New York Ag-Gag Legislation

Douglas Doneson

Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, and most recently New York have introduced bills designed to suppress undercover photojournalism which exposes food safety issues, criminal activity, and the abuses that occur behind the closed doors of the animal agribusiness. Although these bills have slightly different language, each one, if passed would criminalize the act of taking a photograph or videotaping farmed animal facilities without the written consent of the owner.

The justification for New York’s “ag-gag” bill: 


New York’s family farms have become increasingly concerned with the focus on livestock agriculture. While working with the Departments of Homeland Security as well as local law enforcement, it has become clear from several recent instances of animal and facility tampering (the unlawful injection of cattle with antibiotics in Western New York, and the increasing theft of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, utilized by meth addicts to make illegal substances) that the tools for law enforcement and for farmers to help secure their premises are not always accurate. The Department of Homeland Security, working with the FDA and others, have indicated that farmers need to be more aware of where there security weaknesses are, and to work on improving means to discourage trespass and tampering which may weaken the safety of our food supply.

I’m confused. How is criminalizing photojournalism going to help farmers pin point security weaknesses on their farms? Additionally, are meth addicts taking pictures of farm animals? I smell manure and on the pasture I see a “straw man,” but it’s not a scarecrow (well it kind of is).

Although Florida’s CS/SB 1446 and Minnesota’s HF 1369 have been met with public opposition and are currently dead, there is a chance that both will be reintroduced next year. Interestingly, the remaining bill in Iowa has faced bipartisan opposition, including national Republican political pundit Mary Matalin.

NY’s ag-gag bill, S-5172, passed in the Senate Agriculture Committee, and it’s been moved to the Senate where it may be voted on soon. If S-5172 passes and becomes law, it will protect the interests of animal agribusiness by prohibiting whistle-blowing at factory farms and curtailing free speech.

ACT NOW: Please contact your New York State senator today, urging him or her to oppose S-5172 and to uphold constitutional rights as well as the public’s right to know what happens behind the closed doors of factory farms.


4 Responses

  1. Ah… so video and audio is considered animal “tampering” — What they won’t do to cover-up their rotten deeds. Sickening.

  2. If they pass this its a nail in the coffin of America’s free press. This has very dangerous implications, aside from the inability to know the real conditions in these “family farms”. I want to know the conditions of the place where my food comes from. If this bill passes people who know about it will not want to eat meat–what other public health conditions are they hiding?

  3. Sadly, my observation is that any assistance ‘elected’ officials can provide to corporations will be provided. These additions to corporate ‘efficiency’ will be implemented whether in accordance with the constitution or not, whether they are right or not, whether they endanger health or not, whether they destroy the environment or not, whether they are viciously cruel or not. If they are clearly and blatantly constitutional violations, they may take a bit longer, but they will come to pass. Daily, the myth of the ‘free’ society becomes more difficult to believe.

  4. It is a little surprising that there is a wave of these bills across the nation at a time when so many consumers are becoming more educated and demand to know where their food came from. This must mean that some companies are only paying lip service to their consumers with their business practices but are still committing violations. Very sad.

    A lot of the farmers at my local farmers market often have pictures of their land, animals, crops, and facilities available for inspection — many even have open invitations for consumers to come visit! Too bad a lot of the bigger ag businesses aren’t on board with this.

    Unfortunately this law has become the norm in a lot of other venues in this country besides agriculture. The ACLU is constantly fighting laws that cities, counties, and states have enacted that forbid people from videotaping officers when they are trying to enforce other laws that violate the constitution. DHS was a mistake in its creation and we continue to live in a police state. While these bills in state houses are troubling (and wrong) it is only a symptom of a larger problem.

    Great post, thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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