Animal rights activists must not give in to lawmaker pressure

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Courtesy of MCT

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative legislature and business advocacy group, in conjunction with meat and poultry industries, are lobbying hard throughout the country to pass bills that punish the investigative filming, photographing and sound recording of animal cruelty offenses that take place in factory farms and slaughterhouses.

Some of these bills being pushed would prohibit animal rights advocacy members from “lying” on job applications in order to get behind the closed slaughterhouse doors and would also make it illegal to record or photograph when unknown to a plant. States such as Indiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania would deem these recordings as being “criminal.”

Several other state laws are being shopped, including in California, that would require that any animal abuse footage be surrendered to law officials within 48 hours, or risk being fined.

Activists claim this is a ruse by the meat industry, since 24-48 hours is not enough time to accurately obtain incriminating images that could be punishable under federal food handling and safety laws. It’s instead a way to simply turn the heat off unlawful animal handling since the meat and poultry industries often claim these abuses to be “isolated circumstances”.

With only 48 hours to prove an animal injustice, it would seem that way. This time period seems too convenient for ALEC lobbyists to get away with animal murders.

When cruel and disturbing undercover footage is publicly released, it’s no wonder why the agriculture industry wants to keep these videos from surfacing and fine the people who film them.  For example, a video like one reported from Vermont that shows veal calves being skinned alive and mercilessly tossed onto a heap of piling high cow caracasses.

Or like in California, the group Compassion Over Killing released captured factory footage that revealed a worker stepping on a cows nostrils to suffocate it to death, after a euthanization device failed, causing the Fresno factory to halt production.

The filming of devastating acts of indecency against animals such as this shouldn’t be punished; people have a right to know how their food is being handled. These bills are trying to deny the rights that consumers have to be educated on where their next meal is coming from. The documenting of the industry is simply giving consumers another way to make an informed decision on their own food.

Laws like these that hope to suppress whistleblowing within the agriculture industry that reveal animal cruelty situations were named “Ag-gag Laws” by New York Times columnist Mark Bittman in 2011.

Undercover footage that whistleblowers are able to capture are really the most effective way for cruelties to be shown to the public and this scares these big businesses, and are causing the Ag-gag laws to be pushed more aggressively from state to state in order to protect the agricultural interests. Without whistleblowers, illegal animal mistreatment could be too easily covered up, and the problems within this industry, including food safety standards, may not be properly addressed or as swiftly handled.

It seems as though these Ag-gag laws are a reaction to the bad publicity that ensues when the footage is published, but if the cruelty ended, the worry and stress over secret documentation wouldn’t matter and  wouldn’t  be a concern to factory owners.

The exposing of the foulness of the meat industry is nothing new. The first dirt on the industry was first dug up by the muckraking means of writer Upton Sinclair, when he published his infamous novel  The Jungle in 1906. Sinclair exposed the poor and unsanitary conditions of the meat packing industry and helped to get laws such as the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act passed.

If Sinclair had never revealed the crimes and social injustices of uncleanliness, we may never have these important laws. His documentations caused social uproars, just as animals rights activists findings are doing today.

Hidden footage hopes to help evolve the agricultural industry into a more conscious, healthy and kind workplace for both animals and consumers. If factory farms have nothing to hide, then they have no reason to duck behind organizations like ALEC and continue animal cruelty crimes in the shadows of an Ag-gag law.

Because hidden camera “vigilantes” on the animal rights side will most likely take the hit and cross over the lines, and they should. It’s freedom of speech. People simply have a right to know.

About Casey Elofson