Gov’t bills hide animal cruelty involved in food production

Experimentation on animals for human benefit, whether the benefit is medical or agricultural, is a subject that typically sparks controversy. Recently, research on a Nebraska farm has been done to engineer a more “efficient” breed of farm animals — ones that will cost less to raise while bringing more offspring into the world, a seemingly win-win situation. This prosperity comes with a price, however, since while some offspring are born healthy, hundreds are born deformed, ill and already close to death.

To make things worse, bills across the nation banning the undercover videotaping of farm abuse have been enacted, with Utah being one of the affected states as of 2012. This legislation, unaffectionately known as “ag-gag bills,” are an excuse to keep abusing animals with little to no repercussions. In Utah, the act falls under “offenses against property” in the Criminal Code and prohibits anyone from intentionally recording any agricultural operation without the consent of the owner of the farm. Meat production is one of the most contentious industries in the food business and should be kept completely transparent not just for our health and safety, but also for that of the animals we are eating.

The laws in question are an excuse to hide harmful treatment of animals from the public in an attempt to stifle any opposition to how farms raise and kill the cattle that later become our dinner. An investigation carried out by The New York Times at the aforementioned Nebraska farm, which is actually run by a federal institution called United States Meat Animal Research Center, showed that the center’s main priority is to increase the number of offspring. Researchers mainly test on pigs, cows and sheep that undergo operations on their ovaries and brains in an attempt to make them more fertile. The men and women performing these operations are not licensed veterinarians and have no medical degrees. Some animals are no longer able to reproduce after these surgical procedures, and many give birth to unnaturally massive litters out of which there are few survivors. For those that do survive, however, the future is grim. Out of the 580,000 animals the center has taken responsibility for since 1985, at least 6,500 have starved to death. Former employees regard this horrendous treatment as a “tradeoff” for our growing population and its needs, but the sad truth is this sort of exposé is extremely rare nowadays, and the stories of so-called “care” with which the New York Times article shocks us are normal occurrences in farms across the country.

That is precisely why overturning laws that ban the covert filming and recording of these destructive practices is so important. There has long been a lack of transparency in the food industry, because morality usually takes a backseat to economic growth in many large companies. A study by a Missouri advertising agency found that 65 percent of consumers are eager to learn more about where their food comes from, but only 31 percent think the companies they support are honest about production practices. We can not expect nor wait for the food industry to take some accountability for their actions — we must demand it. Outdated laws protect perpetrators and give them ample opportunity to further their abuse. When “privacy” gets in the way of lives, whether or not they are human ones, something needs to be re-evaluated.

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