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"Be the change you wish to see in the world" ~Mohandas Gandhi
"Our lives began and end the day we become silent things that matter" ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
Originally Posted: March 16, 2012
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INFORMATION / TALKING POINTS
Food safety risks, animal abuse, and illegal working conditions are rampant on factory farms. In 2011, the corporate agriculture lobby attempted to pass so-called “ag gag” laws in four states—laws which would have made it illegal to photograph or videotape at agricultural facilities, or to possess or distribute such evidence—and they are at it again this year. Their goal is insidious: to quiet whistleblowers and eliminate access to critical evidence of farmed animal and other abuses. What’s more, restrictions or prohibitions on these records would decrease the opportunities for food safety violations to be discovered, thereby increasing the risk that consumers could be exposed to and contract illnesses from the consumption of unsafe food products and produce from jurisdictions that pass ag gag legislation.
Despite corporate agriculture’s claims to the contrary, factory farms, like other industries, are already fully protected from illegal activities that could detrimentally impact them by trespass, fraud, and other existing criminal and civil laws. Ag gag bills were designed to place restraints on free speech by making it a crime to take photos or video on a factory farm without the written permission of the owner. Under the guise of property rights, ag gag bills are intended to prevent consumers from ever seeing the animal abuse, contaminated crops, illegal working conditions, and risky food safety practices—the sort that result in massive food safety recalls and all too frequently lead to outbreaks of food-borne illness—that are common practice behind factory farm gates.
Weaker variations of these ag gag laws are already on the books in three states—ALDF and a broad range of stakeholders have raised concerns about the potentially devastating impacts of these and newer ag gag legislation efforts. Learn why ag gag is of grave concern to everyone from journalists to whistleblowers to mothers concerned about the safety of their children’s food, then see how ALDF’s proposed Protect Your Food Act can stop the threat of ag gag laws from reaching your state.
AG GAG LEGISLATION HIDES ANIMAL ABUSE
Animal protection organizations have repeatedly documented horrendous instances of animal abuse at factory farms across the country. The purpose and intent of ag gag legislation is to prevent such investigations and hide abuse from the consuming public. Instead of remedying rampant animal abuse, corporate agriculture is attempting to “kill the messenger” by promoting legislation that turns whistleblowers into criminals.
AG GAG LEGISLATION THREATENS PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY
Undercover investigations are often necessary to expose dangerous food safety violations that threaten the health of millions with dangerous diseases and bacteria, such as E. coli. Appalling and dangerous conditions videotaped during a recent investigation at a California factory farm—a major supplier to the National School Lunch Program—prompted the recall of 143 million pounds of beef, the largest beef recall in American history.
AG GAG LEGISLATION THREATENS ENFORCEMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
Ag gag legislation could prevent workers and citizens from documenting and publicizing violations of environmental laws, removing one of the incentives facilities have for complying with the laws that protect the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink and play in. A community member would, for example, be prohibited from taking photographs or video of a farm’s open manure storage lagoons overflowing and discharging into a neighboring creek.
AG GAG LEGISLATION HARMS FARM WORKERS AND WHISTLEBLOWERS
Legislation that bans recording on farms prevents isolated and often vulnerable workers from documenting and protecting themselves against dangerous conditions, including unsafe work environments, exposure to toxic substances, and intimidation against labor organizing. Agricultural workers often use mobile phone cameras to document abuse, and then use that evidence to defend their rights and improve their working conditions.
AG GAG LEGISLATION OBSTRUCTS LAW ENFORCEMENT
Groups like the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the National District Attorneys Association oppose ag gag laws because undercover investigations conducted on factory farms are crucial to law enforcement efforts to prosecute animal cruelty, illegal working conditions, and risky food safety practices.
AG GAG LEGISLATION UNDERMINES FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
At its core, ag gag legislation is intended to stifle the exchange of information and the expression of ideas by keeping the public ill-informed about agribusiness practices. There is an ongoing national conversation about the treatment of animals raised for meat, the safety of crops, and the conditions in which farm laborers work. Ag gag is the corporate agriculture lobby’s attempt to silence media scrutiny.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Protect Your Food Act is a proposed law designed to minimize the risk to citizens of contracting food-borne illnesses by prohibiting state governments from purchasing or distributing food products from any jurisdiction that passes an ag gag law. Register your support at ProtectYourFood.org, and we will directly contact your state legislators on your behalf and urge them to sponsor this legislation in your state.
Documentation of abuses on farms has resulted in large-scale recalls of adulterated food products that threatened the safety of consumers. If ag gag laws prohibit such documentation, people who consume products from that jurisdiction will be at an increased risk of getting sick from eating contaminated food products.
If your state adopts ALDF’s Protect Your Food Act (a.k.a. “The Safeguarding the Public from Food-Borne Illnesses Act”), your state government and counties will stop purchasing potentially unsafe food products from any jurisdiction with an ag gag law. The Protect Your Food Act will not only help protect your family and the residents of your state from increased risk of exposure to contaminated food—it will also serve as a legislative strike back against the corporate agriculture lobby in states that choose to keep consumers in the dark by passing ag gag laws.
Thank you for everything you do for animals!