Much of the best evidence of animal abuse is collected by the modern-day heroes who film what is going on inside places like abattoirs, piggeries, intensive dairy farms, live animal export ships, and research facilities. It takes a lot of courage to do this, because these places have a huge amount to hide, and even more to lose.
To prevent the American public from finding out just how high the levels of animal abuse really are in their meat industries, so-called ‘Ag-gag’ laws have been passed in the following US states: Wyoming (2013), Missouri (2012), Utah (2012), Iowa (2012), South Carolina (2011) Washington State (2010), California (2008), Montana (1991), North Dakota (1991) and Kansas (1991).lxv
These laws, which have all the perversity of a Stalinist nightmare, make the filming of animal abuse a crime punishable by fines or imprisonment. It does not matter that the abuse might be filmed from adjacent land, or that what is occurring is illegal. All American citizens should be aware of Ag-gag laws because they are designed to strip them of their right to know the truth about some of the terrible things that are happening in their country; things that many would undoubtedly want to put a stop to.
It beggars belief that laws so fundamentally opposed to common sense and justice were ever enacted, and even more baffling that, apart from in Idaho,lxvi no federal District Court has struck them down. lxvii Any fool can see they’ve been enacted at the behest of the meat industry, which quite rightly lives in a constant state of fear that more and more of the meat-buying public will start to take a greater interest in the way they treat their animal victims. The rabid determination with which the industry tries to hide the truth about its operations is nothing other than a profound public declaration of guilt and complicity. What else could it mean? You won’t find avocado farmers asking politicians to enact draconian laws to stop people filming them at work, unless their employees happen to be ‘undocumented aliens’ (for want of a more dehumanising and pejorative description).
The only responsible way to deal with Ag-gag laws is to challenge them in the courts and ignore them in the field. Filming of animal abuse must continue unabated because it is the most effective way to show the public what is really going on. Words alone are far too malleable, easily forgotten, misinterpreted, misconstrued, distorted, or taken out of context to carry the day. Visual images, although not infallible in the digital age, are more difficult to falsify or explain away—which is precisely why they are targeted by Ag-gag laws.