Saving Society from Animal “Snuff” Films

May 10, 2011 5 Comments


(Updated May 3, 2011. Available also in German, translated in 2007)


It’s the stuff of nightmares. The images are often bloody, emotive and effective. Wallets are opened and people give, give, give to stop the suffering. These are films of animal life being taken, legally and illegally, “animal snuff films”, footage that is sometimes real, too often staged.

From the unfamiliar world of medical experimentation done for both animal and human benefit to the routine slaughter of cattle for steak, the images are often not what they appear to be. Animal “snuff” films, which chronicle the death-throes of animals, are big business today with most of the large animal-based protection groups maintaining a library.… or how to make money from snuff.

Dollar Farming… or how to make money from snuff. Produced by the Belgian association Brok (a freedom-of-choice movement) in cooperation with the Belgian Fur Trade Federation.

As with any weapon, videotape too can be misused. There is evidence that the media, constantly in need of images, has become a co-dependent in a “supplier and addict” relationship.Craig Van Note of Monitor Consortium, a Washington DC-based consortium of 30-plus animal rights groups (including the Animal Protection Institute, the Animal Welfare Institute, Earth Island Institute, Fund for Animals, Greenpeace, Humane Society International, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare), stated in National Fisherman Magazine, “No doubt about it, videotape is the most powerful weapon we have to fight enemies of the earth.”

The only way the media can, and should, protect the public from unscrupulous operators who stage scenes of animal abuse is for them to ensure they are not duped themselves. To this end, they must:

  • Ask for the full, uncut film footage, with sound. Any individual or group offering video but unwilling to meet this requirement is most likely hiding something.
  • Ask that all people in the film be identified by name.
  • Require sworn statements from the filmmaker and crew in the case of footage of illegal activities, attesting to the time, place and other circumstances relating to the illegal activity.

Exposing real illegalities is part of the media’s job, but they must work from facts, not manufactured nightmares. Television stations or newspapers that use images of cruelty without ascertaining that they are genuine, must accept responsibility for misleading the public if they turn out to be staged. They are no less culpable than the people who faked the images in the first place.

Believe What You See?

Anyone who has ever visited Universal Studios or Disneyland knows that what we see on film is manipulated and manufactured, oftentimes fantasy. Sometimes, unfortunately, images presented as reality, or “documentary”-style, filmmaking are also manipulated for political and financial reasons. Staged footage of illegal practices can be used for political gain or to defame whole industries. Sometimes what we see is just hate propaganda.

A snip of film showing muscle spasms in a dead harpooned whale can fool an inexperienced viewer into thinking the animal is still alive, and defame all whalers in the process. Footage of seals being slaughtered in the High North may be jarring to people unfamiliar with traditional sealing practices, because there is no context to explain why these people do what they do. Or a movie in which Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) improves his boxing skills in a slaughterhouse might convince the people of India – where certain cattle are revered – that Americans are barbarians, when all it actually shows are Rocky’s resolve and the fact that Americans eat beef.

Presenting images out of context, or simply faking them, can be a lucrative business. Following are some examples of people who have tried … and been exposed:

1964: Private film company Artek Films vilifies Canadian sealers with footage, screened by CBC television, of a seal being skinned alive. Following a public outcry and investigation, the man in the film, Gus Poirier of Prince Edward Island, signs an affidavit declaring that he was “employed by a group of photographers … to skin a large seal for the film. I solemnly swear before witnesses that I was asked to torment the said seal and not to use a [club], but just to use a knife to carry out this operation, where in normal practice a [club] is used to first kill the seals before skinning them.” A Federal Standing Committee castigated CBC “for not enquiring into its accuracy before screening,” but the damage had been done.

Despite the ruling, the footage would later be used in IFAW propaganda, even though its founder, Brian Davies, stated under oath that he had never actually seen a seal being skinned alive.

Campaign tactics of this kind were largely responsible for the introduction in 1972 of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, which stands to this day. Among the impacts of this draconian and scientifically unjustifiable law was the end to imports of marine mammal products from Canada to the US, and the subsequent devastation of local economies across maritime Canada. (See FCUSA Press Kit Special Feature: Marine Mammal Protection Act)

1972: The Canadian Association for Humane Trapping produces a film entitled They Take So Long to Die. Scenes of animals suffering horribly in inappropriate traps are subsequently aired on CBS television. It is later learned that the animals had actually been caught in the wild and released into a compound to be trapped and filmed at leisure. The film is withdrawn from circulation, but the footage appears in another film, Canada’s Shame, produced by the Association for the Protection of Fur-bearing Animals.

1974: Tuna fishermen intervene in a lawsuit by Stan Minasian of the Marine Mammal Fund against the US government. Minasian was seeking video footage taken under experimental conditions authorized by the government. The purpose of the experiments was to help develop methods to release the dolphins from the nets unharmed. Minasian, however, planned to use the footage as a cash-generating propaganda tool which would also be used to create political backlash against the tuna industry. The court rules that Minasian can have the footage but he is required to include a disclaimer on every frame, that the footage was from taken under experimental conditions and did not reflect common fishing practices. Minasian uses the footage to create The Last Days of the Dolphins, a propaganda video hosted by Dick Cavett. The disclaimer protects the fleet from what would have been certain outrage.

Mid-1980s: Greenpeace Australia distributes film of two men mutilating live kangaroos as part of a campaign to ban ‘roo products in Europe. Greenpeace only withdraws the film after a court convicts the men for breaking the law, and concludes that they were paid to do so by the film crew.

1988: Footage of dolphins being mangled in the gear of a Panamanian vessel fishing illegally is presented by Earth Island Institute as “tragically representative” of the US fleet, despite the fact that the fleet carries government observers on every fishing trip. The footage leads to drastic regulation. By 1992, the US fleet is reduced by half.

1994: Posing as representatives of an American hunting magazine, a film crew commissioned by IFAW tricks a man into committing acts of extreme cruelty against kangaroos. The film is used by the animal rights group Vegetarians International Voice for Animals (Viva!), which claims it shows an “experienced, unlicensed but commercial killer” and portrays standard industry practice. The film crew flee Australia before they can be prosecuted, but the shooter in the film is taken to court. During the trial, it is discovered that he is not a licensed ‘roo shooter, does not supply ‘roos to the commercial industry, and did not have permission to shoot on the property he was filmed on.(1)

Despite the findings, Viva! continues to use the film, claiming that it shows kangaroos being hung via gashes in their legs “whilst still alive”. In fact, movements seen in the tails and other limbs are clearly muscle spasms.(4)

Mid-1990s: In 1996, video footage of a brutal dolphin slaughter is used in a campaign to raise money and generate public support for embargoes against Venezuela’s two exports, oil and tunafish. As they market the video, various groups claim the film “proves” that 40,000 dolphins are killed annually in a country where dolphin kills are illegal. No proof exists except the film. When the uncut film footage is finally discovered, it becomes obvious that the film was staged. The filmmaking crew had represented themselves to the fishermen involved as scientists from the local university, saying they needed to kill a dolphin for research and that they would take total responsibility. “Act natural!” yells the cameraman to the fishermen. The filmmakers supply the knife used to inhumanely butcher the animal while they direct the action. “More blood! Get me more blood!” yells the cameraman.

The Venezuelan government charged the filmmakers with fraud and treason (since the film was part of an orchestrated attack on key Venezuelan exports), but the filmmakers fled the country. They have never been caught to face the charges.

1997 – 2008: In 1997, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals releases edited videotape of a facility in Illinois which shows acts of cruelty to foxes, plus electrocution of foxes, a method of euthanasia not approved in Illinois. PeTA claims the footage depicts “modern fur farms” in the US, and complains about lack of regulation. (For a reality check, see How is the North American fur industry regulated?)

Subsequent investigation reveals that the facility in question was not a fur farm but a scent-producing facility, its main business being to sell scent to wildlife biologists and others as a lure for wild animals. It operated under a permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and did not qualify for an agricultural operations exemption from DNR permits since the bulk of its animals, which included fox, raccoons, deer and other critters, came from the wild. If it was a fur farming operation, it would have come under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Agriculture which oversees livestock.

And the animals were so poorly cared for that when the owner did attempt to sell the pelts of about 100 foxes he killed, there were no buyers.

Also shown to be false is PeTA’s assertion that regulation is lacking. The State of Illinois’s Bureau of Animal Welfare not only responded quickly to PeTA’s complaint,(2) but showed layers of bureaucracy in place to prosecute those who break animal welfare laws. Fines and penalties were levied against the owner and he had to agree to additional surprise visits to his farm by the DNR.

As of 2008, PeTA still had not delivered the full, unedited footage with sound to the fur industry, the media or officials in Illiniois (who had been forced to prosecute the owner from the edited clips only). Meanwhile, PeTA exported the edited film around the world, misrepresenting its source and using it to smear responsible fur farmers while raising donations for its coffers. While it does show illegal practices on a scent facility, by 2008, the film had been used by dozens of animal rights organizations to raise untold millions of dollars.

1998: Using videotape supplied by commercial news company SweepsFeed, US television stations air footage of dogs and cats being abused. The footage, claims the Humane Society of the United States, had been taken in China, and depicted the source of fur which will be mislabeled and exported to the US. On Jan. 16, 2000, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. investigative program “UnderCurrents” reports that SweepsFeed executives could not vouch for the origin or accuracy of this video; it had been given to them by an animal-rights group, and SweepsFeed had not verified its authenticity. Says a SweepFeed spokesperson, “How do we know that video wasn’t a fake video? We don’t, because we didn’t shoot it in that case, and that’s a rare instance [that we don’t produce our own programs].” (See FCUSA Press Kit special feature: HSUS Furry Trade-Barrier Campaign)

1998 – 2002: In a case filed by the Canadian government against Jason Penney and other Newfoundland sealers for acts of alleged cruelty, the court refuses to admit as evidence a gory videotape produced by IFAW. The footage lasts 23 minutes, and contains no fewer than 77 cuts, suggesting some changes could have been made, says the judge, who also calls the cameraman “a sophisticated con man”. (See Court Finds IFAW Video “Evidence” Inadmissible FCUSA press release, Apr. 21, 1999) The Crown appeals and Penney is subsequently convicted by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland, but in 2002 the Court of Appeal overturns the conviction after finding that the trial judge admitted the video as evidence without considering the credibility of the witnesses.

In its ruling, the court writes: “Evidence establishing that the video has not been altered or changed is a precondition to its admission as evidence. Current technology is such that it is not difficult for a competent person to alter visual evidence. In this case, the video was, for a lengthy period, in the possession of a company that edits videos.”(3)

1999: Members of the organization New South Wales Animal Liberation break into a a licensed possum abattoir in Tasmania and install hidden fiber optic cameras. The resulting video shows possums being stunned with a captive bolt pistol and then bled. The footage is run on a national current affairs program, with the allegation that it shows extreme cruelty. This claim is based on movements seen after bleeding has begun, which the activists say indicate the animals are still alive. In fact, the movements are merely muscle spasms. The footage is subsequently reviewed by the Tasmanian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, a non-government body made up of veterinary representatives from government, tertiary education, private practices and animal welfare organizations. The AWAC concludes there is no evidence of any breech of the detailed Animal Welfare Code of Practice for the operation, that the video shows a standard well-conducted slaughter operation, and that the operators appear to take “inordinate care” in all procedures.(4)

1999: In a campaign to have fur products labeled with how the animals involved may or may not have been killed, dozens of hours of interviews are surreptitiously conducted with furriers and retail clerks in Beverly Hills, then edited to make nonsense of their answers. Snippets of discussions about farm-raised animals are played off against remarks about trapping. While the many correct and informative answers are edited out, every incorrect answer is used. Luke Montgomery, a leader in the campaign, states on National Public Radio that furriers consistently referred him to the fur retailers’ trade association for more information. Not one of these referrals makes it into the final edited tape.(5)

Trapping scenes used in the film, when reviewed by professional trappers, reveal startling discrepancies only trappers would notice.

For good measure, footage is added of a man struggling to kill mink in a highly irregular manner, carelessly tossing the animals into a bucket. This raises the eyebrows of fur farmers who review the tape, not only as to the non-standard method of kill, but also because animals prized for their pelts are always laid out carefully and separately. If they are laid together, let alone all tossed into one bucket, the body heat will cause “singe”. The fur will hold a shape in the same way as human hair treated with a dryer and brush, and the tips will curl up as if singed by a fire. (See FCUSA Press Kit special feature: Beverly Hills Labeling Initiative, in particular Don’t Label Beverly Hills, FCUSA press release, Apr. 17, 1999.)

2000: A British court throws out a private prosecution brought against a fur farmer by Mark Glover of the animal rights group Respect for Animals. The principal evidence for the prosecution is video allegedly showing poor animal housing and other conditions. The judge rejects the evidence as being “selective” and filmed by people with an interest in stopping fur farming. In 1992, a jury was unanimous in finding Glover guilty of libelling another fur farm with allegations that were without foundation, untrue and unfair. He and his co-defendants were ordered to pay £40,000 damages. (See Judge Says Animal Rights Campaigner Produced “Selective” Evidence Against Farmer, British Fur Trade Association press release, Nov. 3, 2000)

2000: America’s NBC Dateline uses video provided by the Humane Society of the US, produced as part of the animal rights group’s boycott campaign against the use of karakul lamb (broadtail) pelts in clothing. The video, shot in Uzbekistan, claims that Russian karakul is produced from unborn lambs removed from pregnant ewes killed for this purpose. Common sense, of course, tells us that killing breeding ewes for the value of lambskins would quickly put the sheepherder out of business. Sworn affidavits from the producing regions attest that this is not practiced and that the claim made by HSUS is false. Among them is anunequivocal written judgement of the video’s authenticity by Uzbek Karakul Company, which states: “Having thoroughly investigated the matter, we can confirm that the killing sequence in the footage was staged. The sequence was taken at the request of HSUS representatives, following a scenario suggested by them. The farm workers (Hasan, Zakir, Mutfullo, Fachretdin) were asked personally by the HSUS representatives to bring a sheep, cut off its head and remove the unborn lamb.” (See also 

2005: The jury is still out on this one, but the evidence is highly suspect. Video purporting to show fur production in China is distributed early in 2005 by an animal rights group, Swiss Animal Protection. Reportedly, filming was conducted by Swiss Animal Protection/EAST International in 2004-05 in Heibei Province.(6)

By spring 2005, the footage is being distributed by North American animal rights groups with new scenes. The video includes clips of foxes and raccoon dogs (tanuki), both animals which are also taken from the wild, in a marketplace setting. One man appears wearing a butcher’s apron as he quickly kills a raccoon dog. However, another man, wearing street clothes (black leather jacket and pleated black pants) brutally skins alive a raccoon dog that he has hung on the back of a truck (license plate removed). The animal tries to bite the man and struggles aggressively, making the process extremely difficult.Highly edited, the video shown in the U.S. includes footage of a fox farm where a dog is heard barking excitedly, a shot of a highly agitated fox (perhaps offered food) surrounded by calm foxes, plus mink on a farm illustrating distressed behavior, perhaps due to unusual activity on the farm out of camera range.

The audio during this process is unclear, but certain words – translated here from the local dialect – are discernible. What do they mean? You decide.

As the man prepares to skin the raccoon dog alive, another man appears to be instructing him with such expressions as “You should do this.” Meanwhile, a clearly surprised on-looker asks, “You will skin the animal alive?” After the animal has been skinned, another on-looker calls to the cameraman, “Take a picture here quickly. The animal is still alive.”

The camera then comes in close on a skinned, but still moving animal on a pile of animal carcasses. While the moving animal is covered in blood, showing its heart was pumping during the process, the animals beneath it are clean, as they would be if skinned while dead, which, of course, is the normal procedure and the ONLY acceptable one by humane standards.

Another scene shows a man wearing tattered shoes, hitting a fox on the head with a knife, temporarily stunning but not killing it. He then struggles to skin the obviously alive, moving animal, alternating with beating it with the knife. The animal struggles so much as to make the job impossible, and a shot is seen of the man’s shoes on the animal’s head.

It is nonsensical to suggest that skinning an animal alive is normal practice since even this film of inhumane behavior proves this process to be difficult and dangerous, and furthermore the pulse of the living animal would cause extensive bleeding and damage to the fur. It is therefore highly likely that these scenes were staged.

The fur industry in Europe requested the original unedited footage from the Swiss animal rights group and was refused. The China Fur Commission and China Leather Industry Association challenged the authenticity of the material, saying: “Pictures showing animals being skinned alive are obviously plotted. All those with common sense would not choose this slaughter method to attain fur.” The government of Suning County, Hebei Province also issued a statement outlining welfare practices on its fur farms, calling the alleged practice of skinning animals alive “unimaginable”, and urging Swiss Animal Protection Organization to “respect the truth”.

The media and general public should be highly suspect of this footage and work with the fur industry to determine the true story behind its production. (See Media wary of latest shock video, FCUSA commentary, May 25, 2005.)

2005: The animal rights group Mercy for Animals releases video and posts photos on its website of dead and injured chickens, claiming they were taken the previous November at Ohio Fresh Eggs, formerly Buckeye Egg Farm, in Croton, Ohio. The Columbus-based group alleges hens at the farm suffered bloody and open wounds, were immobilized without access to water, trapped in the wires of the cage, covered in feces and left in cages along with rotting corpses. But a spokesman for the farm states that the pictures could not have been taken at Ohio Fresh Eggs. “We have no idea when or where they took the pictures,” says spokesman Harry Palmer. “There’s no proof they took them at any of our facilities. The cages didn’t represent our houses. Our birds are very different. We deny and dispute that it’s our birds in the first place.”(7)

2007: On June 8, operators of Esbenshade Farms, a large egg producer near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are cleared of all 35 charges of animal cruelty in a case based on highly edited video.

The video was taken in December 2005 by an investigator affiliated with the animal rights group Compassion Over Killing (COK), who had been employed by the farm after misrepresenting himself.

COK edited some two hours of video down to 19 minutes of the most disturbing footage, allegedly including images of hens impaled on wires, trapped and unable to get to food and water, and caged with decomposing corpses of other hens. It then presented the edited footage to Humane Officer Johnna Seeton, who brought charges, only ever visiting the farm to inform the defendants of the charges.

During trial, the defense questioned the authenticity of the video, suggesting scenes had been staged, and that some footage was not even taken on the farm in question.

Real or Staged?

The media are often approached by activists claiming to have gone “underground”, putting their lives at risk, to produce highly edited videos of alleged animal abuse. What these activists typically fail to provide, however, is key information such as what happened where and when, and who exactly was involved. Often, they cannot provide this information for the simple reason that they are the people who staged the abuse.

FCUSA asked three major television networks in the US to explain their policies on using footage of animal suffering from outside sources. Did they require that sources provide uncut footage with unedited sound, or did they accept edited clips? If the footage showed people committing an illegal act, did they require that the people be identified, if only for their own records? And did they require that the source provide the time and location of the film?

Not one network provided an adequate response. In fact, they were downright unhelpful. They can’t resist covering a breaking story, so they err on the side of activists, and keep their fingers crossed they will not end up in court. And if they do, by the time the case comes up, the damage has been done and the people who staged the film are long gone.

Unless something is done, this supplier-and-addict scenario is sure to become more common. The media industry is more competitive than ever, and it is now within the reach of any activist to buy a cheap video camera and stage whatever horror scene he or she wishes.

“Crush” Movie Ban – What Impact for Animal Rights PR?

In 1999, the US Congress decided to bolster existing animal cruelty laws by amending the US Code (title 18) specifically to outlaw the profiting from films depicting cruelty to animals.

The law was provoked by the rise of “crush” movies in which animals are killed to satisfy a sexual perversion, but it could also be used to prosecute animal rights groups for making “snuff” movies and then using them in fundraising.

In its final version, exceptions were introduced to the law following intense lobbying by America’s largest animal rights group, the Humane Society of the US. But the law still had teeth.

Any animal rights group found making or profiting from such a movie had to demonstrate that the movie had “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.” And in seeking to do so, they had to authenticate the material in the movie – something purveyors of staged footage are never willing to do.

Struck down

Then in July 2008, the law was struck down by the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The court ruled that the law violated the First Amendment right to free speech of Robert Stevens, a Virginia man sentenced to 37 months in prison for selling videos of dogfights.

The US Solicitor General then asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. “Depictions of the intentional infliction of suffering on vulnerable creatures,’ the brief said, “play no essential role in the expression of ideas.” The First Amendment, it argued, was therefore irrelevant to the case. (See “Animal cruelty law tests free speech,” New York Times, Jan. 5, 2009.)

To the surprise of some observers, a strong supporter of a Supreme Court hearing was HSUS, prompting the commentary from the Center for Consumer Freedom, “Animal rights leaders should be careful what they wish for”, Jan. 7, 2009. Wrote CCF:

“HSUS and its lesser sibling, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), routinely use videos of animal cruelty to disgust donors into opening their wallets. Every year, the two animal rights organizations use the shock value of undercover slaughterhouse footage and seal-hunting videos (to name just a few categories) in order to raise their $165 million in combined budgets. That’s where the six-figure salaries come in – HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, for instance, makes $234,000 in salary and benefits.

“Fair is fair. If the Supreme Court wants to ban the distribution of some profitable depictions of animal cruelty, it’s also appropriate for HSUS and PETA to cease their own macabre fundraising blitzes. Should the contested law be resurrected, much of what the groups peddle on their websites could be illegal.”

On Apr. 20, 2010, by a majority of 8 to 1, the Supreme Court struck down the federal law banning the sale of crush movies. In their ruling, the majority wrote:

“The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it.”

Further reading:

Supreme Court overturns anti-animal cruelty law in First Amendment caseWashington Post, Apr. 20, 2010.

Supreme Court gets it wrong with animal cruelty ruling. By Chris Palmer and Peter Kimball, San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 23, 2010.

The disputed law:

The amended title 18 of the U.S. Code to punish the depiction of animal cruelty follows.

Sec. 48. Depiction of animal cruelty

(a) Creation, Sale, or Possession – Whoever knowingly creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(b) Exception – Subsection (a) does not apply to any depiction that has serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.

(c) Definitions – In this section –

(1) the term “depiction of animal cruelty” means any visual or auditory depiction, including any photograph, motion-picture film, video recording, electronic image, or sound recording of conduct in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed, if such conduct is illegal under Federal law or the law of the State in which the creation, sale, or possession takes place, regardless of whether the maiming, mutilation, torture, wounding, or killing took place in the State; and

(2) the term “State” means each of the several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and any other commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States.”

Cruel Camera

An investigative report from CBC News, Jan. 16, 2008. Watch it here.

Twenty-five years ago, Bob Mckeown and a fifth estate crew stunned the country with an investigative report that showed that many of the wildlife documentaries we’d grown up watching on television (remember the famous footage of the lemmings going off the cliff or some of the memorable moments from shows like Wild Kingdom?) were staged for the television cameras. As well, they revealed that animals often died during the making of movies; all for the sake of the entertainment value.

Now, Bob McKeown and an investigative team have returned to the subject to find out what has changed since the fifth estate’s first Cruel Camera documentary. What they found may astonish you.



(1) Findings of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1997.

(2) Following is the response from the Illinois Department of Agriculture to a letter dated Dec. 10, 1997, from Mary Beth Sweetland, PeTA:

Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Welfare
P.O. Box 19281, Springfield, IL 62794-9281
217-782-6657, 217-524-6858, 217-524-7702/fax

December 16, 1997

Ms. Mary Beth Sweetland, Director, Research, Investigation & Rescue Dept.
PETA, 501 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510

Dear Ms. Sweetland:

This letter is in response to a communication from your office on the subject of acceptable methods of euthanasia for animals in the State of Illinois.

This Department does administer the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act, a copy of which is enclosed, and all statutes administered by this Department reflect that any euthanasia performed shall comply with the most recent report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, with 1993 report being the most recent. [Ed.: Click here for the 2007 AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia, formerly the Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia.]

The species of animals that your refer to in your inquiry are regulated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and included in the Game Codes for this State. Please recognize that the Department of Agriculture has no statutory authority as to licensure, inspection or review for persons engaged in such activity. We do respond on a case by case basis when we receive or are advised of an allegation for a violation under the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act.

The particular case which was the primary basis for your letter was investigated, charges filed and further prosecuted through the courts of the State of Illinois by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for certain noted violations of their Game Code. The method of euthanasia was immediately stopped, and it was ordered that any future euthanasia for animals be performed in compliance with the aforementioned AVMA Report. It was further ordered that the Department be allowed total access at any time to any part of the defendant’s property for the purpose of monitoring for compliance. The current methods of euthanasia being evaluated are CO and CO2 from tanks into a chamber. We have also had conversations with his veterinarian who has agreed to perform this type service in an acceptable prescribed manner.

I trust this satisfactorily addresses your inquiry.

Very truly yours,



David R. Bromwell, D.V.M.
Chief Veterinarian

(3) Court clears Newfoundland sealer; Ruling questions use of videotapes as evidence, Canadian Press, Mar. 12, 2002.

(4) Source: Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia.

(5) National Public Radio interview, 89.3 KPPC-FM, February 11 1999, Talk of the City with Linda Gerard, host. Guests: Luke Montgomery, Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices; Keith Kaplan, spokesperson for the Beverly Hills fur retailers; and Teresa Platt, Fur Commission USA, representing U.S. mink and fox farmers. Stated Montgomery on the radio, “And the sales people repeatedly, over and over again, said call FICA, Fur Information Council of America.” None of these statements made it into the edited campaign videtape. [Montgomery, a one-time Last Chance for Animals staffer, once briefly ran for DC mayor as Luke Sissyfag.]

(6) Fur-wearing celebrities shamed on PeTA’s worst-dressed list. Environment News Service, Mar. 6, 2009.

(7) Ohio Fresh Eggs denies abuse of hens, by Kent Mallett, The Advocate (Newark, OH), Mar. 2, 2005.

See also:

Cameras don’t lie, but some activist videos do. commentary on controversial 2008 video from the HSUS allegedly showing abuse at a New Mexico livestock auction, Mar. 25, 2010.

Canada clubs seals? commentary on controversial 2007 documentary, Phoques, le film (Seals, the film), by Raoul Jomphe, including footage of an HSUS film crew as they filmed their own fundraising video on the ice floes, Mar. 17, 2010.

Outside observers say animal-cruelty videos extreme at best, at worst, staged. Ag industry, animal activists at war over videos showing abuse. By Tom Webb, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Oct. 19, 2009.

Activists with hidden agenda should also be held accountable. Animal Agriculture Alliance press release, Oct. 1, 2009.

Animal rights foundation of Florida being sued by one of its victims, by Brian Carnell,, Mar. 10, 2003.

Credibility of “Chinese Dog Fur” Story Questioned; Government Regulator Cautions Media About Misleading “Animal Rights” Videos Fur Council of Canada press release, June 10, 2000.

CBC-TV Exposé Casts Doubt on “Dog Fur” Story Jan. 16, 2000 investigation by Canadian Broadcasting Corp. of shocking but unsubstantiated video. Outside link to National Animal Interest Alliance.

A 1994 open letter from the president of the International Quorum of Film & Video Producers condemning the use of manipulation and distortion by anti-fur campaigns in their film footage.

Be prepared for activist infiltration. Advisory for farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses re: vetting new employees, editorial, Capital Press, “The West’s Ag Website”, May 23, 2008.

2007 AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia. (PDF)

For further information contact Fur Commission USA.


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