When might it be punishable to report a criminal activity? When it takes place inside a poultry warehouse, slaughterhouse, or on a cattle feedlot. That’s the upshot of a new wave of so-called “ag-gag” bills passed in state legislatures around the nation, the latest of which, AB 343, was introduced in California last month.
“Ag gag” laws have been put forth by the meat industry to criminalize the reporting of animal cruelty by anyone — journalists, activists, or whistleblowers. They are intended to prohibit the release of videotapes or photographs that document what happens inside factory farms and meat processing facilities, often with the threat of jail time. The real goal of these laws is to “chill” a person’s resolve to make public any illegal behavior such as beating or torturing captive animals, often using the police to seize their materials. Read more
“You’d have to have rocks in your head to build a new sow barn with gestating sow stalls.” That’s how the Western Producer, an agribusiness trade publication, began a recent editorial.
Yet it seems that some in the world of pork production, and their hired PR frontmen, may indeed have rocks in their heads. How else can you explain the behavior of companies like Tyson Foods that continue to defend locking pigs in two-foot-wide metal gestation crates where the 500-pound animals can’t even turn around for essentially their entire lives? Read more
In the livestock industry, heroes don’t always get their due. Perhaps that’s because the story of our modern animal agriculture system is so often so bleak—for farmers, animals, our health and the health of our environment.
In the U.S. pork sector, two-thirds of hog production comes from producers working under contract with mega-processors like Smithfield and Cargill. Processing is increasingly automated and farmers feel the pressures of high volume, low cost meat production. In confined animal feeding operations or “CAFOs”, pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in superbug-breeding warehouses, crowded with pens and gestation crates as far as the eye can see. Hogs are raised for maximum weight gain and routinely given antibiotics to speed up growth and prevent the very kinds of diseases that spread when so many animals live in such close, unsanitary and stressful quarters. Read more
Anyone who has struggled to protect a community from the damage caused by an industrial livestock operation can attest that the task is exceptionally difficult, requiring courage, fortitude, and substantial investment of time, money, energy and effort. It’s an uphill battle, a lopsided fight in which all odds are stacked in favor of industrial livestock proponents who enjoy the tremendous financial backing of agribusiness, political support from legislators bought by industry campaign contributions, lax oversight from industry-friendly regulatory agencies and in some cases, public support from individuals swayed by false promises of economic development. Read more
The Animal Agriculture Alliance—a group that defends virtually every factory farming practice out there—issued a press release this past week praising Dodge for its Super Bowl commercial featuring Paul Harvey’s “God Made a Farmer” speech.
The AAA waxed poetic, calling Harvey’s speech the “crowning glory” of the commercial and extolled the late broadcaster as “legendary.”
One wonders if the Alliance recalls that Paul Harvey was a great advocate; an advocate for ending some of the most abusive practices in animal agriculture—practices the Alliance rigorously defends. Read more
The Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) has been working in full force since last year in preparation for the anti-whistleblower Ag Gag bills expected (unfortunately) to be introduced in the new legislative session. Bills in Wyoming, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Indiana have all been filed or introduced so far in 2013.
For an overview of the 2012 Ag Gag saga, refer to FIC’s info page.
FIC collaborates with many coalition groups who oppose the legislation, which typically criminalize the individuals who expose wrongdoing rather than the perpetrators of it! Wyoming’s bill – which was introduced mere weeks after undercover video footage revealed inhumane handling of pigs at a Tyson Foods supplier in the state – threatens agriculture whistleblowers with jail time and a fine if they use a recording device on the facility’s premises. Read more
The Vancouver Sun’s headline this week read almost like it was from The Onion: “Body slamming piglets to death humane, pork experts say.”
But it wasn’t a joke. Unfortunately, the article was about the pork industry’s response to the latest animal cruelty investigation, an exposé which documented severe and routine abuse on a pig factory farm. Caught on tape were standard pork industry practices such as slamming live pigs against concrete, locking pigs in tiny cages for months on end, cutting parts of their bodies off without painkiller and more. Read more
It’s no surprise when pro-industrial agricultural organizations fight to keep the status quo. Yet, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) capitulated in July to trade organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and their political representatives, retracting an endorsement of Meatless Mondays, a controversy began. The Meatless Mondays debate however isn’t the only example of how big animal agriculture is on the defense. In recent months similar controversies involving the National Pork Producers Council and the Animal Agricultural Alliance, while less publicized, seem to illustrate that big animal ag is losing their footing and plan to fight big time for their position.
The latest report by the Food & Environment Reporting Network takes a look at how the American Farm Bureau Federation leads the charge against efforts to limit industrial-scale food production and has become the single most powerful farm lobby in the nation, accounting for 45 percent of all agriculture-related lobbying dollars over the last decade. Read more
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking its biggest step yet to rein in the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that help food animals grow bigger, faster. The agency said Wednesday it is asking veterinary drug makers to voluntarily phase out medically important drugs from being available over the counter in the hope that the shift will help combat growing antimicrobial resistance.
Under FDA’s proposal, these antimicrobials will still be allowed in animal agriculture but, if veterinary drug companies agree to change the labels, farmers will be allowed to use the drugs only to prevent, control, or treat diseases and under the supervision of a veterinarian and not for promoting growth or improving feed efficiency.
The agency said it was taking the voluntary action to “preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans.” Read more