PETA Hog-Catching Case Fails For Lack Of Standing

JurisdictionTexas,United States
Law FirmDuane Morris LLP
Subject MatterEnvironment, Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Environmental Law, Trials & Appeals & Compensation
AuthorMr John M. Simpson
Published date14 February 2023

On February 8, 2023, the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment dismissing a lawsuit that animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and a former PETA employee had brought seeking to enjoin the "Bandera Wrangler's Hog Catch," a feral hog-catching contest held annually in Bandera, Texas. PETA v. Bandera Wranglers, No. 04-21-00466-CV (Tex. Civ. App. ' San Antonio 2023). The court ruled that neither plaintiff had standing to sue under Texas law.

As described in the appellate court's opinion:

The hog catch involves approximately eighty feral hogs each year. The feral hogs are caught by local ranchers, farmers, or other persons who loan, donate, or sell the hogs to Bandera Wranglers. Members of the public are eligible to compete in the hog catch. The object of the hog catch is to catch and bag a hog in a burlap sack and drag the bagged pig across a designated line in the fastest time possible. During the hog catch, a team of two human adults or teenagers chase and attempt to catch and bag an adult or juvenile hog inside a fully-enclosed arena, surrounded by spectators and other hogs held in adjacent pens. A children's event also occurs where young children chase a large group of piglets in an effort to touch any piglet as quickly as possible. Slip op. at 2.

Texas standing law, like federal standing law, requires that the plaintiff suffer a concrete injury traceable to the defendant's conduct that is redressable by court order. Relying upon the federal standing theory of "resource drain" organizational injury, as set out in Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363 (1982), PETA argued that it was injured by defendant's actions because PETA had to divert resources from its "ordinary charitable activities" in order to address the alleged mistreatment of the animals in the hog catch. As the appellate court ruled, however, "no Texas state court has recognized the concept of organizational standing." Slip. op. at 6. As the court observed:

We begin with the principle that "[m]ajor changes in established law should be made by our Supreme Court." . . . Havens creates an entirely new standing test (mission impairment and diversion of resources) that, if adopted, supplants Texas's longstanding rule (concrete injury, traceability, and redressability). In the trial court, PETA argued it was relieved from establishing standing in the same way as individuals on the basis that organizational standing has "different elements."...

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