Ignite a fire at a mountain-top restaurant, blow up a commercial radio tower, steal or turn livestock loose–even those mean little minks–and I am all for hunting down the perpetrators, arresting, charging and convicting them with multiple crimes already on the books.
State and federal laws already adequately cover property crimes like those committed by the few extremists that the law has also accurately labeled as domestic terrorists.
And should ever one of these despicable incidents result in injury or death, those crimes will be charged, too.
The “Ag-Gag” bill passed by the Iowa Assembly last week has nothing whatsoever to with those rare but disturbing instances of domestic terrorism.
Aptly named by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, the “Ag-Gag” bill exists because people with “home court” political power (Iowa Animal Agriculture) have been made to look stupid time and time again by “out of town” political power (animal rights activists).
Just think of how this goes. An undercover investigator arrives in an Iowa town near one of those giant egg production facilities or big hog operations. Iowa agriculture is always hiring, the only requirement is that you must be able to “fog a mirror.”
There were complaints in Des Moines about undercover investigators not telling the whole truth on job applications. But I doubt much information had to be provided on those applications.
If Iowa agriculture gets too thorough in that department, it would know all those Spanish speaking fellows they’ve been hiring might be illegal.
The worst part is the guy driving the $200 Buick that they’ve just hired has $30,000 worth of camera equipment in his trunk. And they did not have a clue. They look and feel pretty stupid when the movie, showing incidents of animal abuse inside another Iowa facility, hits the internet.
And while no law is going to make Iowa agriculture look smart on this one, it most certainly is reacting to the fact that it’s been made to look stupid time and time again.
I generally try to avoid terms like “factory farms” and “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” because they are politically loaded. But the scale of many Iowa agricultural operations is so large it is hard not to rely on some of these terms.
Those giant Iowa egg production facilities that were responsible for the nationwide Salmonella outbreak in 2010, resulting in a half billion eggs being recalled, come to mind.
Hundreds of people come and go through those facilities. There are the employees, of course, but there are also people doing contract services and making deliveries, and literally dozens of people with access.
The “ag-gag” law Iowa has passed makes it a crime for any of these people to take pictures or make recordings without the permission of whoever owns the animal or crop facility involved.
The Iowa bill is getting widespread attention now because Gov. Terry Branstad signed it into law, and it is the first in the country with a bunch of states are waiting in the wings with their own “ag-gag” bills.
As Iowa’s newest law, it stands as testimony to raw political power. A “Who’s-Who” of the state’s agriculture lobby came to gather to make it happen in a matter of hours.
That is really the bad news in all of this.
These undercover investigations by animal rights groups have emerged not only with evidence of severe cruelty, but real food safety risks. If it goes along with this political scheme to cover it up, Animal Agriculture is going to lose–and lose big.
Ag-gag is really a big set-back for Animal Agriculture, which must earn public trust by throwing open the doors of “factory farms” and “CAFOs.” Putting its own cameras inside these facilities might help prevent bad behavior.
For now, we have to assume that all those big name Iowa Ag lobbyists are doing what Animal Agriculture wants them to do. That being the case, this is going to get worse before reason prevails.