Ag-gag laws and the fight for information about the food industry

Ag-gag laws, once the domain of the US, are being called for in other countries, such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand.  These laws wish to prohibit anti-whistleblower activities, such as taking videos, that seek to show the treatment of animals in various stages of the food production industry.  Proposed legislation, such as the Animal Ecological Terrorism Act, seeks to equate the undercover documentation of animal treatment and abuse as a form of terrorism, as it is done without the consent of the organization, and is thus a form of privacy.  Even if these actions can be construed as intrusions of privacy, it’s a huge stretch to equate such an invasion as a form of terrorism.  Does this mean that any organization, for example, that sells my personal information without my consent (I can think of any number of charitable organizations that have done this) are guilty of terrorism?  Many organizations in the US and Canada, for example, have whistleblower policies to protect employees who reveal illegal or unethical behaviour; why is the food industry above these types of policies? If the food industry has nothing to hide, why are ag-gag laws necessary? Does privacy trump transparency? Under this environment, would any employee feel safe making a complaint to a government agency about the treatment of animals, even if no undercover videos were taken?

Siobhan O’Sullivan writes : While they [animal activists] no doubt prefer to film inside factory farms, where conditions are poor, the fact that they must trespass at all suggests that farmers are generally more interested in protecting their private property rights than transparency. If farmers are committed to animal rights, then why not open the gate and let the public look inside? Next time you make an ethical choice about food, it will most likely be the work of a trespassing animal advocate that helped you make that decision, not the work of farmers who, in my experience, would prefer as few people as possible to know how Babe came to be bacon.

 

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