What Happens in the Factory Farm Shouldn’t Stay in the Factory Farm

Monday, January 6, 2014 - 3:45pm
Chickens at a factory farm

By ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker

Suppose I told you that, behind the closed doors of a nearby animal farm, something terrible was going on with the animals: vicious abuse and neglect, atrocious conditions, disease and agonizing death.

You would probably want to expose it, protect the animals and punish the offenders. So would I. But instead of seeing more laws dedicated to curbing such abuse, we’re seeing a rash of state laws designed to keep it secret.

Some of these whistleblower suppression lawscoined “ag-gag” by food writer Mark Bittmanaggressively criminalize first-hand documenting and/or reporting of the day-to-day activities of industrial farms, while doing nothing to contain the abuse. Other approaches are  designed to seem animal-friendly, but actually hinder investigators and whistleblowers by requiring reporting of witnessed abuse within such a short and arbitrary period of time that adequate documentation of a pattern of abuse is impossible.

Whatever their approach, these laws audaciously and outrageously hide reckless cruelty and incredible suffering.

The first ag-gag bill of 2014 has already been introducedright on the heels of a previous one’s defeatand will be heard in the Corrections and Criminal Law committee on Tuesday at the Indiana State House. If passed, S.B. 101 could make felons out of whistleblowers exposing unethical or illegal activities on industrial farms. A coalition [PDF] of civil liberties, public health, food safety, environmental, food justice, animal welfare, legal, workers’ rights, journalism and First Amendment organizations is calling on the Indiana legislature to reject the bill.

In 2012, ag-gag bills became law in Missouri, Iowa and Utahjoining Montana, North Dakota and Kansas. This “goes against everything this country has stood for since its inception,” wrote one local journalist about an ag-gag bill introduced in Pennsylvania. But the good news is that, of 15 ag-gag bills introduced in 11 states in 2013, none passed.

This pattern of failure should tell you something about the fatal flaws the laws have in common.

Veteran journalist Bill Moyers spoke about ag-gag laws in 2013, pointing out another surprising commonality among these bills in terms of how they were drafted, why, and by whom.

Factory farm owners will tell you they’re meeting a critical consumer need and treating their animals humanely (if so, why do they need protection from truth-tellers?). But if we’ve learned anything about factory farms, it’s that we can’t leave the safety of those animals to chance:

In 2011, Mercy for Animals released a video shot inside a North Carolina turkey factory farm owned by Butterball. The video shows frightened turkeys being violently kicked, thrown hard against the side of a truck and dragged across the floor. The video also shows birds with bloody open wounds, broken bones and diseased eyes.

Another Mercy for Animals investigation in Texas revealed the depraved abuse of calves at a cattle company in the Texas panhandle.

Other undercover actions have exposed animal cruelty in places including California, Idaho, Wyoming, and Iowa.

In case after case, whistleblowers are the only things standing between farm animals and violent abuse—and in some cases, between you and contaminated food. Similarly shocking journalistic exposés led directly to the passage of the federal Meat Inspection Act, the Pure Food and Drug Act, and the eventual formation of the federal Food and Drug Administration.

“Videotaping at factory farms wouldn’t be necessary if the industry were properly regulated. But it isn’t,” writes Bittman in his New York Times column. “The biggest problem of all is that we’ve created a system in which standard factory-farming practices are inhumane… If you’re raising and killing 10 billion animals every year, some abuse is pretty much guaranteed.”

This is why the ASPCA stands firmly with our partners in opposition to Indiana’s and other ag-gag laws.

Bottom line: They take protection from the vulnerable, and give it to the powerful. It’s cruel, it’s wrong and it’s dangerous.

But you can help.

Lives are at stake. So let’s make sure what happens in the factory farm doesn’t stay in the factory farm.

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stephanie lederman

I have been trying to report animal abuse but to no avail. apparently the ASPCA collects funds for animals that are abused, but seemingly does very little. there are at least five dogs that have been kept outside during this frigid weather in brooklyn. Nobody seems to care about this. each time several people in my office have called, they are referred to another number who then refers them to another number. My colleagues and I will no longer be giving to the ASPCA. it is repulsive!

ASPCA Moderator

Hi Stephanie! In Brooklyn, you should call 311 or 911 to report animal cruelty. The NYPD takes the lead role in responding to animal cruelty complaints. This allows the ASPCA to focus on direct care support for animal cruelty victims, including medical treatment, rehabilitation, housing and placement, as well as assistance to law enforcement officials in the form of forensics work, backup legal support, and training for officers.  

stephanie gordon

I to have been trying to( no avail ).To help a dog in Astoria Queens ,he has been tethered by his collar left outside 24/7 . Police have responded but allowed the care taker( not owner) bring the dog in the house .The owner has returned and the dog is back outside NOW WHAT??? HELP HELP HELP!!!! This is going on FOR TWO YEARS
or two yrs.


OMG THAT IS EVIL i can't belive what i just heard
you should hear this.
"tearing off chickens heads and ripping them apart"
It's the only true EVIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i just heard this on the kentucky fried crulty soldiers of the innocent website i hate kfc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i am an ovo vegetarian and i only eat eggs that are free range
(or organic) but if i heard my chicken eggs were abused and
slaughted at a young age i would be DEVASTATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
even thought i am only 12 years old i WILL make a diffrence.
SAVE THE ANIMALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
P.S You should play super chick sisters it's great


stephanie, Maybe you should (politely and nicely) tell them (the owner and the care taker) facts about what happen's to their dog when they chain it outside.
But please please PLEASE don't get to angry at them otherwise they won't listen to you
(and they might even call the police on you if you yell at them)
and please tell me if this doesen't work. Then i can think of another
plan. Good luck.