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Wave of "Ag Gag" Bills Threaten Food Safety and Freedom of the Press

Health & Wellness  (tags: americans, animal abuse, congress, children, diet, disease, drugs, environment, ethics, government, healthcare, humans, illness, medicine, nutrition, Press, prevention, research, risks, safety, society )

- 1889 days ago -
Remember "fecal soup"? A CBS "60 Minutes" exposé in 1987 documented widespread food safety violations by the poultry industry, making use of undercover video from a hidden camera placed by the "60 Minutes" crew.

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Kit B (276)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 4:09 pm
(Image: All creatures...)This calf had been disemboweled at a Pennsylvania stockyard where he was left to suffer in agony. The stockyard workers refused to humanely euthanize him. To us, this is just another example of how cruel this industry is. As the Bible tells us in Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, But the compassion of the wicked is cruel."

Remember "fecal soup"? A CBS "60 Minutes" exposť in 1987 documented widespread food safety violations by the poultry industry, making use of undercover video from a hidden camera placed by the "60 Minutes" crew. The episode vindicated U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) whistleblower Hobart Bartley, who had been ignored and threatened by his superiors and finally transferred to another plant when he warned of unsanitary conditions at a Simmons Industries plant in Missouri. Bartley was particularly irate about the "eight-foot-high vat of water called the 'chiller,' where as many as 10,000 chicken carcasses were routinely left to float, soaking up moisture to increase their selling weight. Dried blood, feces, and hair were floating in along with the dead birds. Diane Sawyer later called it 'fecal soup.'"

In the modern era, effective enforcement of food safety and the humane treatment of animals has long relied on undercover video investigations by reporters and citizens. The footage and images gained can serve as proof of criminal wrongdoing or lay ugly practices bare. Such images can vindicate whistleblowers who otherwise risk retaliation when speaking up. Now this practice, which has time and time again exposed hidden dangers -- including downer cows linked to Mad Cow disease in the food supply -- is under threat by a series of state bills dubbed "ag gag" bills.

Recent Ag Gag Law in Florida, Followed by 17 Others in Two Years
See Video at VISIT SITE

In 2011, a 21 million egg-a-year Florida producer, Wilton Simpson of Simpson Farms, requested a bill from then-state Florida Senator Jim Norman.

At Simpson's behest, in February 2011 Norman introduced a bill to the Florida Senate that would make photography "at or of a farm" a first-degree felony. SB1246, the "Farms" bill, and copycat bills in Minnesota and Iowa would later be called "ag gag" bills by the New York Times' Mark Bittman.

Simpson and the Florida Farm Bureau wanted to "deter animal-rights activists from obtaining imagery used to harm the industry," according to The Florida Independent, but the bill as written would have applied to anyone, including journalists. The bill died in committee in 2012.

But while Florida's bill did not pass, similar "ag gag" bills were introduced in Iowa, Minnesota, and New York in 2011. A modified bill passed in Iowa in March 2012. The bill's proponents in the Iowa state legislature were heavily funded by corporate agribusiness interests.

2012 saw the introduction of similar bills in six more states. "Ag gag" became law in Utah, and a modified version was signed into law in Missouri. Nine "ag gag" bills have been introduced so far in 2013: in New Hampshire, Wyoming, Nebraska, Indiana, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, and New Mexico. (See the Center for Media and Democracy's article on SourceWatch for more.)

New Tactic Devised to Make Bills Legal

In its original form, the "ag gag" bill was a blatant violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression and would have quashed the right of independent investigators to document the truth. So legislators in Iowa and Utah changed the bills to make lying on employment applications a crime. Now factory farms and slaughterhouses can screen out reporters and other investigators by asking on job applications, "Are you affiliated with a news organization, labor union, or animal protection group?"

A former Humane Society investigator, Cody Carlson, wrote in The Atlantic, "Two years ago, I had to answer a similar question when I applied to work at the nation's second biggest egg producer, located in Thompson, Iowa. If the Ag Gag law had been in effect then, I might be writing this article from a cell." The same would have been true for a New York Times or Chicago Tribune investigative reporter.

Instead, Carlson was able to work undercover at four Iowa egg farms in the winter of 2010 and expose abuses such as manure pits not cleaned or maintained in multiple years, and laying hens with unnoticed and untreated prolapsed uteruses.

Carlson wrote, "A few months later, Iowa's egg farms were in the news again when nearly identical conditions were found at several other locations, this time by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The farms were at the center of a massive salmonella outbreak that caused the biggest egg recall in United States history."

March of Bills Have Roots in ALEC

The ideological ancestor of these bills is a 2002 "model" bill called the "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act" (AETA) pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate bill mill responsible for spreading 2011's spate of "voter ID" laws and the NRA-drafted "Stand your Ground" law, as Green is the New Red author Will Potter points out.

AETA broadly prohibits various kinds of "obstruction" of "an animal or natural resource activity," including by damage or destruction, trespassing, as well as "entering an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner."

The newer "ag gag" bills focus more exclusively on "prohibiting a person from entering onto a farm or photographing or video recording a farm without the owner's written consent" (from Florida's 2011 bill).

ALEC approved AETA and started pushing it both in the states and at the federal level in January 2004, with its publication of the propaganda pamphlet "Animal & Ecological Terrorism in America." According to a text comparison performed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the ALEC bill appears to be based on a 1990 Kansas bill called the "Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act."

After ALEC started pushing the bill, it was introduced in Tennessee in 2006, but died in committee; a limited version was passed in California in 2008; and a nearly identical bill was introduced in Washington State in 2010 (see CMD's text comparison here), but died in committee.

As the New York Times' Mark Bittman commented in the first wave of bill introductions two years ago, "The biggest problem of all is that we've created a system in which standard factory-farming practices are inhumane, and the kinds of abuses documented [by the investigations criminalized by the bills] are really just reminders of that."

The path between Washington's 2010 bill and Florida's 2011 bill is not clear, but it is clear that the intended result is the same. "Ag gag" bills seek to prevent the documentation and exposure of safety violations and atrocities in animal industries by criminalizing them and labeling them "obstruction." In other words, turn off the tape and bury the evidence rather than reforming the system.
***Links and videos at VISIT SITE***WARNING *** These videos are not east to watch, nor is the information easy reading. What we do not know, can kill us. ****

By Rebekah Wilce, PRWatch | Report | Truthout |


Roxie H (350)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 7:00 pm
Yes we MUST stop these Ag-GAG BILLS! State by State... MUST STOP THESE!!!!!

Laurie H (817)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 7:05 pm
I totally agree, "What we do not know, definitely, can kill us!!" I've been phoning senators and congress, signing every petition available to fight this---factory farming is Pure Cruelty to animals,as well as major health hazards! Long gone are the days and memories of a small country farm. The animals are treated like machinery as though they don't suffer-this makes me so angry! We NEED documentation, this entire industry is failing in my opinion, growing worse. Our health is constantly being compromised by what's happening behind closed doors. Very much appreciate this, Kit!~~So Many Thanks!!~

Barbara K (60)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 7:21 pm
These crooks shouldn't be getting a free pass. Come on Congress, do the right thing, not the thing you are being bribed to do.

Roxie H (350)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 7:24 pm
One minute, I just posted 2 ag -gag articles on my other blogs. Let me grab those and post them, they have some important info and I think one has a few petitions....hmmm I think so.. I will grab them

JL A (281)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 7:47 pm
I hope they are close to getting struck down in the courts

Tamara Hayes (185)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 8:31 pm
I am livid with this entire industry and ALEC and every S.O.B. affiliated with them. I do not condone violence but what I am feeling with regards to this could seriously get me put away for a very long time. I have also been signing, calling (I think they know me by name at the White House), emailing, sharing, talking until I am blue in the face to anyone I can get my hands on and I will be damned before I let WI even try to pull this shit! Oh if only I could train a fly to use a video camera. Let them try and prosecute a fly! Noted, signed with fury, twittered and google shared. Thanks Kit for this post.

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 2:12 am

Craig Pittman (52)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 4:41 am
Is this where unfettered capitalism has led us? Apparently! The corporations are running things and these types of outrageousness will continue until enough people stand up and say no more. It's about time we stopped asking lawmakers to do the right thing and begin telling them.

lee e (114)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 4:53 am
The greed of our society infiltrates every aspect of our lives! I often think the game Monopoly might be the curse of the nation -- greed and exploitation has become something revered in this country, it is a corruption of humanity when our moral principles are sacrificed for the sake of the "almighty dollar"!

Arielle S (313)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 8:01 am
Tamara, I'm right beside you - these are not human beings because human beings have hearts. These zombies should all be put out of their misery. Too bad there isn't a superbug that destroys only heartless, greedy, miserable excuses for humans that are taking up valuable space. At the very least, these morons should have to experience what that calf did.

Anna M (18)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 8:24 am
when we diminish one life we diminish all life

there is no excuse for this outright abuse. they may feel they have their reasons, but reasons are not excuses.

The sick sadists that left a disemboweled being to suffer needlessly are just as bad as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer etc and should been sequestered from society.

Nancy M (197)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 8:32 am
Thanks for the article Kit. I don't remember "fecal soup" comments but am aware of the filth in the industry (which techinically is against FDA guidelines but then who gets do define "filth").

I do remember the Oprah versus the Beef Industry law suit. Another example of lack of freedom of the press and free speech.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 11:33 am
A WHAT SOUP????? The image here did me, don't think I even want to visit site-sorry Kit.
Let me know if there's anything to sign with this,-else ignore.

Joanne Dixon (38)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 1:27 pm
There's a petition in another C2 news articles right now:

Patricia H. (440)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 2:43 pm

Lois Jordan (63)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 3:52 pm
Noted w/thanks, Kit. That dastardly ALEC is hell-bent on destroying the best parts of America, and I'm here to put my foot down and say, "NO way!" Been signing all petitions and sending letters that come my way regarding these issues.

Birgit W (160)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 4:03 pm
Noted, thanks

Lynn Squance (235)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 8:16 pm
Thanks Joanne for the link to Roxie's "Ag gag" petition.

I think what might be required is "gag" on ALEC or perhaps having ALEC declared a terrorist organisation! Like that would ever happen! But exposing the supporters etc certainly helped a while back as some companies withdrew their "membership" and support.

Susanne R (235)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 11:27 pm
Who speaks for the animals? When whistle blowers face prosecution, we have a serious problem. As a matter of fact, whenever there is a lack of transparency, something is being hidden. And I'm not surprised to hear that ALEC has reared its ugly head from the middle of this inhumane and obscene situation! Poetic justice, to me, would be the tons of fecal soup and animal guts finding their way to the Koch Brothers' estate.

Signed and noted.

Roxie H (350)
Monday March 25, 2013, 8:21 am
When I first started Discussing these rotten Ag-Gag laws with the general public. People kept saying, Turn in the video's we capture into the courts as "anonymous" no worries. Well, THAT is the worry, because these ag-gag laws are taking that option away from us. This law is actually against what I do in the field and ground. I ,along with these young brats, that cover my old granny -rear end. These laws are meant to shut us up and keep all of our video's and pictures from coming in. We take pictures of abuse of poachers and trappers of wolves and fur bearers in the woods and horrible acts of inhumane treatment of wild animals. They show factory animals on the pictures here, but this affect my cases directly. SO, I have been pushing trying to stop these rotten bills and laws for more then a year. AND HAVE BEEN LOSING. I think every one has passed except 1. Florida I think. LOL .. if I am not mistaken, then it also is covering water and land and food... so once these start rolling into law..its only going to snowball into MUCH WORSE, and might even make petitions illegal... SO IT IS A MUST that we work to try to stop these rotten laws..ugh... I been begging people ... I am such a clown ..sigh

Jane B (30)
Monday March 25, 2013, 2:16 pm
These bills have basically taken away the animals last hope. We all know that animal abuse on factory farms and in slaughterhouses is widespread, and it seems that undercover footage was the only way of exposing it. I am appalled that several states have now outlawed this.
In the UK, animal welfare societies are trying to make cctv in slaughterhouses mandatory. This hasn't met with success in Parliament as yet, so they are lobbying supermarkets to only source their meat from slaughterhouses that do have cctv. Small steps but we have to keep trying. In the meantime however, its seems the US is slipping back into the Dark ages. I would like to ask the US meat industry: what exactly are you going to do to protect your animals from the sadists? I know it is a tricky one, because quite often, the people who own and run these establishments are among the sadists.
I recently sent a polite email to a US pig producer where there had been prosecutions due to terrible abuse of pigs taking place. I asked if they had taken steps to ensure that this was not happening again. I received quite a hostile reply from their representative, even telling me off for using the term 'factory farm'. I sent a reply back but heard no more. It seems they are a very closed book. The only way for people to get any changes made is to buy from smaller organic free range farms as much as possible. I don't know how easy that is to do in the States but over here it has become much easier in the last 15-20 years - another sign of consumer power.

valda p (13)
Monday March 25, 2013, 3:35 pm
All animal organisations should get together and their supporters and fight this -depravity in the courts and bombard the local councils -the white house with -petitions and protests-stop this obscenity to the animals and dangerous food practices to -humans-only those who-do have -something to hide would want this -inhumane saddism -sanctioned by -law,

marie C (163)
Monday March 25, 2013, 6:06 pm
Cculd not visit site thanks for bringing my attention to it

Ruth C (87)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 9:34 am
If we keep quiet about the cruelty inflicted upon animals then we are contributing to their abuse and deaths!!
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