America's Prosecutors Join ALDF in Opposing an Industry Trying to Suppress the Facts: Factory Farming and Ag GagPosted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on December 27th, 2011
With the steady stream of shocking undercover video documenting abuses of America’s “food animals” making it into our regular media diet, I am not at all surprised that the factory meat/egg/dairy industries are trying to suppress the free flow of information about their operations. In what I believe to be a tacit admission by the industry that they know they cannot win a debate on the merits of the production methods they employ, they are now pushing state bills that, if passed, would criminalize the collection of damning evidence (a/k/a “ag gag” bills). Such a move proving once again the old adage, “If you can’t win on the facts, then silence your critics.” This is an understandable development in an industry that has so much to be ashamed of (e.g., veal crates, castration without pain control, gestation/farrowing crates, tie-stalls, de-beaking—and the list goes on).
Three states entertained ag gag bills last legislative season (Florida, Minnesota and Iowa)—none passed. However, don’t let that fact lull you into complacency: Florida’s ag gag bill was reintroduced just a couple of days ago and three other states (Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota) have had variations on ag gag laws on the books for several years now (adopted as part of each state’s equivalent to the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act).
As attorneys working in the justice system, where the truth is supposed to have some relevance in the outcome of a case (the exclusionary rule notwithstanding), ALDF opposes these ag gag bills. I am pleased to report that both the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) have joined ALDF in this fight. America’s two preeminent national prosecutors associations are united in their condemnation of the industry’s attempt to prevent undercover scrutiny of its conduct. In a joint letter signed by NDAA, APA, ALDF and others, both NDAA and APA point out that in addition to being profoundly poor public policy, these legislative attempts to restrict citizens’ flow of information to law enforcement sets a dangerous precedent that encourages other industries with enough political clout to seek similar preferential treatment. If the agriculture lobby is entitled to special “protection” from the collection of admissible and highly relevant evidence of criminal conduct, then why not afford the same courtesy to the insurance industry, securities traders, or big pharmaceutical companies?
We work with prosecutors on a daily basis to help them achieve the best possible outcomes in animal cruelty cases, so it comes as no surprise that we share a common view in opposition of these ag gag bills. Nevertheless, I am very pleased that both APA and NDAA have joined us in this fight.