April 26, 2011 [NY Times Editorial]
Hiding the Truth About Factory Farms
A supermarket shopper buying hamburger, eggs or milk has every reason, and every right, to wonder how they were produced. The answer, in industrial agriculture, is 'behind closed doors,' and that's how the industry wants to keep it. In at least three states - Iowa, Florida, and Minnesota - legislation is moving ahead that would make undercover investigations in factory farms, especially filming and photography, a crime. The legislation has only one purpose: to hide factory-farming conditions from a public that is beginning to think seriously about animal rights and the way food is produced.
These bills share common features. Their definition of agriculture is overly broad; they include puppy mills, for instance. They treat undercover investigators and whistle-blowers as if they were 'agro-terrorists,' determined to harm livestock or damage facilities. They would criminalize reporting on crop production as well. And they are supported by the big guns of industrial agriculture: Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, the associations that represent pork producers, dairy farmers and cattlemen, as well as poultry, soybean, and corn growers.
Exposing the workings of the livestock industry has been an undercover activity since Upton Sinclair's day. Nearly every major improvement in the welfare of agricultural animals, as well as some notable improvements in food safety, has come about because someone exposed the conditions in which they live and die. Factory farming confines animals in highly crowded, unnatural and often unsanitary conditions. We need to know more about what goes on behind those closed doors, not less.