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Will Potter
Other Words / Op-Ed
Published: Wednesday 20 February 2013
States are adopting laws meant to keep consumers in the dark about where their food comes from.

These Laws Make Me Want to Gag

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Do you have a right to know where that steak on your plate came from?

Should it be legal to photograph chicken farms and dairy cows?

Big Agriculture says you don’t and it shouldn’t. Armies of Big Ag lobbyists are pushing for new state-level laws across the country to keep us all in the dark. Less restrictive versions have been law in some states since the 1980s, but the meat industry has ratcheted up a radical new campaign.

This wave of “ag-gag” bills would criminalize whistleblowers, investigators, and journalists who expose animal welfare abuses at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Ten states considered “ag-gag” bills last year, and Iowa, Missouri, and Utah approved them. Even more are soon to follow.

Had these laws been in force, the Humane Society might have been prosecuted for documenting repeated animal welfare and food safety violations at Hallmark/Westland, formerly the second-largest supplier of beef to the National School Lunch Program. Cows too sick to walk were being slaughtered and that meat was shipped to our schools, endangering our kids. The investigation led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

More recently in Wyoming, video footage showed workers at a Tyson supplier kicking live piglets and pummeling mother pigs. The film led to criminal charges against nine employees, including two managers. In Pennsylvania, an investigation of a major regional egg supplier, Kreider Farms, showed decomposing birds packed into cages among the living. Other hens had their heads stuck in cage wire and were left to die.

Big Ag wants to silence whistleblowers rather than clean up its act. Ag-gag bills are now pending in PennsylvaniaArkansasIndianaNebraska, and New Hampshire. North Carolina and Minnesota are expected to follow.

The bills aren’t identical, but they share common language — sometimes even word-for-word. Some criminalize anyone who even “records an image or sound” from a factory farm. Others mandate that witnesses report abuses within a few hours, which would make it impossible for whistleblowers to secure advice and protection, or for them to document a pattern of abuses.

Indiana’s version of this cookie-cutter legislation ominously begins with the statement that farmers have the right to “engage in agricultural operations free from the threat of terrorism and interference from unauthorized third persons.”

But these bills aren’t about violence or terrorism. They’re about truth-telling that’s bad for branding. For these corporations, a “terrorist” is anyone who threatens their profits by exposing inhumane practices that jeopardize consumer health.

It’s too early to tell how many of these bills stand a chance of passing. But considering that ag-gag supporters have no shortage of wealth and political influence, more states are sure to follow.

As a journalist, I’m worried about what these bills mean for freedom of the press. And the investigators and whistleblowers I have interviewed are deeply concerned about their own safety and freedom.

But ag-gag bills aren’t about silencing journalists and whistleblowers. They’re about curbing consumer access to information at a time when more and more Americans want to know where our food comes from and how it’s produced.

The problem for corporations is that when people have information, they act on it. During a recent ag-gag hearing in Indiana, one of the nation’s largest egg producers told lawmakers about a recent investigation. After an undercover video was posted online, 50 customers quickly called and stopped buying their eggs. An informed public is the biggest threat to business as usual.

An informed public is also the biggest threat to these ag-gag bills. In Wyoming, one of the bills has already failed. According to sponsors, it was abandoned in part because of negative publicity. By shining a light on these attempts, we can make sure that the rest fail as well, while protecting the right of consumers to know what they’re buying.



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ABOUT Will Potter

Will Potter is a journalist based in Washington, DC. He is the author of Green Is the New Red, which documents corporate attempts to silence environmental activists.

ps. Bill Moyers did a great

ps. Bill Moyers did a great show on ALEC as well. It's in his archives if you want an excellent overview. If you don't have an ALEC-watch group monitoring bills in your state legislature, start one! Center for Media and Democracy is also keeping a list of state legislators who have had membership at some time in ALEC. That's a good place to start for likely legislators to be introducing these "cookie-cutter" corporate bills. Links to those lists, as well as corporate members can be found on the ALEC Exposed site.

....AND Common Cause has

....AND Common Cause has filed a petition with the IRS challenging ALEC's status as a 501(c)3. Tons more material there. Also. one of the most comprehensive investigative reports on ALEC prior to release of the actual ALEC bills, was written by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife back in 2002. Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States. Here's the link to their original release on that www.alecwatch.org

Sounds a WHOLE lot like the

Sounds a WHOLE lot like the Eco-Terrorism "model legislation" put out by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This may be an updated version. In case you aren't yet familiar with them, it is a "dating service" for state legislators and corporate industry representatives who, essentially, provide corporate-written, certainly corporate friendly, bills to be introduced in the states. They've been around since the 70's and it's only been within the last 2 years that their authorship has been nailed (since their name never appears on the legislation). A cache of 800 of these bills was released by a whistleblower to the Center for Media and Democracy who has set up a brilliant site where people can go and check bills being introduced in their states against the corporate-written ALEC bills. PLEASE go to www.alecexposed.org to check the language of these bills, and alert CMD of your suspicions. Public outrage has already caused a number of corporations and state legislators to drop their memberships in ALEC.

Yes, cruel and greedy people

Yes, cruel and greedy people are taking over our meat and dairy supply. If we would all stop eating meat which leads to a much healthier lifestyle, the dairy industry is likely to become more humane.

FRANCSI is absolutely right. "Buy organic, buy as local as possible..." And may I add, comment, bitch, email, write, contact your representatives at each level of government and help rile up these factory farmers. It is for your sake, the sake humanity, and the sake of the planet (be aware that factory farmers are polluting our creeks, fresh water and rivers with tons of manure.)

PBS last night presented a

PBS last night presented a demostration of a weapon like the one used at Newtown, being produced on a 3 D printer. It was made of plastic and operated with the same quality as one of metal.

Which leads to the question, Why can't food products be produced by similar 3 D printing. Could wheat, corn, or for that matter any living matter that is fed to livestock be used as materiaal to feed the printer?

For what everloving purpose?

For what everloving purpose? It's there already.

When the almighty dollar

When the almighty dollar becomes GOD to the corporate Class we are all in for tough times. Yes they grow the food, package it and feed the masses, But there are many other values in life that also require our attention. Life isn't only a matter of profits, to be boasted about. Life on our little blue planet consists of health and welfare, equality of life for all, or it's no good for the few either.

Many who have achieved great wealth eventually become philanthropists, building monuments to their success, but on the way up, they consider everything that stands in their way, just an obstacle to be beaten down so they may achieve their goal. If that is the only thing that matters, living in luxury, while the rest of humanity, wildlife, the planet and all things good suffer at their expense they have really gained nothing!

Why wouldn't HONEST, HUMANE

Why wouldn't HONEST, HUMANE producer's want to be aware of a problem at their production facilities? Because it is simply about PROFIT and the workers and the animal producers are simply a means to their GREEDY PROFITS. PROFITS, never shared with the hardworking laborers that make their profit possible, never invested in the proper humane care of the animals who make their profit possible. Humanely raised and cared for cows, as an example produce on a healthy farm atmosphere will produce milk for 10 years. Cows on a FACTORY OPERATION are SLAUGHTERED AT AGE 2!!! That alone says a lot about the horrendous methods of corporate farms
Such legislation is only to cover their a$$$$$'$ They essentially want no oversight in their operations - what cruel and selfish people that are taking over the production of our food supply.
Buy organic, buy as local as possible, contact small farmers and subscribe to a CSA - it is for your own well-being and the HUMANE production of your food.

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