FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Stop Getting Gagged by Animal Ag

by LEE HALL

“Ag-gag” bills—introduced in more than a dozen states and already enacted in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Utah—are reviled for good reason. By prohibiting undercover filming at animal agribusinesses, they impede the free flow of information.

potter

But fighting these bills does not an animal-rights campaign make.

It slants the matter of who will face the police—the deviant animal handler or the one who filmed the deed—but it won’t protect animals.

Internet petitions can proliferate, insisting on our right to images of the worst animal abuses and exhorting  states to prove their largest factory farms have nothing to hide. Yet somebody will always be committing the worst animal abuses as long as animal agribusiness continues. And the slaughter plant that follows the regulations to the letter is still a place of horror.

Where ag-gag laws flounder, people can resume applying for  agribusiness jobs, and continue supplying footage to advocacy groups. That means many years of gory videos ahead of us, lest anyone has not seen enough.

Again, let me be clear: repressing information isn’t good. These laws are overprotective of business owners, and nasty to whistleblowers. But policing the farm is hardly a radical idea; indeed, corporate interests can find something to like in it because criminalizing anything is lucrative. Meanwhile, the investigation role turns activists into components of what they strive to expose, caught up in an endless symbiotic relationship between the farm-watchers and the farms they watch.

The Whole Foods Covenant

While big ag would like to banish pesky videographers in the interest of profit protection, plenty of animal handling and slaughtering benefits from sickening videos. Whole Foods Market jumps to mind. This multinational retailer makes a fortune with its “Animal Welfare Rating” concept and CEO John Mackey has even scored a spot on the Humane Society of the United States Board of Directors. And a pig farmer named Joe Maxwell, hired by the Humane Society to advance the expansion of the “humane” meat market, is one of Whole Foods Market’s suppliers.

At Whole Foods Market, you pay extra to obtain milk from a “happy herd,” buy a turkey from a farmer who promises to cry when slicing the bird’s artery, or carry eggs in a bag proclaiming “Chicks Dig Cage-Free” through aisles festooned with images of salt-of-the-Earth animal suppliers. This corporation benefits from public access to chicksdigshocking agribusiness exposés because it purports to offer the uncruel alternatives, winning praise and PR from the many of the same advocates who finish and release the undercover videos about other suppliers.

Whole Foods’ hogwash nothwithstanding, low-volume farms can be as brutal as their high-volume counterparts. There’s no legally binding definition for cage-free eggs, for example, and stuffing birds into a shed isn’t much better than jamming them into a cage. And even if the supplier is actually using pasture lands, consider the ramifications. Just like suburban development, pasture development eats up land. The happy herders are yet another form of sprawl. (No points for guessing what happens to free-living predators around “Animal Welfare Rating 1” suppliers.)

We can vanquish ag gag lawmaking and happy-meat flackery all at once:  Let’s just stop buying the stuff. Engage the demand side: the power of people to disengage from oppressive systems. It’s completely within our power to withhold our support from animal agribusiness. It might be inconvenient, but it’s the truth: nothing else is going to stop the abuse.

Lee Hall is Legal VP for Friends of Animals, a candidate for Vermont Law School’s LL.M. in environmental law (2014); and the author of On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal-Rights Philosophy Down to Earth (2010). Follow Lee on Twitter:  @Animal_Law. 

Photo of bag by Ginger Burr.

 

Lee Hall, a Widener University adjunct, holds an LL.M. in Environmental Law, and has authored the new book On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century. Follow Lee on Twitter: @Animal_Law

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail