UPDATE: On April 30, 2013, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sent a letter to the Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) regarding claims AAA Communications Director Emily Meredith has made when discussing the highly-controversial ag-gag legislation. Meredith has asserted that some animal advocates manipulate footage of factory farm animal abuse, and on the radio program To the Point, the AAA spokesperson and avid ag-gag supporter stated that “we [the AAA] have evidence that these videos have been manipulated.” ALDF, the national nonprofit also fighting for the rights of Tony the truck stop tiger, is demanding that AAA produce the evidence the industry group claims to have of the manipulated footage. The anti-ag-gag legal organization has emphasized the severity of these allegations which ultimately defame investigators and misinform the public. — Global Animal
Stephanie Henkel, Global Animal
Ag-gag bills that criminalize whistleblowing on factory farms are sweeping the nation. Five states have already implemented these types of laws with many others considering similar legislation. Undercover investigations on farms and slaughterhouses have played a crucial role in exposing animal abuse in the agricultural industry, yet these same investigations have been criticized for manipulating footage ultimately harming farm owners and workers.
On Democracy Now!, a daily, independently-syndicated news program which airs across North America, Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate moderated an important debate on ag-gag laws. Their guests were Will Porter, a freelance reporter and author who is very familiar with the controversial legislation, and Emily Meredith, the Communications Director for Animal Agriculture Alliance. Porter and Meredith addressed many of the pros and cons associated with these new laws during the debate. Several of their arguments are discussed in the points below:
Independent animal abuse investigations have made an enormous impact on today’s factory farming industry. Many companies have been forced to implement more humane practices due to criminal charges brought on by these studies. In addition, the largest meat recall in U.S. history is a direct result of these undercover investigations.
Ag-gag bill supporters are reporting a different side to the story. They are claiming that animal rights activists are not taking the incriminating footage directly to the authorities and are releasing them to media outlets. They argue that this independent research is somewhat disingenuous and not solely about bringing lawbreakers to justice.
This argument ignores the fact that there is very little government regulation when it comes to industrial farming. Animal activists feel the need to expose what is really going on in slaughterhouses, because so many Americans are completely in the dark about this topic. Furthermore, many of these ag-gag bills cover such a broad scope of investigation that they criminalize certain forms of investigative journalism and documentation.
A key point for ag-gag bill defenders is the claim that recording on private property is an infringement on the right to privacy and should not be permitted in any way, shape, or form. Yet, if one runs a legitimate business, where is the need for privacy? What needs to be kept in secret, and what should the public not be allowed to see?
The ag-gag bills want to hide what is happening in the animal agriculture industry. Big business and the bottom line have become legitimate reasons to turn a blind eye to animal treatment. For example, recently in North Carolina, a slew of Butterball employees pled guilty to animal cruelty charges. Shortly after, the North Carolina Legislature introduced an ag-gag bill that criminalized the same type of investigation used to indict the Butterball employees. This, in turn, led to the ousting of a North Carolina agricultural official for obstruction of justice.
The country is caught in the crossfire of the great ag-gag bill debate. This type of legislation is on the table in many states and is an issue that is not going away anytime soon. Stay informed, and familiarize yourself with what is happening in your state. Also, check out the two videos below provided by Democracy Now!. The first video documents the actual debate between Will Porter and Emily Meredith, and the second is of an undercover activist who discusses animal abuse filming and the impact of ag-gag laws on his work. (Warning: These videos contain graphic material)