Recently the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) said in a press release that 71% of Americans support undercover investigative efforts by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms, and that 64% of Americans oppose making undercover investigations of animal abuse on industrial farms illegal, with half of all Americans strongly opposing legislative efforts to criminalize industrial farm investigations, commonly referred to as “ag-gag” legislation.
The ASPCA and its members lobbied strongly to prohibit these provisions from passing in Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and New York in 2011. This year, ag-gag legislation is being considered in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Utah.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance and members of the agriculture community see this in a different light. “These bills should actually be called ‘ag accountability laws’ rather than ‘ag gag laws’ because they would encourage timely reporting of animal abuse to the proper authorities, instead of allowing interest groups to bypass law enforcement in order to use online videos to fundraise for their cause,” explains Sarah Hubbart, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
The issue isn’t about photographing farms, Hubbart says, it’s really about undercover extremists using fraudulent information to obtain employment for the sole purpose of putting a farmer, and entire industry, out of business. “
Even more importantly, this is about preserving our national food security,” Hubbart notes. “We must keep our farms and food producing facilities safe from infiltration by real terrorists, who we can be sure, are watching the tactics that these animal extremists are using.”
It’s interesting that in the ASPCA press release they are weakly arguing that it’s a First Amendment issue that would effectively bar employees from whistleblowing on activities such as sexual harassment. Their press release says,”Some of these bills would even go so far as to criminalize the possession and/or distribution of such videos and photographs, a serious First Amendment threat that effectively bans whistleblowers—including employees—from exposing illegal and unethical practices at industrial farms such as sexual harassment, worker and environmental violations.”
That’s interesting when the only undercover videos that have been released are about animals, not employee issues. Make no mistake, this is about halting animal agriculture.
Why is the ASPCA, which purports to be in the business of helping cats and dogs, involved in this issue? Hubbart says the ASPCA, like the Humane Society of the United States, often promotes an extreme animal rights ideology. “The ASPCA is not affiliated with local SPCAs,” she says.
“For example, it only operates a single animal shelter in New York City, despite its near-constant advertising on television featuring images of rescued cats and dogs. In fact, the State Humane Association of California filed a complaint last year alleging that the ASPCA’s deceptive fundraising campaigns harm local humane societies and SPCAs.”
There are always going to be isolated incidences and bad apples in every industry. Any producer or employee who is willfully neglecting or abusing animals in their care should not be in this business. And many believe those undercover videographers are just as guilty by recording it for future use instead of stopping the egregious acts or contacting the proper authorities immediately.
UPDATED March 5, 8:30 a.m.: Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has signed into law House File 589, also known as the 'Ag Gag' bill. Iowa's is the first such law in the country, although other agricultural states are considering similar measures. Read more here.