Sunday, March 20, 2011

1984 May've Been 27 Years Ago, But We Still Have to Beware of Big Brother

In Iowa, the Republican-dominated state House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday making it a criminal offense to apply for a job on a farm with the intention of videotaping and exposing acts of farm animal abuse

The bill passed 66-27. Next the bill goes to the Senate for final approval, then to the desk of the Iowa's governor, Terry Branstad, to be signed into law. (Source) According to the Iowa Independent, the bill
would specifically target individuals who approach crop or animal facilities — excluding animal shelters, pet shops and commercial kennels — for the purpose of making audio or visual recordings. An individual found guilty of creating such a record, or of distributing such a record, could face felony charges and be subject to civil proceedings.

Sadly, Iowa is not alone. Other states are passing legislation imposing stiff penalties on videotaping whistleblowers. In Florida, a similarly draconian piece of legislation was introduced in the state senate. The author of SB 1246, Senator Jim Norman, proposed in his bill
[a] person who photographs, video records, or otherwise produces images or pictorial records, digital or otherwise, at or of a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted without the written consent of the owner, or an authorized representative of the owner, commits a felony of the first degree. (Source)
There is no question that these bills being introduced across the United States are aimed at scaring away animal rights activists who have gone into factory farms to film the often horrendous treatment of animals in these massive and impersonal facilities. Thanks to developments in digital technology over the past decade, it is easier than ever to smuggle cameras - which are now cheaper than ever - into these massive death houses where the violence and mayhem are occurring.

It is not surprising that elected officials in states heavily dependent on agriculture - backed by powerful factory farming interests - are scrambling to pass laws forbidding undercover video filming. In recent years, documentaries such as Death on a Factory Farm and Earthlings have converted countless individuals over to veganism. In fact, one could argue - as I often have - that these kinds of films are the best recruiting tools out there.

Film footage doesn't lie. Paul McCartney was right when he said remarked that everybody (or damn near everybody) would be vegetarians if slaughterhouses had glass walls. Somebody very close to me, who was writing an article about a pig slaughtering facility, told me the first question the owners asked her was whether she was a vegetarian or vegan. At the time, she wasn't. Had she said yes, the alarm bells would've gone off and she never would've gotten inside.

That's what makes these anti-whistleblower laws now being introduced before state legislatures so sinister. Take away the right of the people to discover the truth and you've nudged the nation closer to the nightmarish society envisioned by George Orwell in his novel 1984. Orwell understood that the most profound and meaningful power of the state was its ability to sever access to the truth. Joseph Stalin understood this when he airbrushed his opponents out of photographs after he had them murdered. The Nazis understood this when they kept their conference on the "final solution" a secret at Wannsee in January 1942. And those who wish to slaughter animals by the billions, with impunity, also fully grasp this principle.


  1. Yep.
    And doesn't it show the extent of the lobbying and of the entwining of agribusiness and government? Getting meat and guns across the border: that's the purpose of government.
    Everything else: hospitals, schools, etc --we have to fight and fight for.

  2. There seems to be a lot of discussion and hubbub about these sorts of attempts to limit awareness of what is going on in the places where "food" is grown or "processed" or whatever.

    On the one hand...of course these attempts (and these will be - I predict - successful attempts) to limit knowledge about the details of the suffering, abuse, torture and death of our fellow animals are execrable and deplorable. They are repugnant and repulsive.

    On the other hand...given the slow slide toward secrecy and the hiding of the activities of government behaviors toward citizens and others suspected of opposition or of being some kind of "threat"....are these efforts surprising? I am writing primarily in reference to the US, which is where I live.

    Some time ago someone wrote and asked when did the police here start dressing up like members of the gestapo or ss with the added accessory of a balaclava to hide the face (and identity? I thought it was a good question...most sorts of news shots of police response to some situation will involve black uniforms, astonishingly large machine guns and hidden faces. What the hell is this?

    Citizens here have been sitting on their asses, stuffing their faces and watching "reality shows" and in the meantime 1984 (the spririt as well as the reality) has been, in many ways, arriving.

    Now, consider...the US populace has accepted (in fact, if not in full awareness and agreement) and allowed its government organizations to secretly and without judicial review search houses and offices, access library records, access emails and other communications, arrest and detain indefinitely incommunicado and without legal representation, torture and who the hell knows what else. All these deplorable activities are directed toward their fellow human animals (whether citizen or not) and are ongoing and likely common events.

    Now, outrage and dismay is to occur re the purveyors of "food" following the lead of the government? About fellow Earthlings that aren't "even" human Earthlings?

    If citizens of the US are willing to voluntarily and sometimes even gleefully abandon their own rights to protection from lunatic and dangerous behavior on the part of their government towards themselves...I have little hope they are going to get too exercised about some more hiding of doings on the parts of the factory farm industry...especially when it involves "only animals".

    You use the term sinister in your last paragraph and sinister is precisely accurate. But what is missing (apparently) from the awareness of many that are appalled and repulsed by these efforts to further hide and secrete the treatment dealt out to our fellow animals is the fact that this kind of hiding is well established in our society and is in full operation regarding human animals and getting exercised now about such hiding re other animals me anyway...weird.

    Maybe it isn't weird, maybe folks will stand up and demand some accountability and transparency for what is done to the other animals...maybe the introduction of these laws will wake folks up to what else is going on and has gone on. Maybe.

    I sure as hell hope so, but I have a terrible feeling the powers of profit, greed and apathy are going (for now anyway) to win going away.

    Hopefully we will be willing to stand up and demand for the other animals what we seem to be unwilling to demand for ourselves. Hopefully.