Last month I spoke at the Animal Law Conference about “Ag Gag” laws that criminalize non-violent undercover investigations exposing animal welfare abuses. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has been out front opposing these industry-backed bills, and so I sat down with ALDF staff writer Jennifer Molidor to talk about the history of these efforts, how they impact journalists and activists, and why factory farms, laboratories, and fur farms are so afraid of public exposure.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
You describe undercover video investigations as a “window” into agricultural cruelty against animals. Why are these investigations so important?
WILL: We’ve seen, in the last couple of years, the true power of undercover investigators completely changing the national dialogue about animal welfare, factory farming, and veganism. With very few resources, and video equipment, activists are able to expose what goes on in factory farms in ways that have never been done before. Their YouTube videos and their media campaigns have reached millions of people. They have completely changed the national discussion about the proper way of treating animals in agriculture and whether or not they should be used at all, and whether people should go vegetarian and vegan.
… In some ways what these activists are showing makes Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle look tame by comparison. Because the power of this video is it brings to life things that people would never be able to see on their own. And that’s why they’re being met with such harsh oppression right now—they’ve been so effective.
And I think that the danger of these Ag-Gag bills isn’t just to the undercover investigators themselves. This bill raise questions about the protection of journalists and newsgathering; it raises serious questions about consumer safety, about animal welfare and environmental violations, and I think people need to be asking “what is it that Big Agriculture is trying to hide?”