Thursday, September 30, 2021

No organizational standing where advocacy campaigns didn't change

Friends of the Earth v. Sanderson Farms, Inc., 992 F.3d 939 (9th Cir. 2021)

Although the animal/farm advocacy organization plaintiffs won some early skirmishes, they faltered on lack of organizational standing against a poultry producer to bring consumer protection claims. The court of appeals affirmed their loss.

The groups’ activities included informing consumers about the downsides of routine antibiotic use and pressuring restaurants to stop sourcing meat from producers that routinely use antibiotics. Sanderson continues to use and defend the use of antibiotics, but advertised its chicken products as “100% Natural” and ran advertisements stating that there were “[n]o antibiotics to worry about here.” The groups sued under the UCL and FAL.”To establish organizational standing, the Advocacy Groups needed to show that the challenged conduct frustrated their organizational missions and that they diverted resources to combat that conduct.” Only the latter was at issue.  Diversion of resources has been found when organizations “expended additional resources that they would not otherwise have expended, and in ways that they would not have expended them.” By contrast, merely continuing ongoing activities does not satisfy this requirement.

The groups didn’t learn of Sanderson’s alleged misrepresentations until August 1, 2016, so resources expended before that date weren’t pertinent. Nor were activities after suit was filed in June 2017, such as expending resources on the litigation and litigation publicity. The district court correctly found that the groups’ activities were “business as usual” during the period, not a diversion of resources. They were already fighting routine antibiotic use in animal agriculture. During the relevant period, they didn’t “publish action alerts or other advice to their members targeting the advertising; did not address Sanderson’s advertising in any campaign, press release, blog post, or other communication; did not petition Sanderson; and did not protest Sanderson’s advertising.”  Internal discussions about whether something should be done didn’t suffice.


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