Harold, a rabbit, was found unconscious in a Tupperware container left in the sun. Rambo was one of 17 animals locked in a tiny stall and fed moldy bagels; a decomposing carcass of a cow was in the middle of that stall. Noah was locked in a rat-infested stall, too weak to stand.
Horrific as their suffering was, it paled next to what animals grown and processed for food endure in large-scale CAFOs: confined animal feeding facilitiesâ€”the massive factories that dot the landscape in many parts of the country and grow virtually all of our meat, eggs, and dairy.
And now we have Iowa’s new “Ag-Gag” law, which criminalizes lying on a job application to gain access to an animal production facility – making it even more difficult for whistleblowers to expose the truth behind factory farming. The crime is punishable with up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,500. A second conviction carries harsher penalties. Iowa A-list politicians and lobbyists pushed the law through in a matter of hours. Iowa is our nation’s leading pork and egg producer.
Jobs at factory farms are jobs of necessity – jobs taken to feed one’s family. These employees are not skipping to work each day. They don’t wake up saying, “Wow…I can’t wait to see those traumatized, depressed pigs,” or “Wooo-weee… gotta go pick up all the birds that have died from heart attacks in those filthy warehouses.” These jobs are taken by folks who need to feed their families. How many of them will risk their jobs to turn in animal abusers?
The system, of course, is inherently abusive. Gestation crates are abusive. Battery cages are abusive. Feed lots are abusive. Veal crates and poultry warehouses are abusive. Even the best-run factory farm is still a factory, designed using the factory model: the most units produced for the least cost. And as we’ve learned from scores of undercover videos, egregious violations of the minimal standards to which agribusiness is held occur all the time. The only time an abuser on a factory farm has ever been convicted of cruelty to animals has been as a result of undercover video, according to Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary’s Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives.
Ag-Gag bills to penalize those who secretly record video of livestock are being considered in Florida, New York, Utah, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, and Nebraska. They’re a sobering setback for the animals, of course, as well as for food safety. Remember the salmonella outbreak two years ago – the one in which half a billion Iowa eggs were recalled?
Please consider letting your voice be heard on this issue:
- Tell your state Senator(s) that you oppose these bills by calling, emailing, or writing them.
- Support organizations that lobby on behalf of animals
- Spread the news about these Ag-Gags bills to those you know and encourage them to speak out against these bills.
Oh yeah: here’s one other thing the rabbit, sheep, and horse I mentioned have in common: we allow them to be videotaped, along with all our other critters, our facilities, and our staff. If, as Kay Johnson-Smith, president of Animal Agriculture Alliance, proclaimed on CNN, it were “the industry’s livelihood to care for their animals,” they too would invite our scrutiny.