Jonathan Reynolds on 2/06/2012 10:51:00 AM
has decided to drop a provision which would have made it a crime to
photograph or videotape agricultural facilities without the owner's consent.
The decision to kill the "ag gag" proposal represents a small victory
for animal welfare activists, who are battling not only legislation of a
similar nature in other states such as Iowa, Minnesota, and New York, but
also increased pressure from the federal government. Documents issued by the
FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in 2003 and obtained through a Freedom of
Information Act request by activist Ryan Shapiro show the FBI advising that
activists who video tape at farms and/or rescue animals are in violation of
terrorism statutes via the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
these investigations don't even break state laws," says Rachel Meerpol, an
attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. "It's possible to gain
undercover footage lawfully. The way the FBI is interpreting this law would
allow for prosecution of completely lawful, valuable advocacy efforts as an
act of terrorism. It's an issue of public safety as well as animal cruelty.
It's such a waste of time and resources for the FBI to be spending money
investigating folks involved in this work."
legislative action against animal welfare activists has also become more
widespread. In 2011, Justice for Animals made public the results of a
two-year undercover investigation of 30 different farms in Finland. Though
their footage revealed horrifying images and video footage of pigs with open
sores crammed into confined dirty spaces, no action was taken against the
farmers; instead, the investigators were charged with ten cases of
disturbing the peace, and 12 cases of aggravated defamation (the charges
were eventually dropped). During the same year, the European Union's
criminal intelligence agency, EUROPOL, released their annual "2011 EU
Terrorism and Situation Trend Report" (PDF). In it, the authors express
concern that "some members of animal rights, anarchist and environmental
extremist groups are moving towards a shared ideology." The report accuses
animal welfare activists of "using disinformation methods to discredit their
targets and weaken their public acceptance" through "images of sick and
abused animals" which are "embedded in video footage and made public."
Undercover footage has been utilized dozens of times in the past to
raise public awareness about ongoing animal abuse or unsanitary conditions
(sometimes both), making it a vital tool for those seeking changes in the
meat industry, and conversely, a prime target for destruction by those
valuing the status quo. If legislators are able to label those who expose
institutionalized animal cruelty as "terrorists," which social movements
might be targeted next? Such a dangerous precedent must be stopped before it
is allowed to potentially spiral out of control.
government to delay, bungle and kill every worthwhile social
undertake; yet with incredible speed and efficiency--shred
the Bill of
Rights and the Constitution.