Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Back in the News: Ag-Gag Laws & Sinclair's The Jungle

In February I posted about Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in relation to the British horse-meat scandal. Now questionable food-production methods are back in the news -- this time in the US.

Here's last week's Washington Times editorial "Ag-gag bills: Criminalizing whistleblowing on factory farms:"
“Ag-gag” bills are laws that criminalize whistleblowing on factory farms. Even though ag-gag bills differ from state to state, they share a few common elements including criminalizing the taking of pictures or video at a factory farms without authorization, banning investigators from taking jobs at factory farms, and compelling mandatory reporting within short timelines that would make it impossible to establish punishable patterns of abuse.
Ag-gag bills have been introduced in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont. Iowa and Utah have already passed ag-gag laws...
Why do factory farms, slaughterhouses, meatpacking plants, and livestock ranches want to hide abuse? According to Cody Carlson in a recent piece in The Atlantic, footage and pictures of inhumane treatment (like the 2008 video of a California meatpacking plant’s employees prodding and pushing sick cows into the slaughter pit with forklifts) result in public outcry, plant closures, expensive recalls, heavy fines, and even criminal charges for employees of factory farms.
Unlike Europe, where farmers are protected from being undercut by those who would use inhumane practices, in the U.S. there is no such protection. Honest, humane farmers who treat their animals with dignity cannot compete with large companies that cut the beaks off chickens and use gestation crates where pigs cannot turn around for their entire lives to cut a few cents off their products.

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