Have you heard about or visited the new website www.ag-gag.org?
It’s a clever name for an unworthy cause.
The site was created by the Farm Forward organization, an activist group dedicated (so it seems) to undermining conventional food production in favor of smaller scale, labor-intensive, organically minded farming operations. Their mission is based on the premise of making food production more sustainable and its environmental impact less detrimental.
The group, which recently secured a six-figure grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to “develop a true alternative to the factory farm for poultry”—which already exists on hundreds of farms broadly characterized as alternative agriculture operations, by the way—pitched its cause as follows:
“Billions of farmed animals live and die in cruel, unhealthy, and unsustainable factory farm conditions. Secrecy is what makes this system possible but hundreds of undercover investigations are slowly helping to end it.
“That is why the agribusiness lobby is trying to pass ag-gag/anti-free speech laws that would punish, or even jail, anyone who makes an unauthorized recording on a farm.
“In recent months corporate backers of factory farming are trying harder than ever to pass ag-gag bills. Sign our petition and join us in taking a stand to protect consumer rights to knowledge, not corporate rights to secrecy.”
The message that Farm Forward wants people to forward to Congress says, “I believe that citizens have a right to know about how food animals are raised and slaughtered. Ag-gag is a bad idea because we should punish the people who commit animal abuse, not the people who report it.”
An alternative scenario
Now, at first glance, it may seem plausible that when abuses at any production site come to light via an undercover video clip, it should be reckoned as a good thing. Bad actors need to be drummed out of any industry.
But what about occasions when unauthorized, clandestine videotaping takes place, yet there is nothing usable in the footage, when no actionable abuses are recorded? Is everyone at Farm Forward comfortable with the notion that anyone can videotape anything, just as long as once in a while something untoward or illegal is uncovered? Are there any privacy issues to be considered, or is any business fair game for anyone to spy on, regardless of the outcome?
Or to put a finer point on it, would the activists who cheer on the operatives who obtain employment and/or access to production operations, then go about recording hidden video footage—as long as it’s a “factory farm”—be equally at ease with similar tactics if they occurred in another setting?