Cass Sunstein: Radical Animal Rights Activist, or Just Someone with Ethics and Common Sense

There’s been a lot of hype over Obama’s nomination of Cass Sunstein for Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a.k.a. “Regulatory Czar,” since this is the office that reviews every federal regulation issued across the government.

Sunstein, a Harvard Law School Professor, is a well-known, respected and often cited legal scholar. If he is confirmed, he will end up supervising consumer safety, health and environmental regulations. 

So what’s all the fuss about Sunstein? Well, it would appear the man actually supports animal welfare, and not only that, but he supports consumer freedom…as in, consumers have a right to know what they’re actually buying.

Those sound like wonderful qualities right? They are if you’re a citizen who is concerned with how our animals treated and want to know where your money is going. However, there are some individuals and big groups against Sunstein for this position.

Back in January an article came out in Mother Jones by Jonathan Stein about the opposition to Sunstein’s nomination, which highlighted some interesting facts.

For starters, a huge opponent of Sunstein is the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), which sounds like a nice wholesome group, that is until you take a closer look and see who’s running it.

CCF is run by Richard Berman, who has worked on campaigns such as fighting the creation of nonsmoking sections in restaurants, which was funded by none other than Philip Morris.

CCF also loves bacon and hot dogs and calls the Journal of American Medical Association’s findings on links to diabetes and soda garbage. Hmmm…

Back to the real objection being that Sunstein actually has the audacity to stand up and take the following positions on animal welfare:

“In a 2002 working paper Sunstein authored at the University of Chicago, he wrote, “[T]here should be extensive regulation of the use of animals in entertainment, scientific experiments, and agriculture.” In a 2004 book that he coedited and contributed to, Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, he wrote, “Animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives…Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian-like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf.” And during a 2007 panel discussion at Harvard on animal rights, Sunstein said hunting for “sport and fun”—not for food—should be “against the law” and that greyhound racing, cosmetic testing on animals, and the eating of meat raised in inhumane conditions ought to be eliminated. He also said at the panel that the current treatment of livestock and other animals should be considered “a form of unconscionable barbarity not the same as, but in many ways morally akin to, slavery and mass extermination of human beings,” according to Stein.

Gasp! Wait, actually that doesn’t sound all that radical. It sounds like someone with a sense of ethics and a conscience at work.

Unfortunately, as other senators put a hold on Sunstein’s nomination, headlines such as, “Animals Can Sue People,” are all the rage. As if Sunstein has painted a picture of a dog or an elephant walking into a courtroom with a briefcase fully prepared for litigation against his or her offender.

That wasn’t his point at all. His point was that people should have the standing to take legal action on behalf of animals who are suffering, or where welfare laws aren’t being upheld, which would actually solve a huge problem regarding the lack of enforcement of our current animal welfare laws.

If you would like to support Sunstein for OIRA, send a letter to your senators through In Defense of Animals asking them to support his nomination. 

creative commons


Amanda L.
Amanda L8 years ago

Chris Fowler states: Animals in the entertainment industry are monitored for their safety and welfare on the set, and when not on the set, in their home locations, they are also checked by various animal regulatory agencies throughout the nation, just like any other animals are.

Clearly, sir, you have not been paying attention. The regulations that are in place are severely lacking, and the toothless penalties for failing to meet the regulations are a joke at the very best. Most of these animals are not treated "humanely" at all.

Carol H.
Past Member 8 years ago

I think he sounds great as long he continues the way he feels and does protect all of the animals no matter what they are and by the way we are animals so I include us as well.
So if we do things to animals that we depend upon for food we are harming ourselves eveyday.
But from what I have read in this article he sounds good all the way around.


jeanette steffi g.

It would be great if he got that position. If he did, the animals that are suffering will have their inaudible voices heard and will raise awareness to people who up till now, do not know. Animals have rights. And the people thinking that an animal wearing a suit and holding a briefcase, are just stupid people without any intellect.

Deborah B.
Deborah B8 years ago

Thank you, Alicia, for this most important news. I have sent letters of support for Cass Sunstein's appointment to my state senators through In Defense of Animals.

megan m.
megan m8 years ago

I'm at a loss for words, it would just be really wonderful for him to have that job.

So B.
So B8 years ago

Christopher Fowler, do you smoke crack?

johnnie W.
johnnie W8 years ago

I think he fits all the requiriments to be a human, knows and recognize's helplessness and feels compassion for it. this makes a good man. I will be there to help him anyway I can.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L8 years ago

What a wonderful man. He is not only good for the animals, he is good for humankind and the planet as a whole.

Patrish Dehler
Patricia Dehler8 years ago

Humans have the 'idea' the that animals are here for our use 9and dis-use) and entertainment. How they are treated till the die (be it our hands or naturally), says volumes about who you are as a person, as a nation, and as planet. Change has to start somewhere, and usually it with the government. I want better treatment for our farm and slaughter animals and I want to know what I am eating.

Ellen B.
Ellen B8 years ago

Given the horrible things that go on -- and the powerful lobbies that support their continuation -- I had honestly started to believe that there was no hope of ever achieving decent treatment for animals in this country. Cass Sunstein's nomination provides a ray of hope for the animals, and for all people who care about them. I hope he has the strength to maintain his principles once he begins dealing with "the system." God bless him!