“Ag gag” debate heats up

First country crooner Carrie Underwood jumped on the anti “ag gag” bandwagon and now Ellen DeGeneres has added her celebrity status to the cause against the proposed “Tennessee anti-whistleblower” bill via her daytime talk show. The bill has passed the Tennessee House and Senate and now awaits a signature from Governor Bill Haslam.

To amp up the debate, DeGeneres had Wayne Pacelle from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on the April 24 show and vowed to donate $25,000 to HSUS if 25,000 people share the interview online.

In his blog, Pacelle had this to say about the experience on the show:

“In the interview, I called on concerned citizens, especially Tennesseans, to contact Governor Haslam to veto this legislation. But I also asked everyone to get engaged in our fight to protect our rights and to understand what’s happening with the industrialization of animal agriculture…

“At the end of the interview, Ellen surprised me by letting me know that if 25,000 people share the interview she conducted with me, then the HSUS will receive a $25,000 donation. I love the idea of more people seeing the interview and getting this additional support so we can redouble our efforts to expose cruelty and abuse.”

If the Tennessee law passes, it would be the seventh state to adopt some version of an “ag gag” law. The Tennessee bill requires anyone taking photographs or shooting video of animal abuse to turn unedited copies over to law.

The “ag gag” bills passed or proposed around the country either require anyone who videotapes, photographs or records incidents of animal cruelty to turn over the evidence to authorities or prohibit the making of undercover videos, photographs and sound recordings on farms. The already passed Iowa law (HF 589) makes it illegal for investigative journalists and activists to take jobs at animal facilities for the purpose of recording undercover footage.

There are obvious reasons for those in agriculture being supportive of cracking down on crackpots with ill intent and cameras traipsing through your farm. These laws clearly have good intentions for the protection of farmers, farm employees and the farm animals themselves.

But, it can also be argued that, in a time when there is unprecedented suspicion of agriculture, it is simply not good PR to support and encourage laws that have the perception (though not the reality) of reducing transparency of the production of food. These laws drum up a debate that provides an ideal platform for animal welfare activists to make a powerful argument for their cause against agriculture.

What do you think? Do the benefits of the laws outweigh the PR damage?

Either way, I am pretty sure we’d all be better off by gagging a few celebrities.

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  1. Hi, I just wanted to say I received the Country Journal today and the first thing I read was the “ag gag” law and it was right on target. I remember our neighbors growing lots of apples back a few years ago, and Meryl Streep got on the bandwagon about a certain pesticide that was harmful to people and it almost put the apple growers out of business, and she only did the talking because she is a celebrity, I am sure she didn’t understand about saving the apple crop, as had been done for years with no problem. So, I was glad to ready this article, Matt is so correct on this, as people listen to a celebrity no matter what they know about the facts of farming.

    • Thanks. You bring up the important point that, not only do these celebrities not know what they are talking about, they also have no grasp of the consequences of what they say.

  2. I think you’re either naive or dishonest. Animal abuse is regularly being uncovered at farms. If there’s nothing to hide, why try to gag anybody?

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