In October 2008 on the website of Care2, we posted about the animal cruelty case at a pig farm in Greene County, Iowa. You can check out our post here, or for more information see: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-09-16-467433543_x.htm.
As of late, we were wondering what the final outcome of that case was and started researching. And little did we know, we were about to open Pandora’s Box full of legal bills written in varying states that aimed to criminalize whistle blowers and undercover journalists. We were aware that this was going-on to some degree, but not to this extent. Just one more piece of legislation in the works, across many states, that inhibits public knowledge and awareness, which then results in no chance to help defend the innocent.
With the Iowa case, PETA was thrilled to report that after their undercover story was revealed, there were 22 counts of livestock neglect and abuse laid against six individuals. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Registry reported “Two people were given two-year suspended prison terms. The others received probation or deferred judgment.” But if you read further, you’ll find yourself disappointed by the penalties each individual case.
Additionally, our research lead us to the information that Iowa recently passed a bill in the House of Representatives (HF 589 passed 2011 and SF431 passed 2011) which makes it a criminal activity to produce, possess and/or distribute undercover video and/or audio recordings of activities within an animal facility. The SF431 currently has not passed in the senate and therefore has been passed on to the Senate Agriculture Committee for further review. The penalty under this bill is aggravated misdemeanor (for the first conviction) and any convictions following is a class D felony.
Minnesota and New York also faced similar bills in 2011. Although the Minnesota bill did not pass through legislation by the end of 2011, it could still be passed in 2012. A similar bill in Florida expired because it did not pass through legislation by the end of 2011. We need these bills to be stopped!
We believe there is a strong connection to PETA’s undercover filming of the animal cruelty in Idaho, and the HF 589 bill. Many agriculture lobbyists (including Montsanto, IA Cattlemen’s Association, The Farm Bureau, and other lobbyists that represent cattle, pork, corn, soy, and poultry) worked hard and spent a lot of money to get this bill passed in Iowa’s House of Representatives following this expose.
As consumers, and concerned citizens, isn’t it our right to know what goes on where food for human consumption is produced? Shouldn’t we reward whistle blowers who risk their own careers (such as existing employees) or potentially their own physical safety (if they were discovered) to stand up against cases of inhumane and illegal treatment of animals? However, these bills do no such thing. Instead they propose to make it a criminal activity to speak out against these horrors.
I admit, I was (arguably naively) surprised and horrified to see that the sentencing on these six individuals who tortured sows and piglets was minimal. Presumably, they didn’t spend a moment of time in jail for these crimes. And instead of writing bills to create more stringent laws aimed at people who abuse animals, state legislatures wrote and voted to criminalize those who aim to expose the real criminals – those who abuse, neglect, and torture the innocent.
As a society, we need to rely on the good-will and ethics of those individuals who are willing to alert or tip off animal interest groups to the animal abuse that happens inside factory farms. Unfortunately, we can not rely solely on the FDA or the USDA to observe animal abuses. In April of 2010, Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, published a study entitled, “FDA INSPECTIONS OF DOMESTIC FOOD FACILITIES”. The report states that 56% percent of food facilities have gone 5 or more years without an FDA inspection.
Although the bills did not pass (yet) in Minnesota, New York, or Florida, there are many lobby groups interested in seeing this bill pass in the future. Please take the time to let your legislators know that these bills are against the First Amendment and that they should not pursue these bills any further. Instead, they should focus their time on working to protect animals from torture and abuse in factory farms.
If you are in Iowa, please contact your state legislature and ask them to oppose HF 589 and SF 431. Click here for contact details. For all other states please click here for legislature contact details. Please also contact Monsanto to let them know you do not support their lobby actions to make factory farming practices less transparent.
Thanks for reading and taking action to ensure whistle blowers, journalists, and the media are not silenced when it comes to animal welfare and factory farming practices!
Written by Sarah Rooney. Team member of SoyGo and basicLUX Records and endless world-traveler. Devoted to animal rights advocacy. Responsible for perfecting the Kale Chip and newly found surfer.