In 2003, in response to a growing number of whistle-blower reports and videos surfacing about the treatment of animals, sanitation conditions and overall practices of industrial livestock farming, ALEC created a “model bill” called the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act that would seek to criminalize the production of these videos. The bills that would soon proliferate into State Houses around the country became known as “Ag-Gag Bills” since their clear intent was to silence any reporter that tried to communicate what they found to the public.
The tactics used in this effort are a simple two-pronged approach:
1. Criminalize the act of falsely seeking employment at a facility for the sole purpose of documenting abuse or conditions. This was to target serial activists affiliated with groups like PETA and the Humane Society as well as the burgeoning food advocates that began to train their sites on livestock production.
2. Mandate via statute a set requirement of how quickly any evidence must be reported to the authorities. This is to stop the investigators from accumulating footage, editing it holistically and/or releasing it to a media outfit or to the public directly. This is done under the guise of a “If what these well-intentioned whistle-blowers observe is so criminally offensive, they should be reporting it to law enforcement immediately, not seeking to make their own expose film for YouTube” argument.
This was ALEC recommendation on how to address this problem for the food industry. Don’t try to water down abuse laws. Don’t let the government actually regulate the practice of raising, feeding and killing animals. And DON’T get into a litigation fight with these activists that seek to use the judicial process as their megaphone.
Just SILENCE them. Legally. …and it worked.
Kansas already had its Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act on the books from 1990. Montana and North Dakota had laws from 1991. But in 2012 we saw Iowa, Missouri and Utah all pass an ALEC version of this law.
Amy Myer was the first US citizen arrested on Ag-Gag charges in Utah for filming a slaughterhouse from a public street. Charges were later dropped.
Later this year, National Geographic reporter George Steinmetz was arrested for taking aerial pictures of a feedlot in Kansas.
In 2013 we saw ELEVEN new states formally introduce ALEC-modeled Ag-Gag laws in their legislatures. The fight was on and I am proud to report that the Anti-Ag-Gag, anti-ALEC, pro-1st Amendment, Pro-Food Safety forces went UNDEFEATED and stopped every single one of these. The only close call was Tennessee where the legislature passed the bill and we needed Republican Governor Bill Haslam to veto it on concerns that it was an unconstitutional infringement on Tennessean’s First Amendment rights.
Details of the bills we have stopped below the Vermillion Escutcheon. Notice just how little the bills vary state-by-state, down to the very words they use.
Read Up. Rejoice. …and be ready to fight with us in 2014.