24 July 2012

Behind ag-gag laws: Following the money trail

Pigs with bloody, untreated sores abandoned to die alone and uncared for; hens rotting away in grime-crusted cages; newborn calves with their heads being ruthlessly stomped into the ground -- all of these horrifying revelations would never have been discovered without undercover investigations, investigations which are now being threatened by the ever-increasing corporate-state partnership.

Beginning in late 2011, lawmakers in a number of states began considering legislation which would criminalize photography and videos on farms for the purpose of exposure. But why? Who benefits? Certainly not the consumer, who should have every right to know the details of where their food is coming from for reasons of both health and ethics. So, if the constituents aren't pulling for these laws, who is? Perhaps unsurprisingly, corporate interests.

Many lawmakers who are considering the so-called Ag-Gag laws have ties to a powerful "super-lobby" group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Essentially, corporations pay thousands of dollars to be members of ALEC, and in turn ALEC drafts "model bills" which are introduced across the country to legislators. Of the 60 Iowa lawmakers who voted in support of Iowa's Ag-Gag laws, at least 14 of them -- 23 percent -- are members of ALEC. Some of ALEC's corporate sponsors backing Ag-Gag laws include BP, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, Exxon, General Motors, Koch Industries, Marathon Oil, Shell, and many others. All of these corporations, in some way, shape, or form, stand to benefit from the status quo on contemporary factory farming methods.

As reported by Republic Report, other interests supporting Ag-Gag laws have included the Iowa Corn Growers Association, which donated $2,500 to Democratic Senator Joe Seng, and $2,000 to Republican Senator Annette Sweeney, who are both advocates for the legislation; the Iowa Farm Bureau Association, which donated $1,254 to Sweeney; Monsanto, which gave $500 to Sweeney; the Iowa Turkey Federation, which gave $300 to Sweeney; and the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, which gave $300 to Seng. In total, the agriculture industry has spent more than $1 million on campaign contributions since 2010, according to records from the National Institute on Money In State Politics. Republican member of the Missouri House of Representatives Casey Guernsey even openly admitted at one point that he was pushing the Ag-Gag bill on behalf of the industry, saying it was needed to "protect an industry that drives the economy" in his state. Guernsey's top donor in 2010? Smithfield Foods, a well-known "victim" of undercover investigations which have exposed their hell-shattering treatment of pigs.

The aforementioned information makes it very clear that corporate power in government is out of control, and that if nothing is done to put an end to this growing trend, investigations of factory farms may soon become a thing of the past.

Jonathan Reynolds | Blog
Jonathan is a freelance writer and blogger residing in upstate New York.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/yomanimus