I think that the “Ag Gag” laws are not a good idea for a number of reasons related generally to the suppression and chilling of speech. But to listen to the large animal groups, one would think that the “Ag Gag” laws are a death knell for the animal movement. That’s just wrong.
We don’t need more footage from factory farms. There is already more than enough. For the most part, the objection to these laws concerns the fact that large animal groups need a steady stream of “exposés” so that they can continue to promote the idea that there are “responsible” farms and “irresponsible” farms, “abusive” treatment” and “non-abusive” treatment. The animal groups get footage of some farm employees doing something hideous; they have a big campaign; the factory farm does a mea culpa or gets a wrist slapping; the animal groups declare “victory” and proclaim that the “abusive” behavior has been stopped. Even if the farm or abattoir is sanctioned heavily, or closes, the demand is picked up by another facility. The public is reassured that the animal groups are ensuring that animals are being treated “humanely” and keeps demanding animal products.
It’s a win-win. The animal groups get praise and, more important, donations; the public is reassured and feels better about consuming animal products.
Only the animals, who continue to be tortured in the most “humane” situations, lose.
We need to get people thinking differently about animal ethics. We need to focus people away from the issue of treatment–and away from the idea that there is “abusive” treatment and “non-abusive” treatment–and toward the idea that we cannot morally justify use. Period. We need to get people to see that the moral idea that they and just about everyone else already accept–that animal suffering and death must be “necessary” and that pleasure, amusement, or convenience cannot suffice as “necessary”–leads to the conclusion that we cannot justify using animals and that our recognition that animals have moral status means that we cannot eat flesh, dairy, or eggs, even if they have a “happy” exploitation label that is praised or endorsed by one or more of the large animal groups.
I plan to write at greater length about this in the future.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.
Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University
©2013 Gary L. Francione