NYT Editorial: Eating With Our Eyes Closed

opinion-logo-smallThe food that comes from factory farms is ultimately consumed by the public, which gives the public an interest in knowing how that food is produced. But in most of the major agricultural states, laws have been introduced or passed that would make it illegal to gather evidence, by filming or photography, about the internal operations of factory farms where animals are being raised.

The precedent was set by Iowa in 2012, when Gov. Terry Branstad signed a law that makes undercover investigation of animal abuses in these facilities a crime. Utah and Missouri have passed similar laws. Some states already exempt factory farms from animal cruelty restrictions. Now these proposals would make it almost impossible for anyone to gather the kind of information that might provoke enough public outrage to get these exemptions modified.

Factory farms, like all homes and businesses, are already protected by law against trespassing. The so-called “ag-gag” laws now being considered by several states, including California, Illinois and Indiana, have nothing to do with protecting property. Their only purpose is to keep consumers in the dark, to make sure we know as little as possible about the grim details of factory farming. These bills are pushed by intensive lobbying from agribusiness corporations and animal production groups.

The ag-gag laws guarantee one thing for certain: increased distrust of American farmers and our food supply in general. They are exactly the wrong solution to a problem entirely of big agriculture’s own making. Instead of ag-gag laws, we need laws that impose basic standards on farm conditions and guarantee our right to know how our food is being produced.

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