Noted: The Story Behind Industrial Farming
As a red-blooded American, I eat my steaks rare and my pulled pork sloppy. However, as an Iowan and an animal rights advocate, my interest was piqued by recent proposed legislation that would protect industrial farmers from video or photo documentation of their operations. What does this mean for the casual carnivore?
As New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman explains, "Undercover videos from the Humane Society of the United States tell a repulsive [story]. It also explains why we saw laws proposed by friends of agribusiness in both Iowa and Florida in recent weeks that would ban making such videos: the truth hurts, especially if you support the status quo."
Yes, any animal rights activist caught on private property is guilty of trespassing, even if the intent is to expose the confined spaces, dirty living conditions and mistreatment of livestock headed for slaughter. The question is more so why lawmakers feel the need to sweep large-scale agribusiness's alleged mistreatment under the rug. Are inhumane conditions justifiable if the animals are destined to be eaten? Is the demand for mass-manufactured meat so high that we're willing to ignore horrifying conditions? And why is a common pet allowed more rights than the livestock we consume? As a consumer, I can't help but wonder why the public is denied access to the origin of its dinner.
As for what the farmers in question have to hide, Bittman poignantly states, "People shouldn’t have to sneak the cameras into the farms that are torturing animals or mistreating workers: the cameras should already be there." Even as eating organic, local and ethically-sourced meat and produce has become ubiquitous to the point of cliché, it seems that lawmakers are swiftly moving in a more conservative direction. Transparency and respectful, humane operations shouldn't be a radical idea.
Read more from Bittman in his original post, Some Animals Are More Equal and Others, and his follow-up on farm animal protection at The New York Times.