National Geographic is airing an undercover exposé on animal abuse and recent “ag gag” laws on July 31. The black screen prefacing the program with the words “Viewer Discretion is Advised” will seemingly set the tone for the rest of the report.

Mariana van Zeller and Darren Foster, a wife and husband team of investigative journalists, used undercover cameras to explore the abusive animal practices at meat and dairy production farms. This undercover operation was conducted with the sponsorship of the Mercy for Animals organization.

In the preview of this program, a representative of Mercy for Animals specifically mentions hog gestation crates and castration without anesthetic as abusive practices. The ethics of gestation crates have been in question lately. Actor Ryan Gosling recently appealed to Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council to oppose the “iron maidens.” American pork producers argue, however, that they should be able to choose whatever housing system is safest for employees.

This program will address many controversial issues in the agriculture industry, but the question is if the program can accurately convey the farmers’ perspective to viewers. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a video may stir up even more ruckus.

In a preview to this program, a National Geographic reporter interviews Kay Johnson Smith, president of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, about “ag gag” laws, which prohibit whistleblowing and undercover journalism in agri-business.

“The American public has really a knowledge gap of farming and ranching,” Smith told National Geographic. “People really don’t have any firsthand knowledge of how farm animals are raised, how their food is produced, so they’re very susceptible to any sort of video or representation presented by these activist groups. They are meant to create distrust and create a lack of confidence.”

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