Animal rights groups have uncovered dozens of cases of animal cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses over the past five years© AFP 2013/ Raul Arboleda
WASHINGTON, March 20 (By Sasha Horne for RIA Novosti) - Stemming from a growing number of undercover investigations where animal rights advocates infiltrated slaughterhouses to secretly document animal abuse, politicians in several states across the US are working to ban undercover video in factory farms, a move that is receiving tremendous pushback.
“Our investigations have resulted in meat recalls, animal cruelty convictions, and changes to federal regulations,” said Paul Shapiro, spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
“The meat industry’s response hasn’t been to try to prevent the abuses, but rather it’s been to try to prevent the American public from finding out about the abuses in the first place,” he told RIA Novosti Wednesday.
Shapiro said over the past five years, animal rights groups have uncovered dozens of cases of animal cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses using undercover video and photography.
“We’ve seen workers punch and kick animals, attach chains to their necks and drag them. In some cases they would shove water hoses up the nostrils of sick animals to try to force them to stand,” Shapiro said.
Other reported instances include cases of pigs and chickens that spend their entire lives locked in cages that are so small they are unable to lie down or turn around, the HSUS reported.
At least a dozen states including California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Arkansas have introduced legislation categorized by animal rights activists as “anti-whistleblower” laws.
In Tennessee on Wednesday, legislators met to consider a measure that would require any person who photographs or videotapes animal cruelty of livestock to report the violation within 24 hours, which animal advocates say is not enough time to document the extent of illegal activity.
Those backing the legislation ask; if there is abuse taking place, why wait to report it?
In other states, including Minnesota and Nebraska, pending legislation would make it a crime for a person to lie on an employment application to get a job at a plant in order to secretly document animal abuse.
Proposed legislation in Indiana would prohibit taking photos or videos on a property without the owner’s consent, though the measure stops short of banning the documentation of activity while standing on public property.
“I’ve heard from a number of constituents in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors who were concerned with trade secrets,” said Republican state Sen. Travis Holdman, the sponsor of the Indiana bill, according to an editorial in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
Holdman told local media his bill targets, “vigilantes” who enter private property with the sole intent of obtaining undercover photos and videos.
“Those people [the investigators] would gain access surreptitiously and release [information] in a way that would harm the business,” Holdman said.
Leading the charge to get these legislative initiatives passed are lobbying groups from both the beef and pork industries as well as the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonprofit group that produces model legislation for state politicians.
ALEC’s spokesman, Bill Meierling, did not respond to RIA Novosti’s request for comment.
According to an Associated Press (AP) report, ALEC labeled those who interfered with animal operations, “terrorists.”
“At the end of the day it’s about personal property rights or the individual right to privacy,” Meierling told the AP. “You wouldn’t want me coming to your home with a hidden camera.”
Animal rights groups including the HSUS as well as first-amendment advocacy groups have publically spoken out against the legislation, arguing bans that prohibit undercover documentation and penalize whistleblowers deny Americans the right to know how the food they consume is produced.
“The meat industry has tried to make it seem like these cases of abuse are isolated,” said Shapiro. “This type of legislation would prevent a pattern of abuse from being documented.”
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