Associated Press on Iowa’s Anti-Undercover Legislation

March 14, 2011

New Associated Press coverage of Iowa’s effort to criminalize undercover investigations at factory farms and slaughterhouses.

Legislators and farming groups respond that they’re only trying to prevent people from fraudulently seeking jobs in order to shoot videos that may give an unfair perspective on livestock operations.

How is this job-seeking fraudulent? While employed, these investigators have to do the very same tasks as any other employee, and they would be fired if they failed to perform adequately. And if the farm in question had no grossly apparent cruelties, there would be nothing at all that could embarrass the producer.

Rather than videotape and publicize abuse, supporters of the Iowa measure said people should report wrongs they see and work through proper channels to prevent them.

So on the one hand the lawmakers want to keep cruelty investigators out of farms, yet on the other hand they’re saying people should report cruelties. How is that supposed to work?

The article quotes Tom Shipley of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association:

We believe this can help prosecute those people who, while they claim to have animals’ interests at heart, don’t really follow through and report the animal abuse — if in fact there actually is anything — immediately like they’re required to. They hang on to that information for publicity purposes.

Such a disingenuous argument. These investigations are always reported to law enforcement. Moreover, every one of these investigations is a result of a culture of cruelty that exists at the facility, where unconscionable acts occur under the noses of employees and management alike. And the only way that a given cruelty can’t be dismissed as an isolated incident is if there’s an investigator on the scene who is documenting a stream of interlocking cruelties.

And it’s the ability to document these cruelties that Iowa lawmakers are seeking to take away, so that industry can continue lying to the public about its standards of animal care.

The eminently quotable Paul Shapiro, who runs HSUS factory farm campaign, sums it up beautifully:

[Iowa’s proposed bill] is a pretty novel concept and it’s one that’s intended to basically keep animal cruelty problems secret on factory farms. What’s needed is reform of these factory farms that will prevent cruelty to animals. What’s not needed is to make factory farming cruelties more secretive.

Happily, the piece gives the last word to the Jeff Kerr, the general counsel for PETA:

They’re trying to criminalize someone being an eye witness to a crime. The people who do the very difficult job of documenting that criminal conduct should be applauded.

One final point: how is Iowa going to prosecute somebody who’s amassed extensive video evidence of animal cruelty? How would the public respond to this prosecution, and how much more attention would the investigation consequently get? Industry and lawmakers haven’t thought this through. Link.

Previous post:

Next post: