6 min read

​If You Care About Animals, You Should Be Horrified By Ag-Gag -- And Here’s Why

Ag-gag laws are sinister -- they're bad for farm animals, bad for people, bad for democracy and most importantly they set a very, very bad precedent. This week Idaho has the opportunity to overturn the controversial ag-gag laws Gov. Butch Otter approved earlier this year. The laws make it illegal for journalists, workers, activists -- or anyone really -- to take a photo or video at factory farms or slaughter houses. Active in eight states, the legislation penalizes whistleblowers and protects the meat and dairy industries while allowing animal abuse to continue behind closed doors.

Bill Maher said on "Real Time" last year:

"Arkansas, Iowa, Utah, and Missouri have ag-gag laws protecting feedlots from, well, journalism. And before you say, ‘I've got an idea! Journalists should apply for a job at one of these feedlots, get hired, and then tape what they see!' Well, the new laws make that an illegal act, too."

Ag-gag laws have only expanded since then. Organizations like PETA, the ASPCA, Humane Society, Animal Legal Defense Fund have worked to prevent ag-gag bills from passing and to expose factory farm abuse by continuing to film big agriculture violations. In fact, Matthew Dominguez of the Humane Society, told CNN that undercover investigations are a critical tool activists use to keep a very secretive and insular industry in check. Just last month, Mercy For Animals posted an undercover video of young turkeys at the Butterball factory being processed -- the video showed just-hatched birds on a conveyor belt, squealing and injured. The baby turkeys would occasionally get stuck in in the machinery and workers would toss the birds into a hole where they were allegedly ground alive. Chickens are thrown into boxes to die. Cows are literally punched and assaulted. Without videos like these and without watchdogs to take those videos, which ag-gag would make illegal, there's no way to prevent animal abuse or even to to hope for humane conditions. Jedediah Purdy wrote in the NY Times:

So-called ag-gag laws, proposed or enacted in about a dozen states, make, or would make, criminals of animal-rights activists who take covert pictures and videos of conditions on industrial farms and slaughterhouses. Some would even classify the activists as terrorists.

This is not just an issue of animal abuse -- it's a first amendment right's issue, a freedom of press issue and an environmental issue. Industrial farms are responsible for some of the most heinous and egregious pollution. Factory farms dump tens of millions of tons of animal waste and agricultural chemicals into the environment every year -- contributing to land, water and air pollution in the process. And what will happen if a precedent is set that allows industrial farms to operate on their own terms -- if no one is allowed to to monitor their actions? Journalist and TED fellow Will Potter is raising funds to take the only action that's left -- using drone footage to monitor farms from the sky -- "to lawfully document factory farms in multiple states ... and to brief media and policymakers about the findings of my investigation." There is only one way to prevent ag-gag laws from spreading and to dismantle the legislation that's already in effect -- by continually explaining how insidious the laws are and to voice concern to every lawmaker that will listen.

Please join us in opposing ag-gag legislation by signing this petition:

[rebelmouse-campaign #AgGag target=1000 increment=500 twitter_share_message="Join me in opposing anti-whistleblower ''ag-gag'' legislation. Sign on at The @Dodo: https://www.thedodo.com/idahos-ag-gag-law-challen... #AgGag" call="**Sign this petition** or share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with **#AgGag**" theme=dodo]