Friday, May 13, 2011

Ag Gag Bills

I've been watching the proliferation of recently Ag-Gag Bills, and frankly I am fed up with BigAg trying to run my life, and to hide from whistle-blowers. Right now BigAg is pushing legislators in Florida, Minnesota and Iowa to criminalize taking photos or videos of their facilities. (Update: the Florida Bill SB 1246 failed.)

I'm pretty sure not all CAFO's are ugly and inhumane ... but some are. Now "they" want to make it a crime to take photos of a facility that indulges in practices that would turn our stomachs, much less the thought of buying their meat.

What are they fearing? The way factory farming mistreats animals, workers AND the environment? 

Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson assured a gathering of agricultural leaders in Iowa that her agency has no plans to regulate farm runoff, despite its hazards. 

On the other hand, the Des Moines Register reported, “Runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus from farms damages water quality in Iowa and elsewhere in the Mississippi basin and contributes to a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Bill approved in the Iowa House and Senate sponsored by Rep. Annette Sweeney, a Republican and a former executive director of the Iowa Angus Association, would not only punish whistleblowers but also those who take jobs for the sole purpose of exposing abuses. Those convicted could face penalties include fines of up to $7,500 and five years in prison. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, say: “They’re trying to criminalize someone being an eyewitness to a crime,” Jeff Kerr, the organization’s general counsel, said. The measure was introduced after humane groups released videos showing chicks being ground alive and pigs being beaten and shocked.

Kansas and Montana have passed anti-whistleblower laws, and though they aren’t aimed at secret filming in factory farms, Tom Laskawy from Grist says the effort is coordinated. “Big Ag has been known to coordinate legislative campaigns state by state,” he said, pointing to Monsanto’s ultimately unsuccessful push to prohibit labels on milk that alert customers to the presence of artificial hormones.

A bill introduced in the Minnesota House in early April punishes not only videographers who pose as workers and record the inhumane treatment of animals, but also those who distribute said videos. The bill seeks to make it a felony to disrupt operations at factory farms, a component intended to punish activists and protesters. One of the sponsors is Rep. Rod Hamilton, a former president of the Minnesota Pork Producers.

I DO have a problem with the Animal Agriculture Alliance inferring that "Radical Vegans" are behind some of the photos. However, they do say these people shouldn’t have to sneak the cameras into the farms that are torturing animals or mistreating workers: the cameras should already be there. It should be the state’s responsibility to find and monitor the few farmers that are giving the rest of them a bad name. You want to quiet the crazy vegans with the video cameras? Do their job for them.

Here are some links for more information:

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