Ask Tamerlaine to Stop Using Legal Attacks on Animal Sanctuaries and Animal Caregivers

Ask Tamerlaine to Stop Using Legal Attacks on Animal Sanctuaries and Animal Caregivers

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Rockwell Schwartz started this petition to Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary Leadership and

Ask Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary to stop using lawsuits to attack animal sanctuaries and animal caregivers.

Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary is suing seven of its former full-time caregivers—threatening them with bankruptcy—to stop them from expressing their concerns about the rampant mistreatment of staff and animals at Tamerlaine. Tamerlaine has recently asked the Court for permission to sue Farm Sanctuary and its National Shelter Director, Susie Coston; sued Skylands Animal Sanctuary & Rescue and its President, Mike Stura; used its lawsuit to subpoena other animal sanctuaries for internal documents; and attacked animal attorney Jay Shooster, potentially threatening his ability to practice law and sue factory farmers. The animal protection movement should not settle internal conflict through costly and potentially life-destroying lawsuits. Please ask Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary to cease its legal threats against members of the animal rights community.

Reasons to ask Tamerlaine to drop the lawsuit against animal caregivers and animal sanctuaries:

1. The lawsuit exists to silence whistleblowers’ valid concerns, not punish wrongdoers.
In the fall of 2017, the vast majority of Tamerlaine’s former full-time caregiving staff were engaged in private conversations about issues they had directly observed at the sanctuary over the course of its three years of operation. In the caregivers’ observation, these issues ranged from mistreatment and neglect of resident animals, to cruel treatment of employees/staff, to rampant fire hazards and other immediate safety concerns. The caregivers had all individually determined that Tamerlaine’s President and Vice President were unwilling to address these issues, and so they worked separately to find appropriate solutions to these problems through other channels: trying to provide timely care to the animals most in need, drafting a letter to Tamerlaine’s board of directors, contacting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), requesting support from the local fire department, and reaching out to other animal protection organizations for advice.

But before the caregivers could finalize their letter to Tamerlaine’s board of directors, Tamerlaine’s President and Vice President initiated a retaliatory lawsuit, designed to silence the caregivers and force them into signing gag orders. Every caregiver and sanctuary being threatened through this lawsuit has wholly devoted themselves to caring for animals, yet the lawsuit claims all were engaged in a conspiracy to destroy Tamerlaine, despite Tamerlaine’s alleged flawless conduct. In reality, the lawsuit is a tool to quash whistleblowing and free speech, preempt any public criticism of Tamerlaine's treatment of employees and animals, and abuse their positions of power and influence to scare victims and witnesses into silence.

2. Tamerlaine is not only attacking its former employees, but also several other sanctuaries and activists.
Tamerlaine has also antagonized others throughout the animal rights/sanctuary community, forcing them to spend time and money on legal representation. Tamerlaine sued Skylands Animal Sanctuary and its President in January 2018 and in January 2019 requested permission from the Court to sue Farm Sanctuary and its National Shelter Director, Susie Coston. Farm Sanctuary is the largest and most renowned farm sanctuary organization in the world. Tamerlaine has also subpoenaed additional farm sanctuaries and threatened animal attorney Jay Shooster, who works full-time suing factory farms, potentially threatening his ability to practice law. Tamerlaine is not only wasting the time, money, and energy of numerous animal advocates and sanctuaries, but also directly threatening their ability to continue doing meaningful work for animals—all because they do not want the truth of their own bad behavior public.

3. Animal advocates and nonprofits should not have their limited resources drained fighting this lawsuit.
Tamerlaine’s abusive litigation tactics and legal threats have threatened its former caregivers with bankruptcy. Tamerlaine has explicitly threatened to garnish the caregivers’ meager wages for years to come, unless they make false public statements in support of Tamerlaine and sign gag orders. Regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, the money needlessly expended on attorneys to defend against Tamerlaine’s bogus claims is gone permanently. Should the lawsuit continue, the caregivers and sanctuaries may spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their defense, money that could instead go to rescuing and advocating for animals.

4. Tamerlaine is using its privileges and resources within the legal system to ensure the lawsuit will not end in a fair outcome.
Tamerlaine’s Vice President is a partner at a large law firm—the same law firm suing its former caregivers. This means they have ample resources to maintain a malicious lawsuit for years to come. On the other hand, the former employees are all animal caregivers with meager wages who do not have the funds for sustained legal representation and do not deserve the life-destroying effects of this litigation. Because this is a civil case (not a criminal case) the caregivers are not entitled to free legal representation and must either pay for an attorney or represent themselves against these professionals. Paying for representation to fight this case until the end will cost many tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars, which these low-wage animal caregivers just do not have.

5. The former employees being sued are victims of staff mistreatment and the lawsuit is a perpetuation of this mistreatment.
Tamerlaine’s lawsuit not only spreads malicious falsehoods about the caregivers (and other animal sanctuaries), but also threatens the caregivers with bankruptcy, a life-altering outcome with far-reaching limitations, such as on one’s ability to rent an apartment or even find a job (including working to care for animals). The caregivers are victims of staff mistreatment—everything from being paid less than minimum wage, to frequent verbal abuse, to inappropriate sexual comments in the workplace—who are being viciously attacked for their efforts to improve treatment of employees and rescued animals. The lawsuit further severely victimizes victims of workplace mistreatment who were trying to protect others.

6. The lawsuit sets a precedent for how the animal rights movement as a whole handles accusations of abuse and how we support those who feel victimized.
In the animal rights movement, as in the rest of the world, bad actors with resources have historically sued their victims into silence, rather than acknowledge their own wrongdoings. This pattern needs to stop. Even those who do not believe the allegations of animal and employee mistreatment can still recognize that this is not an appropriate way to resolve internal conflict among animal advocates.

This lawsuit is not a tool to fairly solve conflict. It is a tool to quash all criticism and destroy all critics. Please ask Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary’s leadership to immediately cease its legal attacks on the animal caregivers, animal sanctuaries, and other members of the animal advocacy community.

Support the animal caregivers' legal defense funds HERE.

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