Meat industry clamps down on bad publicity with “ag-gag” laws

Image of Caged chickens on a farm

Last month new laws making it illegal to take pictures or film agricultural animals came into force in the US states of Utah and Iowa, lobbied for by an industry attempting to keep secret what happens on factory farms.

So-called “ag-gag” laws have been in place in North Dakota, Montana and Kansas since the early 1990s, but Utah and Iowa are two of several states being asked to reduce negative publicity by criminalising attempts to record and disseminate footage from large-scale agricultural facilities.

In recent years such footage has been a powerful tool in the battle against animal cruelty and inhumane treatment.

The move means that activists or animal welfare organisations attempting to verify the conditions under which animals are kept on factory farms face jail time if caught on the premises with a camera.

Although Florida, Illinois and Indiana failed to pass similar bills, the agricultural interest groups lobbying to have them added to the statute books may yet succeed – Iowa’s legislature last year rejected the law it has just ratified, for example.

Decisions are pending on similar laws in New York, Nebraska, Minnesota, Tennessee and Missouri.

Whistleblowers are also a specific target of the legislation, according to Food Safety News, with anyone obtaining employment under false pretences liable to up to two years in jail.

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