February 7, 2019
“Ag Gag” laws continue to be challenged and have been ruled unconstitutional in Iowa and Utah. Idaho’s “ag security law” was also challenged and struck down, but on appeal, two key aspects of the law were upheld: that it is 1) illegal to obtain employment by deceit or other wrongful means with the intent to harm an agricultural operation and, 2) illegal to obtain records by misrepresentation with the intent to harm an agricultural operation. Challenges to similar laws are currently pending in Kansas and North Carolina.
Ag Gag is a general term first coined by Mark Bittman (2011) in a New York Times column to describe laws that provide extra protection to the animal agriculture industry, specifically laws that focus on limiting collection of data that could be used to show the industry in poor light. Ag Gag laws are one way the farming community is trying to prevent undercover videos from being captured and released.
Though these laws protect against activists, they also come at a price. These laws are shown to decrease customer confidence and increase positive sentiment for animal rights groups. They suggest livestock and poultry farming has something to hide. Media is overwhelmingly against the laws and have joined the lawsuits citing free speech concerns.
What can animal agriculture do instead? We need to establish transparency and create a message that highlights all the good things we are doing for animal welfare. There is a good story to tell. This is a long-term goal that will take a lot of hard work, but the payoff will be worth it.
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