New Hampshire is considering imposing fines on people who witness cruelty to livestock or poultry but don’t report it within 24 hours. Sounds great, right? Not so fast.
The goal of this bill (House Bill 110), and others like it in different states, is to prevent undercover investigators from collecting information and footage they can then use to expose a business’s cruel practices. It doesn’t look like the kind of ag-gag bill we’ve come to know and loathe — the kind that bans taking pictures or video of a business, for instance — but it serves the same purpose: keeping the operations of animal farms hidden.
Agribusiness is supporting ag-gag bills across the country because undercover investigations of factory farms have hit them in the wallet. The exposure of horrendous conditions for animals on some farms has resulted in restaurants and other meat retailers cutting ties with vendors. For instance, a Humane Society of the United States investigation led to criminal convictions for some employees of Wyoming Premium Farms for animal abuse, and Tyson Foods stopped buying pigs from the processor.
Just what kind of abuse are investigators uncovering at animal farms? Here’s a sampling, all from Care2 Causes articles:
- Workers slamming conscious piglets headfirst against the ground and spiking them like footballs
- Piglets having their tails hacked off and their testicles ripped out of their bodies without painkillers
- Workers viciously punching, kicking, beating and violently shaking animals and pulling out their hair
- Pregnant pigs confined to tiny, maggot-infested gestation crates barely able to move
- Workers shoving fingers into pigs’ eyes
- Workers hitting pigs with wooden boards
- Injured piglets tossed, still alive, onto “dead piles” and left to die without proper veterinary care
- A worker throwing a heavy bowling ball at a pig’s head
- Stepping on sows
- Kicking sows
- Twirling piglets violently in the air
- Birds were severely overcrowded in cages more cramped than the national average; each hen received only 54–58 square inches of space on which to spend her life
- Injured and dead hens, including mummified bird carcasses, were found inside cages with living hens laying eggs for human consumption
- Hens were left without water for days when a water source malfunctioned, causing many to die
- Hens’ legs, wings, and heads were found trapped in cage wires and automated feeding machinery
- A thick layer of dead flies on the barn floors caused a crunching sound when walking on it
None of these travesties would have come to light if investigators had been forced to report abuse within 24 hours of witnessing it. Undercover researchers keep their farm jobs for months to collect as much evidence of cruelty to animals as possible so the company can’t wriggle its way out of the consequences. If New Hampshire had its way, farms would know right away if someone was watching them from the inside and could remove that person before she collected enough damning video or pictures to show that the first instance of cruelty was business as usual, not an isolated event.
The New Hampshire politicians pushing the ag-gag bill and the farmers they are protecting argue that the legislation is “about reporting abuse where and when it happens.” They paint themselves as animal defenders, seeking to root out abuse as soon as it is discovered and bring relief to suffering animals quickly. Animal Agriculture Alliance CEO Kay Johnson Smith says, “If you see something, you should say something; it’s that simple.”
She has a point, and some animal advocates agree with her. Undercover exposés require a cold, utilitarian calculus: investigators allow hundreds of pigs to continue suffering — on film — to end the abuse before it happens to the thousands more pigs in the future. However unpalatable it may be, this kind of research gets results.
There is an old saying that sunshine is the best disinfectant. That is why previously closed-door government meetings are now open to the public: letting the sunshine in is meant to reduce corruption and bad governing. The same holds true in business. Undercover investigators expose the practices in animal farms to the sunshine, often with the result that the business is shut down or fined, or individuals are punished.
If you believe it is important to shine a light on animal abuse on farms, sign our petition urging New Hampshire legislators to reject this ag-gag bill parading as an anti-cruelty measure.
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