I remember the first time I watched Food, Inc: grisly images of crowded chickens in giant warehouses, pigs packed into cages they couldn’t turn around in. These images have become almost cliched in the past few years as the food system has moved into the limelight. But who doesn’t remember the first time they saw a video like those in Food, Inc. and similar exposes? For many of us, these documentaries represented the first time we took a step back and wondered, where is my food coming from, and am I okay with it?
Unfortunately, Big Ag has noticed this tendency; transparency is not in the interests of factory farms, and giant meat companies know this. This is why, in recent years, bills dubbed ‘ag-gags’ have been passed in states such as South Carolina, North Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, Iowa, and more. These bills have outlawed onsite photography and research at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) when such activities could hurt the business. These bills greatly discourage the activism that has helped shed light on the US’s meat production industry.
Some people are fighting these ag-gags. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory recently vetoed a bill designed to discourage undercover investigations of factory farms, despite the fact that the bill passed with strong support from both houses of the state legislature. But shortly after McCrory’s decision, the North Carolina legislature overrode the veto.
This bill will be detrimental to recent progress in meat production transparency–it allows businesses to sue employees conducting undercover research on their property. As McCrory stated, the bill creates “an environment that discourages [employees] from reporting illegal activities.”
We applaud McCrory and others who are fighting for food transparency–unfortunately in this case, it appears that big business has trumped public interest.