Iowa law makers afraid of soiling the state's agricultural public image is pushing to make it illegal to produce and distribute video recordings of the goings on at farms rather than improve the conditions of farmed animals. A new bill (Senate File 431) sponsored by Senator Tom Rielly, would take away the public's right to learn about where their food comes from and how it was produced before heading off to dinner tables.
In 2009, the animal rights group Mercy For Animals released hidden camera recordings of horrors caught on tape at an Iowan hatchery that garnered attention from media outlets all over the world exposing the industrialized reality of modern hatcheries. Without undercover investigations, there are no meaningful watchdogs protecting animals from egregious cruelty in these facilities. SF 431 which has already been approved for debate would penalize, (up to $7,500 fine and up to five years in prison) anyone producing, possessing or distributing a recording of a livestock operation without permission. This bill keeps consumers in the dark, threatens public health and hurts animals by shielding animal abusers from public scrutiny.
All compassionate consumers should be horrified that legislatures are not working to prevent, expose and prosecute cruelty to animals, but are instead inventing ways to make it harder to expose. SF 431 is a blatant violation of free speech. Consumers have a right to know how their food is being produced and how animals on modern farms are treated so they can make informed choices. Factory farms subject animals to abuses that are simply out of step with most Americans values – such as cramming animals in cages so small they cannot turn around, mutilating them without painkillers, and slitting their throats while they are fully conscious.
If this bill passes, factory farmers will be able to abuse animals with impunity. Rather than hiding these cruel practices, lawmakers should focus on ending them.
Photo credit: MFA video screen capture