For Immediate Release:
July 24, 2023
Moira Colley 202-483-7382
Long Island, N.Y. – Native New Yorker Asher Smith has been named one of the top 40 young lawyers in America by the American Bar Association for his groundbreaking work for animals at the PETA Foundation. Born in Great Neck, the director of litigation joined the group in 2018 after working on cases ranging from multibillion-dollar securities litigation and pro bono matters such as lawsuits in Mississippi and at the Supreme Court seeking to legalize gay marriage. Since then, he has helped take down animal abusers, including Tiger King villains Tim Stark and Jeff Lowe, and worked to stop the humane-washing of animal-derived foods in advertising—and in the process, he has pushed people to think differently about ways the law can be used to protect sentient beings.
The PETA Foundation’s legal team operates as a boutique litigation firm on behalf of PETA and other plaintiffs to advocate for animals in the courtroom. Smith’s recent legal victories include these:
- An Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit against Tim Stark of Wildlife in Need (WIN) in Indiana and his associates
PETA secured a ruling that Stark’s practices of prematurely separating big-cat cubs from their mothers, declawing them, and using them in his “tiger baby playtime” events were all violations of the ESA. The surviving big cats at the center of PETA’s lawsuit were transported to reputable sanctuaries, Stark was ordered to pay PETA more than $750,000 in fees and costs, and WIN was later shut down as a result of an Indiana state prosecution for which Smith provided evidence.
- ESA lawsuits against Jeff Lowe of Tiger King Park and his associates
Smith and his team provided assistance in the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) lawsuit alleging that Lowe violated both the ESA and the federal Animal Welfare Act by illegally taking, possessing, and transporting protected animals and placing the health of animals in serious danger. The DOJ adopted many of Smith’s arguments from the Stark case, resulting in the confiscation of all wild and exotic animals from Tiger King Park in Oklahoma.
- A lawsuit against Pete and Gerry’s Organics, the owner of Nellie’s Free Range Eggs, on behalf of consumers in New York who felt deliberately misled by the company’s deceptive packaging
The packaging depicted joyful hens frolicking outdoors, but a
PETA investigation revealed that rather than enjoying lush pastures, 20,000 hens were crammed into a single crowded shed at a Nellie’s supplier. In a landmark victory for PETA, the New York federal court rejected the motion by Nellie’s to dismiss the suit—a ruling that puts other egg sellers on notice that they’re potentially liable for similar deceptive marketing claims.
- Lawsuits against the University of Washington (UW)
A judge found that UW’s policy of destroying photos and videos associated with experiments conducted at its Washington National Primate Research Center made it impossible to comply with public records law and also faulted the university for hiding records obtained by Smith through the litigation that exposed financial scandals, personnel dysfunction, and animal deaths at the center—ordering the university to pay PETA more than half a million dollars in fees and penalties.
- Lawsuits against Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)
Just this past June, Smith’s team helped win a decision ordering another major research institution, OHSU, to pay PETA—this time more than $430,000 in sanctions for going to extreme lengths to hide videos of frivolous experiments in which experimenters pumped prairie voles full of alcohol and forced them to fight in plastic cages. The case also held OHSU liable for illegally surveilling PETA and animal rights activists.
Smith’s litigation includes a first-of-its-kind constitutional lawsuit on behalf of 30 barn owls used in deadly brain studies at Johns Hopkins University as well as First Amendment lawsuits against the National Institutes of Health for filtering comments criticizing animal experiments on its social media channels and against transit systems in Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland for rejecting PETA’s advertising.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.