What are you hiding? Ag Gag laws aren’t the solution.

31

April 16, 2013 by dairycarrie

Animal abuse video and ag gag bills.

This might be kind of disjointed, I have a lot of thoughts about this topic and they don’t all flow together easily. Currently several states are looking at legislation that would help protect farmers from undercover videos being shot on their farms by animal rights activists. The proposed laws have been given the name “Ag Gag Bills” by the people who oppose them. As a farmer myself you may expect that I am for these protections but I’m not. If this ticks off some of my other farm friends, I am sorry, but hear me out.

Consumers today aren’t the same as the consumers of yesterday. People want to be connected to their food, even the gristly and bloody parts. I know two of my friends, Megan and Jenny have both faced scrutiny over blog posts that shared some graphic photos of an animal turning into the meat we eat. The problem is that the heat they faced wasn’t from their customers, instead it was from members of our industry who haven’t figured out that people are demanding transparency from farm to fork.

So why in the world are farmers fighting so hard to keep cameras out of their barns? We have reached a point where hiding our practices is the last thing in the world we need to do. If we can’t give reasonable explanations for our practices to the people who buy our products then I think we need to look at our practices. I’m not saying that we have to cave into the demands of animal rights activists by any means. This isn’t about the small percentage of people that seem to make the most noise, it’s about the moms and dads that want to know more about how the meat they are about to purchase was cared for while it was an animal.

Now here is where any animal right activists reading this stop smiling. I do believe that anyone who films abuse on a farm and holds onto that footage until they can release it on youtube rather than turning it over to the police should also be charged as animal abusers. No one should profit off of abuse in any way.

If there is abuse happening in our barns and we are unaware of it, outlawing video isn’t the way to fix the problem. What message do our customers hear from us in the media when we are fighting to push bills like this through? I don’t have anything to hide, do you?

Want to see what it looks like when logic and answers are applied to an animal “abuse” video? I dissected one HERE, please take a minute to read it.

 

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31 thoughts on “What are you hiding? Ag Gag laws aren’t the solution.

  1. Gloria Moss says:

    I agree with this 100%, if you have nothing to hide then let the cameras in! Duh! Weirdos…. lol.

  2. Jon Lundgren says:

    Nice to know I’m not the only one that believes these proposed laws are entirely counterproductive. Whoever came up with this idea can’t see the forest for the trees. Seriously… the best way to alleviate our PR woes is to create even more by trying to cover it up?

    Are we losing the PR battle? I can’t say, but if we are, it’s no wonder.

  3. As a consumer, I have to say I do not approve of the gag laws and I do believe it’s doing more harm than good. It doesn’t open up the “barn doors” to the public so to speak, instead it builds a level of distrust and makes it seem that what farmers do, should be hidden behind closed doors. Really, it’s a giant step backwards for whoever came up with this idea. The ONLY good thing I can see in it is the clause saying that any animal abuse footage must be handed over within 48 hours (which is 24 hours too long if you ask me). And yes, anyone holding on to footage should be charged as an accessory to a crime.

  4. Connie Kuber says:

    I think that perhaps these laws, as are so many, are the result of a knee jerk reaction to the abuse videos. In our world, we see and read news so quickly it has made us a very reactionary society. I agree with all your points, and the more practices are addressed, explained calmly, and if needed, changed – on our own – the better off we all will be.

  5. I agree 100% with all of your points here! I love that you used ‘transparency’ too, so many people don’t understand that that’s what people in agriculture need to be and do.

  6. Mike Compston says:

    You are right on here. If we show people good and caring animal husbandry as it all should be, then we build trust and understanding. Those that mistreat animals should be punished, and there are producers that use questionable methods. It is not at all different from parents that abuse children. We cannot punish the entire population because some individuals lack responsibility. Those that are guilty need to be exposed and appropriate action taken

  7. Chuck says:

    Hey Carrie:

    Can’t say I’m in 100% agreement with you on this but I appreciate the thoughts and opportunity for engagement on the issue.

    To start with, I think your title is a little too harsh. I don’t think these laws are meant to hide anything but your title suggests that. Have you read the language of any of them? In Missouri they just require an employee to hand over videotaped animal abuse within 24 hrs. to law enforcement officials and not edit them. Seems pretty reasonable to me. We’ve seen too many of these activists allow a bad situation to continue for months or even longer and then announce their “expose” which has been highly edited and even in some instances shown to be falsified. They put an “undercover” person in the employ of a farm just to see if they can videotape something they can use to further their agenda. I see that as unethical and deceitful to say the least.

    Frankly, I don’t think these laws will provide farmers with real protection. If existing laws were enforced with common sense we’d see less of this problem. New laws don’t guarantee protection. I do agree they aren’t a solution to the problem but they may help in some cases.

    I’m all for transparency. I don’t know a farmer who isn’t. But I think it is reasonable not to want someone trespassing on my property. Most farmers I know would welcome a visitor who wants to see how their operation is run. Heck, some have 24 hr. webcams on them now so the public who wants to know can see what’s going on.

    No, this isn’t about the Moms & Dads who want to know where their food comes from. All they have to do is ask, not lie to get employed, shoot video, edit it into a sensational tape in order to get attention so they can raise more money to promote their agenda. I think it is about the activists or these laws wouldn’t be created!

    For those wanting more information on animal agriculture I’d offer a couple of resources and there are many more: http://www.animalagriculture.org/ http://www.animalagalliance.org http://www.fooddialogues.com/

    • dairycarrie says:

      Thanks for commenting Chuck, sorry for the delay in response. I have read the language in several of the bills and I know the farmers are not the ones who coined “Ag Gag” as their term. It’s our job to take back the legislation and show what it really does and we have failed at that. Now the bills are all lumped under “Ag Gag” and our customers don’t care what the wording of the bill says they just know it looks shady.
      Either way Ag Gag bills will not prevent spin and at this point are doing more harm than good.
      Abuse is abuse and is indefensible. If a video shows spin on ordinary practices then it’s our job to educate the public on those practices.

    • dairycarrie says:

      Also! I never said this was about mom’s and dad’s getting information I said the vocal voices are the extremists and not the middle ground who we need to be talking to.

  8. Dave Miller says:

    Chuck says it very well. The Ag Gag Laws are not designed to keep cameras out of livestock buildings. they are designed to prevent people from lying on employment applications, falsifying and doctoring video for negative reaction, and preventing people from sitting on knowledge of abusive situations and being held accountable for not reporting in a timely basis. None of that sounds like “a gag rule” to me.

    I abhor abuse of animals, but I also abhor deceit by anti-meat activists who are not really working for animal welfare, but are seeking to wage an anti-meat campaign.

  9. Jessica Ziehm says:

    I’m a dairy farmer from NY and completely agree – I love your line – No one should profit off of abuse in any way. Amen, sister!

  10. Devil's Advocate says:

    You make a good point here, but in the name of consistency and “transparency from farm to fork” shouldn’t FDA then deny the non-nutritive sweetener petition? It’s the same perception of industry trying to keep something from clear view of the consumer.

    • dairycarrie says:

      Not really the same thing. Nothing being hidden in milk, All ingredients will be in the ingredients statement.

      • Devil's Advocate says:

        Maybe not–but I’m not abusing my animals, yet I don’t want undercover videos filmed here. Not trying to hide anything, but certain consumer groups might perceive something like us dehorning calves, hoof trimming, or working with a down cow as abusive and I’m scared of those repercussions. However, NMPF & IDFA are in fact trying to hide descriptive wording on labels like “reduced calorie” from a particular consumer group (children) with their petition.

        I do appreciate what you do to help explain what we do in a relatable way.

        • dairycarrie says:

          The scenario you describe is exactly why it’s so important for us to explain to our customers what is going on and why it’s happening. Video of the events you describe may look bad but a trainable person will hear our side out when explaining what’s going on. If we just allow the activists to tell our story for us, Ag gag bills or not we may as well stop farming now.

  11. […] Read another viewpoint on the issue from my friend Carrie Mess, a Wisconsin Dairy farmer. […]

  12. Ryan Goodman says:

    I’m not against these bills trying to protect farms from those who set out to collect footage of animal abuse, but I’m not exactly for them either. I shared more of my $0.02 from a few situations I’ve encountered in this blog post – http://agricultureproud.com/2013/04/16/how-do-ag-gag-laws-affect-food-farm-transparency/

  13. Jennifer says:

    Carrie, I agree with your point that we shouldn’t be hiding things, but I’m torn on these laws. I’m not familiar with them beyond knowing that they exist, and I guess I need more information about the specifics to decide. I do worry about the messages these groups are sending when they capture video, alter the lighting and context and put it out there without an explanation from the farmer. Am I okay with someone I don’t know taking video of my farm without my consent and distributing it without my input? Most likely not. I am, however, doing my best to show and explain what we do on our farm. I think in too many of these situations the farmer comes across as defensive while just trying to explain what actually was happening. Yes, the best way to combat this is to get the right information out there, but unfortunately, these videos likely reach people that the facts do not.

    • Devil's Advocate says:

      Exactly, Jennifer! All the explaining and educating in the world isn’t going to prevent the scary repercussions I mentioned. That said, I feel that Carrie is closer to “right” on this issue than on the non-nutritive labeling petition.

      Carrie, I’d be interested to hear your take on participation in the F.A.R.M. program or even more restrictive animal welfare programs like Certified Humane.

      • Jennifer says:

        Our goal in agvocating is to bridge that gap, to get the facts of our practices out there so that the general public can better identify false or biased information. We’re not there yet, but I do think it’s a worthy cause.

        Regarding your other comment, I agree with Carrie. If there’s a market for diet chocolate milk, I think the industry should meet that demand. But I also think that’s a discussion to be had elsewhere. I don’t see a link between these two issues.

        Also, I don’t think there is right or wrong on these issues, just opinions, which thankfully we’re each entitled to.

  14. Daniela Roland says:

    Thanks so much for this post. As a dairy farmer in Pennsylvania, I feel the same way about the proposed legislation. Thanks for summing this up so well!

  15. Jess Quinn says:

    I am friends with the author of the so-called “Ag-Gag” Law. The Bill stated that any footage taken of animal abuse should be turned in to law enforcement within 48 hours (it went back and forth between 24 and 48 a couple of times) to ensure that the animal would receive the help that they needed. It did NOT make undercover videos illegal in any way. We want people to know where their food comes from, but we do not want HSUS or PETA coming in and distorting the footage that they take. If an undercover PETA or HSUS worker would have taken the photo of your hip lift then he or she would have had a field day. I agree that we should be transparent…the “ag-gag” laws support transparency as well by having the footage turned in asap instead of holding onto it long enough to edit it. BTW, am really enjoying your blog, I just had to weigh in on this one:)

  16. […] I was really worried that we wouldn’t be taken seriously. That people wouldn’t believe that we don’t condone abuse towards animals. That we really care about them.  I needed people to see our […]

  17. […] cows. If you have read more than a few posts here I hope that you understand my deep love for the cows in my care, “my […]

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