Ag-Gags: Where’s the Transparency?

Ag-Gags: Where’s the Transparency?

Protesters demonstrating in front of the Iowa Capitol on March 1

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
-James Madison

As of March 2, the U.S.’s first ag-gag law passed in the state of Iowa. Iowa House File 589 is designed to protect industrial animal farms from, “animal facility interference” (i.e. any photo, audio, or video recording of an animal facility without the consent of the owner). To date, seven other states are considering similar legislation.

Factory farm undercover investigations have exposed to the American public the agricultural industry’s standard treatment towards farmed animals, and have repeatedly recorded accounts of what many consider to be animal abuse. Through bringing awareness of these practices, these exposés have essentially empowered American citizens, enabling them to make decisions for themselves and for their families about what they deem is ethically correct.

Supporters of the bill state it is designed to protect food security and economic loss, and that the industry can continue to abide by means of self-regulation regarding animal abuse. However, if this self-regulation had been successful in the past, and if the industry had been using humane animal handling methods, undercover investigations would have discovered nothing. The industry claims that a public uneducated or inexperienced in animal agriculture cannot be expected to understand husbandry practices and are not qualified to make an opinion on their use. However, many would argue that it does not take experience and/or education in animal husbandry to look objectively at the way an animal is treated and decide for oneself if that practice is humane or inhumane. Indeed, the industry’s use of their political clout to keep American citizens unaware of the way these animals are treated may logically lead one to believe that the industry has something they would prefer to hide.

A recent public poll has shown that 71% of the public support the undercover investigations, and 79% of Iowans oppose HF 589. American citizens have spoken- and they’ve said they want to be aware of the way animals are treated behind the walls of factory farms, they want to be empowered to make ethically informed decisions about food choices for both themselves and their families. So if the agricultural industry has nothing to hide, why not comply with public majority and consumers’ right to information, and let us take a look?

(The coalition against ag-gags has attracted a wide variety of social justice groups from animal protection to district attorneys. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has just proposed a law to counter ag-gags. Visit Protect Your Food to learn more.)

To read a related blog post from last spring, when the legislation was introduced, click here.

Photo by Mercy for Animals