“Big Farma” Still Trying to Hide Their Dirty Secrets

cattle2Five states have introduced seven different “Ag-Gag bills” to silence people who try to expose CAFO practices. State-based Action Alerts!

Remember our exposé on the factory farms, and the legislation designed to keep the public in the dark about them? They’re back! It’s not just that these bills trample the First Amendment. It’s that these bills are designed to keep the filthy, profoundly unsanitary conditions at factory farms—CAFOs, or Confined Animal Feeding Operations—from being exposed to the public. CAFOs are the antithesis of safe and nutritious food. If governments, both federal and state, were truly serious about food safety, they would address the miserable CAFO conditions.

CAFOs are responsible for foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and listeria; are notorious for their use of antibiotics for nontherapeutic uses, and for exacerbating the “superbug” problem in which organisms become increasingly resistant to antibiotics; and ruin rural economies. In addition, there is the inhumane treatment of the animals themselves.

Ag-Gag laws prevent consumers from being informed, and therefore consumers ability to fully choose what they eat.

The current spate of bills are not novel: ten states introduced similar legislation in 2011–12, and bills were passed in Iowa, Missouri, and Utah. The rest were defeated by grassroots activists like you. These bills are introduced by legislators who have strong industry financial backing. Industry has the tenacity—and the deep pockets—necessary to keep trying to push these bills through again and again, year after year, if they don’t pass the first time.

Last year’s bill in Iowa is a good case in point: it’s a study in rampant conflicts of interest. Monsanto pushed Iowa’s anti-trespassing/Ag-Gag bill because the company has more facilities in Iowa than any other state in the country, and because “crop operations” are also covered by the bills—so Monsanto seed houses, pesticide manufacturing plants, and research facilities in Iowa will be “protected” from hidden cameras or whistleblowers infiltrating their plants.

It’s really all about the economics of CAFOs:

  • There are approximately 15,000 CAFOs in the US, which raise 50% of all animals used for our food.
  • The largest food processors hold the greatest share of the market, so they wield more power, both economic and political.
  • CAFOs receive a wide array of subsidies, both direct and indirect, such as crop subsidies on the corn and soybean used to feed CAFO animals. This in turn means more money in the pockets of feed producers like Monsanto.
  • Because CAFOs are not held accountable for the environmental and health damage they do, they don’t have to worry about those costs, putting more into their pocket. Those costs are absorbed by the public at large.
  • There are also the economies of scale: once a farm is automated for a large number of animals, doubling that number does not mean a doubling of costs. Organic costs more to produce—as much as 20% more—than  CAFOs and factory farms because they require more labor (no use of dangerous of chemicals), more costly fertilizer, higher labor costs for crop rotation, more money spent on organic certification, slower growing time, greater post-harvest handling costs to avoid cross-contamination, and more spacious (and thus more expensive) living conditions for livestock. And of course they don’t receive the aforementioned subsidies.

Sponsors of the 2012 Iowa bill, Senators Joe Seng (D) and Annette Sweeney (R), received contributions from special interests including the Iowa Corn Growers Association (who contributed 8% of Seng’s campaign funding and gave a similar amount to Sweeney), the Iowa Farm Bureau Association, Monsanto, and the Iowa Agribusiness Association. Of course we have no idea what lobbying, if any, went on behind closed doors, but the money trail—and the support for legislation that directly benefits these special interests—speak for themselves.

These Ag-Gag laws are inspired by a model bill called the “Animal and Ecological Animal Terrorism Act” from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has both powerful corporate members and legislators, making the conflict of interest pretty seamless. ALEC’s corporate members are a Who’s Who of the Big Food supply chain, from farmers to retailers: Monsanto, Kraft, Walmart, Walgreens, etc.

The intent of the ALEC-modeled bills is to introduce them in many states, sometimes word-for-word. It becomes a systematized process. As the New York Times reported last year, an ALEC membership brochure “boasted that ALEC lawmakers typically introduced more than 1,000 bills based on model legislation each year and passed about 17 percent of them.” When ALEC runs with a bill, it has the support necessary to go much further by being introduced in many states simultaneously. It’s a sneaky way of legitimizing an idea that benefits only powerful and wealthy companies, not the general public.

Numerous state legislators are members of ALEC; last year, of the sixty legislators who voted in favor of Ag-Gag bills, 23% of them were members of ALEC, as are sponsors of three of the new Ag-Gag bills: Arizona state senator Jeremy Hutchinson and Wyoming state representative Sue Wallis. In 2010 Wallis was the subject of a conflict-of-interest complaint for trying to block legislation that would send stray horses to slaughter when at the same time she was planning to build a horse slaughter plant of her own. Both Wallis and her cosponsor on the Wyoming bill, Ogden Driskill, are both members of Wyoming Stock Growers Association. Driskill accepted contributions from livestock industry as well as Exxon Mobil.

Here’s a run-down of all seven state bills:

State Bill Number Description
Arkansas SB 13 Makes an “improper animal investigation” by someone who is not a “certified law enforcement officer” a  misdemeanor with a potential civil penalty of $5,000.
SB 14 Makes “interference with livestock or poultry” a misdemeanor. “Interference” is defined as creating a concealed image or sound recording or by applying for employment as part of an undercover investigation.
Indiana SB 373 Makes it unlawful to record agricultural or industrial operations, whether by photograph, film, or video.
SB 391 Requires the Indiana Board of Animal Health to maintain a registry of persons convicted of recording such operations.
Nebraska LB 204 If a person makes a “false statement” in an employment agreement with the intention of doing an animal facility “economic harm” or doing “serious bodily injury” to someone, criminal violations kick in. If the economic damages are more than $100,000, or there is serious bodily injury, felony charges can be brought. A more serious felony can be brought if economic damages exceed $1 million or if the violation involves the death of another individuals. The bill specifically says that it is not intended to prohibit otherwise lawful, peaceful picketing or to restrict other rights under the First Amendment. Employees who believe animals are neglected or mistreated must make their report within 24 hours of its discovery.
New Hampshire HB 110 Requires that anyone who records cruelty to livestock must report it within 24 hours.
Wyoming HB 0126 Makes “knowingly or intentionally” recording the image or sound from an agricultural operation without the consent of the owner or manager is a misdemeanor punishable for up to six months in jail and a $750 fine. Also requires reporting animal abuse within 48 hours, and anyone who makes a good faith effort is immune from civil liability for making a report.

Action Alert! CAFOs don’t need further protection, and individuals who bravely expose CAFO conditions should not be penalized. If you’re a resident in one of the five states where these new bills have been offered, please contact your legislators and tell them to honor free speech and oppose these bills. Please send your message today!

Arkansas residents

Take Action

Indiana residents

Take Action

Nebraska residents

Take Action

New Hampshire residents

Take Action

Wyoming residents

Take Action


  1. That such laws can be passed in mind boggling to me.
    Has this country become a dictatorship with not rights for the general population?

    1. yep…powerful corporate/wealthy/ interests control Everything now….we cant even vote the creeps who are Supposed to be representing US people out of office, they control the election process too.

  2. Mmmf, muzzling the truth never works for long in any society.
    Anyone interested in detailed information can read numerous reports posted by the Pew Charitable Trust website on Industrial Agriculture and Animal Practices. They have been running several article logs on related agricultural topics on their site, some include dire predictions regarding spreading contamination and illness events if something is not changed in current CAFO practices.

  3. Organics might be more expensive than CAFOs but sickness is also expensive. Organic, whole foods yield a healthier population.

    1. Organic food is much better for someone like me…I have serious chemical sensitivities myself;and I find that many of the people who suffer as I suffer do end up on organic food.

    2. I agree with you, either you spend the money on good, wholesome food or spend it at the doctor’s, same with pets. We don’t buy any prepared, boxed food and our pets eat raw meat and veggies with yogurt, haven’t had to rush any of them to the vet. We are being sold a bill of goods and it’s up to us to question everything.

  4. Whatever happened to “of the people, by the people, and for the people”? Our nation’s health and environment is continually being compromised for the profits of a few, while our government not only allows it but, in increasingly more cases, instigates it.

  5. Please show compassion for those sentient beings that have been entrusted to us by God. They give us food, we care repay them by kindness during their short lives. Thank you. – JS

  6. Hopefully, all of the above who support Agri Corp, ALEC , and CAFOs re required to eat and feed their families this contaminated food. It seems that they have not figured out that life will be short without a clean water supply. And not one cent of their hard earned money will go with them!

    1. lol, they wont eat that crap themselves..it aint kosher..its ok for the rest of US dogs though….they have basically told US publically to have a “wait and see” attitude about big-agra’s franken foods…id bet the farm they wont feed that crap to their grandkids…we are nothing but useless eaters/ tax dollar providers to those sociopaths in control of our govt….see my post above for How and Why.

      1. lol, oh yeah, i forgot…
        did you see where Monsanto’s cafeteria has been touting that its GMO free?!
        lol, they contract a food service to bring in food to their factory workers, and it’s proud to say “They Don’t Use No GMO’s”, lol
        Peace everyone.

  7. Well i guess if people do not know by now, most of them might not want to know. Watching the movie Forks over Knives, it becomes clear eating animals is not only bad for their welfare but also for ours.

  8. This is just another example of a dirty corrupt government being BOUGHT off by special interest groups that just want to line their pockets at the consumers expense.

  9. We the People are being screwed by the moneyed interests who blackmail, bribe, etc. the members of congress “elected” by computer voting machine that are, according to the General Accounting Office of the US govt, “insecure, eaisily manipulated, can be done remotely, and requiring only a handfull of operatives to manipulate US election results”…We the People were not, in any way, informed of This by the controlled media….its time we all put two and two together and see that this country is nothing like those in control of our information and govt would have US believe.
    Peace, truth, justice, freedom, health and prosperity for US all, in-spite of those who would have it otherwise.

    1. Good American — you are right as I was a programmer for many years — the code recording the voting is Programming 101, easily changed and nobody would know the difference because the changes are only seen by the programmer. Google also “voter fraud, NASA programmer, Florida” as a programmer testified in front of Congress (nothing like giving them ALL big ideas) I believe in ’04 that his boss was paid to have him change the FL vote so that a certain person would win. It doesn’t matter what side the person is on. I have heard that G Soros bought several voting machine companies in the last 5 years….hmmmmm…..

      1. Yep, “Our” congress enables the code to be propriatary (i cant spell, lol)….meaning no election official is Allowed to check to see if its been tampered with in any way…only the black box manufacturer…THAT IS PROBABLY ILLEGAL AND UNCONSITUTIONAL!…and not a word from the controlled media.
        Just another example of how We the People should just believe the exact opposite of what s being spewed on the TV “news”…friggin clowns.

  10. look like big industry is corrupting governments to compel us to eat sikmaking food and inhuman animal conditions

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