A Victory Against Ag-Gag and The Power of Consumers
Laura Henderson, Executive Director
A federal court recently ruled that Idaho’s “ag-gag” law is unconstitutional. The law was an attempt to silence whistleblowers, journalists and animal advocates who expose animal cruelty and abuse on farms.
Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill did not mince words in his ruling against the law. He wrote, “The State’s logic is perverse…in essence the State says that the more attention and criticism an industry draws, the more the government should protect that industry from negative publicity or other harms. Protecting the private interests of a powerful industry, which produces the public’s food supply, against public scrutiny is not a legitimate government interest.”
He went on to say that “(The ag-gag law) gives agricultural facility owners veto power, allowing owners to decide what can and cannot be recorded, effectively turning them into state-backed censors able to silence unfavorable speech about their facilities.”
While ag-gag measures have failed in over 20 states, seven states now have ag-gag bills on the books and the ag lobby is pushing for more. So this ruling was not only a victory for anyone interested in animal welfare or freedom of speech, it also represented what could be a significant turning point for the future of the issue.
It’s a big win for sure. And hopefully the beginning of a swiftly turning tide in this debate. The Animal Legal Defense Fund deserves the credit for leading the coalition that challenged the law and won the case.
However, it’s also worth pausing to remember what the ag industry is fighting so hard to hide. Every year, 10 billion land animals suffer and die in a food production system that is systematically, horrifically cruel.
Many of the most routine practices employed by this industry would be illegal if these same acts were done by a private citizen to a cat or dog or other family pet. What happens to these animals every minute of every day is legalized animal cruelty on a massive scale. This seems to be the more fundamental “perverse logic” at play.
Not surprisingly, the public is increasingly choosing not to support this industry. As more and more people become aware of the cruelty involved, they are choosing to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diets. This is translating to a real benefit for the animals – from 2007 to 2014 nearly 400 million fewer animals were killed for food. 400 million lives saved. 400 million animals that will never have to suffer.
So, let’s celebrate this victory for transparency and accountability handed down by our legal system while we remember that our power as consumers allows us to rule in favor of the animals every day (no lawyers required).