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Monday, February 04, 2013

Reporting Abuses at Factory Farms In The United States Will Be Considered Act of Terrorism New Laws Say


Three states are the latest states to introduce Ag-Gag laws 

and lawmakers in 10 other states introduced similar bills in 

2011-2012.


This article was published in partnership with 
How do you keep consumers in the dark about the horrors of 
factory farms? By making it an “act of terrorism” for anyone 
to investigate animal cruelty, food safety or environmental 
violations on the corporate-controlled farms that produce the 
bulk of our meat, eggs and dairy products.
And who better to write the Animal and Ecological Terrorism 
Act, designed to protect Big Ag and Big Energy, than the 
lawyers on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task 
Force at the corporate-funded and infamousAmerican 
New Hampshire, Wyoming and Nebraska are the latest 
states to introduce Ag-Gag laws aimed at preventing 
employees, journalists or activists from exposing illegal or 
unethical practices on factory farms. Lawmakers in 10 other 
states introduced similar bills in 2011-2012.  The laws 
passed in three of those states: Missouri, Iowa and Utah.  
But consumer and animal-welfare activists prevented the 
laws from passing in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, 
Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.
In all, six states now have Ag-Gag laws, including North 
Dakota, Montana and Kansas, all of which passed the laws 
in 1990-1991, before the term “Ag-Gag” was coined.

Ag-Gag laws passed 20 years ago were focused more on 
deterring people from destroying property, or from either 
stealing animals or setting them free. Today’s ALEC-inspired 
bills take direct aim at anyone who tries to expose horrific 
acts of animal cruelty, dangerous animal-handling practices 
that might lead to food safety issues, or blatant disregard for 
environmental laws designed to protect waterways from 
animal waste runoff. In the past, most of those exposes have 
resulted from undercover investigations of exactly the type 
Big Ag wants to make illegal.

Wyoming’s HB 0126 is the perfect example of a direct link 
between an undercover investigation of a factory farm and 
the introduction of an Ag-Gag law. The bill was introduced 
mere weeks after nine factory workers at Wheatland, WY-
based Wyoming Premium Farms, a supplier to Tyson Foods, 
were charged with animal cruelty following an undercover 
investigation by the Humane Society of the United States 
(HSUS). HSUS activists videotaped workers kicking live 
piglets, swinging them by their hind legs and beating and 
kicking mother pigs. Charges were filed in late December. In 
January, State Rep. Sue Wallis and Senator Ogden Driskill 
 introduced Wyoming’s Ag-Gag bill which would make it a 
criminal act to carry out investigations such as the one that 
exposed the cruelty at Wyoming Premium Farms.

Wallis and Driskill both have ties to Big Ag. Wallis was the 
subject of a conflict-of-interest complaint filed in 2010 by 
animal welfare groups. The groups accused her of improper 
and fraudulent abuse of her position as a legislator after she 
introduced a bill allowing the Wyoming Livestock Board to 
send stray horses to slaughter. At the time she introduced 
the bill, Wallis also was planning to develop a family-owned 
horse slaughter plant in the state. Both Wallis and Driskill 
are members of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association. 
Driskill has acceptedpolitical contributions from the livestock 
industry and Exxon Mobil, a member of ALEC.

Most of the Ag-Gag laws introduced since 2011 borrow the 
premise, if not the exact language, from model legislation 
designed by ALEC. ALEC’s sole purpose is to write model 
legislation that protects corporate profits. Industry then 
pushes state legislators to adapt the bills for their states and 
push them through. The idea behind the Animal and 
Ecological Terrorism Act is to make it illegal to “enter an 
animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, 
video camera, or other or other means with the intent to 
commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner.”
In other words, these laws turn journalists and the 
investigators of crimes into criminals.

Many of the legislators involved in ramming through state 
Ag-Gag bills have ties to ALEC, including Missouri’s Rep. 
Casey Guernsey. Guernsey’s top donor in 2010 was 
Smithfield Foods, itself a target of undercover investigations 
that exposed widespread abuse of pigs. Of the 60 Iowa 
lawmakers who voted for Iowa’s Ag-Gag laws, at least 14 of 
them, or 23%, are members of ALEC

ALEC’s interest in large-scale factory farm operations, or in 
industry-speak, Confined Animal Feeding Operations 
(CAFOs), can be traced to one of its staunchest members, 
Koch Industries.  Koch Industries once owned the Koch Beef 
Company, one of the largest cattle feeders in the U.S. When 
neighbors of one of the company’s huge cattle-feeding 
operations opposed a planned expansion, claiming it would 
pose health concerns, Koch persuaded local legislators to 
rule in its favor. ALEC subsequently wrote the  “Right to 
Farm Act,” a bill to bar lawsuits by citizens claiming that 
neighboring farms, including industrial farms, are fouling 
their air and water.

Ag-Gag bills a threat to animals, public health and the 
environment
Under U.S. laws, farm animals don’t get the same protection 
as other animals, such as dogs and cats. Anti-free speech 
Ag-Gag bills only serve to leave farm animals even more 
vulnerable to the routine pain and suffering on factory farms. 
The three federal statutes that address animal welfare, 
including the U.S. Animal Welfare Act, do not apply to 
animals raised for food.  The Humane Methods of Slaughter 
Act regulates animals raised for food, but applies exclusively 
to slaughterhouses, where animals may spend only a short 
time before they are killed. That leaves the states to regulate 
the often-barbarous treatment of animals raised for food.

But as we’ve seen with the Ag-Gag bills, state laws often are 
written by big corporations. Nowhere is that more obvious 
than in states where cruel methods of treating animals are 
exempted from state laws on the basis of their being 
classified as “customary.” Who decides if a certain practice is 
“customary” even if most thinking people would consider that 
practice cruel? Corporations that own and operate CAFOs in 
that state.
Apart from the obvious ethical concerns, Ag-Gag laws also 
threaten public health and the environment, and undermine 
workers’ rights and free speech laws. Undercover 
investigations at factory farms have exposed the mishandling 
of meat, eggs and milk in ways that could potentially lead to 
health risks including mad cow disease, salmonella, e-coli 
and others. One investigation in Chino, Calif., revealed 
widespread mistreatment of “downed” cows – cows that are 
too sick or injured to walk. The facility is the second-largest 
supplier of beef to USDA’s Commodity Procurement Branch, 
which distributes the beef to the National School Lunch 
Program.
Ag-Gag bills also keep employees and others from blowing 
the whistle on environmental violations. Huge amounts of 
waste are generated by the billions of cows, pigs and 
chickens on factory farms. Much of that waste, full of 
antibiotics, growth promoters and synthetic hormones, finds 
its way into our waterways and municipal water supplies. 
State and federal laws require CAFOs to minimize their 
environmental damage, but the laws are often not enforced. 
One of the ways to expose violations is through undercover 
investigations.
And then there’s the matter of free speech. The American 
Civil Liberties Union has been an outspoken opponent of Ag-
Gag bills. In a letter opposing the proposed Ag-Gag law in 
New Hampshire, the executive director of the New 
Hampshire Civil Liberties Union wrote that the proposed law 
“has serious implications for two fundamental rights 
protected by the U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions: the 
right to freedom of expression and the right against self-
incrimination.”

There’s still time to stop Ag-Gag laws in New Hampshire, 
Wyoming and Nebraska
The majority of Americans see Ag-Gag laws for what they 
are: just another attack on consumers’ right to know. 
According to a poll conducted last year by the American 
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 
71% of Americans oppose the laws. When consumers learn 
that 99% of the animals raised for food are raised in factory 
farms, they generally agree that lawmakers should focus on 
strengthening animal cruelty laws, not prosecuting the 
whistleblowers.
It was public outrage that killed proposed bills in seven 
states last year. Here are the three latest bills to be 
introduced, and links to petitions telling lawmakers in New 
Hampshire, Wyoming and Nebraska to reject the proposed 
laws:
New Hampshire: HB110 
Primary sponsor: Bob Haefner (R) ; Co-sponsors: Majority 
Leader Steve Shurtleff (D), Rep. Tara Sad (D), Senator 
Sharon Carson (R), and Bob Odell (R)

This is a 7-line bill written to look as if its main concern is the 
protection of animals. However the bill would require 
whistleblowers to report animal abuse and turn over 
videotapes, photographs and documents within 24 hours or 
face prosecution – a clear attempt to intimidate and deter 
people from conducting undercover investigations. 
Lawmakers know that in order for anyone to prove a pattern 
of abuse in factory farms, they must document repeated 
instances of cruelty. A video or photograph of only one 
instance will be dismissed as a one-time anomaly, which will 
get the agribusiness company off the hook.

Sign the petition to stop New Hampshire’s Ag-Gag bill.
Wyoming: HB0126 
Co-sponsors: Rep. Sue Wallis (R), Sen. Ogden Driskill (R)
Introduced within weeks after nine workers at a Wyoming 
factory farm were charged with abuse. The bill’s sponsor, 
Rep. Sue Wallis, is planning to build horse slaughterhouses 
in Wyoming and other states. If this bill had been law in 
2012, it would have prevented activists from exposing horrific 
acts of cruelty at Wheatland, WY-based Wyoming Premium 
Farms, a supplier to Tyson Foods.

Sign the petition to stop Wyoming’s Ag-Gag bill.
Introduced by Sen. Tyson Larson (R), Sen. Scott 
Lautenbaugh (R), and Sen. Ken Schilz (R)
The bill would make it a Class IV felony for any person to 
obtain employment at an animal facility with the broadly 
defined “intent to disrupt the normal operations,” It would 
require animal abuse reports to be filed within 12 hours. Co-
sponsor Sen. Launtenbaugh has advocated in the past for 
horse slaughtering.
Sign the petition to stop Nebraska’s Ag-Gag bill.


Katherine Paul is director of development and 
communications at the Organic Consumers Association.
Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic 

Consumers Association. Cummins is author of numerous 

articles and books, including “Genetically Engineered Food: 

A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers” (Second Revised 

Edition Marlowe & Company 2004).
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