“Ag-Gag laws could make America sick” -Wired

“Video still of a downed cow forklifted into position at a Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company plant in Chino, California. Filmed in 2008 by an undercover investigator with the Humane Society of the United States, the video led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.” Image: HSUS Source: Wired.com

Brandon Keim reports for Wired Magazine on a, “Wave of  laws that target animal welfare activists who take undercover videos at factory farms,” and the criticism these laws are receiving.

Keim writes that, “It’s not only animal well-being at issue,” but also, “Public health.”

According to this report:

Some food safety experts say these so-called ag-gag laws will cloak disease-spreading industry practices, such as processing ill cattle and housing poultry in filthy conditions, in secrecy, raising risks of food contamination.

“The ag-gag laws are touted as preventing animal activists from getting access to private places, but there’s a much broader concern the public should have,” said Elisabeth Holmes, a staff attorney at the nonprofit Center for Food Safety. “Public health issues, food safety issues, environmental issues: all those things can be exposed through undercover investigations.”

Some Ag-Gag Laws have already been passed and others are pending approval, Keim continues.

Ag-gag laws were passed in Iowa, Missouri and Utah in 2011 and 2012, and submitted for consideration in ten state legislatures — Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wyoming, and Vermont — this year. Broadly speaking, they make it illegal to take photographs or videos without farmer consent, though some go further. Pennsylvania’s proposed law, criminalizes downloading such material over the internet.

These laws have also “drawn disapproval” for threatening “public discourse” and leaving  no oversight for factory farms that might abuse animals.

Advocates for the farm industry argue that, “Activists often misportray what actually happens on farms, turning isolated incidents into inflammatory narratives of routine abuse that further anti-meat-eating goals.”

The article continues:

“At the end of the day it’s about personal property rights or the individual right to privacy,” said Bill Meierling, a spokesman for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative business group that drafted the model for many of the ag-gag laws, to the Associated Press. “You wouldn’t want me coming into your home with a hidden camera.”

The nation’s food, however, doesn’t come from people’s homes. It comes from farms — and in a food system that’s both vulnerable and productive, with a single burger containing meat from multiple farms, making problems at a single facility a potentially national issue, hidden cameras are often the only cameras. Much of what’s publicly known about factory farms comes from activities that could soon be illegal.

He covers the progress of a few of the particular Ag-Gag laws in states:

Under California’s ag-gag bill, the person who took that video would have been a criminal. That bill failed to pass, as did Indiana’s, but others remain under consideration. In Tennessee, where undercover videos have spotlighted Tyson Foods chicken farms, an ag-gag bill is now awaiting the Governor’s decision.

So, who will provide oversight for factory farming operations?  Click here to read the article.

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