The fight isn’t over yet. Some states want to ban filming of factory farm abuses—and fracking operations as well! Action Alerts!
As we reported last February, nine “Ag-Gag bills”—that is, bills that suppress freedom of speech when it comes to exposing the abuses at factory farms—have been introduced in 2013, more than in any previous year. Thanks to your activism, none of them became law. Bills have been defeated in Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Wyoming, California, Vermont, and Tennessee. (In Tennessee, the law passed the state House and Senate, but the governor vetoed it!) This is proof that the messages you send to your legislators have a profound impact on which bills become law—and which do not.
Happily, Ag-Gag bills are attracting a great deal of media attention—much of it either well-placed outrage at the laws, or, as with the Daily Show, a good dose of satire.
Currently, dangerous Ag-Gag bills are pending in two states:
- In North Carolina, SB 648 targets “fraud” in job applications (i.e., undercover journalists who pose as employees), and imposes up to $50,000 in fines. The bill would make it mandatory to turn any recording over to authorities within twenty-four hours, and bans photography at any place of employment! It should be noted that North Carolina is no stranger to animal cruelty. In 2011, a two-week investigation into a Butterball turkey farm revealed major animal abuses. Police raided the facility and charged five workers with criminal animal cruelty. A state Department of Agriculture official was convicted of obstruction of justice in the case.
- In Pennsylvania, HB 683 would ban the recording of agricultural operations, posting any such recording on the Internet or sending it via any other medium, obtaining access to an agricultural operation under false pretenses, obtaining employment with the intention of recording agricultural operations, or trespassing on such operations.
Especially disturbing is the fact that the Pennsylvania bill, if the language is interpreted broadly, could prevent filming of fracking operations. Most fracking—that is, hydraulic fracturing, a method of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling—occurs on leased farmland. According to the language of the bill, anything that takes place on that land would be similarly protected.
This broad interpretation may not be far-fetched. Pennsylvania does a great deal of fracking, and former governor Ed Rendell now works as a consultant to a private equity firm that is heavily invested in the natural gas industry.
As we’ve noted previously, fracking causes toxic chemicals to be released into the air and water, causing widespread pollution. Scientists have identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, which even in low levels can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness, and in high concentrations can cause leukemia and death. The water is also often laden with barium, which is found in underground ore deposits and can cause high blood pressure, breathing difficulties, muscle weakness, swelling of the brain, and kidney damage; radium, a naturally occurring radioactive (and carcinogenic) substance; and strontium, which is necessary in trace amounts for bone development, but in too large amounts can disrupt it and cause cancer.
Unfortunately, in previous legislative sessions, Ag-Gag bills became law in Iowa, Missouri, and Utah. In Utah, the first Ag-Gag charges have already been brought against a whistleblower, though prosecutors decided to drop the charges—this time. With this new law on the books, it will almost certainly be enforced in the future.
As we noted in February, CAFOs, or Confined Animal Feeding Operations, are responsible for foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and listeria; are notorious for their use of antibiotics for nontherapeutic uses, and for exacerbating the “superbug” problem in which organisms become increasingly resistant to antibiotics; and ruin rural economies. In addition, there is the inhumane treatment of the animals themselves. Ag-Gag laws prevent consumers from making truly informed choices about what they eat.
Action Alert! If you live in North Carolina or Pennsylvania, please contact your legislators immediately and urge them to vote NO on these dangerous Ag-Gag bills!
North Carolina Action Alert!
Pennsylvania Action Alert!