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Quite simply, Ag-Gag laws operate to conceal and hide the truth about how animals are grown and treated on factory farms with legislation that effectively silences animal rights activists and stifles transparency. Ag-Gag laws suppress the public’s right to understand and question the current use and abuse of farmed animals while allowing the concealment of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect.
Ag-Gag Laws in Australia
What is Ag-Gag?
The term Ag-Gag, or Agriculture-Gag, describes a variety of proposed bills and legislation that work to purposely hinder animal rights activists by making it illegal to record or document the operations of agricultural facilities.
The most restrictive Ag-Gag laws have been implemented in various states in the US, such as Ohio, Iowa, Utah and South Carolina, and while each specific bill varies in exact details, the overall effect is the same: to deter activists from entering and documenting the treatment and abuse of farmed animals with the very real threat of jail time, fines and prosecution under eco-terrorism.
Ag-Gag laws target undercover investigators, whistleblowers and journalists, and are focused in the following three forms:
- Criminalising Media. Making it illegal to take a photo or video of a legally operated animal enterprise without permission.
- Misrepresentation. Making it a crime for an undercover investigator to get work at a legally operated animal enterprise.
- Mandatory Reporting. Creating impossibly short timeframes for the submission of any observed cruelty, which means that no pattern of abuse, or widespread abuse, can be documented, nor can that evidence be posted to social media.
Ag-Gag Laws in Australia
Australian animal rights activists have increasingly become more and more effective in gathering undercover animal abuse and releasing it to the public. Much of the evidence which is gathered exposes extreme cruelty, neglect and violations of the current limited protection laws.
Unmanned drones are also being used to monitor animals in feedlots and confinement buildings to discredit “free range” claims.
Currently, there are three primary known Ag-Gag law supporters in Australian Government:
- Federal Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce
- WA Liberal Senator, Chris Back
- NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson
Proposed/Defeated/Implemented Ag-Gag Laws in Australia
- Surveillance Devices Bill, SA, defeated Sept 2014. Proposed to outlaw use of hidden cameras and microphones, and punish those who film footage, as well as media outlets broadcasting the material.
- Criminal Code Amendment Animal Protection Bill 2014 (Cth), Federal, open for public comment until 12/03/2015. Proposes surrender of footage within 5 days, criminal sanctions for trespassing or vandalising a legally operating animal enterprise, criminal sanctions for “intimidates, threatens or attacks a person associated with a legally operating animal enterprise”.
Undercover Investigators Follow Civil Disobedience
Civil disobedience is a form of civil resistance where people rebel against what they deem to be unfair laws. So, by definition, acts of civil disobedience are illegal, but they serve an important social purpose: they spark discussion, can result in policy change, and generally help progress society.
Acts of civil disobedience are distinguishable from other types of illegal behaviour as they are required to meet certain standards: they must be non-violent, have intent to disclose to the public, and it must appeal to the public’s shared sense of morality. Only when an illegal activity meets these standards can it be defended morally and socially.
Animal rights activists go undercover and/or trespass and commit acts of civil disobedience because it is done conscientiously, it is intended to be disclosed to the public, and it is done with the intention of changing the current laws.
Civil disobedience has a long, infamous history where the protagonists (i.e. Martin Luther King) are often ridiculed at the time, but are celebrated wildly in later years.
Civil disobedience should always be encouraged, not legislated against, to spawn social change.