The Iowa Senate Agricultural Committee introduced bill HF589/SF43 last month to the state legislature. The bill aims to outlaw “animal facility interference”. It defines “interference” as any recording (including photography, audio, or video taping) of an animal facility without the consent of the owner.
The bill is backed by industry leaders, including chief executive of the Iowa Poultry Association, Kevin Vinchattle. The executives of these large-scale factory farming facilities have been-or fear being- “infiltrated” by animal rights activists posing as workers for the purpose of documenting animal cruelty and/or unsanitary conditions. The proponents of the bill claim that these undercover workers threaten their companies and agriculture as a whole.
Not surprisingly, animal rights organizations and critics of industrial farming are against the bill, which in their view infringes on freedom of speech. To them, it exemplifies yet another barrier the industry wants to place between consumer and product. As Iowa is the nation’s top egg-producing state (by far), poultry facilities would certainly be relieved to eliminate the possibility of profit-damaging exposés.
While I understand a corporation’s right to conduct business, shouldn’t someone represent the public eye in these facilities? Humane Society Executive Director, Wayne Pacelle, commented that his organization wouldn’t need to conduct undercover investigations if the industry was more transparent.
It’s not only the animals that suffer in many of these operations, but also the workers. Human Rights Watch calls meatpacking and poultry plant positions, “the most dangerous factory jobs in the country”, with one in three workers suffering illness or injury annually, as opposed to just one in ten in other manufacturing jobs.
To read the bill, click here.
Photo courtesy of Will Merydith