OpEd: Cruelty to farm animals demands exposure

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Washington Post, April 26, 2013

images-14SO GUT-WRENCHING are the images — cows being shocked, turkeys being stomped, horses being burned with chemicals, piglets kicked like soccer balls — that the videos recorded by animal rights organizations at factory farms are almost impossible to watch. That, though, has helped make them effective tools in the fight against illegal and cruel treatment of farm animals. It’s alarming that a number of states have bowed to pressure from agribusiness and enacted laws to criminalize this useful undercover work.

Other states that are considering following suit should think twice about whether the best way to deal with the important issues of how animals are treated and food is produced is to keep U.S. consumers in the dark. Six states in the West and Midwest have enacted legislation cracking down on the undercover videotaping of animal facilities that has been the foundation of investigations by organizations including the Humane Society of the United States and Mercy for Animals. So-called ag-gag bills are pending in six other states, including Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Some of the measures, the New York Times reported, would make it illegal to secretly videotape farms, livestock ranches, slaughterhouses and other food production facilities or to apply for a job at one of them without reporting an affiliation with an animal rights group. Others, such as one theTennessee legislature passed this month, demand that any video that chronicles possible illegal activity be handed almost immediately to law enforcement authorities, a seemingly innocuous requirement that would have the effect of preventing meaningful investigations documenting patterns of abuse.

Defenders of the legislation say the videos cast farms and other livestock concerns in a bad light and have caused financial suffering. They say activists use the footage to raise funds and advance their cause of getting people to stop eating meat. Those are weak justifications for extreme legislation that inhibits the rights of employees, denies vital assistance to law enforcement and tramples First Amendment rights. Sufficient laws exist to protect property from trespass.

Animal investigations have proved their value. In 2007 the Humane Society documented unsafe practices at a California slaughterhouse that resulted in the largestrecall of beef in U.S. history and a new federal policy to prevent downer cows (cows that cannot stand on their own), at risk for mad cow disease, from entering the food supply. If not for video footage, prosecutors in Tennessee would not have been able to take action against workers using illegal methods to improve the gait of walking horses. The same is true for authorities in North Carolina, who charged workers at a turkey farm with abuse and neglect of animals.

Society demands a level of openness, and America has a proud tradition of people doing good by showing what’s wrong. As you next cut into a steak or crack an egg, ask yourself why an industry that claims it has nothing to hide demands protections afforded to no other.

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
6 Comments
  • Debbie Tracy

    Big AGRI—- is obviously above any laws in this country they are honsetly cutting their own throats by enacting these AG-GAG laws… It shows all of the American People they are trying to hide something, why would one think any different….

    AND it shows us they think they don’t need to be held accountable, that NO ONE can touch them, BAD, HUGE MISTAKE on their part you mark my words it will all come back to haunt them one way or another!!! SAD

    April 28, 2013
  • **********Obstruction Of Justice************
    A criminal offense that involves interference, through words or actions, with the proper operations of a court or officers of the court.
    The integrity of the judicial system depends on the participants’ acting honestly and without fear of reprisals. Threatening a judge, trying to bribe a witness, or encouraging the destruction of evidence are examples of obstruction of justice.We have some law makers that need to be tried for
    **********Obstruction Of Justice************

    April 28, 2013
  • Gracemarie Elliott

    I hope to GOD you are right. Big Agribusiness is like a very Powerful “Devil” Mafia —they only care about their “bottom $$$ line”. They don’t care about what harm they bring to Humans in the food supply nor do they care about Animals. Animals r money making “machines” for them. Agri business thinks animals are machines! Even the Domestic Horse! It will take a “Miracle” for them to stop abusing Animals and Killing Humans with additives like GMO’s and at least three different types of antibiotics in animal food because conditions animals live in on Factory Farms are “Nasty”. Deplorable, unsanitary, cruel and tremendously InHumane! So they shove antibiotics down their throats and give them Human Growth Hormones ( that people eat right along with their Cheesburger). Because the “faster and bigger the animal grows–the more money they make !” They don’t care how Americans are dying of Cancer Nd Heart disease from Clogged arteries and how children four years old are having to take Insulin for diabetes—-They only Care about MONEY! They don’t care if Horses are beaten into submission, for doing nothing in their stalls, have Caustic solutions like Turpentine painted all over their ankles and their ankles wrapped in plastic wrap for hours before a show in horrific PAIN so they’ll be “High-Steppin’ Money Makin’ Roses Winnin’ Machines for their greedy hateful owners, nor do they care if NAILS are driven into horses FEET (under) their shoes so that every time the horses front hoof hits a “lick” with his two front hooves the pain is so unbearable he “steps high” trying not to hit his hoof on the ground’ nor do they care if the horse can’t walk and he gets SHOCKED with an ELECTRIC Prod if he doesn’t pick up that foot , nor does they (not just in Tennesse, but apparently right at the “Hunt Horse Complex” in North Carolina too (and down East where Gov Hunt’s “PIG Waste Continues to Pollute the Neuse River”. care if the Horse Knows if he doesn’t hit a Big Lick. He’ll be BEATEN into Smithereens on the head or anywhere else the owner/trainer so chooses behind barn doors. Miracle!!! It will take a Miracle. And some very good Prosecutors and Judges! But u know what. Lightness is greater than Darkness (www.darkness2light.org), Miracles really do happen some times, and… There are still some very good Prosecutors and Judges and Law Enforcement out there in spite of the bad ones!

    April 29, 2013
  • Marcia

    When the videotapes of past investigations of cruelty have been revealed, the usual response from the facilities has been an assertion of innocence. The owners and managers swear that they did not know such abuse was going on, that they were against such mistreatment of the animals, that they were shocked and very upset that it was occurring on their premises. Yeah, right. If they were truly surprised and horrified, they would have begun hiring better employees, training those employees in humane treatment of the animals in their care, adding cameras to monitor the operations, and firing workers who did not comply with the rules or who demonstrated violent and sadistic behavior. But, no, their response is to shut things down even tighter in order to continue business as usual and to criminalize the investigators who want to help the victims. Unfortunately, cows, pigs, and chickens are powerless. They don’t have money, they don’t have organizations, they don’t have a political voice. But Big-Ag has all three and is attempting to bend legislators to its will. The voters need to let their voices be heard to stop ag-gag laws. They need to let their lawmakers know that the greed-driven abuse of innocent animals will not be tolerated in a civilized society. People of good will–no matter what their dietary choice–owe the animals that much.

    April 29, 2013
  • Valerie Wehmueller

    Enacting a law is one thing, enforcing it is another. All living beings deserve equal life, & equal treatment. We have the right to know where our “food” comes from, how it got there, & how it was treated before, & during the “process” of becoming a “food product”. I will not support factory farming, or ANY form of animal abuse, these creatures are not machines, they are living, breathing, feeling sentient beings. I am a vegetarian, mainly because of my love & compassion for animals, for life. When I look into the eyes & the soul of an animal, I don’t see “food”, I see a life! We will fight this to the end, they can not get away with persecuting the protectors, while protecting the abusers!

    April 29, 2013
  • WestTxRanchWife

    I think it is extremely sad that so many people lump everyone that works in Agriculture together and refers to them as factory farmers.Did you know that 70-75% of the beef producers in the U.S are small ranchers that only run around 100 head of cattle. Many of which have no extra income meaning oil & gas production.They work from sun up to sun down 7 days a week to help feed America. They live very modest life styles many living on income well below the middle class scale.Most do not use growth hormones on their ranches, most could not afford them even if they wanted to use them.They give their calves a blackleg vaccination which is like a parvo shot for a dog and only use antibiotic if a animal is sick, which happens very rarely to cattle in a pasture. They are some of the most honest hard working people you will ever meet.I have known cowboys who have rode through blizzards to save a baby calf carrying it across his saddle to the safety of a barn.Are there bad people in this world unfortunately yes there are. There are people who abuse animals, children their spouses and all need to be held accountable for their actions.When you here of a teacher abusing a child do you suddenly hate all teachers.If you chose to be a vegetarian that’s your choice and I respect that but before you decided to hate everyone in agriculture maybe you should take the time to go meet some of them.I think what so many people don’t understand is that not all animal rights groups are legit either. There are some that their whole agenda is to shut down the beef industry. Many people think that is a good idea, but when the beef industry goes the farm industry will not be far behind as the ranchers help support the farmers. Then how are people going to eat, many don’t have the means to grow their own vegetables. Not to mentions the domestic pets, dogs, cats, birds, fish etc etc.You see the Ag business feeds much more than just people!If you are worried about your beef, as it goes through the process of from the ranch to the grocery store. visit any local rancher they would all sale you a calf right off the ranch hormone and antibiotic free.

    May 3, 2013