The question is not whether instances of abuse take place—no matter how rare they might be—but how consumers perceive of the way abuse problems are handled. Local officials, left alone to deal with abuse, often do what it takes to stop it. But proponents of allowing videos claim that local officials may be unaware of abuse or in some instances be less than diligent in their enforcement of anti-abuse statutes. Ag-gag legislation runs the risk of being perceived as protecting the abusers and thereby endangering the trust and good will that society feels toward farmers.
An alternative to making videos illegal is the one adopted by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) with its Food Dialogues, http://www.fooddialogues.com/. As they write, “Farmers and ranchers are committed to the safest and most appropriate care for their animals. They care deeply about the health and safety of their animals and take pride in them. They also know that consumers are concerned about animal care.”
They acknowledge that “the system is not perfect. Unfortunately, there are on occasion a few incompetent or uncaring people such as those seen in occasional undercover videos who abuse animals. Anyone who abuses animals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law” and declare that the abusers’ “practices do not represent the vast majority of farmers and ranchers.”
USFRA says, “While opinions regarding management techniques for animal safety and health greatly differ, it’s important that all farmers and ranchers work together with consumers to get a clearer understanding of why specific management styles work for one type of farm/ranch compared to another.”
We believe that it is also important for farmers and ranchers to get a clearer understanding of the changing expectations that consumers have for the food they eat.
Source: Daryll E. Ray and Harwood D. Schaffer, Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, University of Tennessee