By February 23, 2013 7 Comments Read More →

Wave of ‘Ag-Gag’ Laws Aimed at Criminalizing Whistleblowers and Keeping Consumers in the Dark

Will Potter, Guest Writer
Waking Times

States are adopting laws meant to keep consumers in the dark about where their food comes from.

Do you have a right to know where that steak on your plate came from?

Should it be legal to photograph chicken farms and dairy cows?

Big Agriculture says you don’t and it shouldn’t. Armies of Big Ag lobbyists are pushing for new state-level laws across the country to keep us all in the dark. Less restrictive versions have been law in some states since the 1980s, but the meat industry has ratcheted up a radical new campaign.

This wave of “ag-gag” bills would criminalize whistleblowers, investigators, and journalists who expose animal welfare abuses at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Ten states considered “ag-gag” bills last year, and Iowa, Missouri, and Utah approved them. Even more are soon to follow.

Had these laws been in force, the Humane Society might have been prosecuted for documenting repeated animal welfare and food safety violations at Hallmark/Westland, formerly the second-largest supplier of beef to the National School Lunch Program. Cows too sick to walk were being slaughtered and that meat was shipped to our schools, endangering our kids. The investigation led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

More recently in Wyoming, video footage showed workers at a Tyson supplier kicking live piglets and pummeling mother pigs. The film led to criminal charges against nine employees, including two managers. In Pennsylvania, an investigation of a major regional egg supplier, Kreider Farms, showed decomposing birds packed into cages among the living. Other hens had their heads stuck in cage wire and were left to die.

Big Ag wants to silence whistleblowers rather than clean up its act. Ag-gag bills are now pending in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, and New Hampshire. Similar legislation may crop up in North Carolina and Minnesota.

The bills aren’t identical, but they share common language — sometimes even word-for-word. Some criminalize anyone who even “records an image or sound” from a factory farm. Others mandate that witnesses report abuses within a few hours, which would make it impossible for whistleblowers to secure advice and protection, or for them to document a pattern of abuses.

Indiana’s version of this cookie-cutter legislation ominously begins with the statement that farmers have the right to “engage in agricultural operations free from the threat of terrorism and interference from unauthorized third persons.”

Yet these bills aren’t about violence or terrorism. They’re about truth-telling that’s bad for branding. For these corporations, a “terrorist” is anyone who threatens their profits by exposing inhumane practices that jeopardize consumer health.

It’s too early to tell how many of these bills stand a chance of passing. But ag-gag supporters have no shortage of wealth and political influence.

As a journalist, I’m worried about what these bills mean for freedom of the press. And the investigators and whistleblowers I have interviewed are deeply concerned about their own safety and freedom.

Ag-gag bills aren’t about silencing journalists and whistleblowers. They’re about curbing consumer access to information at a time when more and more Americans want to know where our food comes from and how it’s produced.

The problem for corporations is that when people have information, they act on it. During a recent ag-gag hearing in Indiana, one of the nation’s largest egg producers told lawmakers about a recent investigation. After an undercover video was posted online, 50 customers quickly called and stopped buying their eggs. An informed public is the biggest threat to business as usual.

An informed public is also the biggest threat to these ag-gag bills. In Wyoming, one of the bills has already failed. According to sponsors, it was abandoned in part because of negative publicity. By shining a light on these attempts, we can make sure that the rest fail as well, while protecting the right of consumers to know what they’re buying.

About the Author

Will Potter is a journalist based in Washington, DC. He is the author of Green Is the New Red, which documents corporate attempts to silence environmental activists.

This article originally appeared at OtherWords.org

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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7 Comments on "Wave of ‘Ag-Gag’ Laws Aimed at Criminalizing Whistleblowers and Keeping Consumers in the Dark"

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  1. dee preston says:

    How can We the People tolerate this inhumane treatment of animals and our food supply? What is it going to take America?? Are we all so obese and lazy and stupid now from the flouride in our water or what? How can we TRUST anything in our food supply? Isn’t this alarming or worthy of a fight? I am so sick of lazy and stupid and obese people who are brainwashed and compliant. Our govt has big plans for us and they are not good. Where are we living again?? Does hitler ring a bell? How about China!? OmG we are all in for more treason and it seems as though our lazy GMO fed population is going to take it! Laying down of course!! Please let freedom ring before its all too late!! Good luck to all those denying A holes who are feeding their kids this contaminated, poisoned so called food. Wake up! Before its really too late!!

  2. TC says:

    American food producers became green with envy when they heard the Brits got away with putting horse and donkey meat in their burgers. So they said “Let’s write some laws so we can do it too”.

  3. Gag me with a chicken! says:

    Of course we have to cover up our disgusting food “farming”. We dont want people to puke from seeing the putrid conditions of their food production!!!!!!!! Then there is Monstersanto creating frankenfoods out of whole foods.

    Why is it that Monsanto does not allow its own GMO foods in THEIR cafeteria? They know…they just don’t want us to know. Buy from local organic foods and LIVE.

  4. Deborah says:

    Or, you simply op out already find a hippy farmer who does not play the “organic” game. Find someone who simply honors the earth where you can buy shares of food.
    Why worry about “if” they are lying? Many farmers are working with trade…what more do you need to know?
    Tag…your it.

  5. Linda J Solomon says:

    Do people realize the issues that this government is controlling in such a sneaky manner? Whether it’s whistleblowers, monsatan, GMO/GE of our foods or anything else; the situation is steadily growing out of control. Out of our control and into theirs, so we will have no voice about food production, animal abuse and cruelty, along with so many other issues. This is wrong and before we lose all control, we need to figure out a way to stand up against this rapid loss of control issue of so many aspects of life in this country. :(

  6. Freedom Lost says:

    Most Americans have become monsters themselves and do not CARE about anything but their greedy selves. I am ashamed of most and do not communicte with most, I just can’t seem to dumb myself down to their primitive, selfish, levels. None are so blind as those who refuse to see.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Genesis 1:25, Proverbs 12:10, Psalm 147:7-9.

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