An animal rights investigator details how he has spent over a decade secretly filming animal abuse and why that work is now imperiled by a wave of laws sweeping the country. Speaking on the condition we conceal his identity, "Pete" has secretly captured animal abuse on farms and slaughterhouses after applying to work at the location. He has released video footage to law enforcement and activist groups such as Mercy for Animals, helping spark national outcry and charges against the abusers. His investigations and footage have led to at least 15 criminal cases and have been used in several documentaries. But now Pete's work is under threat. A dozen or so state legislatures have introduced bills that target people who covertly expose farm animal abuse. Nicknamed "ag-gag" laws, they would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms or apply for a job at one without disclosing affiliations with animal rights groups. They also require activists to hand over undercover videos within 24 hours, preventing them from amassing a trove of material and publicizing their findings on their own. [includes rush transcript]
TranscriptThis is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AARON MATE: In recent years, activists and investigators have gone undercover to reveal shocking cases of animal cruelty at some of the nation's largest plants and farms. In many cases, they have made secret videos of the abuses, leading to prosecutions, closures, recalls and vows from the offenders to change their practices. In 2008, this undercover investigation by the Humane Society exposed wrongdoing by a California meat processor. A warning to our viewers, some of the images are very graphic.
HUMANE SOCIETY INVESTIGATION: An investigation by the Humane Society of the United States uncovers abuse of downed dairy cows, cows too sick or too injured to stand, at a California slaughterhouse. What's more, the meat is being served to children through the National School Lunch Program.
AARON MATE: That undercover investigation by the Humane Society resulted in the largest meat recall in U.S. history. In the last two years, activists have also caught on camera employees of a Tyson Foods supplier in Wyoming flinging piglets into the air, workers at Bettencourt Dairies in Idaho shocking cows, and the searing of beaks off of young chicks at Sparboe Farms in Iowa. In the case of Tyson and Bettencourt, the employees were charged with cruelty to animals. In the case of Sparboe Farms, the company lost one of its biggest customers: the fast food giant McDonald's.
AMY GOODMAN: But the videos have also sparked a reaction in the oppose direction: criminalizing those who blow the whistle. A front-page article in The New York Times this weekend noted that a dozen or so state legislatures have introduced bills that target people who covertly expose farm animal abuse. These so-called "ag-gag" bills, as they're known, make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms or apply for a job at one without disclosing affiliations with animal rights groups. They also require activists to hand over undercover videos immediately, preventing them from publicizing findings and sparking public outcry or documenting trends.
Five states already have ag-gag laws in place. North Carolina has just become the latest state to consider such a law, joining a list that includes Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont. Many of these bills have been introduced with the backing of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a mechanism for corporate lobbyists to help write state laws.