Home / General / Why Ag-Gag Bills Exist

Why Ag-Gag Bills Exist

Comments
/
/
/
373 Views

image1

Above: Pig waste lagoon

While Out of Sight is primarily about international production and how the global race to the bottom protects companies from accountability for their sourcing practices because consumers don’t see them, I have a chapter on food that makes the point that a lot of agriculture can’t leave the U.S. for a variety of reasons, including that some crops only grow in certain places, the cost of shipping meat around the world, freshness issues, etc. But agribusiness still tries to conceal the costs of their production. The most heavy-handed way they have tried to do this in recent years is through ag-gag bills that make it a crime to record the treatment of animals in factory farms, which has been a method animal rights activists have used to publicize the horrors of animal treatment. It’s an extremely dangerous precedent because if agribusiness can make it a crime to have evidence of what happens in their facilities, why can’t every employer do the same?

Anyway, as you might guess, the leaders behind these efforts are not nice people. One is Andy Holt, a farmer and representative in the Tennessee legislature who sponsored that state’s failed attempt to pass an ag-gag bill, a bill which I am sure will be reintroduced in some form. Why would he support such a bill? To protect himself from his own bad behavior.

Tennessee representative Andy Holt, former hog farmer and sponsor of the state’s failed ag-gag bill, created quite a stink when he dumped 800,000 gallons of pig manure into the streams and fields surrounding his hog farm. Holt’s lagoons were apparently overflowing with waste and Holt’s response was simply to dump the waste in the waters and lands nearby, with no regard for the environment or the law.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently sent a letter to Holt indicating that absent good cause it would take formal civil enforcement action against him. According to a Memphis news source, Tennessee state officials were considering taking action against Holt at the time this happened, but were “discouraged by upper management” from doing so.

Shocking that the state would fail to prosecute one of their own…. It’s examples just like this why corporations prefer state-level regulation to federal. The states are just easier to buy off and control.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • brad

    On a very random, lighter note, EL’s link concludes with the following, in the text of the story;

    For more information, including delicious vegan recipes, click here.

    I chose not to.

  • Anna in PDX

    I just picked up the book from Powell’s today. Looking forward to reading it and especially the chapter on food.

  • ringtail

    When I’ve talked about this with other ag people, it never seems to occur to them that if they’re doing things that they might be embarrassed to have in public, doing those things might be the actual problem.

    • Far easier to just criminalize knowledge.

      • Nobdy

        Don’t be silly, Erik. You’re perfectly entitled to KNOW the horrors going on at these farms. You’re just not allowed to SAY anything about it.

        This, of course, seems like a violation of the first amendment, so I propose a constitution gag bill to prevent people from talking about their rights under the first amendment to solve that little problem. Who’s with me?

  • nocomment

    Ahh, red lagoon bet it smells as good as it looks.

    • The Temporary Name

      Not going back there soon
      Since I spent that June
      On red lagoon…

  • Vance Maverick

    So that’s how they make ketchup.

    • efgoldman

      So that’s how they make ketchup sciracha.

      FTFY.

  • NewHavenGuy

    Note also the recent 17th Amendment noise on the right. Repealing it and letting state legislatures elect Senators again will be a mainstream position before long.

    • efgoldman

      Repealing it and letting state legislatures elect Senators again will be a mainstream position before long.

      Naah. Repeal is pretty much the same long, hard process as adoption. Wouldn’t even get the required votes in Congress.

      • Nobdy

        That’s not how the mainstream media will frame it.

        “Republicans refuse to accept the medicaid expansion. Democrats won’t repeal the 17th amendment. Why can’t these partisan politicians get together and pass some legislation? BOTH SIDES DO IT!”

    • McAllen

      So I don’t know the arguments and I don’t care to go the the websites where I’d be able to find them. Why do conservatives hate direct election of senators so much? Is it just naked authoritarianism?

      • Nobdy

        The further removed from direct democracy something is the easier it is to manipulate. It’s easier to take control of a statehouse through gerrymandering and targeted spending than to get a whole state to vote the way you want. You’ll notice conservatives have traditionally controlled more state legislatures than they have senate seats (proportionally.)

        Plus you can suppress turnout because there are people who would come out to vote for senator who won’t if it’s just a state election.

      • efgoldman

        Why do conservatives hate direct election of senators so much? Is it just naked authoritarianism?

        That, and as we’ve seen, it’s much easier (if not necessarily cheaper) to buy a state legislature and governor than to bribe a whole state’s worth of voters.

        ETA: And Nobdy clicked submit just before I did.

      • Linnaeus

        The ideological justifications are a combination of federalism arguments (direct election takes away power from the states) and elitism masquerading as reverence for the Senate as a body that should be removed from popular will Just As The Founders Intended.

        Practically, as Nobdy and efgoldman point out, if you can get control of a state legislature, then through gerrymandering and (where needed) voter suppression, you can lock in your party’s control of a Senate seat for years to come. Or create gridlock if the partisan composition of the state legislature is divided – here in Washington, the Democrats control the state House, but the Republicans control the state Senate, which means that were there a Senate election this year, we might not be able to fill the seat under the pre-17th Amendment method.

      • njorl

        It costs about $10,000 just to get a senator to listen to your bribe offer. For the cost of bribing one senator on one issue, you could bribe a state legislature to pick two who would do your bidding on every issue.

    • Because Freedom. You can’t let obnoxious voters interfere with Freedom of States.

  • efgoldman

    One is Andy Holt, a farmer and representative in the Tennessee legislature who sponsored that state’s failed attempt to pass an ag-gag bill

    Yeah, without all the noise about it that we hear from Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, or North Carolina, Tennessee has quietly moved to the front of the crazy train.

    • Nobdy

      I feel like Tennessee has ALWAYS been crazy conservative. We expect this crud from the deep south. We expect better from Wisconsin.

      • efgoldman

        We expect better from Wisconsin.

        Not any more.

        • Linnaeus

          Eh, I still do. But I’m hopeful that way.

  • Nobdy

    Unlike most right wing bad laws ag gag bills don’t even come with a patina of respectability, except the generic “What’s good for business is good for everyone” hogwash.

    Most conservative legislation at least TRIES to look like it’s in the public interest. Ag gag bills? They don’t even really bother to try.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      well, no. In-state they are sold as *protecting* the public interest, because so much of the state economy- not to mention the state republican party- is built on industrial agriculture

      the Farm Bureau (an organization about which it is difficult for me to speak of without beginning to foam at the mouth) is behind most of the ag-gag stuff

      • Nobdy

        “We’re protecting the economy by helping our biggest employers commit unnecessary crimes and violations” isn’t a GREAT pitch. I’d file that under “What’s good for business is good for everyone.”

        Why if we exposed the dangers of farm pollution then those workers who get sick from it wouldn’t even HAVE jobs to make them sick in the first place!

        • efgoldman

          Why if we exposed the dangers of farm pollution then those workers who get sick from it wouldn’t even HAVE jobs to make them sick in the first place!

          Yeah, but aren’t they all those little dark people that speak Spanish and that we’re doing our damndest to keep out of the country, anyway? Hell, they’re as disposable as the pigs. Even more, because the pigs at least yield some profit.

  • Breadbaker

    Funny how folks with absolutist views of the Second Amendment (which the text cannot support) and the religious freedom clause (which the existence of the establishment clause cannot support) are all absolute trimmers where freedom of the press (which is absolute in the First Amendment and similar in most state constitutions) is concerned. Here’s the relevant part of the Tennessee constitution: “The free communication of thoughts and opinions, is one of the invaluable rights of man and every citizen may freely speak, write, and print on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.” Exactly how can an ag gag law pass muster under that language?

  • NC just passed a similar law, and even over the right wing Governor’s veto. It might be noted that in NC for many decades it was argued that smoking was actually good for you.

  • Pingback: In Sight - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

It is main inner container footer text