Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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In the United States on New Year’s Eve, a judge dismissed a federal lawsuit filed by a consortium of animal rights groups including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The lawsuit alleged that Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, mistreated elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Now the Circus has turned around and filed a lawsuit against the HSUS, two HSUS lawyers, and a number of other animal rights organizations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.


The original animal rights lawsuit was filed more than nine years ago, and was based on information provided by a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephant “barn helper” named Tom Rider. After Rider left his circus job, he was paid by animal rights groups to testify about the allegedly bad treatment of their elephants. In all, the original lawsuit’s plaintiffs paid Rider more than $190,000 — his sole source of income for eight years while the litigation made its way through the court system.

The Court frowned upon Rider being paid to act as a witness in this animal rights’ coalition lawsuit.

“The Court finds that Mr. Rider is essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible, and therefore affords no weight to his testimony,” said Judge Emmet Sullivan in his December ruling that accompanied his dismissal of the animal rights groups’ lawsuit [PDF]. “[T]he primary purpose [for the payments] is to keep Mr. Rider involved with the litigation.”

Judge Sullivan’s finding is now being used by Feld Entertainment to sue everyone who played a part in this collaborative “racketeering” scheme, including Rider as well as the nonprofit “Wildlife Advocacy Project” charity that the Washington, DC law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal allegedly used to launder money between their plaintiff clients and Rider. One of these clients putting up money to support Rider was the Fund for Animals, which merged with HSUS in 2004.

Feld Entertainment’s lawsuit alleges bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering charges against HSUS and two of its corporate attorneys, three other animal rights groups, Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, and all three of that firm’s named partners. To quote David Martosko, who writes the blog, HumaneWatch.org;

America’s farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, research scientists, fashion designers, and restaurateurs have seen for decades how the animal rights movement can behave like a mobbed-up racket. But it’s still shocking to see the evidence laid out on paper. In a treble-damage lawsuit like this, a jury could actually do the humane thing and finally put HSUS out of business completely.

You can read the full text PDF of the 135-page lawsuit courtesy of HumaneWatch.

Comments

  1. #1 bork
    February 26, 2010

    Ugh. I recognize that many researchers aren’t keen on the HSUS, and the HSUS has no shortage of problems… but… “HumaneWatch”?

    Really?

    A site run by the “Centre for Consumer Freedom”?

    These are the hacks who shill for Big Tobacco and payday loans and fight MADD on behalf of distillers and brewers? And lest you think they’re on the side of science, remember that these are the folks who spent half a mil spreading misinformation about obesity on behalf of the fast food industry.

  2. #2 CM
    February 26, 2010

    bork: Tobbacco companies, fast-food companies, liquor companies, ect. have absolutely NOTHING to do with Humanewatch-they, along with supporters of Humanewatch advocate personal choice-NOT people or groups stuffing their agendas down others throats, as HSUS is desparately trying to do. They are NOT the ones attacking farmers, horse and pet breeders, hunters, and those who value their constitutional rights-HSUS is. By the way- I have never seen these companies tie someone down and force cigarrettes, alcohol, or burgers in their mouth. People need to start recongnizing they are responcible for themselves-and stop blaming everyone else for their life problems.

    GO FELD ENTERTAINMENT!!! We are routing that you put this scumbag HSUS out for good!!!

  3. #3 Derick
    February 26, 2010

    This has been a day that many people had longed to see, I myself would be glad to assist Feld in anyway for free. If we take a look at the H$U$ and the many people lives that they have destroyed from the gamefowl industry to people who raise puppies for a living. If we were to take there money and everything they enjoy from life this would be a victory. Now who would be wrong? This machine needs to be put out business and I would love to see wayne and goodwin in a jail cell!!!

  4. #4 Dan S.
    February 26, 2010

    Tobbacco companies, fast-food companies, liquor companies, ect. have absolutely NOTHING to do with Humanewatch-

    Well, this is literally true. Some more background – As bork points out, HumaneWatch is a production of Richard Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom, which sourcewatch.org describes as a
    front group for the restaurant, alcohol, tobacco and other industries. It runs media campaigns which oppose the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, environmentalists and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calling them “the Nanny Culture — the growing fraternity of food cops, health care enforcers, anti-meat activists, and meddling bureaucrats who ‘know what’s best for you.’ . . . CCF actively opposes smoking bans and lowering the legal blood-alcohol level, while targeting studies on the dangers of meat & dairy, fatty foods, soda pop, pharmaceuticals, animal testing, overfishing and pesticides.http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Center_for_Consumer_Freedom

    More:
    San Francisco Chronicle pet column asking “Is the CCF the best watchdog for the HSUS?” (they’re pretty doubtful) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/pets/detail?&entry_id=57838

    The Center for Media and Democracy: Rick Berman Attacks the Humane Society
    The Humane Society works to stop egregious, ongoing animal abuse, particularly in money-making enterprises like puppy mills, factory farming, dogfighting, cockfighting, and unsporting hunting practices like “canned hunts,” where hunters pay to shoot at captive, domestically-raised, exotic animals. While this is a laudable goal, it pits HSUS against a significant number of wealthy, powerful businesses that engage in animal cruelty practices, like meat and egg producers, factory farmers, canned hunting businesses, contract research labs that do animal testing for big corporations and pharmaceutical companies that exploit animals to manufacture drugs like Premarin . . .HumaneWatch.org is essentially a one-man blog written by David Martosko, a spokesman for Berman and CCF. Martosko is best known for parroting Berman’s industry-paid positions that mercury levels in edible fish pose no harm to children, and drunk driving is no longer much of a problem.http://www.prwatch.org/node/8894

    A Response from the Humane Society (re: HumaneWatch & the CCF) http://www.opposingviews.com/i/humane-society-on-its-battle-with-center-for-consumer-freedom

    Look, I don’t know anything about the merits of this specific case, and like bork I’m assuming (perhaps wrongly) that this was posted because of the animal research issue – which *is* something HSUS is involved in. Fair enough – (like my approval is in any way necessary!) Bringing in HumaneWatch/CCF though, esp. without any context for who they are and what they do – ie, a front group whose claims shouldn’t really be regarded as credible w/o independent verification and which exists to run deeply unsavory smear campaigns for various industries (Parents don’t need to worry about mercury levels in fish?) . . . :(

    And “H$U$”? Er . . .what?

    Yes, there’s the animal testing/research issue (Although the Humane Society isn’t PETA which (fwiw) isn’t . . .). But while I’m sure that’s part of what’s driving HumaneWatch (Berman’s been involved in that sort of thing before), just looking at their own press releases/comments in this thread, one can get a rough sense of what other interests they’re acting in: factory farming, canned ‘hunting’, puppy mills, etc. It’s not impossible that Feld Entertainment’s a client of theirs, but that’s almost irrelevant – their MO is to try to smear and marginalize their target w/ anything at hand, whether the goal is getting people to disregard warnings about mercury that cut into the profit margin, or trying to reduce the Humane Society’s funding/influence/reputation so it can’t run more campaigns like the one it did in support of California’s successful Proposition 2, which “Requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely… [with] Exceptions made for transportation, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_2_(2008)
    which seem like the least a *humane* *society* would do (but cuts into the profit margin)

    or its efforts to fight puppy mills http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/puppy_mills/
    which, again . . .

  5. #5 Phillip IV
    February 26, 2010

    It’s time for “Good Idea – Bad Idea”!

    Good Idea: For a circus to employ clowns trained at their own Clown College.

    Bad Idea: For a circus to employ lawyers trained at their own Clown College.

  6. #6 John McKay
    February 26, 2010

    HumaneWatch is an astroturf campaign created by Richard Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom. Berman has made a very prosperous living by creating corporate front groups to spread disinformation and attack various advocacy groups. His ActivistCash.com site went after Mothers Against Drunk Driving for their “fanatical conviction that no one should be allowed to drink anything before driving.” His Guest Choice Network tried to play down the connection between secondhand smoke and lung disease in order to stop anti-smoking laws from being passed. He has been one of the prime movers behind efforts to discredit ACORN. His ObesityMyths.com claims there is no link between obesity and diabetes. He opposed the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act by writing editorials about AIDS patients in restaurant kitchens (this was 1989). He does all of this as a paid lobbyist for various industries, tobacco, alcohol, food processing, and, now fur farming and puppy mills.

    Don’t be suckered by a Berman group and don’t be suckered by the suckers who (knowingly or unknowingly) do his dirty work.

  7. #7 Chris N
    February 26, 2010

    Humanewatch is a website set up by Center for Consumer Freedom for Feld Entertainment and the like. Talk about money laundering.

  8. #8 Dan S.
    February 27, 2010

    Ok, I have a longish comment stuck/lost in moderation, but that’s ok ’cause a) bork and John McKay said it much better and b) I hadn’t seen the previous posts here about the HSUS. Anyway, a few things:

    Grrlscientist –

    Like folks are saying, HumaneWatch is a product of Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom, an industry front group. See: http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Center_for_Consumer_Freedom
    Honestly, it was kind of jarring to come here and see not awesome birds, etc. but a link to that sort of organization. Now, me fretting about my delicate sensibilities is neither here nor there – it’s your blog – but . .

    1) We’re talking, after all, about an industry front group. This doesn’t mean they might not have useful info, but it’s good to know what they are & do – ie, run smear campaigns frequently riddled w/ questionable or outright dis-information, so that independent verification is pretty essential. Just putting up the link & quote – I don’t know if that’s endorsing, exactly, but it is kinda caveat-free.

    2) You’re not a big fan of the HSUS, to put it mildly, for various reasons. Ok – I disagree/am unconvinced, but if you’re right, then you have a really strong position. HumaneWatch/CCF opposes the HSUS too – but why? Sure if you go to HumaneWatch’s “About the Blogger” page, you’ll find, beneath a cute picture of David Martosko w/ a dog, his musings about how he “grew up believing that the best way to help animals is to join a big national group” but now realizes he was wrong; that big rich HSUS needs somebody to keep it honest; that the majority of folks, normal, animal-loving folks – mostly just want to support animal welfare – “actual practical animal cruelty that could be addressed in a hands-on way”, but are (it’s implied) being suckered by the HSUS into funding fringe animal rights absurdities that just distract from real problems.

    And – who knows – on an individual level, he may even personally believe this (and the stuff about drunk driving, and etc.). Hey, for alI I know, he spends his nights pacing sleeplessly, sincerely furious about how the HSUS gets donations from people who think it’s a parent org to their local humane society shelter. But of course, that doesn’t matter. The question is why HumaneWatch/CCF opposes the HSUS – they’re a front group, so who are they fronting for? Now, comments #2 and #3 are suggestive, if in need of a bit of translatin’, ie:
    “the many people lives that they have destroyed from the gamefowl industry”
    [that is, HSUS' efforts against cockfighting and especially canned hunting, where captive animals - often birds, but other kinds as well, are released into an enclosed area for "hunters" to blast away at in a mockery of anything resembling a sport - what Dick Cheney did when he wasn't shooting people in the face (also "put and take" pheasant stocking, where clueless farm-raised birds are dumped out at the start of the season).
    to people who raise puppies for a living.
    (that is, puppy mills.)

    But I don't know how huge of a factor these really are. Sciencebloggers will probably be thinking about the animal research/testing issue, but while Berman's been involved with that in the past, it doesn't look like that's a major thing either, at least at first glance. The LA Times pet blog had a really good recommended-reading post on the whole HumaneWatch/CCF/HSUS thing this week
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2010/02/new-center-for-consumer-freedom-website-targets-humane-society-of-the-united-states.html
    including the following, quoting "agribusiness reporter P.J. Huffstutter":

    "So, why target [the Humane Society]? Well, for one thing, [the Humane Society] has become increasingly involved in pushing through legislation that alters how animals are treated in the food-production system. The organization was a key voice in the successful campaign last year to get California voters to pass Proposition 2, which was aimed at preventing “cruel confinement” of farm animals (like smaller cages for egg-laying chickens or gestation crates for pregnant sows).

    Indeed, Wikipedia lists its provisions, as summarized by the CA Sec. of State:

    Requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.
    Exceptions made for transportation, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes.
    Provides misdemeanor penalties, including a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or imprisonment in jail for up to 180 days.

    Is “Requir[ing] that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely,” some sort of horrible fringe animal rights idiocy? Or perhaps could be considered an animal welfare issue, “”actual practical animal cruelty that could be addressed in a hands-on way”?

    But anyway, yeah, it seems pretty plausible that agribusiness is one of the biggest drivers here, although I’m pretty sure there are others. – And Indeed, it’s very, very interesting to google “HumaneWatch” and look at where the buzz is.

    Of course, they’re going to throw anything they can -as sourcewatch notes that CCF’s MO involves “marginalizing advocates”. Of course they don’t like the HSUS getting funding and good pr, because they don’t want it able to run these sort of campaigns!

    So, grrlscientist . . . I guess my question would be: what does this mean to you? I certainly don’t know – after all, you oppose the HSUS, so this might be just fine, in an enemy-of-an-enemy sense. I just wanted to stress that their motives are very much not yours, and all that springs from that.

  9. #9 Dan S.
    February 27, 2010

    Ok, now I have *two* long comments in moderation . . . I try to write concisely, really I do! Well, anyway . . .

    1) What bork and John McKay said. See http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Center_for_Consumer_Freedom

    2) Read this post, by an LA Times blogger, about Humane Watch/CCF and the HSUS: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2010/02/new-center-for-consumer-freedom-website-targets-humane-society-of-the-united-states.html Includes, quoting from an agribusiness reporter’s column:
    So, why target [the Humane Society]? Well, for one thing, [the Humane Society] has become increasingly involved in pushing through legislation that alters how animals are treated in the food-production system. The organization was a key voice in the successful campaign last year to get California voters to pass Proposition 2, which was aimed at preventing “cruel confinement” of farm animals (like smaller cages for egg-laying chickens or gestation crates for pregnant sows).

  10. #10 Dan S.
    February 27, 2010

    Three comments in moderation. I’m setting myself up for a horrible quadruple-post, but since I don’t know how often (if at all) that gets checked, one more try – shorter, and only one link . . ..

    Yep, bork and John McKay and Chris N are right: HumaneWatch is a production of Richard Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom, a industry front group which you can read all about over at Sourcewatch (although since it hasn’t been updated lately, they leave out his anti-union activities).

    Ok, grrlscientist – you’re not a big fan (to put it mildly) of the HSUS, for various reasons that if true are quite good (I’m unconvinced, but that doesn’t matter for this). But why is the CCF going after them? Obviously CCFer David Martosko’s “about the blogger” musings are (even if – who knows! – absolutely sincere) completely irrelevant; this isn’t a personal blog but an industry outlet by an a professional who’s worked hard pushing the CCF line on drunk driving (nothing to worry about!), mercury in fish (nothing to worry about!) and obesity (nothing to worry about, not really connected to diabetes, soda’s not bad for you,and leave the fast food industry ALOOONE!).

    Well, there’s a really, really good (and pretty even-handed) post over at one of the LA Times blogs on this whole issue. It includes a link to an agribusiness reporter pointing out

    So, why target [the Humane Society]? Well, for one thing, [the Humane Society] has become increasingly involved in pushing through legislation that alters how animals are treated in the food-production system. The organization was a key voice in the successful campaign last year to get California voters to pass Proposition 2, which was aimed at preventing “cruel confinement” of farm animals (like smaller cages for egg-laying chickens or gestation crates for pregnant sows).“.
    (Wikipedia points out the it “Requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.”

    Just so you know . . .

  11. #11 genesweater
    February 27, 2010

    Feld Ent. & ringling bros needs to File a lawsuit to ALL top 20 HSUS officers..
    These ORganize syndicates are Economically Descriminating against the Ringling bros and Cultural gamefowl sport practitoner & other, are in Violation of AETA laws & Human rights laws , the NON-TAXPAYING Economic extremist Terrorist animal groups, hsus who SPONSORS Terrorism inside the USA.
    Imagine how many human lives, small farmers, taxpayers ,veterans, citizens hsus had ruin because of their Massive Fruadulent SPONSORED EXtremist animal bills…such as the anti-gamefowl sports sponsored bill

  12. #12 Douglas Watts
    February 27, 2010

    You’ve been pwned.

  13. #13 Bob O'H
    February 27, 2010

    Interesting argument: suggesting that one can ignore HumaneWatch’s arguments because of their sponsors. I agree it’s good to know the background of these organizations, but they are still making arguments that need to be countered, and ad hominem is not the way to do it. So now we know that HumaneWatch are dodgy, can we get baqck to their accusations against HSUS?

    BTW, that LA Times article doesn’t look fair and balanced to me: its one-sided in support of HSUS. And it’s misleading, in particular this:

    What’s not reasonable or sound is vilifying the group for its failure to be something it never claimed to be: an animal shelter.

    From the HSUS “About us” page, which the article linked to:

    We are the lead disaster relief agency for animals, and we provide direct care for thousands of animals at our sanctuaries and rescue facilities, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and mobile veterinary clinics. (emphasis added)

  14. #14 MadScientist
    February 27, 2010

    I hope they can get some convictions and seize HSUS property as proceeds of crime. I also hope PETA is next. Ah, I miss the bad old days when we only had commies to worry about, no lunatics who claim to be acting in the interests of all that’s warm and fuzzy.

  15. #15 dryad
    February 28, 2010

    The documents as they were filed in court by the lawyers for Feld Entertainment can be found here:

    http://humanewatch.org/index.php/documents/detail/racketeering_lawsuit_filed_against_hsus_and_its_lawyers/

    It is about 135 pages long, but well worth reading.

    Humanewatch.org may have an interest in monitoring HSUS, but it did not file the lawsuit. Feld Entertainment did.

    The most interesting part of the whole case (for me) is that the “star witness” of the case against Feld Ent. — the one who was paid apporimately $200,000 for his testimony — now seems, for the present at least, to have vanished into thin air, along with the VW van, the telephoto camera, the laptop computer, the DVDs, the cell phone, and all the other goodies he bought with that money.

    What has been decided by the court in that case against Feld Ent. is this: the “star witness” had no credibility and his testimony was thrown out by the court.

    It will be quite interesting to see how the present Feld Ent. RICO case is decided in court.

  16. #16 Erica Saunders
    February 28, 2010

    Although the motives of Humanewatch.org can be viewed as suspect, I find it difficult to understand why individuals are willing to discard the original court documents out of hand?

    Yes, the press release comes from CCF
    Yes, CCF founded HumaneWatch

    But the RICO filing is real, the allegations are real and there is certainly an extensive history of HSUS and affiliated organizations appearing to overstep their legal bounds (IRS filings, purchase of property that was potentially obtained in violation of a court order and apparent impersonation of law enforcement officials just to name a couple of issues that I have researched myself)

  17. #17 John McKay
    March 1, 2010

    Let’s play connect the dots.

    Berman’s myriad front organizations are never the “grassroots” organizations that they try to look like.

    They are paid for by Berman’s lobbying clients.

    Berman won’t say who pays for each front.

    HumaneWatch was launched right after Feld Entertainment filed their lawsuit against HSUS.

    Who might be paying for HumaneWatch?

  18. #18 "GrrlScientist"
    March 1, 2010

    has anyone here read the court documents? i have looked over them quickly and they are rather damning. regardless of who is paying for humane watch, the point remains unchanged: HSUS and pals are rather scummy organizations that have gotten their collective hands caught in the proverbial cookie jar. the comments from the judge who dismissed the HSUS lawsuit are enough (in my non-legal opinion) to successfully prosecute HSUS and their cohorts.

  19. #19 NotDumb
    March 1, 2010

    Well
    The HSUS staffers with their trolling software are now hammering away Republican style to cry “front-group” and “funded -by” to discredit Humane Watch’s website.
    ALL any PAC or Lobbying Group fronting as a Non-profit and dedicating the bulk of it’s resources/staff to fund-raising and Lobbying/Legislative Issues as well as Media Manipulation-like HSUS-can do is… GET USED TO IT.
    The Wayne-Train is gettin’derailed.

  20. #20 Laura D
    March 1, 2010

    I am an individual and not a part of CF or paid by any business or corporation. I have been watching the HSUS for years and years…watching their lawsuits against federal agencies, trying to change the regulations put in place by laws passed by Congress…thus changing the intent of the legislators.

    HSUS has been lobbying for national laws that would affect many different animals and their owners, using emotionally tinged non-factual propaganda to urge members of the general public to support the HSUS position.

    Meanwhile, HSUS was continuously sending out letters to every home owner, asking for donations to help them SAVE pitiful dogs and cats…and the donated funds went into the coffers to pay lobbyists, generate lawsuits and generally change American society in regards to people and their animals. The result: we now have a whole generation of people who believe the HSUS propaganda about farm animals (they are terribly abused by the farmers!), about dog breeders, (dog breeders are all running puppy mills!), and about exotic species (exotics are dangerous invasives and all should be illegal to own!).

    The outcome of this is that people do not ask the actual stakeholders for the truth, nor do they seek the facts. They accept without question the negative propaganda put forward by HSUS in their effort to incrementally remove all animals from humans.

    Does it matter whether or not http://www.humanewatch.org has been produced by Berman? What matters is that he has published the facts about the HSUS…by publishing their own IRS tax documents. What could be more real than that?

    And, take note that over 2,000 individuals have written to the IRS and requested that the IRS review the non-profit status of the HSUS, since the HSUS activities so often appear to be very questionable in meeting the requirements for non-profit status.

    So,it seems to me that it is about time for those organizations harmed by HSUS to take action by filing lawsuits. Good for Feld. I can only hope they win the suit.

  21. #21 sara
    March 2, 2010

    I am not a fan of HSUS, and I even give the ASPCA panhandlers a hard time when they harass those of us trying to do some grocery shopping. Nevertheless, some of the commenters do have a point about credibility of the source. Many of those in the avicultural forums, well-intentioned they may be, cite information that can only be traced to some site that is part of the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) hierarchy. And this is a mistake. CCF has no credibility, even if I agree with most of their agenda, because their “director of research,” David Martosko, has no qualifications. He was a music major in college and seems not to know much about math/statistics (e.g. on drunk-driving statistics and some details of Hg content in seafood at least, he has completely screwed up). It is painful to acknowledge that our most well-known refuge against the FDA and animal rights movement is an astroturf organization.

  22. #22 Eric S.
    March 4, 2010

    I think folks this is about choice, to smoke, to enjoy a steak at a favorite resturant. Of course you realize the HSUS is a vegan animal rights social movement and has nothing really do do with animal welfare. No one I have heard put animal welfare with one line but in the movie of Dr. Temple Grandin, who said, “Animals deserve your respect, that is the least you can do when you eat them.” She has certainly made the division between animal rights and animal welfare. Of course animal rights activist are usually vegan and would not understand a statement such as this but that is the way most farmers feel about their animals. Taking good care of them to feed the USA protein. I don’t think most of the people on the list would survive on a farm an probably neither would the animals. It is an art to care for the land and the animals and a lot of work and study, from pasture planting to feeding. We love this life. As of now it is still legal to farm.
    ES