After more than 700 Change.org members signed our petition to Minnesota Congress members, the state's proposed "ag-gag" law died. The proposed bill received a lot backlash from environmentalists, animal rights groups, Change.org members, and famed foodies like Mark Bittman, so lawmakers didn't even give the legislation a hearing. The controversial legislation would have made it illegal to produce, own, or distribute undercover footage of agricultural operations, essentially blocking whistleblowers from exposing factory farms' health, safety, and animal welfare violations.
New "ag-gag" laws are cropping up in states across the U.S., from Kansas to Montana to Florida. These laws make it illegal for anyone to produce undercover videos or photographs of agricultural operations like factory farms. In other words, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) don't want anyone to see and distribute evidence of the animal abuse and food safety hazards that occurs on their farms.
Minnesota is the latest state to introduce an "ag-gag" law, and this one goes even further than states before: The House and Senate versions of the bill (S.F. 1118 and H.F. 1369) would make it illegal for anyone to record images or sounds from a farm or to possess and/or distribute that undercover footage. The bills take aim not only at the photographers and videographers that obtain undercover footage, but at the organizations that distribute this information (like the Humane Society of the United States and Mercy for Animals have done in the past).
What's worse is that the legislation was proposed by the very people it stands to benefit, representing a huge conflict of interest. Representative Rod Hamilton, lead author of the bill, is the former president of the Minnesota Pork Producers, an industrial ag group. He's currently the spokesperson for Christensen Family Farms, America's third-largest pork producer.
Undercover footage is oftentimes the only way to expose the massive animal abuse and food safety violations that occur at factory farms. Threatening jail time to those who are brave enough to acquire and distribute this footage infringes on consumers' right to know how their food is produced.
Ag-gag laws like S.F. 1118 and H.F. 1369 won't benefit anyone except for industrial farmers. Protect consumers and the sustainable food system, and tell Minnesota's lawmakers to block these dangerous bills.
Photo credit: CALM Action via Flickr