We have been closely following the “ag gag” bills that are cropping up across the country criminalizing the undercover taking of farm videos and photographs. Spurred on by industry interests (Monsanto is said to have played a role in the Iowa’s bill), Iowa, Minnesota, and Florida have recently attempted to outlaw whistleblower activities. The latest state to fall victim to industry interests is none other than New York.
On June 2, the New York State Senate agricultural committee approved a bill which would impose more stringent sanctions on those revealing animal abuse than the abusers themselves. As Time Magazine reported, “someone who strikes a cow on the head, in clear violation of animal-cruelty laws, could receive a lighter punishment than someone who points a camera at the abuser.”
According to Time Magazine, Florida and Minnesota’s ag-gag bills have already failed, though Iowa’s bill, which passed the state house, remains in question. Thankfully, the New York bill is not expected to pass this term as it lacks an Assembly sponsor and the legislative session is coming to a close.
The original members of the ag-gag bills consortia are Kansas and Montana which had bans on farm photography on the books for years.
Legal arguments as to why ag-gag bills should fail aside, it goes without saying that “the only way that the public can find out how meat, dairy, and eggs are really produced,” is through undercover videos that dedicated animal rights group take. It’s not about trespass, terrorism or other quasi-plausible arguments set forth by supporters of these bills — it is strictly an attempt to hide the horrid animal farming practices, even when they are legally permissible, from the eye of the public. The farm industry wants the consumer to remain ignorant, continue consuming the sub-standard products, and not worry about the ethical and moral implications that go hand-in-hand with that meal.
The ag-gag bills also brings forth another undesirable discussion topic, namely, the society’s tolerance and acceptance, acknowledged in laws, of abuse of farm animals. Indeed, even the “legal” acts documented by undercover muckrakers demonstrate the horrific and painful conditions and abuses endured by farm animals. The legal line that we collectively agreed on, namely, to criminalize cruel treatment against, say, cats and dogs, and not so for cows and chickens, is arbitrary and this is a good opportunity to revisit our thoughts and laws on the subject.
And since we are on the topic of factory farms, we would be remiss if we did not mention that not only are animals suffering in these establishments (which produce 98% of the nation’s meat, dairy and eggs) but that they also contribute to air pollution, water pollution, and antibiotic resistance in the population.
If you live in New York and Iowa, contact your government representatives and tell them to stop pandering to industry interests that abuse animals and start protecting your health.
Additional resources: An excellent four part series of interviews by Mat Thomas with leaders of four animal rights activist groups who send undercover investigators.