Iowa’s recent passage of the nation’s first “ag-gag” bill blatantly tells Americans that their free speech rights and food safety protections mean little in the face of the agricultural industry’s right to make hundreds of billions of dollars under a shroud of secrecy.
Sometimes I feel like if the “Big One” hit right at the San Andreas Fault and completely separated California from the rest of the country it wouldn’t be much of a tragedy. Actually, it would be the best thing that could happen to us.
Iowa would be part of another continent, unable to poison the image of the free-speech-loving nation we like to call America.
OK, so we know the saturation of corporate interests into our government has become almost standard, but at least most of the time the politicians and their corporate sponsors make some kind of attempt to veil their true motivation.
Iowa’s passing of the first “ag-gag” bill in the nation does more than just set a dangerous precedent for food safety, whistleblowers, animal rights and free speech, it sets the precedent that politicians no longer need to hide the fact that they are protecting corporate interests over the safety, health and good of society.
This law makes it illegal for anyone to gain employment at any agricultural facility under false pretenses – meaning that if you really work for an animal rights or food safety organization and try to get a job at a facility producing plants or animals with the intent to video tape illegal or objectionable material, you could be sentenced to a year in jail.
The original bill was looking to make all documenting with photos or video illegal, as well as make the punishment up to 10 years in prison, but lawmakers were forced to make concessions in order to ensure the bill would pass.
So, would a police officer investigating illegal drug activity at one of these plants be subject to fines and jail time? What would happen if, while doing his investigation, he accidentally video tapes people peeing on the meat?
The whole thing is beyond comprehension. Does not having an ocean coastline really affect people’s sensibilities? They say vitamin-D makes you happy. Maybe a little bikini-watching is good for the soul. It just motivates me to eat a salad.
But in all seriousness, the law is a joke. What makes a place growing food exempt from oversight? Why would it be legal for someone to go undercover at McDonald’s to expose unsafe food handling but not at the place where the food is grown, or killed?
Iowa State Sen. Joe Seng, sponsor of the bill, says “I think the bill that we passed is mainly for protection of an industry that is dedicated to actually feeding the world in the next 25 years,” in an interview with Kai Ryssdal, host and senior editor of Marketplace.
Wait… shouldn’t we be protecting the people we’re feeding, not the industry making hundreds of billions of dollars off us?
People who have chosen to educate themselves on topics that matter to humankind, animals and the environment know how this statement could only be true in an afterlife designed exclusively to reward ravenous billionaire carnivores.
David Pimentel, professor of ecology in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences reported in 1997 that “Each year an estimated 41 million tons of plant protein is fed to U.S. livestock to produce an estimated 7 million tons of animal protein for human consumption.”
He added that the United States could feed 800 million people if the grain fed to livestock were fed directly to humans.
So sorry Sen. Seng, your statement is banking on the ignorance of your population, which, with the passage of this bill, proves to be the majority in Iowa.
According to a meat advocacy group, Meatami, in 2009, the meat and poultry industry racked up a cool $154.8 billion in sales. With this much money on the line, it’s no wonder the industry has politicians – especially in agriculture-rich states like Iowa – on all fours asking for more.
So what’s a vegetarian, free-speech-loving, eco-conscious, compassionate girl to do? Number one action to take against the industry, the politicians it owns and the State of Iowa for passing such a fascist law is to stop lining their pockets by buying their bloody meat, dairy and eggs.
Second law of Fight Club is… wait… sorry, second law of economic combat is: don’t buy their products!
Index and Further Reading:
Meatami – meat advocacy group
Marketplace – Public Radio show (Interview with Sen. Seng)
Cornell University, Science News press release on livestock research