ALDF Spearheads Coalition to Oppose Ag Gag LegislationPosted on December 21, 2011
The Animal Legal Defense Fund – on behalf of a broad coalition of public interest organizations – sent a letter to state legislators Monday in Florida, New York, Minnesota, and Iowa, urging them to oppose any legislation that criminalizes attempts to document unlawful, inhumane, and environmentally destructive conduct on factory farms.
Such laws, known as “ag gag laws” because of the restraints they place on free speech about agribusiness, make it a crime to take photos or video on a factory farm without the written permission of the owner. The factory farming lobby has advocated these laws as a means of keeping the public in the dark about how its food is produced.
Variations on ag gag laws are already on the books in Montana, Kansas, and North Dakota, and bills have been proposed in recent legislative sessions in Florida, New York, Minnesota, and Iowa, whose legislators are the recipients of the coalition’s letter.
What is unique and formidable about this coalition is the range of social justice groups it brings to the issue:
Animal protection organizations – like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Compassion Over Killing, and Mercy For Animals – oppose ag gag laws because they criminalize undercover investigations that expose horrendous instances of animal abuse at factory farms.
Public health organizations – like the Center for Food Safety – oppose these laws because undercover investigations are often necessary to expose dangerous food safety violations that threaten the health of millions with dangerous diseases and bacteria, such as E. coli.
Environmental organizations – like the Natural Resources Defense Council – oppose ag gag legislation because it could prevent workers and citizens from documenting and publicizing violations of environmental laws, removing one of the incentives facilities have for complying with the laws that protect the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink and play in.
Farm worker and whistleblower protection groups – like Farmworker Justice, the Food Empowerment Project, and the Government Accountability Project – oppose ag gag bills because legislation that bans recording on farms prevents isolated and often vulnerable workers from documenting and protecting themselves against dangerous conditions, including unsafe work environments, exposure to toxic substances, and intimidation against labor organizing.
Prosecutors and district attorneys – like the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the National District Attorneys Association – oppose these laws because undercover investigations conducted on factory farms are crucial to law enforcement efforts to prosecute animal cruelty, illegal working conditions, and risky food safety practices.
Civil liberties groups - like the Center for Constitutional Rights – oppose ag gag legislation because, at its core, such legislation is intended to stifle the exchange of information and the expression of ideas by keeping the public ill-informed about agribusiness practices.
By uniting a broad array of social justice movements and calling on legislators to oppose ag gag bills, this coalition sends the message that the public interest cannot be made subservient to corporate agribusiness. On behalf of animals, workers, the environment, and the public, we vow to continue our fight against ag gag laws.