Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Latest Affront to Decency - Ag-Gag Laws

Big Agra has been plagued by whistleblowers exposing industrial agriculture's excesses such as animal cruelty, food safety or environmental degradation.   Now Big Agra in the U.S. is fighting back with what are called Ag-Gag laws.   These target those who investigate and expose Big Agra's excesses and brand their work "acts of terrorism."

That's right, terrorism.   And you thought that was about some guy named bin Laden.   Sheesh.

And who better to write the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, designed to protect Big Ag and Big Energy, than the lawyers on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force at the corporate-funded and infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

New Hampshire, Wyoming and Nebraska are the latest states to introduce Ag-Gag laws aimed at preventing employees, journalists or activists from exposing illegal or unethical practices on factory farms. Lawmakers in 10 other states introduced similar bills in 2011-2012.  The laws passed in three of those states: Missouri, Iowa and Utah.  But consumer and animal-welfare activists prevented the laws from passing in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.

In all, six states now have Ag-Gag laws, including North Dakota, Montana and Kansas, all of which passed the laws in 1990-1991, before the term “Ag-Gag” was coined.

Today’s ALEC-inspired bills take direct aim at anyone who tries to expose horrific acts of animal cruelty, dangerous animal-handling practices that might lead to food safety issues, or blatant disregard for environmental laws designed to protect waterways from animal waste runoff. In the past, most of those exposes have resulted from undercover investigations of exactly the type Big Ag wants to make illegal.

Ag-Gag is best seen for what it means in our post-democratic world, as the merger of corporatism and political authoritarianism.  This is fascism writ large.  Do you think Canada couldn't wind up with something quite similar to safeguard the secrecy of the pipelines that Harper and Alberta want to run across British Columbia?   They've already branded pipeline critics as "extremists" which connotes danger and the spectre of violence.   How huge a leap would it be to label anyone getting too close to that pipeline and its infrastructure a "terrorist"?

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