Perhaps what I want the most from our industrial food system is transparency. I think if everyone knew how our food gets to us, and how the system works from the inside out, we would be able to stand up and demand more of these companies.
But how do people know what is happening if it becomes illegal to show what goes on there by taking photographs or videos? How do we know what is happening when a worker would have to risk going to jail to expose the conditions in which he/she works?
Laws are being considered by many states, Pennsylvania included, that would make it a crime to “interfere with agricultural operations” by taking still images or video recordings inside industrial agricultural facilities. Some of these laws would also make it a crime to share them, so media organizations would potentially face felony charges as well. They are called Ag-Gag laws, since they aim to silence anyone who tries to show the hard truth about what happens in these confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and industrial farms.
No federal laws exist governing animal cruelty when it comes to agriculture, and any state laws are typically very weak (having been watered down by lobbyists from the industry). Finding no help in the law, many people take to hidden camera investigations and publish the findings, hoping to try the factory farms in the court of public opinion.
In a country that zealously guards its rights to free speech, how can we consider punishing someone with felony charges for telling the truth? How can the federal government subsidize through the Farm Bill an industrial food system that isn’t open to public scrutiny and in fact does everything it can to keep its operations behind closed doors?
I recently came across this article in The Atlantic concerning Ag-Gag laws, by someone who took undercover footage while working at a pig farm right here in Pennsylvania. I followed the link to the video that the author published through Mercy For Animals.
I’m going to be perfectly honest. I have seen documentaries and undercover footage from industrial farms before. It’s what got me to start considering the realities of what I was eating. But each time I see these videos, I have to pause them after a minute or two to close my eyes and wish I hadn’t seen it. Because once you see it, you can’t forget it. To think that we let this happen simply so we can buy cheap bacon.
I’ve embedded the video below. Watch what you can. Sadly, there are hundreds more just like it.
The next time that you hear of an Ag-Gag law being proposed where you live, call your government officials and spread the word to anyone that will listen that we have to stand up to protect the truth.