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Jim Hightower
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Wednesday 24 April 2013
Their attack on whistleblowers will gag you almost as badly as viewing the gross animal abuse.

Gagging on Ag-gag Laws

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In most state legislatures today, "off the wall" has become the political center, and bizarre bills are no longer unusual.

Still, it seems strange that legislators in so many states — including Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Vermont — have simultaneously been pushing "ag-gag" bills that are not merely outrageous, but downright un-American. Each is intended to quash free speech by banning journalists, whistleblowers, workers and other citizens from exposing illegal, abusive or unethical treatment of animals that are incarcerated in the factory feeding operations of huge corporations.

Our nation's founders mounted a revolution to establish our free-press and free-speech rights, enshrining them in the First Amendment to ensure the free exchange of ideas — even when the Powers That Be didn't like the message that such freedoms produce. In fact, the Founders knew from hard experience that the protection of those freedoms was especially essential when the Powers That Be have something they're eager to hide from the citizenry.

Yet here comes a mess of so-called "conservatives" attempting to use state government to outlaw messengers who shine a light on corporate wrongdoing — turning those who expose crimes into criminals. Even kookier, these repressive laws declare that truth-tellers who so much as annoy or embarrass the corporate owner of the animal factory are guilty of "an act of terrorism."

Oddly, each of these state proposals is practically identical, even including much of the same wording. That's because, unbeknownst to the public and other legislators, the bills don't originate from the state lawmakers who introduce them. Instead, they come from a Washington-based corporate front group named ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council.

This infamous "bill mill" periodically convenes its corporate funders to write model bills that serve their special interests. Then ALEC farms out bills to its trusted cadre of state lawmakers across the country, who introduce them as their own, not mentioning the corporate powers behind them.

The secretive ALEC network produced the model ag-gag bill in 2002 and began shipping it from state to state under the ominous tile, "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act."

The freedom-busting terrorists in this fight are not those who reveal the abuse, but the soulless factory-farm profiteers in the corporate suites and the cynical lawmakers who serve them.

Actually, factory farms are not farms at all. They are corporate-run concentration camps for pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys and other food animals.

Held in corporate confinement, these creatures of nature are denied any contact with their natural world, instead being crammed by the thousands into concrete-and-metal buildings, where they are locked in torturously tiny cages for the duration of their so-called "life" — which is nasty, brutish and short. All this merely so food giants like Tyson Foods, Smithfield and Borden can grab fatter and quicker profits. Their abusive industrial system is so disgusting that America's consumers would gag at the sight of it.

That's why they're desperate to keep you from knowing what goes on inside. Nonetheless, word has been getting out, as animal rights advocates, consumer groups, reporters, unions and others have exposed some of the realities of animal confinement to the public, including showing wretch-inducing photos and videos. Rather than cleaning up their act, however, the industrial food powers have simply doubled down on disgusting by getting industry-funded state legislators to go after anyone who reveals their ugly secrets.

Their attack on whistleblowers will gag you almost as badly as viewing the gross animal abuse. But, really, who do they think they're fooling? If they have to pass a law that says, "Don't look here," people will naturally wonder what they're hiding — and will demand to see it and change it. Six states have passed ag-gag laws, and six more are presently moving toward passage. To see what your legislature is doing — and to join the fight to stop factory farming everywhere — go to


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ABOUT Jim Hightower
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.


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When I first heard about

When I first heard about these laws, I felt the same way. Then I looked a little deeper and found that these laws aren't actually "gag" laws. From what I've read, nothing stops people from secretly filming. What it does is force them to turn over their evidence of abuse to authorities within 48 hours. How is that bad?

Bernie Mooney - If you have

Bernie Mooney - If you have to turn over your video footage within 48 hours or it is discounted in a court of law, and the authorities drive out to the offender saying we've had a complaint, stop doing what you're doing, the videographer gets fired and the corp gets to proceed with business as usual - nothing changes for the animals. The activists need to be able to amass an overwhelming amount of evidence of abuse at a single CAFO before they can get the public to take action against the CAFO, since the "authorities" have failed to do anything repeatedly. If the videographer holds onto his footage for more than 48 hours until something really horrible happens that could land the CAFO in court, all the footage of minor abuses that preceded the most recent 48 hours is inadmissable in court, so the CAFO can claim the abuse was just a one time thing perpetrated by cruel employees and dismiss some workers and go on with business as usual, again no change for the animals. These laws are being created because activists have dedicated years of their lives to making movies of abuse that have been made public, and the court of public opinion and buying power has forced some CAFOs out of business. Now it will be illegal for activists to use any footage not turned over to authorites in 48 hours, and the authorities will tip off the CAFO that they are being watched so they can eliminate the activists from their staff.

Here in Tennessee, makes it a

Here in Tennessee, makes it a criminal act not to give authorities any video, photos, or any evidence of animal abuse. Almost surely the motivation for this law came from industries wishing to hide their abusive actions from the public. I suspect that, in Tennessee, lawmaker pressure came from the Tennessee walking horse industry after an expose which led to criminal convictions and banning of individuals from the industry.

The evidence of abuse was turned over to the district attorney, who requested that the evidence be withheld from the public, while an investigation continued. Under this law, which is awaiting the signature, or hopefully veto, by the Governor, this evidence must be turned over to local law enforcement, where it would almost certainly be suppressed. The walking horse industry is quite powerful in Tennessee.

The problem is "when does the

The problem is "when does the 48 hour limitation begin?" Does is it begin within the first hour after the first minute of film is competed or does it begin when the undercover investigation ends? The language of a law or contract is everything.

I can't be sure but I believe

I can't be sure but I believe the 48-hour rule is to prevent people from videotaping cruelty for months and then turning the footage into some documentary or expose. If it is cruelty you are against, you should ready to get that footage to the proper authorities ASAP. To continue to chronicle the abuse for weeks or months is not looking out for the welfare of the animals. It's allowing the suffering to continue in order to advance a political agenda.

Bernie, this is not about a

Bernie, this is not about a political agenda. This is about trying to make our food supply safer. You can not typically prove a pattern of abuse within a few hours. If an accumulation of evidence can not be amassed, the abuser can say "this is an isolated incident". These bills are put forth to ensure this continuous abuse can not be documented to prove accusations of cruelty. These bills are strictly intended to protect profits of "food" producing corporations and deny information to the American people, therefore denying us the ability to make informed choices about our food. It's the same thing that's going on with GMOs. Corporations are afraid that if they are made to label their GMO products people won't want to buy them. Well no shit! The safety of these "foods" have not been proven, but, we can't let that stand in the way of corporate policy. Full steam ahead and screw the consumer.

I believe it is a political

I believe it is a political agenda. If you see your neighbor beating his kids, do you videotape the abuse for months and make a documentary about it or do you immediately notify the police?

Do you want to prove a "pattern of abuse" or do you want to have the abuse stopped ASAP? When cops are called on domestic abuse calls they immediately arrest the spouse doing the abuse. They don't wait until a pattern of abuse is determined.

Even one act of abuse is one too many. If the authorities show up it may make the animal abusers think twice about continuing their behavior knowing they are now on the radar.

Bernie: You can't gather

Bernie: You can't gather enough evidence in 48 hours to establish a pattern of abuse. And if you take longer than 48 hours, you're subject to prosecution yourself if you bring the evidence forward.

If an investigation is revealed after only 48 hours, then the investigator will no longer be under cover, and will be fired before he/she can find anything meaningful.

As I wrote above, why does a

As I wrote above, why does a "pattern" have to be determined? There is a reason police arrest the domestic abuser after just one incident. Maybe we should amend our laws to only allow an arrest after a pattern of abuse is established?

As to the undercover angle, what gives private citizens the right to engage in "criminal "investigations" and misrepresent themselves in that endeavor?

I can see it as a last resort of all options have been exhausted and authorities aren't acting on it.

A pattern has to be

A pattern has to be determined because without it, any incidence is isolated and easily blamed on a renegade employee. The routine practices of a company are never subject to scrutiny.

Domestic violence is different in that if the abuser is arrested, he can't claim that all is well now because he fired his drunk self and his new self is in charge of things from now on. If there is abuse going on, the presumption is that all guilt belongs to one or both of a very limited range of possible suspects.

This isn't about arresting or prosecuting individual employees. It's not about stopping any single incidence of cruelty. It's about interrupting a corporate culture that encourages or, at best, ignores cruel and unlawful acts by employees during the routine performance of their jobs.

The Earth is a Perfect Place

The Earth is a Perfect Place to Live - Thank you all for caring !
The problem with the USA and the world is it's filled with Stupid People.
There is a technology 6 thousand years old that will fix this problem it is called
Give Until it Bleeds !

study everything on these sites - watch all the videos
cough up the money to learn TM properly & sit twice a day in silence for 20 minutes
nature will come to save us

Eat only organic food. Preferably food you have grown yourself.

Protect yourselves and let the dumb ones go off eating Stupid Food

If you live in the USA travel to Fairfield Iowa - see their plans
for the future of our dear world ... the light glows bright there.
Good luck !

Such an illusion of

Such an illusion of separation our corporate masters have created to keep us from realizing the power of our connection with the animals, plants, rocks, insects, water, air, earth and fire of our beautiful planet. Converting what Mother Earth provides us for free into a product we are forced to buy, in the name of corporate profit....

Endless growth in a finite world will produce depletion and death, as we are already witnessing. Earth will be fine, it's the humans that will be unable to survive if we continue on our present path.

There is a Great Awakening happening around the world. Let us join with ALL and create a world according to OUR vision.

Intention, clarity and emotion manifest reality. Let's get to it people!

The newly-approved horsemeat

The newly-approved horsemeat processing facilities don't need do-gooders blowing the whistle on unsanitary conditions, and neither do the ammonia-treated pink slime plants.

i am so disgusted by this i

i am so disgusted by this i could dare they try to stop people from showing and telling the truth about the food we eat!!!!!!

No worries! The Second

No worries! The Second Amendment guarantees there will plenty of well armed militants to go around shooting all the folks committing acts of terror by exercising the First Amendment. White Anglo Christian males exempted of course.

Well said, Anono!

Well said, Anono!

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