The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is challenging Utah’s so-called “ag gag” law, which criminalizes undercover investigations of factory farms. Several states have finalized these laws, which makes it a crime to video animal abuse and cruelty while undercover. Other animal welfare groups and food safety advocates are joining CFS in challenging the law as a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Six states have these laws on the books.
Center for Food Safety attorney Cristina Stella wrote, “in the absence of effective government regulation, private, undercover investigations of the kind conducted by the Plaintiffs and outlawed by Utah’s ‘ag gag’ law fulfill the much-needed role of overseeing the safety of our food supply.” Several undercover operations have resulted in food recalls, including the Central Valley Meat recall. That facility provides beef to the National School Lunch Program. At that facility, employees were videoed torturing and suffocating downed cows. Unfortunately, many farms are exempt from government inspections.
In 2008, the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company was forced into the largest meat recall in history when employees were videotaped abusing downer cows, trying to make them walk to slaughter. Downer cows, who cannot walk unaided, are prohibited from the food supply because they may be sick with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, also known as Mad Cow disease. More than 140,000,000 pounds of beef were recalled at that time. Some of the beef had gone into the school lunch program and was eaten.
Stella said, “the government’s continued failure to prevent these illegal practices undermines consumers’ safety and their right to know how their food is produced, which prevents them from making informed decisions that adequately protect their health.” Some estimates are that 99% of the meat eaten in the U.S. comes from animal factories. You can read the brief at the CFS web site.