or injured to walk to slaughterhouses, posing serious risks to animals and food safety.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Rochester, New York, challenges the agency’s failure to follow Congress’s longstanding mandates regarding these “downed” or “non-ambulatory” animals, as well as its recent denial of a petition to ban their slaughter.

Every year, well over half a million pigs arrive at U.S. slaughterhouses too sick or injured to stand or walk. These animals are often kept in holding pens where they are unable to rise from feces-ridden floors before being slaughtered. Downed pigs are at a heightened risk of carrying a host of human-transmissible pathogens, including Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, swine flu, and Yersinia. They are also at a heightened risk of inhumane handling, including being excessively electro-shocked, prodded, kicked, shoved and dragged by workers attempting to force them to move.

In 2002, Congress amended the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act—which governs not just the slaughter of animals but also their handling at the slaughterhouse—to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to investigate and report to Congress on a host of issues related to non-ambulatory livestock, including humane handling, and, based on this report, to promulgate any regulations needed to protect these animals. Despite the passage of nearly two decades, there is no indication that the USDA has ever reported on non-ambulatory pigs, even though pigs comprise approximately 75% of livestock slaughter in the U.S.

In 2015, an Animal Outlook investigation at a Hormel supplier in Minnesota revealed egregious acts of cruelty committed against “downed” pigs who were unable to walk. Our investigator witnessed these pigs being brutally dragged to the slaughter line with metal hooks in their mouths, beaten with paddles, and repeatedly shocked with electric prods to force them to slaughter.

“This litigation represents an important step in the recognition of basic humanity toward the sickest and most injured pigs in the pork industry. No compassionate society should deny these suffering animals protection against the last torturous dragging or abuse in their final moments, merely to get them into the slaughter line so they can be sold,” said Will Lowrey, counsel for Animal Outlook.

On June 28, 2021, the District Court for the Western District of New York denied the USDA’s attempts to have the case dismissed. The case now proceeds toward trial.


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injured pig inside factory farm

High-Speed Pig Slaughter Lawsuit

Status: Currently in litigation

Key Date: District Court for the Western District of New York denied the USDA’s motion to dismiss the case on June 28, 2021

On December 18, 2019, Animal Outlook joined six other animal protection organizations in filing a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) challenging the agency’s decision to reduce oversight at pig slaughterhouses and eliminate line speeds on slaughterhouses, exposing millions of pigs to greater suffering and flouting federal humane slaughter, meat inspection, and environmental protection laws. The animal protection groups are represented in the lawsuit by the Lewis and Clark Animal Law Litigation Clinic

The lawsuit challenges the USDA’s complete revocation of limits on the number of pigs that can be slaughtered per hour. Previously, a slaughterhouse could kill up to 1,106 pigs an hour. High-speed slaughter is linked to increased humane handling violations, including failure to properly render pigs unconscious before they have their throats slit and are dropped into scalding tanks.

The USDA’s decision to cut line speed limits will also lead to approximately 11.5 million more pigs being slaughtered annually at these massive industrial plants, according to USDA profit estimates for the rule.

“The slaughter of pigs for the pork industry is already a cruel, grueling, and fast process for both the animals and humans involved, who are treated as mere cogs in a money-making machine” says Cheryl Leahy, Executive Vice President of Animal Outlook. “Speeding up the slaughter lines and putting oversight in the hands of the industry means an even darker reality for millions of animals in their last moments of life and a reckless system for workers and the public.”

The lawsuit also challenges the USDA’s decision to remove and relocate federal inspectors in slaughterhouses. Federal law requires agency inspectors to ensure that animals at slaughterhouses are not subjected to cruel handling, including dragging and beating, and to ensure that sick animals don’t enter the food supply.

The USDA has long asserted that its inspections are the most effective way to protect against disease epidemics that could devastate animal populations and threaten public health. Yet, at the same time the agency is preparing for the possibility of a disastrous outbreak of African swine fever—which is expected to decimate up to a quarter of the world’s pig population—it is replacing its front-line inspectors with untrained and overworked slaughterhouse staff.

In 2015, Animal Outlook investigated a pig slaughterhouse in Minnesota operating under a waiver allowing increased line speeds. Our investigator witnessed egregious acts of cruelty committed by workers trying to keep pace with the rapid slaughter line, including sick and injured pigs unable to walk being dragged and electrically prodded, numerous instances of improper stunning potentially leading to animals entering the scalding tank while still alive, animals being beaten, and pigs covered in feces or pus-filled abscesses being slaughtered and processed for human consumption. You can listen to our investigator discuss this experience here and sign our petition against high-speed slaughter.

On June 28, 2021, the District Court for the Western District of New York denied the USDA’s attempts to have the case dismissed. The case now proceeds toward trial.




sick pig inside factory farm

California Proposition 12 Lawsuit

Status: Currently in litigation

Key Dates:   On June 28, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the North American Meat Institute’s appeal of the denial of its request for a preliminary injunction. Separately, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the National Pork Producers Council’s appeal on July 28, 2021. Alongside seven other animal protection organizations, Animal Outlook has two separate lawsuits to assist the state of California in defending a 2018 law prohibiting cruel animal confinement measures and the sale of products resulting from such measures.

In separate lawsuits filed in late 2019, the North American Meat Institute and the National Pork Producers Council joined by the American Farm Bureau have sued California claiming that Proposition 12 violates the constitution.

Proposition 12, passed by voters in 2018, supplements prior California legislation that prohibits cruel confinement practices for egg-laying hens, pigs, and calves used for veal, as well as the sale of eggs derived from such practices. Proposition 12 provides further protection by imposing additional space requirements as well as banning the sale of pork and veal in the entire state of California if the product is the result of cruel confinement. Proposition 12’s requirements are slated to go into effect Importantly, the sales ban applies to all products sold in the state of California regardless of where they are produced.

On November 22, 2019, a federal judge rejected the North American Meat Institute’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the law until the full lawsuit was heard. The North American Meat Institute appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied the appeal. On June 28, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the case. The case now continues toward trial at the District Court, and Prop 12 continues toward implementation.

On April 27, 2020, a federal judge dismissed the National Pork Producers Council’s lawsuit. The National Pork Producers Council appealed and on July 28, 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal.



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calves being transported for slaughter

Hormel Lawsuit (Amicus)


Status: Currently in litigation

Key Date: Amicus curiae brief filed on August 6, 2019

Animal Outlook, along with two other animal protection organizations, filed an amicus curiae brief (“friend of the court” brief) in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in support of Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) false advertising lawsuit against Hormel.

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Superior Farms Lawsuit


Status: Victory - Case settled with consent decree ordering Superior Farms to pay a substantial fine and implement training and procedures for humane slaughter

Key Date: Consent decree signed on May 15, 2019

Following our 2017 undercover investigation at Superior Farms, the first ever look inside a United States lamb slaughterhouse, Animal Outlook joined Public Justice in filing a lawsuit under the False Claims Act.


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Tyson Foods Prosecutions (Case 1)

Status: Victory - 9 employees convicted on 22 counts of animal cruelty

Key Date: Convictions between 2017-2019

Following our groundbreaking 2016 investigation into Tyson Foods’ broiler breeder factory farms in Virginia, Animal Outlook’s vigorous pursuit of prosecution led to the conviction of nine former employees on 22 counts of animal cruelty, the first-ever convictions for cruelty to chickens raised for meat.


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Egg Labeling Lawsuit

Status: Appeal denied

Key Date: Ninth Circuit opinion issued February 27, 2017

In 2013, Animal Outlook (then Compassion Over Killing) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) co-filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), two agencies within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for failing to regulate animal welfare labeling on egg cartons. Several Bay Area egg consumers who had been deceived by misleading animal welfare claims on egg cartons were co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Pro bono counsel was provided by Bingham McCutchen, LLP.

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Foie Gras Lawsuit


Status: Summary judgment granted for USDA

Key Date: Summary judgment granted on December 14, 2016

Animal Outlook (formerly Compassion Over Killing), Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, and Animal Protection & Rescue League, and several concerned individuals joined forces to file a lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for allowing the sale of a diseased poultry product commonly known as foie gras.

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Price Fixing Lawsuit


Status: Victory – Dairy industry ordered to pay dairy consumers $52 million in class action settlement (Animal Outlook conducted initial research and case theory development)

Key Date: Settlement reached on September 7, 2016

The dairy industry has consistently shown its lack of regard for animal welfare and the environment. Now it’s milking its own consumers by illegally jacking up prices.

On Monday, Sept. 26, 2011 several dairy consumers, including members of Animal Outlook (then Compassion Over Killing), filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of consumers alleging that various dairy companies and trade groups combined to form Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) in order to engage in a price fixing scheme that inflated the price of milk.

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Truth In Egg Labeling Lawsuit


Status: Appeal denied

Key Date: Appeal denied on February 27, 2017

Walk into any grocery store in the US, and you’ll likely find cartons of eggs bearing a variety of advertising schemes ranging from images of happy hens roaming around outside to claims such as “animal-friendly.” Surprisingly though, what consumers see or read on the outside of an egg carton doesn’t necessarily represent how the hens who laid those eggs were treated.

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"Humane" Claims Lawsuit


Status: Victory – Kroger agreed to remove “humane” label from Simple Truth chicken products

Key Date: Settlement reached in October 2014

On February 11, 2014, a consumer of Simple Truth chicken—Kroger, Co.'s store brand—filed a class-action lawsuit in the Superior Court of California in the County of Los Angeles alleging that the grocery giant is falsely and deceptively touting its Simple Truth chicken as having been sourced from chickens raised "in a humane environment," despite the fact that the birds are treated no differently than other mass-produced chickens confined on factory farms and killed in industrial slaughter plants.

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Tyson Foods Prosecution (Case 2)


Status: Facility owner pled “facts sufficient” to cruelty to animals

For several weeks, an Animal Outlook investigator worked inside Atlantic Farm, a Temperanceville, Virginia facility with more than 225,000 birds crammed inside filthy warehouses. The investigation marked the second time in little more than a year that Animal Outlook has exposed horrific cruelty to birds within the poultry giant’s supply chain.

The facility owned pled “facts sufficient” to charges of cruelty to animals and agreed to a plea bargain in which he agreed to not work with animals for a year and to take a course on compassion to animals.

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Mason Dixon Dairy Prosecution


Status: Former employee convicted of animal cruelty

In 2017, an Animal Outlook investigation revealed violent abuse of gentle mother cows at Mason Dixon Farms, a massive dairy factory farm in Pennsylvania with more than 2,500 animals. The investigation documented egregious cruelty to animals including workers kicking cows in the face, punching them in their sensitive udders, excessively shocking them with an electric prod, jabbing them with pens or elbows, and twisting or bending their tails. After we submitted evidence to local authorities, one former Mason Dixon employee pled guilty to three counts of animal cruelty.

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Bravo Packing Pet Food Contamination


Status: Pending FDA Review

Key Date: Complaint submitted to U.S. Food and Drug Administration and New Jersey Department of Health on December 10, 2020

Animal Outlook submitted a detailed complaint against Bravo Packing, Inc. (no affiliation with Bravo Pet Foods) to the FDA and the New Jersey Department of Health on December 10, 2020, after we tested a sample of Bravo’s Performance Dog frozen raw pet food and discovered that it contained Salmonella. Our complaint accused Bravo of violating the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as well as analogous New Jersey food safety laws, by selling adulterated pet food.

The FDA then inspected Bravo Packing’s facility in New Jersey, tested samples of its products, and found Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The FDA announced a recall of the company’s Performance Dog and Ground Beef frozen raw pet foods on March 3, 2021.

If your pet has become sick after eating these foods, please contact us at info@animaloutlook.org.

Bravo Packing (or associated businesses) slaughters horses, provides dead animal removal services, and makes raw frozen foods for pets and exotic animals containing beef, horse meat, and other cow and horse body parts. It has a history of animal cruelty allegations stretching back well over a decade. For example, horses whom Bravo killed and sold as animal food have been described as “emaciated,” “starving,” and “too weak to stand.”

The company also has a history of producing contaminated food. Its pet food has been recalled before due to Salmonella contamination. The FDA has found in Bravo’s food for exotic animals both Pentobarbital, a drug which is commonly used to euthanize horses, and Phenytoin, which is commonly administered to racing horses.

In addition to food safety issues like those discovered at Bravo Packing, many consumers are unaware that farmed animals suffer immeasurably within the loosely regulated pet food industry. Many of these animals—often sick, injured, or unable to walk—were deemed unfit for human consumption and their bodies, including “blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, and stomach and rumen contents” make their way into pet food. Bravo itself produces food for animals made from animals who died of causes other than slaughter, or who were dying or disabled at slaughter, according to a 2018 consumer complaint to the FDA.


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Quanah Cattle Company Prosecutions


Status: Three former employees convicted of animal cruelty

In 2013, an Animal Outlook undercover investigator worked inside Quanah Cattle Co. (QCC), an animal agribusiness company in Kersey, Colorado that purchases newborn calves from surrounding dairy factories and temporarily confines them before shipping them out to be raised for their meat. Just days old, many of these calves – some of whom still have their umbilical cords hanging from their bodies – are too feeble or frightened to walk steadily.  As our footage shows, in the process of being moved on and off trucks, these fragile animals are violently dragged by their legs, pulled by their ears, lifted by their tails, kicked, thrown, slammed, and flipped.

Based on Animal Outlook’s investigation, three former Quanah Cattle Company employees were convicted of animal cruelty. Two former employees were sentenced to “two years supervised probation and ordered to pay a fine of $500. As conditions of probation, each man must complete 300 hours of public service and a Making Better Choices class.” A third employee was sentenced to “two years supervised probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine. As conditions of probation, he must complete 300 hours of public service and a Making Better Choices class.”

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Central Valley Meat Slaughterhouse Closure


Status: Slaughterhouse temporarily shut down by USDA

An undercover video, filmed by an Animal Outlook investigator in 2012, exposed rampant animal abuse and suffering inside Central Valley Meat Co. (CVM), a slaughterhouse in Hanford, California. CVM was a major supplier to the USDA’s National School Lunch Program and other federal food initiatives. Most of the animals slaughtered by CVM at the time of the investigation were “spent” dairy cows who are no longer economically viable as milk-producers to the dairy industry. The investigation revealed downed cows, unable to walk to the kill floor, shot in the head two, three, even four times, and workers often walking away while the animal continues to struggle and kick. Some downed cows who were still alive after being shot in the head were then suffocated by workers who stood on their mouths and nostrils preventing the cows from breathing. Sick or injured cows were repeatedly shocked and workers pulled or lifted them by their tails in an attempt to force them to stand and walk.

After viewing the footage, the USDA temporarily shut down the facility, citing “egregious inhumane handling and treatment of livestock.”

View USDA Notice of Suspension

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