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Cramped cows and abused chickens are at risk of losing a powerful ally: filmmakers. A new bill up for House ruling in Iowa today would make whistle-blowing documentarians like Robert Kenner of "Food, Inc." fame criminals, reports the Iowa Independent. And similar action is on the table in Florida.
Any undercover videotaping or photographing of livestock or farm operations would be a classified aggravated misdemeanor calling for two years in prison and a penalty fine of up to $6,250; subsequent offenses would be class D felonies (five years and up to $7,500 in penalties). Tough break for journalism.
The risky work of undercover reporters has often led to legislation or at least further investigation of unjust acts, namely in the case of animal rights violations. We've all seen the videos -- cramped pigs with rail wounds; crippled chickens living in dark, feces-ridden barns. Heck, some even turned us vegetarian, or led us to greener (ahem, more humane) pastures. But that'd all be cutting room floor dust if this law were enacted mere years ago, or before YouTube turned it all insta-viral.
In 2008, PETA uncovered botched slaughters that prompted investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The operation was found to be repeat offenders of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and violations occurred under the watch of federal inspectors, notes the Iowa Independent. Last April, a video of two Iowa egg producers was released two weeks before the mass recall of 500 million eggs due to Salmonella outbreak. The footage was even used by the USDA.
So why outlaw it? Mega agribusinesses are pushing, naturally. (Who wants bad publicity?) It's the same kind of thinking that landed Oprah in court for libel after she spoke about mad cow disease on her talk show, and it'll make it that much harder for future injustices to surface. Those in the petitioning spirit can enter their signatures on Change.org.
- To find where the good beef is, read our post on certification labels for humane operations.