Every year, nearly 10 billion animals are slaughtered in the United States. That’s more than three animals per man, woman and child. The USDA approved methods of raising and slaughtering animals can be, and often are, cruel. They tend to focus more on the safety of the humans who are consuming the animals than on the safety of the animals themselves. However, with a shortage of inspectors (thanks to Congress’s unwillingness to fund the agencies), the already lax laws are being largely ignored. The solution? Make it against the law to record abuse.
From the New York Times:
On one covert video, farm workers illegally burn the ankles of Tennessee walking horses with chemicals. Another captures workers in Wyoming punching and kicking pigs and flinging piglets into the air. And at one of the country’s largest egg suppliers, a video shows hens caged alongside rotting bird corpses, while workers burn and snap off the beaks of young chicks.
Each video — all shot in the last two years by undercover animal rights activists — drew a swift response: Federal prosecutors in Tennessee charged the horse trainer and other workers, who have pleaded guilty, with violating the Horse Protection Act. Local authorities in Wyoming charged nine farm employees with cruelty to animals. And the egg supplier, which operates in Iowa and other states, lost one of its biggest customers, McDonald’s, which said the video played a part in its decision.
But a dozen or so state legislatures have had a different reaction: They proposed or enacted bills that would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms, or apply for a job at one without disclosing ties to animal rights groups. They have also drafted measures to require such videos to be given to the authorities almost immediately, which activists say would thwart any meaningful undercover investigation of large factory farms.
The legislation, commonly called “Ag-Gag” bills, attempt to make criminals of the people who experience first hand, the kind of animal abuse and lack of sanitary conditions that endanger both animal and human.
This video from the Humane Society of the United States, shows animals being skinned alive. The video begins with a cow being literally run over by a fork lift. It shows examples of animals confined to spaces barely large enough for them to stand, let alone for them to move. In one case, a USDA inspector looked the other way so he wouldn’t have to shut a plant down. Fortunately, someone recorded the events. The slaughterhouse was shut down. The inspector, while disciplined, kept his job.
As the New York Times Reports, the Ag-Gag bills are a product of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is headed by, among others, the Koch brothers, whose company interests include cattle ranches.
The bills, called “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” would register whistleblowers as terrorists.
The agricultural industry donates millions of dollars to political candidates – 60% of whom are Republican. Between 1998 and 2008, the industry’s political contributions have doubled. In small midwestern and western states, they get a lot of bang for their buck. In a state like Nebraska or Kansas, where its number one industry is agriculture, it’s nearly impossible to be elected without the backing of big agriculture.
So far, the Ag-Gag bills are confined to the state level. Not all states are going for it, but even liberal states like California are debating it. On the federal level, budget cuts are helping to ensure that abuses will never be caught.
It’s not only animal rights activists that should be concerned with the Ag-Gag bills, so should anyone who eats meat. Some of the abuses include adding sick cattle to the meat supply and exposing meat to feces and to dangerous chemicals.
Within the next few months the sequester will cause a shortage of meat. Slaughterhouses are required to have inspectors onsite and sequester-prompted furloughs will force some slaughterhouses to shut down. Perhaps the inevitable rising prices will force some people to cut their meat consumption and as people learn they can live without meat, their tolerance for abuse will diminish. Of course, as long as people are forced to be blind to the abuses, its unlikely that we will build the level of public anger necessary to force Ag-Gag laws off the books.
|Wendy Gittleson grew up in a political family. Her passion is for social justice and fairness. She lives in a union household. In her rare downtime, you’ll find her hiking or exploring the shoreline with her dogs. Follow her on her Facebook page, on her Facebook blog page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson|