Sunday, April 7, 2013

New laws label investigative ag reporters "terrorists," expand defamation laws in favor of Big Ag

The New York Times reported today under the headline, "Taping of Farm Cruelty is Becoming a Crime" on new state laws that effectively insulate ag producers from undercover surveillance and exposure of cruelty to animals by imposing penalties on those who who engage in such surveillance and disclosure.  Here's an excerpt from the story by Richard Oppel, Jr.:
[Pr]oposed or enacted bills ... would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms, or apply for a job at one without disclosing ties to animal rights groups. They have also drafted measures to require such videos to be given to the authorities almost immediately, which activists say would thwart any meaningful undercover investigation of large factory farms. 
In the past year, Iowa, Utah and Missouri passed laws of this sort, referred to by critics as "Ag Gag" bills. Indiana and Tennessee are expected to vote soon on similar measures, while states from California to Pennsylvania continue to debate them.  Bills of this sort have died recently in New Mexico and New Hampshire, and legislation in Wyoming stalled after animal rights activists, including Bob Barker, mounted vocal opposition.  Read more here.

The director of Congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, which lobbies for agricultural industries, noted that the videos "may seem troubling to someone unfamiliar with farming,"but "caution[ed] that some [of these] methods represent best practices endorsed by animal-care experts."

Prof. Jedediah Purdy responds to that point, in a sense, in this op-ed response to Oppel's Story.  Purdy's piece is headlined "Open the Slaughterhouses."  He writes:
[T]ransparency ... is why we should require confined-feeding operations and slaughterhouses to install webcams at key stages of their operations. List the URL’s to the video on the packaging. There would be no need for human intrusion into dangerous sites. No tricky angles or scary edits by activists. Just the visual facts. If the operators felt their work misrepresented, they could add cameras to give an even fuller picture.

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