Josh Schultz, schult11@miamioh.edu

In 2012, an animal rights group named Mercy For Animals released videos showing workers at a Bettencourt Dairy in Idaho beating, stomping, dragging and even sexually abusing cows. If you were a legislator, what would your reaction be to these findings? You’d probably want to punish the abusers in this situation. However, that’s not what is happening.

The Idaho governor signed a bill a few weeks ago that imposes jail time & fines for people who secretly film animal abuse at Idaho agricultural facilities. Isn’t the rule not to kill the messenger? This is just one instance of many Ag-gag bills being implemented or proposed into state laws. Ag-gag is a general term referring to anti-whistle blowing bills that make it illegal to film animal abuse in farming practices.

Similar laws have been implemented in Utah, Iowa, Missouri and a few other states. Besides being a blatant violation to the first amendment, these laws set a dangerous precedent. If we demand transparency from our government, should we really demand different from our food?

As Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals stated, “Not only will this Ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply”.

Factory farms endanger our health, the health of animals and our country’s ethical foundation. If we continue to pass Ag-gag laws to silence opposition to these monstrosities, we risk harming our nation’s reputation as well. We must encourage discovery and the sharing of new information rather than criminalizing such speech.

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