Factory farm operators believe that the less Americans know about what goes on behind their closed doors, the better for the industry. That’s because the animals sent through those factories often endure an unimaginable amount of mistreatment and abuse.
Cows too sick to walk are dragged by the neck across cement floors. Pigs are stabbed and beaten with sledgehammers. Chickens are thrown against walls and stomped to death. And accepted industry practices, like confining animals in impossibly small cages, are just as brutal.
Nearly always, this treatment comes to light only because courageous employees — or those posing as employees — take undercover video and release it to the public. The industry should welcome such scrutiny as a way to expose the worst operators. Instead, the industry’s lobbyists have taken the opposite approach, pushing for the passage of so-called “ag-gag” laws, which ban undercover recordings on farms and in slaughterhouses. These measures have failed in many states, but they have been enacted in eight. None has gone as far as North Carolina, where a new law that took effect Jan. 1 aims to silence whistle-blowers not just at agricultural facilities, but at all workplaces in the state. That includes, among others, nursing homes, day care centers, and veterans’ facilities.