One of the most pernicious right-wing goals, and I know the competition for this title is really stiff, are the so-called ag-gag bills agribusiness are pushing in the states. These bills would make it illegal to record evidence of what happens inside food factories, such as slaughterhouses. Those filming or recording audio or having this material and not turning it over to the police could be punished with fines or even prison time.
I can’t say how pernicious this is. It is a response to animal rights activists getting jobs in slaughterhouses and then secretly recording what is going on in order to publicize how horrible the animals are treated. They have recorded animals being beaten, sexually abused, thrown around, and otherwise tortured. Slaughterhouses and factory farms also treat workers poorly. They are underpaid, understaffed, and overworked. It’s hardly surprising then that they would take this out on the poor animals. If these bills become law, what is the rationale then for being allowed to record any conditions going on inside of any factory. In other words, this is central to my thesis in Out of Sight. If companies can keep all knowledge of working conditions out of the public’s eye by making such knowledge a crime, they can oppress workers all the more. That is their open goal. There’s no good reason for these laws to stay just within agribusiness. It’s quite scary.
Mostly, these laws have been defeated. But not everywhere and the fight continues. One of these laws passed in Idaho. But a federal judge struck it down last year. Now activists are hoping to build on this decision to go after a similar law passed in what has recently become the sewer of American politics, North Carolina:
There’s been a particularly strong amount of venom for the North Carolina law, which required an override of a gubernatorial veto to get on the books. The fears come from the law’s breadth. It outlaws any employee from recording in a “non-public” area of any workplace, not just a farm. If the employee disseminates any collected footage, that’d be considered a violation of loyalty, and the employee could be sued for civil damages.
Many animal rights activists seek employment at the farms and ranches they investigate to gain access.
North Carolina’s law went into effect Jan. 1, 2016, and the coalition didn’t wait long to challenge it. Humane Society of the U.S. lobbyist Matthew Dominguez predicted the move.
Defeating this is a very, very important issue. The courts so far have been favorable. Were this to make it to the Supreme Court, given the current makeup, I don’t really feel all that confident in the result.
Speaking of Out of Sight, remember that Shakezula is moderating a discussion of the first two chapters of the book with me on January 26 at 2 p.m. Read the book and ask me some questions!!!