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Factory Farming and “Ag-Gag” Bills

Submitted by Meredith Ayan, SPCAI Staff

All of my life, I’ve never been much of a carnivore, always gravitating toward vegetables. Well before I could have understood the realities of factory farming I just knew I didn’t want to eat animals. In fifth grade, I proudly announced to my parents that I wouldn’t eat “anything that had a face”. Luckily, I had a caring mother who would make a second vegetarian meal for me almost nightly, but it hasn’t stopped my father from offering me pork chops, steak or lamb still to this day, every chance he gets.

Not everyone shares my sentiments, and I understand that. The light that has been shed on industrial farming – the mass production of livestock and crops – in recent years has shown that nothing about these operations even resembles that of a traditional farm. These large-scale production plants are not even recognized as farms anymore and have been classified by the government as “Animal Feeding Operations”.

Animal activists have gone undercover and posed as factory workers to expose the horrors of these factories. The video footage alone is enough to make you swear you’ll go vegan, cold turkey. (Pun intended). Rolling Stone published an article in December 2013 that brought the issue to the mainstream media, no longer just the plight of “crazy animal people”. The article describes the horrid conditions, cruel torture and employment of animal abusers in these facilities. This goes beyond the issue of animal abuse to a concern of public health and safety. All for the pursuit of “cheap meat”.

“Ag-Gag” laws as they are commonly known, criminalize the act of interfering with an “animal enterprise”; which means that these undercover operations can no longer exist. At worst, it feels like censorship and a violation of citizens’ first amendment rights. At best, it sweeps the problem of animal cruelty under the rug. Nothing will be accomplished if we look the other way. Animal abuse is a very real problem in this industry, and without information, consumers cannot make informed decisions.

So what can we do? 1. Contact your local government and let them know you oppose these measures. 2. Buy local. By supporting local farms for your vegetable or meat purchases, you have more knowledge about where your food is coming from. 3. Cut back. Try to limit your intake of meat to one or two nights per week. With a little research and creative thinking you can make protein-packed, meat-free meals. The effect these small changes will have will add up if we all do our part to be conscious consumers!