Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Old MacDonald Wants You Behind Bars

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit a bias in this story: I like animals.

Oh, I'll eat them, even knowing that most of them aren't raised or slaughtered under ideal conditions. That's just the way I roll.

But there's industrial-scale factory farms, and there's the more personal brutality practiced by some individuals employed by the industry which can be so mindlessly cruel and bloodthirsty that it puts you off your food.

Beyond even that abominable evil, there's our abominable elected officials who want to protect the perpetrators.

Animal cruelty was first invented quite a number of years ago, and has become popular both as a hobby and as a form of stress relief amongst worthless wastes of human skin throughout history.

In these modern times, much of the fun of it has been removed by do-gooder types (also known as "people") who have made it both illegal and - in many places - socially unacceptable. You can even temporarily lose your job as a football player for it.

Of course cruelty still exists - and it will continue after I'm done writing this.  It exists both in the casual abuse of someone who believes that hitting a dog is the best way to teach it good behavior, and in the institutionalised slaughter of millions of food animals in painful ways when painless methods are equally cost-effective. And the conversation about how to deal with both types should be ongoing.

My concern is how state legislatures around the country - which, let's face it, are mostly populated by older white men who aren't known for gymnastic flexibility - can get themselves so tied in knots that they actually think protecting the perpetrators is a good idea.

There are those who attempt to gather evidence of unlawful animal treatment at industrial food production facilities, often by getting a job there and wearing a hidden camera.  Sometimes their evidence can lead to prosecution and improvements in animal welfare.

But not for long - if some groups have their way, people who try to bring little dollops of justice to this sordid world may be put behind bars for their trouble.

According to this New York times article, templates for the legislation have been provided by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.  They're a nonprofit, public-minded bunch who bring corporations and typewriters together to draft laws, so that grateful legislators don't have to trouble themselves to write their own.

They've congealed legislation which has, almost as if by accident, given benefits to such industries as health insurance companies, pharmaceutical and tobacco firms, whatever "fracking" is, and private jails.  You may remember them from such famous laws as Arizona's "show your papers" bill, the Florida "stand your ground" law, and Satan's legal guidelines on how to treat his clientele.

All a big corporation has to do is staple one of their documents to a campaign donation check, and the rest kinda takes care of itself.

The boldly-titled "Animal And Ecological Terrorism Act" prohibits taking pictures or video on a farm which "defame" the facility or its owner.  The penalties can include being placed on a terrorist registry! 

And in case that didn't quite sink in, it bears repeating - taking video on a farm that makes the owner look bad would mean you can be labeled a terrorist.

Other laws, some already on the books, require evidence to be turned over within 24-48 hours - after all, why would you be sitting on evidence of cruelty?  (To try and gather enough to actually convict someone higher up maybe?)

The American Farm Bureau's director of congressional relations Kelli Ludlum explains that these videos are harmful because they can seem troubling to someone unfamiliar with farming, comparing it to watching open heart surgery:
"They could be performing a perfect procedure, but you would consider it abhorrent that they were cutting a person open"
Apparently Kelli and her friends don't understand that things doctors call medical procedures do not normally stretch to include burning off a chicken's beak with a blowtorch.

Another supporter of this idea, Indiana state legislator Don Lehe, points out:
"That property owner is essentially guilty before they had the chance to address the issue"

So if I've understood your reasoning correctly, when you catch a bank robber before he has a chance to return the money, you're a terrorist?

Others unconvinced by the arguments I've just quoted have been fighting the bills on several fronts, and not without success.

My view is that they shouldn't need to waste their time fighting a law which punishes people who gather evidence of other people breaking laws!

Perhaps the only good thing about being doomed is that this kind of crap will eventually end once we're all dead.  But before your ultimate fate arrives, please leave a comment below and let me know what you're thinking!


  1. Overseas attention on this - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22098224

  2. And this is being expanded to protect oil spills and fracking: http://becauseican-2old2care.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/alec-ag-gag-bills-expand-to-protect.html