« Photographing our obsession with plastic surgery | Main | Who is Thatcher? Predicting Maggie's death for the Twitter generation »


ALEC vs animals? Ag-gag bills keep on coming

ALEC blog chicken pix
Battery caged hens are crowded together causing excessive feather loss and chafing. Birds on lower tiers are often covered in excrement from higher tiers. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Coalition for Farm
Animals. (CNW Group/Vancouver Humane Society)

ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council -- is an organization of high flyers who prefer to sail under the radar.

The corporate-funded coalition of big companies and mainly state lawmakers promotes a right-wing agenda of deregulation, privatization, anti-labour measures and shrinking of women’s and minority rights and environmental protection. It works through “model bills” that are handily presented to legislators and replicated in viral fashion across states.

But ALEC has crossed the publicity “whoa” line in the past month as a series of articles on “ag-gag” bills were published, throwing light on prospective laws that aim to criminalize investigation of animal cruelty to keep factory farm businesses free of prying eyes. The latest, published Sunday, was from the The New York Times.

Stop reading now if you’re eating.

We’re talking about Vermont veal calves skinned alive, deathly sick California cows pushed out to slaughter with electric prods, Wyoming pigs punched and kicked, Tennessee horses burned with caustic chemicals to improve their gait.

But the evidence painstakingly obtained by animal rights groups – including the Humane Society of the U.S. – is now under threat from bills tabled in at least a dozen state legislatures.

They would make it illegal to secretly videotape animal cruelty on farms, or to apply for a job without declaring oneself a member of an animal rights group or a journalist. And some decree a 48-hour-or-less time limit for turning over videos to the authorities, hobbling the ability to do lengthy investigations.

If the ag gag laws were in place in 2010, Cody Carlson told the Center for Media and Democracy, “I might be writing this from a cell.” Carlson, a former Humane Society investigator, exposed stomach-turning abuses at Iowa egg farms. A subsequent government investigation caused the biggest egg recall in U.S. history.

That wouldn’t happen if the recent bills go into law.

Although the current bills are watered-down versions of draconian “model bills” originally proposed by ALEC -- which were eventually defeated --  media monitors and activists are pointing fingers at it as the inspiration for the laws.

“We must be careful about drawing a straight line from ALEC to the new bills,” says Rebekah Wilce, CMD’s lead writer on food rights. “But it was the ideological predecessor of the bills.”

 ALEC originally proposed a law slapping those who covertly filmed animal abuse on livestock farms with a U.S. terrorist listing.

“This is another way to hamstring the checks that democracy and an informed society are supposed to put on everything from corporations to government,” Wilce said from her Madison, Wisconsin office. “It’s similar to the idea that if you can’t win an election, try to hamstring the vote.”

Sadly, cows, pigs, chickens and horses don’t get a vote in state legislatures. But it will be clear in the coming weeks what kind of animals do.

Olivia Ward has covered conflicts, politics and human rights in the U.S., former Soviet Union, Middle East and South Asia. She is consulting a vegetarian cookbook.



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Well, I read this while eating and it didn't bother me one bit. I know where my meat comes from, and if you care you will too.

Cows pigs and chickens don't get a vote indeed (and they shouldn't) but usually some people with similar intelligence levels do!

All living things fear death, and we as humans have a moral obligations to ensure the proper care and treatment of animals (even in the food cycle). Ag-gag bills are driven solely by profit as animal food companies would prefer to have less intrusion on their processing policies (regardless of animal welfare).

Smart people should be aware of how their food is taken care of and managed to ensure the best outcomes for the consumer and the animals used for food.

If companies and legislators want to make it illegal to report crimes or testify against criminals should't that apply across the board and include human beings as well as animals? Imagine the money we could save by dismantling the justice system.

It is farmers best interest that an animal is happy and content,there isn't a reason for a farmer to take care of his or her animals properly because they would be at a loss. many people don't realize that farmers have worked with animals all of there lives and they understand how they need to be cared for. Many people don't realize that a high percentage of farms are family owned and run. another interesting fact that everyone should take into consideration is that animal rights activate want to a see a cease to all animal husbandry. I am a farm kid in high school who sees how misinformed people are about where there food comes from and how modern farms really farm. our family owned and run farm ships roughly 15,000 hogs a year. many people would consider this a factory farm but it is family owned and run. So before everyone starts pointing fingers at what someone else is doing wrong lets understand how farms really work

The comments to this entry are closed.

The World Daily

  • The Star's foreign desk covers the best stories from the around the globe, updated throughout the day.