States seek “ag-gag” laws to silence farm whistleblowers

Laws specifically target whistleblowers and reporters revealing animal cruelty and poor conditions in factory farms

Topics: alf, Animal rights, ag-gag, ALEC, Whistleblowers, factory farming,

States seek "ag-gag" laws to silence farm whistleblowers (Credit: Shutterstock/ koko-tewan)

So-called “ag-gag” bills, which protect factory farms from potential undercover whistleblowers have been recently introduced in five states. “This week, the Indiana Senate is debating a proposal to criminalize taking photographs or videos inside an agricultural or industrial operation without permission,” Think Progress reported.

As Grist noted last month, “in 2011 and 2012, Iowa, Utah, and Missouri all enacted some version of an anti-whistleblower ag-gag law, while similar proposals were struck down in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee. These laws are specifically designed to stop whistleblowers providing evidence of animal abuse or other poor practices from reaching the media or animal rights groups. As TP noted:

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Since trespassing is already illegal, ag gag laws can only have one clear motive: to punish whistleblowers, advocates, and investigative reporters who use undercover recordings to reveal the abysmal conditions in which our food is produced. Undercover investigations have captured factory farms all over the country abusing livestock, passing off sick cattle as healthy, and discharging unregulated amounts of animal manure, which the US Geological Survey identified as the largest source of nitrogen pollution in the country.

As Susie Cagle reported for Grist, these recent ag-gag pushes have their origin in laws which targeted animal rights activism in the 90s, including the work of the the Animal Liberation Front in freeing animals from testing labs and exacting property damage against corporations known for animal cruelty. These activists were deemed domestic terrorists by the government, a distinction codified in the 2006 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. As Cagle wrote:

The corporate- and Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council wanted to crack down even further. In 2003 it proposed model legislation that would make it illegal to “enter an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner.” Today’s ag-gag bills are direct descendants of that far-reaching legislation.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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