Photo: Comicbase (Flickr)
The Indiana State Senate Agriculture Committee will soon begin hearings on a proposed “ag-gag” bill. If passed, the legislation would prohibit individuals from taking undercover pictures or video from inside animal farming operations.
While proponents say the measure is designed to protect trade secrets, detractors worry it will prevent the exposure of animal cruelty and unsanitary practices.
A National Trend
In addition to Indiana, four other states are also considering ag-gag laws this year — New Hampshire, Nebraska, Wyoming and Arkansas. Meanwhile, Iowa, Utah, Kansas, North Dakota and Montana already have ag-gag laws on the books, and animal rights groups expect Minnesota, Pennsylvania and North Carolina to hear similar bills soon.
This wave of activity in state legislatures comes on the heels of several scandals resulting from surreptitious camera work.
In 2008, for example, secretly-filmed footage from a California slaughterhouse revealed that diseased cows were being slaughtered for grocery store beef. In 2011, a hidden camera showed workers at a Butterball turkey farm kicking and stomping on birds’ heads.
Opponents of ag-gag legislations contend that criminalizing photography will rob employee whistleblowers of their ability to gather evidence of bad practices.
Protecting Proprietary Information
Defenders of Indiana’s bill argue that it serves the important purpose of protecting proprietary farming techniques.
The argument goes that successful farms rely on good animal husbandry, but stand to suffer from having methods appropriated by competitors.
“Everybody does things a little differently, and some are more successful than others,” Floyd Houin, owner of Homestead Dairy, told ABC 57.
Emily Metz Meredith, Communication Director for Animal Agriculture Alliance, argue that people who are truly concerned about animal welfare should not allow it to endure while they record it.