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Debate: After Activists Covertly Expose Animal Cruelty, Should They Be Targeted With "Ag-Gag" Laws?

Posted: 04/09/2013 12:31 pm

So-called "ag-gag" bills that criminalize undercover filming on farms and at slaughterhouses to document criminal animal abuse are sweeping the country. Five states, including Missouri, Utah and Iowa, already have such 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.

Democracy Now! hosts a 25-minute debate on the "ag-gag" laws with two guests: Independent journalist Will Potter; and Emily Meredith, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

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.

Also on Democracy Now!, 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.

"Pete" 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.

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