Okay to pull bogus undercover stings on Planned Parenthood. Not okay to do legit undercover reports on farms and meatpacking plants.
Posted by: Donna
Opponents of reproductive choice made hay over anti-abortion/contraception activist Lila Rose’s dishonest “sting” operations on Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. Her operatives mostly found clinic workers responding to a possible sex trafficking operation the way they were supposed to, which was to report it to the authorities. (The one employee who violated ethical standards was fired.) Reality was no impediment to Rose distorting the videos and conservative outlets like Fox News pushing lurid reports of a supposedly scandalous sting of Planned Parenthood. Those spurious reports were used by GOP politicians to justify defunding Planned Parenthood.
Contrast that with ALEC-backed legislation being pushed in Iowa, Florida, and Minnesota:
Iowa, Florida and Minnesota are all considering bills that specifically target anyone who documents the mistreatment of animals. In Minnesota, for instance, the bill criminalizes the recording, or mere possession, of an “image or sound” of animal suffering in a sweeping list of “animal facilities” and “crop facilities.”
Behind the scenes, the supporters of these bills have financial interests in seeing them become law. The Iowa Poultry Association helped draft the Iowa bill, and Iowa State Representative Annette Sweeney, one of its proponents, is the former executive director of the Iowa Angus Association. Simpson Farms, Florida’s second biggest egg producer, helped draft the bill in that state. And Minnesota’s bill is co-sponsored by Representative Rod Hamilton — past president and current member of the Minnesota Pork Producers.
Whether these special interests like it or not, distributing video and audio footage of factory farms, animal experimentation labs, and other facilities is protected by the First Amendment. If any investigators have trespassed or destroyed property, there are already laws on the books to charge them. To the proponents of these bills, though, these videos are not free speech, nor are they petty crime. As Florida state senator Jim Norman has said of undercover investigators: “It’s almost like terrorism.”
These Big Ag business interests want to make filming the operations on farms a felony punishable by several years in jail. And they appear to have the support of many Republican legislators in that endeavor along with model legislation support from ALEC. If you don’t think cruelty to animals is a big deal, realize that some investigators will undoubtedly capture unsanitary conditions that threaten human health and unscrupulous labor practices toward workers (many of whom are undocumented) as well. There are a lot of reasons factory farm and meat processing plant owners don’t want you to know what’s going on in them. Unlike Planned Parenthood, which takes great pains to follow the rules, the farms and plants have a massive and well-funded corporate legislative machine (ALEC) behind them to make it so they can break the rules in secrecy and with impunity.
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