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: