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Why Big Agriculture Wants to Keep Your Eyes Out of the Slaughterhouse

Transparency is the key to maintaining integrity in any industry. The most appalling scandals always take place when big business is left unaccountable and the public is kept in the dark. When industries are left to self-regulate, especially outside of the public eye, their ethics and integrity seem to always decline in favor of profit.

The meat production industry is no different, which is why activists from the Humane Society of America and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been infiltrating slaughterhouses across America’s heartland to blow the whistle on inhumane treatment of livestock. The atrocities these activists documented have shocked consumers and caused backlash from regulatory agencies. And that’s why big agriculture is working with government representatives across the country to outlaw these watchdog groups from revealing any more slaughterhouse secrets.

The Legislation

industrial_slaughterhouse(Photo via Wikipedia)

Laws referred to as “Ag-Gag” bills have been passed by legislatures in eight states: Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Carolina, and most recently Idaho. At their core, these laws make filming or photographing the abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of commercial livestock an offense worthy of imprisonment.

Some of the bills also make it illegal for individuals with any affiliation to animal welfare groups to apply for work with a factory farm without first disclosing their history as an activist, making it impossible for activists to inform the public of what’s going on inside. Despite some minor variations between the bills, their overarching sentiment is clear. Big agriculture doesn’t want any more interference, and they definitely don’t want consumers to find out the full story behind their meat.

What Are They Hiding?

pig-farm(Photo by Tim Geers)

Over the past several years, photos and video footage obtained by activists posing as slaughterhouse employees have brought awareness to the cruel treatment of factory-farmed animals. Images of animals being mercilessly beaten, burned, and shocked with electricity are just a few of the atrocities that activists saw.

An especially disturbing bit of film documents a method used to dispose of unwanted piglets called “Thumping.” Workers end the lives of the underweight piglets by swinging them by their hind legs and smashing their heads against nearby objects. The video documenting this kill tactic shows it to be a cruel, and often ineffective, way to dispatch the animals. Thumping is practiced in most industrial hog farms, but it only became widely known in December of last year. Another ag-gag bill was passed within three months of the national coverage that the practice received.

Much more is happening behind the scenes of our meat industry. Specific information about the many inhumane practices that have been documented can be found from the Humane Society of the United States.

How to Fight Back

The only way to increase transparency in the meat industry is for consumers to reach out to their local delegates, congressmen, and senators to show their opposition to big agriculture’s ag-gag bills. The failed ag-gag bills of states across the union were defeated by active citizens and concerned consumers.

You can fight against cruelty with your purchasing decisions too. Don’t support the industrial meat industry by purchasing conventionally raised meats. Seek out free-range and grass-fed options, and look for the certified humane seal on product packaging. You can even use this handy tool to locate retailers who stock certified humane products.

As consumers, it’s our responsibility to take control of this unfortunate situation. Use your voice and your wallet to stand up and say that you won’t tolerate the inhumane treatment of animals, and tell your representatives that you won’t allow them to cover up the inexcusable practices of big agriculture.

Lead image/thumbnail via Black Diamond Meats

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