Are “Ag Gag” Laws Really What the Founders Wanted When they Started America?

April 28, 2013

By Steven Long

Cows Grazing in the Woods 4 inchHOUSTON, (Horseback) – In late June the Tennessee Legislature deep sixed its so called Ag Gag bill. Currently five states have such statutes on the books. Iowa and Utah have even gone so far as to criminalize humanitarians working undercover to expose animal cruelty by taking pictures or video of animals without the express permission of the alleged perpetrators themselves.

The effort by Big Ag goes back at least 20 years when there was a farm state push by North Dakota, Montana, and Kansas.  Technically, you can’t even go into a chicken yard and take a snapshot without the risk of some radical farmer or rancher alleging you are there undercover for their sworn enemies, the vegetarian/vegan community – no pictures of that Rhode Island Red rooster for the photo contest or you risk the slammer.

The “ag gag” laws beg the question, what is the big secret? We’re talking bacon, chicken, pot roast and leg of lamb here. The fact is thatBig Ag doesn’t want the public to know what animals endure to become the enticing turkey you see around Thanksgiving, or a chicken with breasts so large it couldn’t walk across a barnyard if it wanted to. And what about the sick cows that are so ill or lame they can’t get up on their feet to go to slaughter and are pushed there by a fork lift?

By advocating “ag gag” laws the agriculture lobby in state capitols and in Washington is stacking the deck, knowing full well that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to animal cruelty. Yet modern production methods demand an uncomfortable compromise on the part of consumers.

We can understand agriculture’s annoyance with animal rights activists. They are pesky in the extreme, and we’ll be the first to condemn People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for successes that are often laughable. Who can forget their protest against President Obama when he swatted a fly during a television interview?

But threatening humanitarians such as the impressive Animals Angels with jail because of their superb undercover work is extreme and unforgivable. The nation’s food supply must be safe, and that includes open public observance of what goes down in the slaughterhouses and food processing facilities of the United States.

One thing is clear in all this. The “Ag Gag” laws appear to be unconstitutional and the sooner they face a First Amendment Supreme Court test, the better. We don’t believe any of the nine justices will allow such violations of free speech and the press to stand. Assaults on this most sacred benchmark  of our rights. It is perhaps the one issue that both left and right hold sacrosanct.


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