For decades, animal activists have gone undercover to take jobs inside large-scale livestock farms in order to document conditions for farm animals that they say are routinely inhumane. Their hidden camera footage has resulted in criminal charges against owners and workers, plant shutdowns, and after one at a California slaughterhouse in 2008, the largest meat recall in U.S. history.
But these images could soon be made illegal. Legislation pending in five states — Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and New York — would criminalize the actions of activists who covertly film farms. Proponents of the various pieces legislation say that their proposed laws would lead to beneficial consequences, including the protection of such farms from potential terrorist infiltration (preserving the integrity of the food supply) and espionage; the prevention of images that mislead consumers; as well as regulating the job application process to circumvent potential employees from lying in order to be hired.
Look, this is bullshit. In the United States, we have a long, proud history of infiltrating the places that make our food. Journalists like Upton Sinclair have proven time and again that this kind of infiltration is absolutely necessary. Without the fear of being caught, can you imagine what kind of awful stuff farms will get up to? And cloaking the bills in the War on Terror is especially terrible—we learned back in 2002 to treat every bill with anti-terrorist language in it as suspicious. This is an assault on the freedom of press, and we should all stand with PETA, the Humane Society, and other organizations that make use of this type of footage.