My Turn: Ag-gag laws hide animal cruelty | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Ag-gag laws hide animal cruelty

John Merryfield

This past April, the California Bill AB-343, known as the ag-gag bill, which was scheduled for a vote by the California State Assembly, was withdrawn from consideration. This ag-gag bill would have made it illegal to video tape animal cruelty on factory farms and in slaughterhouses.

In recent years, video evidence obtained by animal welfare investigators have uncovered shocking and widespread animal abuse. Thus, the industrial animal industry would want to make video taping of the animal cruelty a crime, not the cruelty itself.

The ag-gag laws, still in place in some states other than California, are a desperate move by the industrial animal industry to keep the everyday violence against animals and work-place conditions for workers from the public view. This underscores how important concealment is to their continued operations and product.

Over the last 10 years, countless video evidence obtained by investigators shows slaughter plant workers displaying complete disregard for the pain and misery they inflicted as they repeatedly attempted to force "downed" animals onto their feet and into the human food chain.

Workers are seen kicking cows, ramming them with the blades of a forklift, jabbing them in the eyes, and even torturing them with a hose and water in attempts to force sick or injured animals to walk to slaughter.

Last year, a video showed workers at an Iowa egg hatchery tossing male chicks into a grinder. Industry groups said such instantaneous euthanasia was a common practice because male chicks can't lay eggs or be raised quickly enough to be sold for meat.

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And recently, Federal workers closed a California slaughterhouse after a video showed terrible abuse of dairy cows that were electrocuted and even shot multiple times before they were slaughtered at the Central Valley Meat Co., according to the USDA.

Undercover investigations at factory farms and slaughter plants have lead to some of the largest meat recalls in our nation's history. They have also helped to inform public policy, leading to the elimination of the sale and production of foie gras in California, as well as motivating many food producers to phase out gestation crates (for pigs), battery cages (for chickens), and veal crates (for baby cows), all due to their inherent cruelty.

A majority of people do not support animal cruelty and desire transparency in the food system. Some people "want to believe" that those animals in the food chain are treated well, and perhaps those same people only buy organic or free range products.

Unfortunately, slaughterhouses do not discriminate, and some of these undercover investigations involved animals from "family farms," such as the recent case of abuse at the Central Valley Meat Co.

When the fictional narrative the animal agri-business attempts to sell us doesn't meet reality, we are obligated to act on behalf of our compassionate nature to choose a better world. The ag-gag laws are an indiscriminate assault on our fundamental values of kindness and freedom. They work against animal welfare, worker rights, food safety and ultimately the quality of democratic deliberation in the United States.

John Merryfield is a Kings Beach resident.