Criminalizing Documentation of Animal Abuse All the Rage These Days

Where's the beef?

According to the big agricultural corporations who control 84% of our beef, 66% of our pork, and 58% of our chicken, the biggest problem in our food system isn't that companies are treating animals badly, but that activists are documenting them treating animals badly.

Big Ag companies have been pushing bills over the last few years that could lead to jail time for anyone who secretly records anything on a farm and posts it on the internet or hands it into an animals rights group. Some of the bills would also make it illegal to not disclose any history of being an animal rights activist on a job application.

Iowa, Utah and Missouri passed "ag-gag" bills last year. Pennsylvania and California are currently considering the bills. Indiana and Tennessee will likely pass bills within the next few weeks.

The agriculture lobby's justification for the bills seems to be that animal handlers aren't doing anything wrong, much like open-heart surgeons aren't doing anything wrong, but the videos may make it seem like they are, so it's best to just not see the videos in the first place.

"They could be performing a perfect procedure, but you would consider it abhorrent that they were cutting a person open," Kelli Ludlum of the American Farm Bureau Federation told the New York Times.

Ohhhhh. Wait, what?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of the legislation was drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group with a name so vague, you know it's evil. ALEC drafts model bills for lazy conservative lawmakers that sometimes get passed wholesale or with very little modification. Many of ag-gag bills seem to be modeled on ALEC's Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.

Also unsurprisingly, animal rights groups are up in arms. According to the Times report, many videos that have led to charges against animal farmers were based on videos shot by undercover activists from places like the Humane Society. Now, many of those videos could lead activists to jail.