Through undercover investigations, animal protectionists have revealed extreme cruelty in livestock practices across several years, states, and sectors.
In response, agriculture interests claim that animal protectionists have exploited the cruelty and the animals involved to gain filmed footage with which to raise funds for their organizations and turn the public away from meat eating.
The result of this conflict is a flurry of so-called “ag-gag” bills in state legislatures. These bills, which are initiated by the agriculture groups, are designed to impede the ability of undercover investigators to gather the footage needed to expose animal cruelty as it is taking place.
Animal protectionists respond to the threat these bills pose with megaphones and soapboxes. We create hysteria, insult the bill sponsors, and call the press. Then we find ourselves in a big public debate about the bill's language. We have to explain why it sometimes takes months to expose the cruelty. We have to explain why reporting the cruelty ends the investigation. We have to explain that the ends justify the means.
There's an old rule in politics: “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”
Even when the bills fail, this fight is expensive, distracting, and draining--which one might argue is the agriculture interests’ goal.
It’s time we stopped taking the bait and, instead, viewed ag-gag as an invitation to solve the problem of criminal animal cruelty in agriculture.
Ag-gag is an easy issue on which to find common ground. The desired result of all reasonable parties is that inside the industry, there is no cruelty to film. We need to reframe every ag-gag conversation into one about systematically reducing criminal animal cruelty in agriculture operations so that there is no cruelty to film. We should be calmly asking elected officials to look at the evidence of the problem and create working groups that study the issue and address it at its roots. We should be inviting ag-gag bill sponsors to join our no cruelty to film efforts, and ask them to publicly explain why if they refuse.
Colorado Voters for Animals has created the No Cruelty to Film Pledge to get this critical conversation started. It’s a chance for animal protectionists, agriculturists, and legislators alike to agree to a simple mission and commit to taking steps to get there. We’re confident that the agriculture industry is teeming with good people who want to protect their heritage and livelihoods by cleaning up problems, not hiding them. And as animal protectionists, we want the cruelty to stop yesterday. We hope you will sign the pledge right away, so we don’t waste one more second on distractions without solutions.