Expose Foul Conditions at Factory Farms? Go to Jail!

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chickenfactory-farmIowa and Florida are considering bills that make it illegal to film or photograph inside factory farms without permission. Are the CAFOs afraid their unhealthy conditions and animal cruelty will be exposed?  Help us put a stop to this madness!

Two weeks ago we reported on the way the FDA is blocking journalistic freedom of speech through the information embargoes they impose. Freedom of speech is taking another hit, this time from state legislatures.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are animal feeding facilities that confine animals for more than 45 days in an area that does not produce vegetation during the growing season. In a CAFO, animals are crammed by the thousands or tens of thousands, often unable to breathe fresh air, see the light of day, walk outside, peck at a plants or insects, scratch the earth, or eat a blade of grass. They are notorious breeding grounds for disease and thus overuse antibiotics, and they pollute the environment in terrible ways.

Moreover, farmers have carte blanche to treat animals cruelly as long as the animal is intended for the sale of food and the actions are considered common practice. They are protected by “common farming exemptions” (CFEs) that vary from state to state but all serve the same purpose. As author Erik Marcus points out, CFEs render the horrors of battery cages, veal crates, and gestation crates completely legal. Likewise, they allow cruel practices such as castration without anesthetic, beak searing, and the deliberate withholding of lifesaving veterinary care. “Right now, at least 30 states have CFEs on the books, and that number is growing. Factory farming is a horror show, and the industry knows it—so they have gotten CFEs passed in order to evade prosecution.” New York Times food writer Mark Bittman recently discussed the inequity of laws that protect companion animals, but allow unconscionable abuse of farm animals.

There are two new bills that would limit journalistic freedom of expression. The first, a clumsy and probably unconstitutional Florida bill that would ban photos, focuses on undercover attempts to film inside industrial livestock facilities. As ABC News reports, SB 1246 would make it a first-degree felony to photograph a farm without first obtaining written permission from the owner. Farmers say the bill is needed “to protect the property rights of farmers and the ‘intellectual property’ involving farm operations.”

The bill was apparently inspired by undercover videos like those here and here (warning: very disturbing images) produced by the Humane Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But, as writer and media/technology consultant Tom Laskawy puts it, “Mostly it was inspired by rank stupidity. It doesn’t take a close reading of the Constitution to know you can’t make photographing private property from a distance illegal.”

The second set of bills, from Iowa (HF 589, and its companion in the Iowa Senate, SF 431), criminalize “animal facility interference” for shooting a photo or video without facility owners’ consent or knowledge, and “animal facility fraud” for people who obtain employment in order to shoot videos or take photos. Penalties include fines and prison sentences.

Unfortunately, the Iowa House of Representatives has already passed its bill, and the Senate’s bill is in committee. Unlike the Florida bill, there may be fewer constitutional issues with a law that limits workers’ behavior on the job or statements made on job applications. As Laskawy notes,

A law like this could have a chilling effect on undercover work of all kinds. If this law passes and survives judicial scrutiny, you could imagine many different industries scrambling to have similar laws passed to protect them from muckraking reporters or activists….

People have the right—and the responsibility—to know where their food comes from. Real food safety and a healthy lifestyle include organic, local farming, not to mention the humane treatment of animals—including the ones we eat.

Even 11-year-old kids like Birke Baehr are telling the world about the dark side of the industrial food system, as this video demonstrates. Young people are clearly smarter than some legislators.

If you are a resident of Florida or Iowa, please contact your legislators and voice your opposition of these bills!


TO SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO THE FLORIDA STATE LEGISLATURE

Click THIS LINK to go to the Action Alert page. Once there, fill out the form with your name and address, etc., and customize your letter. We have a suggested message for you, but please feel free to add your own comments to the letter.

We’d also love to hear your comments about this article—just add your thoughts below—but remember that the messages below are only seen by our ANH-USA readers

TO SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO THE IOWA STATE LEGISLATURE

Click THIS LINK to go to the Action Alert page. Once there, fill out the form with your name and address, etc., and customize your letter. We have a suggested message for you, but please feel free to add your own comments to the letter.

We’d also love to hear your comments about this article—just add your thoughts below—but remember that the messages below are only seen by our ANH-USA readers.

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  • jann

    STOP!!! STOP!!!! STOP!!!!

    • rem

      I agree with the premise (that cruelty should be dealt with) but not wtih methods for dealing with it that involve criminal activity, that is, trespassing – not to mention the good possiblity of carrying disease into an operation or taking one back out to be spread around elsewhere. There are lawful ways of dealing with suspected animal abuse, and illegally intruding onto others’ private property is not one of them – unless there is no longer to be private property. The ends do not justify the means.

  • LFJ Gill

    If the truth worries you, perhaps you should look at where you’re “coming from”.

  • LFJ Gill

    WAIT! That comment was meant for the perpetrators, not for the article writers! Oops. Sorry.

  • LFJ Gill

    Well, now I’ve blown it twice, by trying to take action on the site only for Florida residents! So here is the comment as it should appear here: Looks like they are so afraid of the truth that they are now trying to legislate against it , from their hidey holes deep inside corporate and agribusiness pockets,

    • Alice

      I wish I’d known before I tried to take action via the internet, that only those who live in Florida or Iowa would be able to take action. Now I can’t get to the letter, which would give me the talking points I need to write my own letter to send snail mail.

    • Ogre

      They would be well advised to listen to folks outside of their states. If they take action, they simply let their grocers know that they won’t buy if it originates there. They, and anything produced in their state will be shunned. There are also usually ways to avoid selling TO THEM. … the legislators I mean.

  • Enough is enough we should demand the right to write the law with at least 20% presence of general publiC BECAUSE ANY LAW SUPPOSED TO SERVE PUBLIC but not 3% of riches population who decides what to do with out health, food and life. Till when we will let them decide what I should eat and for how long they will feed us by food that shouldn’t be allowed to sell.

  • Laura Walker

    If you are not doing anything wrong, why are you so afraid to be seen? The truth should be for all to see. Consumers have a right to know what is going on behind the scenes. I do not eat animals and this still disturbs me to the core. These are living creatures and although we can not communicate by common language, any person of any intelligence knows in their heart that this is cruel and unjust.

  • Suzanne

    This is so important. I will bombard PA reps when it comes up there. This is what the movie, Food Inc., was made for. The movie was made so changes would be made but it sounds like once again, the food companies will be protected.

  • joe

    cruelty is o.k. but filming it is illegal? sounds like censorship, and quite illegal.

  • jon hoy

    Factory farms of any kind ought to be inspected the same way as businesses get inspected to maintain standards of operations for peoples health and the enviroment and the safety of the employees and consumers.

  • Linda

    Thanks for bringing these terrible bills to light, it will be a disaster for animals if they pass. Please everyone from Florida and Iowa oppose these bills.

  • Denise

    When the world responds with the same repugnance & self-righteousness (or repentant humility & turning toward God & righteousness & life) toward those who participate in what leads to the breeding of children for their own selfish pleasure —then want to kill the fruit —or to take the fruit of others because they have refused natural relations ——then this will make sense & not come across as hypocrisy.

    Is there such eagerness to see the Lila Rose videos —exploiting children for porneia & Mammon, trafficking while looking the other way for the ‘good’ and ‘choice’ of the more powerful aborter or pimp or trafficker) or the realities of the Philadelphia shop of horrors? Such self-righteous anger? Such desire to see ‘right’ done?

    It is written that ‘A righteous man cares for the needs of his animals’. But he who sheds the blood of man —polluting the land with innocent blood —-he or she who hardens themselves without repentance or mercy to the care of the weaker — will turn to unnatural harshness or legalism in lesser matters such as the treatment of animals or the true stewardship of Creation —and brings judgment upon themselves. Indeed, the hypocrisy, the hardening & the selective vision & the works of lesser legalism are part of that judgment. Better to repent of sin & to admit of need & corruptibility —– than to run from Truth & to deny Him —-or to try & gain some form of righteousness by working harder on some other, lesser sin.

    • Katherine

      You are making a judgment that those of us who care about animals and/or food safety, do not also care about children. I find that I can care about both.

      I believe that the God who gave humans dominion over nature cares about how we exercise that dominion. The Old Testament has laws regarding proper treatment of animals (do not muzzle the ox who is grinding the grain, etc.) The New Testament while putting an emphasis on holiness also commands us to treat our bodies as temples. Why would I want to pollute my body with products that come from CAFOs?

      I am just as active with emails and protests to legislators on both fronts. I can care about both. A judgmental attitude is not helpful or loving or a good witness.

  • Katherine

    As a consumer who buys food produced in Iowa and Florida, I would like the opportunity to comment on these laws to the legislators in Florida and Iowa even though I live in Maryland. Would it be possible to have an action email for those of us who live outside these two states?

  • Barbara Talbert

    We used to appreciate what animals did for us in supplying us with food but now many factory farms have a callous and horrendous attitude towards them. We are simply not thanking God for the animals that he put into our care for our food and sustenance. When we think that man is the be-all and end-all of human existence and that we control everything and have a right to abuse and mistreat animals–that is when it will be proven to us how wrong we are. Factory farms are feeding us but ruining our groundwater and lakes and streams at the same time with nitrogenous waste. Let us begin to think when we create something like a factory farm how we are going to clean it up. This way we are paying at both ends.

  • organicwench

    A bill making it a first degree felony to take a photograph inside factory farms, while it is legal to abuse and torture farm animals, talk about an oxymoron. That legislators would even consider such a ridiculous bill is beyond comprehension. This is not some communist country; this is America where free speech is deemed a right by the Constitution. The FDA should know better; that they are “blocking journalistic freedom of speech by imposing information embargoes” is inexcusable and unacceptable. Why factory farms are not held to higher scrutiny by lawmakers screams of collusion, and bribery. No civilized nation should treat its animals in such a savage manner, and with so little regard. Factory farms are a blight on the image this country tries to portray to the rest of the world.

  • Mark Humphrey

    I support the efforts of legislators in Florida and Iowa.

    The “factory farms” are private property. If the owner declines permission to take pictures or conduct other activities on his property, that’s quite appropriately within his rights. Would you want intruders to go through your belongings or picknic in your back yard?

    Stop using the tactics of Left -wing bullies to get what you want.

    • kirstenkd

      I was going to write something myself but i think this person’s post sums up my reply:

      “jon hoy says:
      March 29, 2011 at 10:09 pm
      Factory farms of any kind ought to be inspected the same way as businesses get inspected to maintain standards of operations for peoples health and the enviroment and the safety of the employees and consumers.”

      You cannot compare a business’s privacy rights to civilian rights! They are not the same!

  • WikiLeaks maintains that censorship betrays the refusal to reform and is designed to prevent progress.
    TOOOO much secrecy, classified information and redacted documents. Give me break!

    Everyone needs to see the sickening results of their tax dollars at work on corporate farms as well as on innocent people in the Mideast. The corporate media is sanitized for their convenience and they want to keep it that way. LONG LIVE THE DELUSION!

  • Loren Hart

    This article is very helpful and much appreciated. Thank you!!!

  • Susie Cassens

    So I guess we need to get busy again in November to remove more people from all offices. They need to be working on Jobs not stupid Legislation that is totally unnecessary. Please run for office if you have any common sense, are honest and good management skills. Come on American Heroes out there we need you desperately. You know who you are. You were the leaders in High School and Student Council Officers. These current politicians are running us into the ground. They don’t know what the he– they are doing.Most of our legislators are lawyers by the way. No wonder we are so screwed up.If you are going to run for office please check when you need to file by.Let’s call it …The American Heroes Campaign!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!