Efforts by Florida's secretive animal agriculture industry seeking to make it a criminal act for any individual or animal protection groups to obtain photos or videos of animal cruelty inside Florida factory farms or slaughterhouses were shot down earlier this week.
The bill targeted both whistleblowers who are often paid employees working in the factory farms and witness to acts of cruelty, as well as individuals who obtain footage of abuse by other means. The "Ag Gag" bill would have essentially made it illegal for individuals to document farm worker's illegal activity, but only the documenter would face criminal charges for their decision to take photo or video. The factory farms, where cases of neglect and abuse are rampant, would not have to answer for their actions caught on camera. But, the bill failed as Florida's legislative session came to a close.
In a statement from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) – just one of many animal protection organizations that conduct undercover investigations—senior director of farm animal protection, Paul Shapiro said, "These draconian bills to silence whistle-blowers show just how far the animal agribusiness industry is willing to go, and just how much the industry has to hide."
A 2008 HSUS investigation at Hallmark Westland slaughter plant in California led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. A recent Mercy for Animals undercover investigation revealed cows in a Texas farm being brutally beaten to death by employees with pick axes.
Similar gag bills to the one proposed in Florida are still pending in Iowa and Minnesota.
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Photo: A. Sparrow