Animal Rights

Cruelty to Animals, Exposed

Law against filming abuse of livestock struck down.

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Credit: UnitedSoybeanBoard / photo on flickr

If you like eating meat, information is not always your friend. In recent years, practices at large facilities that turn livestock into food have been exposed to public view, and the public often doesn't like what it sees. 

The companies that confine pregnant sows in tiny stalls or scald chickens to death don't publicize these practices. Slaughterhouses where cattle are sometimes dismembered alive don't offer guided tours. 

To see what goes on in the worst operations, most of us have to rely on activists who covertly record inside and put videos online. Organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Mercy for Animals have posted such footage. 

When such grim revelations emerged, the owners of these operations had two choices: stop doing things that would shock consumers, or stop consumers from seeing them. Many suppliers did the former, sometimes under prodding from major grocery and restaurant chains. But some decided that concealment was preferable. 

Their own efforts to keep out prying eyes, however, don't always suffice. So they have enlisted the power of government on their side. Seven states have passed "ag gag" laws aimed at preventing whistleblowers from exposing farm abuses. 

Idaho, for example, made it a crime for anyone to do audio or video recording inside a facility without the owner's consent. This was necessary, the bill's sponsor explained, because "extremist groups implement vigilante tactics to deploy self-appointed investigators who masquerade as employees to infiltrate farms in the hope of discovering and recording what they believe to be animal abuse." Another likened these videos to "terrorism." 

Vigilantes and terrorists, it should be noted, employ violent methods, including gratuitous brutality, to achieve ends they regard as important enough to override civilized norms. In that respect, they don't resemble the people filming the abuse of animals. They resemble the people committing those abuses. 

The law, however, does not apply just to activist outsiders who rely on subterfuge. It covers faithful longtime employees who feel obligated to disclose conduct they find unconscionable or even illegal. 

The ban does more than shelter the public from images affecting the treatment of mere livestock. It suppresses knowledge about practices that could harm humans. It denies the citizenry truthful information about important matters. 

It also gets priorities backward. If you commit an excruciating act of cruelty against an innocent beast, you will serve no more than six months in an Idaho jail. But if you film that crime, you could spend a year behind bars. You also could be forced to pay restitution up to double the amount of any "economic loss" the company incurs once consumers learn how callous it is. 

But as of last Monday, the law no longer applies to anyone, because a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional. In a decision that cast doubt on other state laws, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said the Idaho ban violates the First Amendment because it "was designed to suppress speech critical of the agricultural industry." 

The measure's supporters claimed to be protecting companies from dangerous impostors bent on destroying their businesses. Really? "It is already illegal to steal documents or to trespass on private property," said the judge. "In addition, laws against fraud and defamation already exist to protect against false statements made to injure or malign an agricultural production facility." 

Devious infiltrators are hardly the only target. Winmill found that the law bans even filming that is "not disruptive of the workplace, and carried out by people who have a legal right to be in a particular location and to watch and listen to what is going on around them." 

Chapman University constitutional law professor Ronald Rotunda says whistleblowers may not be forbidden to speak about such matters. All this law does is deprive the public of material that can substantiate what they claim. 

Video footage can be exceptionally informative—whether it documents Planned Parenthood officials talking about ethically questionable abortion methods, police confronting citizens, or Mitt Romney deriding the "47 percent" or Barack Obama's pastor preaching, "No, not God bless America. God damn America!" It's a threat only to those with something to hide. 

There are facilities where animals are raised or slaughtered in humane conditions that would satisfy the vast majority of Americans. There are others whose routines are enough to make you lose your lunch. Laws like the one in Idaho are a great boon to anyone who would rather not know the difference. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. South Park Turkey Slaughter
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLJ1OJuUXfM
    (Obviously recorded by the Vegan Underground)

  2. Why not just get employees sign a Non Disclosure Agreement and take them to court when they leak video footage? Am I missing something here?

    1. you cant imprison someone for breaking an NDA

      1. no, but you can sue the shit out of them.

        now, if what you’re doing is illegal, the NDA doesn’t mean anything. If what you’re doing just isn’t tolerable to the public / PC you won’t be able to stop the damage, but you’ll at least be able to make an example out of that person for future employees.

      2. you cant imprison someone for breaking an NDA

        WE HAVE A WINNER!

      3. On top of that, a whistleblower may likely feel it’s worth the risk of being sued to bring light to abuses, especially if outside groups promise to fund his defense or pay the damages.

        Going to jail is something the bar majority of people will not risk, however.

  3. Abortion, forty-seven percent and Jeremiah Wright. This article has it all.

  4. I agree for laws against the filming against the abuse against animals. Okay, I admit it. I just wanted to use the word ‘against’ three times in a sentence.

  5. “When such grim revelations emerged, the owners of these operations had two choices: stop doing things that would shock consumers, or stop consumers from seeing them.”

    Wrong; they have at least one more choice; tell the public “this is what we do to get you the meat you love at the price you demand. Deal with it.”

    Sloppy reasoning, Reason. The kind that makes me wonder about the slant fo the rest of the essay.

    1. Of course if they do say that; then some other competitor is going to call them out as a liar. Which is why it really isn’t an option. Because sloppy cruel slaughter really doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the price of meat. It has everything to do with sloppy incompetent management that doesn’t give a rats fuck about anything – including very probably poisoning the public either.

      And good for that judge.

      1. That assumes that what is being “exposed” is sloppy and not good practice from a food POV. The article assumes that, too. Nothing I know about the Animal Rights movement leads me to believe that to be true.

    2. They have lots of other options reason is highlighting the actual ones companies use, torturing animals is not acceptable to the majority of people these days, telling the pubic this is what you get for the price you demand is not a realistic option if you want to stay in business.

      1. “Torturing animals”, as defined by PETA and similar groups of idiots, is not acceptable to a small minority of Trendy Lefty Intellectuals, and a somewhat larger group that have been persuades that they want to be trendy lefty intellectuals, in spite of trendy intellectualism being inimical to their interests and freedom.

        The Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressives have been screwing around with farming essentially forever. They have consistently been against rational property rights, and usually opposed to the most productive means of agriculture. They have, thereby, caused more than their fair share of famine and misery. I have no patience left for them.

        1. PETA is a terrible anti animal welfare group that does far more harm to animals than good. The stupid campaigns turn off people from wanted to help animals and Their “shelter” has a kill rate nearing 90% while other shelters in the same area are not that far off % wise for ADOPTION rates.

          Many of those factory farms are the equivalents to concentration camps for animals. The capacity to suffer, feel pain and experience happiness is now clearly evident in mammals. The reason humans care about each other is biological its an innate aspect of being a social animal the ability to feel empathy for each other.

          This is why people value each other and this same reasoning applies to higher animals. The reason I care about the non-aggression principle is because I have an innate dislike of causing harms to other people, the same apply to animals.

          Of course animals don’t have the same intellectual capacity as us so we don’t need to treat them like we do each other, but as sentient creatures I think they have just as much of a right to not be caused to suffer as humans do. There are farms they don’t cause horrible suffering and pain and there are farms that do and there are farms somewhere in between. We should be moving towards all farms causing the least amount of pain to the animals as possible.

          1. No. I don’t accept that argument. The REASON I don’t accept that argument is the same reason I will no longer argue what is “Common Sense” gun control; the folks who are the ones primarily MAKING that argument are arguing in bad faith. They will not stoop at one “compromise” (which always means “we get something and you give something”). They are liars and frauds, whose tactics have been exposed multiple times. When they cannot find genuine animal cruelty they will fake it for an expose video. When they don’t have any scientific proof, or any reasonable hope of same, they all fake it.

            I have been hectored my entire life by Leftwing, bunny-hugging, proselytizing vegan frauds. No matter what I eat, I’m doing it all wrong. No matter how clean the environment gets, we are constantly on the precipice of total eco-death. I’m sick of the lot of ’em.

            From now on, goddamit, they can count themselves lucky I don’t send them to the slaughterhouse with the damn cows.

            1. You logic does not follow because other people, ” the ones primarily making it” are not me. The argument stands or fall on its own merits not on those making the argument regardless. We have massive scientific evidence showing that animals, other mammals feel pain, have feelings and even do other things that are more complex for example some monkeys farm, have grammar, lions will care for those that no longer can take care of themselves, various social animals have a sense of morality, a moral code. The evidence grows daily.

              Like I said I am not those people I am me, and even if I was the argument to not harm sentient creatures because they are feelings beings either works or its does not. We humans care about each other not primary for intellectual reasons, the mother cares for her baby instinctively the fact that my cat is more intelligent and vastly more self-sufficient is not relevant.

              As more and more people understand that animals are more like us there natural sense of empathy then extends to them, because they are no longer a chair. There lesser capabilities don’t matter, it is the fact that they feel. The same reason we humans care about other humans who have gone senile, are very young or simply have severe brain trauma applies to them.

              1. Will some crazy groups like PETA advocate for all kind of backwards things like no pets, all animals free and pigs should be able to vote or whatever? Sure but they can be dismissed out of hand and far more rational and actually helpful people like Temple Grandin who has done more to reduce animal suffering by herself than PETA ever did by designing humane slaughter plants (which her designs are now used by over 50% of the plants in U.S and Canada) are the peoples who lead we should follow.

                Unless you don’t care about the welfare of conscious beings of course, but luckily imo those people are few in number and become less and less over time.

                1. Sorry, but I’ve had it with the Left. The Right at least does some control of its crazies. The Left? They get them academic positions, when they can.

                  No more debates on what level of animals rights are reasonable until I see the Left disowning some of the nutters who equate chicken farms with The Shoa. No more discussion of Gun Control until they propose the necessary Constitutional Amendment. As a pro-legal-abortion libertarian, i hereby decline to get upset about regulation of abortion clinics or defunding of Planned Parenthood until my fellow Pro-Choicers start policing themselves for ghouls and scofflaws. No more outrage over “Rape Culture” until they admit that includes the entire Islamic world.

                  1. Do you read what I wrote? I am a libertarian, what ever else your mad about has nothing to do with me. I strongly support gun rights, I hate “reasonable” gun control measures, I am an atheist and so clearly I am not to happy with Islam, I also think rape culture to be absurd.

                    My point stands or falls on its own merits I don’t care who else adopts it. Either you think its right to not harm those capable of suffering or not. A rock can’t suffer, a tree can’t suffer, but higher animals, mammals like us can. That is why I think most people care about the NAP because aggression causes harm and suffering. I think extending that concept to animals (that we have clear evidence that they can feel pain and suffer not for lower animals) is the moral thing to do.

  6. “slaughtered in humane conditions ” Oxymoron anyone?

    1. Nope, Temple Grandin has design slaughterhouses were the animals are killed painlessly and there is no pre-slaughter anxiety.

      1. You joke, but I know the local turkey plant treats and kills their turkey’s damn nicer than I would ever expect them to. I’m sure every fish I’ve ever cleaned wishes I’d treated them as well as the slaughterhouse treats their animals.

        1. Are you referring to me with the joke line?

          Look up Temple Grandin she has done massive work to reduce animal suffering. The evidence is still unclear on fishes capacity to suffer. And if you we did know that fish can feel pain like us and you kept doing what your doing then you would be a monster. Just like people working at those poorly run plants that put chickens alive in boiling water.

        2. Are you referring to me with the joke line?

          Look up Temple Grandin she has done massive work to reduce animal suffering. The evidence is still unclear on fishes capacity to suffer. And if you we did know that fish can feel pain like us and you kept doing what your doing then you would be a monster. Just like people working at those poorly run plants that put chickens alive in boiling water.

  7. A meme my wife shared last night:

    “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Unless he is a vegetarian. In which case, it is through his vagina.”

  8. The thing is, this whole issue is really rather simple from a libertarian standpoint.
    First of all (and don’t tell my wife I said this!): I am not sure animal cruelty laws are really appropriate in the first place. If I own the animal, it is mine to do with as I please. After all, what is cruelty? To these PETA assholes, raising them for slaughter is cruel to begin with. (Understand I hate people who purposely abuse animals)

    Next, as discussed above, the company can require its employees to sign NDAs. An employee feels strongly enough to publicize something, the company sues them but the people find out. If enough people are outraged, the company might change how it does business. Or it might not. Either way the market will decide. If a PETA person tresspasses or steals company property than they should be thrown in jail.

  9. I saw part of a film showing a large hog slaughtering facility and was a little disturbed by the method to kill the animals. As I recall, groups of hogs are put in a small “room”, sort of square in shape. Then the “ceiling” in the room comes down slowly and crushes the hogs to death. Those hogs are moved on to the next step in the process, then the next group of hogs are brought on to the crushing platform. I have no idea if the animals experience any pre-slaughter anxiety. What I do know is that I still enjoy bacon, ham, and pork. I just don’t want to see that film again.

    1. Not sure what you saw, but that “method” sounds inefficient, unreliable, and terribly likely to result in tremendous amounts of damage to the intended product.

      1. As to pre-slaughter anxiety, that is a known issue and slaughter houses do go to lengths to minimize it – because when it happens it can lead to loss of product. The fancy term is Porcine Stress Syndrome, the slang term in the trade is Pickled Pig Syndrome.

    2. What you saw was almost certainly a video of CO2 stunning, a method used here and in the EU.

      Its doesn’t render an immediate state of unconsciousness like electric stunning, but it is still fast.

  10. Animals are not humans and NAP doesn’t apply to them. So law ought not be used against those who abuse animals.

    That being said, there is a much better way to deal with people who abuse animals: the market. If the consumer sees that and says “I won’t buy from anyone who does that” then those who do it will quit doing it or go out of business. Making it more illegal to film on processing facilities than anywhere else is cronyism at its most blatant. They are trying to make sure that the market doesn’t work by using government force against those who identify a problem.

    1. ^^THIS

    2. Which points up why some people have problems with core libertarianism as a sole principle.

      It is one thing to say that an animal has no liberty, but it defies common sense to say that there are no concerns warranted regarding people who purposefully inflict cruelties upon animals.

      1. Fair enough, but those people cannot see that government is not the answer to everything, or even most things… (or maybe anything at all).

        I can tell you that abusing animals is evil. I won’t use government force against those people. I won’t trade with them and socially ostracize them. I won’t put a gun to their head.

        Why is it that most people only understand the gun?

        1. Absolutely. But what you obliquely espouse (evil being an inherently religious term) is just the sort of alternative solutions that paleo conservatives espouse – the Burkean tapestry of social, religious, and civic organizations.

          1. evil being an inherently religious term

            What do you call it? If someone punches you is it only bad because it violates NAP?

            Do you have no other morals than non-aggression?

            Evil exists. The purpose of government is not to stamp it out. It is entirely incapable of such and action and if it weren’t, the result would be the end of Liberty.

            1. “What do you call it?”

              You could call it a wrong. Yes, that is a semantic distinction. But English is like that – many words are inherently freighted with substantial additional meaning.

              Evil certainly being one of those.

              1. But English is like that – many words are inherently freighted with substantial additional meaning.

                To some, sure. But do the terms “reasonable”, “infringed”, or “abridged” change meaning just because some use them incorrectly?

                1. Honestly depends on how badly they misused them, and also their intent. Hell, that’s the very basis of all sorts of communication/expression from poetry to sarcasm.

                  Use a word “badly” enough and you can even come full circle towards defining it.

                  And, as you note, evil is a subset of morality.

                  Does libertarianism have no other morals than non-aggression?

                  If not, then is violating non-aggression evil or merely wrong?

                  But more importantly, whether libertarianism includes other morals or not can the NAP fully exist in the presence of other moralities?

                  1. If not, then is violating non-aggression evil or merely wrong?

                    They are synonyms in my usage.

                    But more importantly, whether libertarianism includes other morals or not can the NAP fully exist in the presence of other moralities?

                    NAP (libertarianism) isn’t a moral system. It can be included in a moral system. It is a system of “governance” (in quote marks because it can even exist within anarchy). NAP includes no other morals but a person who believes in and practices NAP can certainly have other morals (such as, it is wrong/evil to torture animals).

              2. But so long as some religions – Islam and Communism spring to mind – not only allow but encourage mass slaughter of people, the term “evil” remains appropreate for some uses.

      2. The reason I care about the NAP is because I care about the harm principle I don’t want to harm other people or other feeling creatures why? Its innate, I just don’t like watching suffering. I don’t like to suffer and I empathizes with others that have that capacity. The NAP is not a first principle for me but it ends up being very close to a 1st principle see aggression and coercion causes so much suffering.

        1. Then how to balance non-aggression when faced with intolerable suffering?

          Close your eyes?
          Turn your head?
          Walk away?

          Sounds like a quick trip down the road to Utilitarianism.

          (Not that I have an answer either, just like to hear other’s thoughts on this.)

          1. The reason I care about the non-aggression is only because of the harm principle, your right that is the basis of Utilitarianism which I think is what most people are naturally which makes sense given are biological heritage as social animals. But to me the NAP is so closely align to harm principle that we can reach a vastly smaller government and one that is attractive to Libertarians & Utilitarians if we just look at the real world.

            All the countries that are more free produce better results for the people, all the ones that are less free produce worst results.

            On my TV show Local Liberty we talk about this balance,

            youtube.com/channel/UCLLLH8xnQfzVBAkTjPAPDCQ

    3. But owners of property have a right to privacy. They have a right to take action against those who violate their privacy. The question is that action purely civil, or should their be an a priori/boiler plate set of rules put it known as criminal, if violated?

      Personally, it should be left to a civil suit to prove whatever damages you can. When the person (likely) with a net worth of $17.18 declares bankruptcy, there’s your windfall.

      In the end, there’s only a few major food companies in America, so there’s little likelihood of being able to avoid “voting with your dollars”. All you can do is try and buy locally from sources you know. Fast food would pretty much be out.

      1. But owners of property have a right to privacy.

        I’m not sure there actually is a right to privacy. There is a right to property, but if you stand naked on your porch you can’t complain if people see.

        If you want to hide what you’re doing you better do it well. If you invite people there, you’d better do it even better. If the person trespassed, then get them on that.

        In the end, there’s only a few major food companies in America, so there’s little likelihood of being able to avoid “voting with your dollars”.

        The market will respond. If enough people want it, it will be supplied. If the major ones don’t do it, then they will be replaced with new major food companies.

        1. Agreed, if you want your employees to keep things private then you will probably need to establish a non-disclosure agreement and pay them for it in return. Otherwise do not permit strangers on your property.

        2. I’m not sure there actually is a right to privacy. There is a right to property, but if you stand naked on your porch you can’t complain if people see.

          This seems/sounds a little disingenuous; it’s not like these farmers are standing along the side of the road slitting their livestock’s throat so the blood can run into the ditches.

          It seems like if a ‘filmmaker’ released a video impugning a farm for something that was industry practice, there would be a slander case. Too bad (just as with the NDA) most of the people filming are penniless vegetarian hippies with nothing but an axe to grind.

          1. I don’t think you have a right to “privacy”. It sounds like that would almost certainly have to be a positive right…

            Too bad (just as with the NDA) most of the people filming are penniless vegetarian hippies with nothing but an axe to grind.

            I don’t care why they do it. Even vegetarian hippies can have their uses. I eat meat but don’t want to shop from places that mistreat their animals.

            Oh, I also hunt and process my own meat. I know how it can go. Just like hunting, the kill should be clean.

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