The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the federal government to disclose potential environmental harms arising from agency actions. Animal suffering is an environmental harm, yet no court has ruled that its infliction triggers a reporting obligation under NEPA. This Article argues that animal suffering should be a cognizable environmental harm under NEPA, that considerations of animal suffering should factor into whether an agency must prepare an EIS--and should be discussed in the content of the EIS.
Part II of this Article introduces and explains the procedural requirements of NEPA. Part III discusses animal suffering--how it is defined, how laws deal with or fail to deal with issues of animal cruelty, and outlines the ways animals suffer as a result of federal actions. Part IV offers examples of major federal actions that cause animal suffering--including federal loan guarantees for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and wildlife management practices, such as depredation, carried out by federal Wildlife Services (WS). Part V establishes that animals are a part of the “human environment” as defined by NEPA and that the harms inflicted on animals resulting from major federal actions constitute a “significant impact,” that should trigger NEPA review and warrant discussion in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Finally, we argue that even if animal suffering alone were insufficient to trigger NEPA review, that suffering in conjunction with the various other environmental impacts associated with activities that cause animal suffering should trigger NEPA review regardless.
David N. Cassuto & Tala DiBenedetto, Suffering Matters: NEPA, Animals, and the Duty to Disclose, 42 U. Haw. L. Rev. 41 (2020), https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/1166/.