Less than three weeks apart, Iowa and Utah governors signed a bill, named by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, the “Ag-Gag” bill, that stops undercover animal abuse investigations.
Recent undercover investigations of animal abuse on factory farms have relied on video footage provided by activists and reporters who have taken undercover jobs on these farms.
This bill makes it a crime for anyone applying for a job at a farm to lie about belonging to an animal rights organization.
Mercy for Animals, which has shot undercover footage at many farms around the country, has joined with 26 other groups, including the ASPCA, to fight this bill and similar laws that are in deliberation in seven other states, according to ABC News.
A statement from Mercy for Animals called the bills “a wholesale assault on many fundamental values” and went on to call them a threat to the nation’s health, safety and freedom of the press.
Sen. Joe Seng, who helped write the Iowa bill, said the bill was designed to help protect animals from those who could bring disease.
“Here’s a commercial enterprise intent on bio-security and here comes someone (who gets in) under false pretenses and screws up your whole system. That should be criminal,” he told ABC News.
Americans should be able to feel the food that comes from our farms is safe to eat and that the farm animals are not abused to protect that safety.
Therefore it is disconcerting to hear about the numerous state legislations that are considering these “Ag-Gag” bills.
This would prevent investigators from exposing the abusive and crude environments, and would prevent journalists from doing their jobs.
The bills would find anyone criminal who takes photos or video that could potentially expose illegal and unethical behavior on the various farms across the country.
They essentially put our health, and the animals’ health, at risk.
According to a Lake Research poll, opposition to Ag-Gag legislation is steady across demographic, geographic and partisan lines, all agreeing that banning undercover investigations is wrong.
Americans don’t want to be deemed criminals for exposing wrongdoing.
Four years ago, undercover investigations led to one of the largest beef recalls in U.S. history.
The videos were taken at the Hallmark Meat Packing Co. in Chino and they revealed workers kicking sick cows, ramming cows with the blades of a forklift, and torturing crippled cows to force them to walk to slaughter.
The slaughterhouse that was shut down was also the second largest supplier to the National School Lunch Program, so schoolchildren throughout the country were at a serious health risk.
On top of preventing potential new exposés, the bills put all of us in jeopardy by banning access to important information about what food we are consuming.
They also threaten our constitutional rights by stopping the spread of information and slowly breaking off our First Amendment protections, like freedom of the press.
“Ag-Gag” laws are now pending in the state legislatures of Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska or New York. Let us only hope that the bills do not come our way.