Friday, April 12, 2013

Duke Professor Suggests Simple Solution to Counter "Ag-Gag" Laws

Activist Post

The old maxim that if you knew how sausage was made you would never eat it has been highlighted by many undercover videos taken by employees of factory farming operations and activists alike.

In response, the industry has increasingly lobbied for "Ag-Gag" laws that criminalize whistleblowing and undercover investigations, essentially rendering animal cruelty completely invisible.

Arguably, animal rights activists are the most tenacious; so much so, that they have routinely been labeled anarchists and terrorists by various governmental organizations the world over. Yet, beyond the general demonization campaign of anyone who professes sympathy for the proven suffering of factory farm animals, we arrive at much the same question asked by those who wish to know if their food has been genetically modified -- Do consumers have the right to independently investigate the origin and production of the food they choose (and pay) to ingest?

The Big Ag lobby has countered investigations into animal cruelty and health hazards at industrial farm facilities with issues rooted in contractual agreements that bind employees to certain conduct, and the issue of private property rights.

Karen De Coster summarized the legal and moral issues very well when she stated:
Indeed, there is a libertarian case to be made for private property rights, and thus the owners of property banning the filming of their business matters - right or wrong - within the confines of their property lines. This is something the public has a tough time dealing with because the emotional issues (animal abuse, disease, and degrading quality food) override reason in terms of understanding property rights and non-aggression against those rights. For instance, these same people would never allow for "whistleblowers" to enter their home property to film so-called "inappropriate" goings-on within their home. But while it is libertarian, and perfectly reasonable, for a private food producer to disallow video and photography on private property, there is a larger, moral issue here. (source)

We initially reported on new legislation in early 2011, and said the following in regards to both morality and the clear health impacts of being kept in the dark:
Strangely, consumers may actually want to know if their meat is being electrocuted, beaten, or ground up alive as some recent videos have exposed. Consumers may also want to know what the animals eat, if they ever see sunlight, if they are injected with chemicals, or even genetically cloned. Since the FDA does little to shine light on these and other concerns, activists have been the only source of this information. Now, they will face jail time for doing so if this measure passes. (source, with some horrific videos)
At the time, we were focused only on new legislation being proposed for Iowa and the implication that other states might follow suit. In fact, Grist, published an article in May of the same year that suggested "Ag-Gag bills face tough row to hoe," citing three states (Florida, Minnesota and Iowa) most likely to pass legislation, while New York was proposing similar criminal penalties for whistleblowing. The Grist article noted that all but Iowa were on shaky ground. Yet, so-called "Ag-Gag" laws have already been on the books for twenty years in Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota. The difference is that those earlier laws focused strictly on property damage, while the newer laws focus on undercover investigations and employee whistleblowing. (source)

Now we have reached a point where there is momentum toward enshrining complete secrecy surrounding what we already know to be a serious problem within some facilities. In fact, Grist offered an update to their above conclusion when confronted with the wave of new legislation by asking, "Will 2013 be the year of ag-gag bills?" The article shows how 2011 saw 4 states consider measures, followed by 10 in 2012.

For Duke Professor Purdy, it is a simple issue of transparency . . . and his solution would rid these facilities of pesky physical intrusions by activists. He has suggested the simplest of solutions to spur (and hopefully resolve) debate from both sides: the webcam.
Purdy acknowledges that fairness and safety are real issues. “So is transparency,” he writes, “and that is why we should require confined-feeding operations and slaughterhouses to install webcams at key stages of their operations. List the URLs to the video on the packaging. There would be no need for human intrusion into dangerous sites. No tricky angles or scary edits by activists. Just the visual facts. If the operators felt their work misrepresented, they could add cameras to give an even fuller picture.” (source)
Purdy recounts his full story about what led him to this suggestion in his New York Times op-ed piece where he recalls his visceral experience of entering a slaughterhouse in 1999 as part of an undercover investigation for The American Prospect:
The floor was slick with the residue of blood and suet, and the air smelled like iron. A part of my brain spent the whole time trying to remember which of Dante’s circles this scene most resembled. (source)
A scene straight from Hell that Big Ag would like never to see the light.

Would you feel more comfortable or less being permitted to view (in real time) where your food originates and how it is being handled? How do we resolve the right to know what we consume vs. the private property and contractual agreements of farming facilities?

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Anonymous said...

Though I believe consumers need to push for the right to know where their food comes from - they can do this by simply voting with their feet, i.e. only eat foods which are proven to comply with their own ethical and health standards - this is more of an issue of animal rights.

The argument that we must allow companies to retain the right to prevent intrusion into their operations is invalid, as much as it is invalid for parents to demand privacy in the case of suspected or proven child abuse.

We grant children rights that take precedence over the natural parental rights over their children and we should grant animals rights that take precedence over making a buck from them.

Basic rights for animals used for food production need to be legislated and enforced. CTV cameras are a good start towards this aim.

Mike said...

The industrialized meat industry and the massive over consumption of the meat that brought the industry to the point it is today is probably one of the most destructive sector out there! This is highly destructive and negative on multiple fronts. First, the amount of industy meat eaten by Americans is perverse. Not only does it raise the incidences of stomach and colon cancer by just eating the amount of natural, organic meat but today supermarket meat isn't natural nor organically raised. The heavy use of antibiotics in animal feed, growth hormone injections into every animal aimed at going to market and the amount of very sick animals making it to our dinner plates has created the most disgusting bio-mess you could imagine. 40% of all US pork has MRSA! Yuck! The next thing is the destruction of clean drinkable water. 3500 gallons of water is rendered undrinkable for every steak we put on our plates! This is ludicrous and looks like it should start being criminal due to the growing scarcity of clean water. Finally, the unfathomable amount of wholesale slaughter and inhumanity running rampant throughout the meat industry is NEGATIVE, NEGATIVE, NEGATIVE!!!! Americans are so audacious they feel they have the right to buy a steak at the supermarket no matter how much negative ramifications it may have to the world! I can tell you this, if all these meat eating couch potatoes were required to go out and slaughter or hunt for the meat they love to gorge themselves on, there would be a shit-load of more vegans populating this country. Most lazy and squeemish Americans don't have it in themselves to be able to kill, gut and dress out even a squirrle let alone a steer or a pig. They'd be puking before the guts hit the ground and probably deciding how much they really do like soy-burgers! American over consumption is going to come to a grinding hault here soon because it is completely unsustainable. It is sad that the majority of the population are hell bent on keeping things just the way they have been. Even though that very concept is bullshit of the first order, for there is nothing I can think of that seems to be even remotely similar to how things were in yesteryear.

Anonymous said...

Whistle-blowers should send their videos, reports and other information to Asian countries. Let's see how many of them will be willing to go to the USA and spend their hard working money once they are informed about the crap they might be eating during their vacation in Hawaii, Disney, NY, L.A or during their time spent studying in Universities there. No need to speak their languages to do so...Asians do speak better English than most Americans anyway. I for one, have stopped eating American crap long time ago.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about? Asian countries have more contaminated food that the US. STupid.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the vast amounts of oil and gas involved in transporting the animals, feed, water, antibiotics, meat products.

Anonymous said...

First Anonymous.... it's not as easy as "voting with your feet", especially if you are poor and can't pay higher prices to the smaller or organic farmers... watch Food Inc. Most food companies are owned by the companies people want to avoid! The myriad of choices is an illusion, so what then are people supposed to do? The guys in power just ignore people anyways, and most people are taught since they are young that factory farming is modern, acceptable and so what? They are taught treating animals we will eat as food abusively is acceptable but abusing the family pet is not OK... because we're going to eat the food animal anyways.... Or that they're dumb so it's OK... Then they are taught the no abuse goes on anyways, because you can trust the government watchdogs and anyone saying otherwise is a bleeding heart/ extremist/ etc and basically bad/ undesirable in society's eyes. They have also been taught factory farming is a necessary evil because they couldn't feed so many people, which I think is bullshit! I am certain there are other ways of raising animals for food other than factory farming. So what to do? I am an omnivore, and I DO eat meat, but I hate the factory farming practices that go on and my income is below the poverty line.... I'm on disability, I don't even get minimum wage. Better than welfare, but still very poor... and few people listen anyways. These bastards own most of the food I can afford to buy! I don't want to starve or eat scrap-junk food like Kraft Dinner for the rest of my life, but how the hell are we supposed to stop these bastards when they've taken over our choices? The numbers of poor people are increasing, especially in the US but it'll hit Canada and others too... not good!

To make things MORE complicated, if one wishes to hunt or fish for their food, they have to buy a license! I have never hunted, I have fished... So if I want to avoid the food (meat) industry, I need to pay for the permission to fish/ hunt - if it was a right, would you have to pay for it? We are the only creature that has to pay for the natural right to hunt and fish as omnivores! They got us at every angle here!

I have gained alot of respect for hunters when I realized even being chased down by a hunter for a day, or being hooked in the mouth for a moment of time (fish) is NOTHING compared to the years of misery factory farmed animals go through! The animals hunted are free to roam, they eat naturally, and they expected to be hunted by other animals so it's no surprise when a human hunts them.... except in the case of city animals and I wouldn't go after them because they are semi-tame, but in the wild woods I would, if I ever need to try to hunt anything other than fish.

Bloody food corporations screwing everything up :(

Anonymous said...

We need to repeal the Food Safety Act. Also need to eliminate the revolving door between the corporate giants such as Monsanto, Dupont, Cargill and the U.S. government. It should be illegal to influence our legislators with corporate money. Our taxes pay for the employment of government employees and they should be held to the same accountability as any employee of any major corporation or small business. When you cheat on your boss you go to jail. And the government has been cheating on us for a long time without repercussions. Working in colusion with corporations to make legislation is tatamount to selling corporate secrets to your competitor. Would you keep that person in your employ?

Anonymous said...

Stupid f**kn libertarians.

Ron Paul used the same "logic" to justify his support for Monsanto and their effort to block people from learning about what foods were GMO.
He played the libertarian card of rights to privacy to deny American consumers any chance to know what foods have GMO poison in them. As if Monsanto is some individual who deserves privacy! BS.

I guess libertarians are all in with this 'corporations are people too' crap. Except when it comes to suing them, then it is all about 'individual responsibility'.

Anonymous said...

I am also thinking along the lines of the earlier comment about child abuse.

Imagine that workers in a private daycare facilities secretly videorecord scenes of child abuse and the public response is a massive display of outrage with relentless calls for oversight. Next, daycare lobbyists respond by insisting on legislation that would ban videorecording in day care centers because of privacy concerns or employee contractual agreements. Can you imagine the near universal ridicule and scorn the daycare centers would receive for their outrageous behavior? They would be crushed.

Why the double standard?

Animals are just as vulnerable as children, and in many ways more so. Their emotions, esp. mammals, are very much like our own. The problem is that in our distorted world view animals are different in kind rather than degree. This is the same rationalization the power elite have used to treat us all like expendable, dumb serfs.

If we choose as a society to use animals for food, we must evolve a higher consciousness on the absolute need to treat these animals humanely. Otherwise, we are unenlightened hypocrites.

Dr Bonnie said...

Not everyone can be a vegan, even if they want to. It’s not just a matter of will-power. It depends on your biochemical make-up. The brain requires long-chain omega-3 fatty acids like DHA which only occur in animal products (and a few sea weeds). Some people, especially those with type O blood (half of the population), are unable to convert the short-chain omega-3 found in plants into DHA, as well as EPA, needed by the heart. Many well-meaning people try to be vegetarian or vegan, only to find that they become sick, weak and have trouble thinking. Other people, especially blood type A and AB (40% of the pop) can thrive on a vegetarian diet. There is no vitamin D in a vegan diet ( they could get it by spending a lot of time naked in the sun! ) Also no vitamin B12, needed to prevent nerve degeneration and anemia. There are no primitive people who lived on a totally vegetarian diet, according to the research of Dr Weston Price, a dentist who traveled the world in the 1930’s, documenting the diet and health of people on their native diets. He found that people still eating their native diets, which always included some animal products, were very healthy and had perfect teeth, while the same people, after being contacted by Europeans, and eating the white man’s white food: white bread, sugar, rice, became sick, stunted and had rapid tooth decay. (see Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.) It is certainly true that the wild game eaten by Paleolithic hunters and Native Americans, accompanied by a lot of exercise catching it, had nothing in common with today’s high fat supermarket meat, laden with pesticides, synthetic hormones, and fed on genetically modified grain. Cows shouldn’t be eating grain or corn anyway – they are meant to eat grass. In a recent TED talk, ecologist Allan Savory explains how we’re currently encouraging desertification, and how to not only stop it, but reverse it, by dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock! Those who eat meat and dairy should choose organic, grass-fed products. It may be true that a mostly plant based diet is better for the earth than meat fed on corn grown by fossil fuel-based mechanized agribusiness using chemical fertilizer and pesticides and GM seed from MonSatan. But herds of grazing animals may actually benefit some ecosystems, especially those not suitable for growing crops. People should not feel guilty or failures if they are unable to be totally vegetarian.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Bonnie, I tried veganism and then vegetarianism for two years and yep, I have type O blood. I got so drained feeling and physically weak I nearly failed some college classes. Couldn't think or move nearly as fast as I used to!!! So thank you for the explanation on why some can and some can't eat what they choose for health reasons. I had no idea the differences in blood type extended to converting food.

abinico said...

No matter what rules say or even the law, it is NEVER illegal to expose a crime. NEVER.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about? Asian countries have more contaminated food that the US. STupid.
April 12, 2013 at 6:36 AM

Typical American you must be...You have no clue about what you are saying!

Anonymous said...

A few years back I got a job on a chicken farm. During the hiring process I had to sign "non-disclosure" contracts not to speak to the press, not to take photos or videos. The job didn't last long... the chickens had more personality than the foreman.

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