Duke Professor Suggests Simple Solution to Counter “Ag-Gag” Laws

from activistpost.com: 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 four states consider measures, followed by 10 in 2012.

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