Salon magazine, that curious publication covering news, politics and entertainment (wait a minute, isn't politics news?) just published a story that should gag almost everyone who thinks ag gag laws are a great idea. Writer Lindsay Abrams led with a paragraph about that infamous 2008 Humane Society video that exposed Hallmark employees using chains and forklifts to drag sick cows across the ground.
The video forced the USDA to order a recall of 143 million pounds of beef, the largest in U.S. history. It was scandal and it was brought to light by an undercover whistleblower. It wasn't the first time and it certainly won't be the last with the possible exception of nine states that have passed ag gag laws. Videos taken without the farmer's permission in those states, even from across the road, can not be legally made public.
Abrams said Idaho's just-passed law, similar in content to the others, makes it "illegal for anyone not employed on the farms — and undercover activists don’t count — to make recordings of what goes on there without the owner’s explicit consent."
Will the animal welfare/rights folks figure out an end run around those laws? Of course they will. As proof, Abrams interviewed Will Potter, who calls himself an investigative journalist. He's planning to do it with drones. He's already 'crowdsourced' the concept and has the money to make it happen.
Potter says he has everything he needs to do an “aerial exposé”: drones, travel expenses, production costs for a planned documentary and e-book, and legal counsel. Lots of legal counsel, I expect.
He's talking drones, unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles, an eye in the sky. And the best a farmer or rancher intent on maintaining his privacy can do is mistake that hovering object for a bird and hope it's duck season.
You didn't think that an ag gag law, probably unconstitutional anyway, would stop the attack of the animal rights groups did you? They are absolutely dedicated to what they do, convinced of the correctness and inevitability of their cause. Most of them would willingly spend a few months in jail if the trade off was the release of some surreptitiously gained inflammatory footage.
The real damage done by ag gag laws is the sense that animal agriculture has something to hide. To people who want to believe that animal agriculture is best represented by Hallmark videos, the passing of those laws is proof that this business is inherently bad and must be banned immediately.
It would be better to do what so many agvocates are advocating; open those barn doors and let everyone in. Show them that the norm is not what Mercy For Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Liberation Fund claim. Or you can hide behind ag gag laws and proclaim to an unbelieving world that you have nothing to hide.