Ag-gag laws hide those with something to hide

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If some states want to ban undercover video within the walls of factory farms, then replace it with something better. If abusers don’t want to be subjected to cameras operated by animal-welfare activists, then let’s put the cameras in the hands of inspectors – with a live feed – so that we can all see the results.

If there is nothing to hide, then let us all see the view from inside factory farms, on days when they don’t know the video inspection is coming. Let’s allow inspectors to go undercover to catch cases when no one thinks anyone will be watching.

What we’re hearing now – from elected officials and industry insiders – are attempts to hide these practices from the public’s view. This comes at a time when the welfare of the animals and the welfare of human health depends on a full exposure of sunlight.

The LA Times editorial board wrote this week about another attempt to gag those who want to expose any abuses on factory farms in California. The bill there would require anyone who records evidence of abuse turn that video or audio or photographs over to authorities within 48 hours.

What this really does is shut down any long-term collection of evidence.


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HSUS: Nine employees at Wyoming factory farm charged with animal cruelty

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The Humane Society of the US is reporting nine employees at Wyoming Premium Farms, including the assistant manager, are facing counts of animal cruelty.

It has happened again and we don’t know just how widespread this level of cruelty on factory farms across the board really is. I suspect we are seeing the tip of a terrible iceberg. Reportedly, the Wyoming Livestock Board and the Platte County Attorney’s Office have filed the charges.

I found the news on along with a link to the undercover video. Warning: the images are graphic.

Most likely, if the accused are found guilty, they will be handed very light sentences. Until our criminal justice system understands the term “justice,” the progress will be slow in terms of defeating animal cruelty once and for all.


Undercover investigation uncovers abuse at pet-breeding facility

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There can a dark underbelly to the pet-breeding trade. Consumers are taking an awful risks when they purchase any animal from a store. They are not aware of where that animal came from, and like dogs, they very well might have parents who are suffering every day back at the mill.

PETA reports it captured this undercover video from a mill in California:

WARNING – Some of the images are very graphic.

Pack Topics: Factory farming and undercover video

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I found an interesting opinion piece by Baylen Linnekin on the website concerning the topic of undercover video on factory farms. (I know very little about this website and did not take the time to find out more about its leanings.)

The editorial seems balanced, noting the conflict between property rights and privacy on one side and the need to expose abuse – for the benefit of human health and animal welfare – on the other side.

The Central Valley Meat slaughterhouse case and recent release of an undercover video has prompted more discussion on this issue. The plant was shut down but is back open, just days later.

Several states are outlawing undercover video by animal-welfare groups. I understand the arguments concerning privacy, but these laws are clearly more about throwing up an iron curtain to hide acts of extreme animal cruelty and to hide practices the offenders don’t want consumers to see, in terms of food safety and animal welfare.

Linnekin correctly wraps up her editorial with this – “” Ag gag laws, which stifle this flow of information, protect a particular category of business while offering no public benefit, and impose a prior restraint on speech, are wrong at their very core. “”

Sadly, if the USDA was doing it’s job, it would be engaged in trying to uncover these horrors. The animal-welfare groups shouldn’t have to be the ones who are going in to uncover the terrible things going on behind the closed doors on factory farms. The USDA should be protecting the animals and us.

But again, it seems a federal agency and some state governments are protecting corporations over people. Why? – Because the corporations have bought their way into running the federal and state legislatures – within the ranks of Republicans and Democrats.

I’m all for capitalism, but not in the form of a system where the government is run by the corporations, which has been the trend for decades now. It’s not true in all cases or on all issues, but on the gauge where the public good is on one side and corporations are on the other, we’ve lost the balance and the needle is way over the corporate end.


Pack Topic: Ferret mills

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There are puppy mills and kitten mills; unfortunate but true. And there are mills of all sorts for other pets in the pet trade, including ferrets. The mass “production” of pets is a real problem, but too many people walk into pet stores without considering where the animals come from.

Triple F Farms in Sayre, Pa. is being accused by the the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of several violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Small Animal Channel is reporting the facility is being offered “the choice of waiving its right to a hearing and paying a penalty of $16,679, or proceeding with a hearing” – and it paid the fine.

On her Philly Dawg blog, Amy Worden reports the charges came on the heels of an undercover investigation by PETA. Worden explained the videos show “disturbing images of ferrets with gaping wounds, exposed internal organs, ruptured and bloody eyes, left to suffer with no veterinary care.”

Once again, it took an undercover video effort to expose the horrors at this mill. Some people will be immediately turned off by PETA being involved. But the results in this case are clear – whether PETA was involved or not.


Abuse uncovered in training of Tennessee Walking Horses

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A leading trainer of Tennessee Walking Horses – those who compete in high-stepping competitions – faces a federal grand jury indictment, as reported by ABC News.

Keith Dane of the Humane Society of the United States is quoted by ABC News as saying, “All too often, you have to cheat to win in this sport.” Far too often, we see this as being true when animals are used in a variety of competitive, so-called “sports” or contests.

Once again, the Humane Society of the United States has uncovered people abusing animals. Sadly, people who engage in cruel training practices like this probably brag about the success with their methods. In reality, what they know about animals would not fit on the tip of sewing needle.

The video shows the lead trainer and others “beating horses with wooden sticks and using electric cattle prods.” This is not training. It is torture.

ABC News also reports painful chemicals and chains are used on the horses’ legs to force them to step higher. This is sick and the people involved in this sort of animal cruelty within any industry should be sentence to long spells behind bars.

WARNING: This video contains VERY disturbing images of horses being abused.

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The industry is claiming abuse is rare, but the article paints a far different picture –
“” But a random inspection by the agents of the Department of Agriculture at last year’s annual championship found that 52 of 52 horses tested positive for some sort of foreign substance around front hooves, either to cause pain or to hide it. “”

The battle against animal welfare

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As the movement grows to protect animals from cruelty, the push back against proposals for animal welfare regulations seems to be growing as well.

I’ve got a couple of links below to highlight the effort to hide or protect those engaged in cruel acts. But first up today, I introduce a new award – the Haley Barbour Soft-On-Crime Award. It is dedicated to the Mississippi Governor who recently pardoned a number of convicted criminals – including murderers.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports the Stokes County district attorney and Stokes County Animal Control have agreed to drop 27 misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges against the owners of a breeding operation where 150 dogs were seized in February.

The charges were dropped on several conditions, including the order that the couple cannot “own and operate any animal breeding or animal sales businesses for two years.” – Just TWO YEARS. Animal welfare officials will have the right to inspect the property to make sure they are not breeding over this span.

The county manager was quoted as saying he wants to make sure no one operates a puppy mill in his county. Or did he mean to say that he wanted to make sure no one operates a puppy mill for the next two years.

Weak punishment only sends a message to other puppy millers that even if they are exposed, the end result will be a slap on the wrist. So for this decision, Stokes County gets the Pack Mentality Blog’s first Haley Barbour Soft-On-Crime Award.

In Missouri, a bogus bill has been introduced to make sure animals never get human rights.

The Dairy Herd Network quotes the bill:

The laws of this state shall not confer upon any animal a right, privilege, or legal status that is equivalent or that exceeds a right, privilege, or legal status as that which this state confers by law upon a human being. This provision shall not be construed as limiting laws that protect the welfare of animals in the state.”

Horrors!!! – Animals might get property rights or the right to vote. The state representative is quoted as saying his mission was to keep animal-rights organizations from coming into his state to impose new protections for animals.

Translation: “We don’t want anyone coming into our state uncovering cruel acts against animals. Some of us hate sunshine and we don’t really like animals either.”

He does stress that the new law would not weaken existing animal-welfare laws. That’s not very comforting for the animals who are living with the current level of very weak animal-welfare regulations. The bill is really designed to block any new protections.

The goal of every new proposal I’m seeing across the country is to protect animals from abuse and neglect. How is this being twisted into a claim that we want animals to have equal rights to humans? Yes, it’s true – we want both humans and animals to be protected from abuse and neglect. No reasonable person could oppose that – right?

On the other side of this issue, The Canadian ran an editorial on March 4 headlined: “Iowa bans coverage on Animal Cruelty — America’s march to Fascism.” People are calling the ban on undercover videos and photos on factory farms “Ag-Gag” laws.

In an article posted today on the Weekly Times Now website out of Australia, Joe Maxwell, the HSUS director of rural development and outreach is quoted as saying – “Anytime you try to block whistleblower-type activity, I think you wind up with horrendous outcomes and in this case, for the animals on the farms it could be, as well, for the environment or worker treatment.”


Two stories – Two examples of uncaring acts

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An artist in Florida has been sentenced to 20 months in prison for illegally trafficking endangered and protected wildlife and turning the body parts into odd pieces of art (so-called art).

NBC Miami reports he searched for the animals online and some were alive before being killed and shipped to him.

In a quote, he tried to spin his acts as drawing attention to endangered species. – “I accept this judgment because its brings attention to the destruction of animal species and the dangers of genetic manipulation in our food.”


And on Friday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill into law to insure animal cruelty on factory farms will remain hidden and will continue. The law makes it a crime to take undercover video to animals being abused.


The movement to hide animal cruelty on factory farms

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More articles and editorials are streaming into the Pack News Wire every day on this topic of banning undercover video that exposes animal cruelty on factory farms. A number of state legislatures have taken steps to criminalize the act of photographing or shooting animal-cruelty video on farms.

In Utah, Rep. John Mathis has sponsored a bill to criminalize the use of hidden cameras on farms. The Daily Activists quotes him as comparing it to “a neighborhood watch group that goes into your home and hides cameras because you may one day do something to your kids.”

The comparison is full of holes. The factory farming industry has a history of mistreatment of animals. As farming in this manner has gone from family-owned businesses to massive operations where animals are crammed in by the thousands to meet the desired profit margins, abuse has been the trend.

The Daily Activist post also quotes Suzanne McMillan of the ASPCA as saying, “Bills like this only serve to heighten suspicion that the agricultural industry has something to hide.” – Exactly.

Iowa might be the first state to reach the milestone of legally protecting cruelty and hiding it in the shadows and at the same time turning those who want to expose cruelty into the criminals.

In response to the videos we’ve seen from factory farms, elected officials should be working overtime to increase penalties for animal cruelty and set up a better system of surprise inspections.

Animal welfare groups are urging Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to veto the bill. But the measure had such a huge vote disparity in both houses, this might not happen.

The Star Tribune quotes Nathan Runkle of Mercy for Animals as saying – “Iowa has some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the nation. Lawmakers should be focusing on strengthening these pathetic laws, not silencing whistleblowers who expose animal abuse or other serious issues involving the safety and security of the American food supply.”

One farmer in the article suggests that using dramatic music can twist a video into making a bad impression. Really? An animal being severely beaten or bludgeoned on video, without music, is not so bad???? We have to keep reminding ourselves that people with no defense for their actions have to come up with something – no matter how nutty it is.


Pack Line Headlines: puppy mill raid; dog fighting raid; undercover video bans

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Raid on puppy mill frees 88 animals: A woman in Sac County, Iowa faces 93 counts of animal neglect after 88 animals were taken from her home back on January 25.

The Pilot Tribune reports “” … five dead puppies in crates on the farm, and live animals crammed up to five per cage, reportedly underfed, marred with waste from animals stacked above them, with matted fur and in some cases deformed paws from standing on cage wire or eye/ear infections “” were found on the site.

Authorities suspect she was breeding without a license.

Dogs rescued from fighting ring near Pittsburgh: The Humane Society of the United States rescued a dozen dogs Friday from a suspected dog-fighting ring in Wilkinsburg, Pa.

Some of the dogs were in the basement of the home while others were chained in the backyard. Sounds like proper housing for the criminals involved in dog fighting – but not for the dogs. On second thought, living chained to a tree is too soft a punishment for those who abuse animals in this way.

Utah House votes to protect those who abuse animals: The Utah State House voted Friday to overwhelmingly approve HB187. The Deseret News reports the bill would “make it a class A misdemeanor to hide a recording device on a farm and class B misdemeanor shoot video or photos after being asked not to or record while trespassing.”

I get the trespassing issue – although in some cases the videos are shot by people who are employees of the farm. But this ban and other similar proposals are not all about trespassing or hiding cameras. They are about hiding the abuses going on within the factory farming industry.

What we really need are new regulations that allow for regular, serious, unannounced inspections of factory farms. So that abuses can be prosecuted, leading to improved and humane conditions in these facilities. But I’d venture to guess industry insiders would push back strongly against against this proposal as well.