Shock and Awww

From In These Times

What is most likely to make people to go vegetarian?

BY Theo Anderson
May 30, 2013

Last summer, the animal-rights group Compassion Over Killing released an undercover video filmed inside a California slaughterhouse. It contained graphic evidence of the way cows are treated on the way to slaughter, including an incident in which a worker stepped on the mouth and nose of a fallen cow, suffocating it. That was probably the least gruesome scene. In the wake of the video’s release, federal regulators shut the facility down for a week, until the company promised to provide better training for workers in the “humane” treatment of animals.

Previously, Compassion Over Killing had released a video shot inside a pig breeding factory farm in Iowa. Its investigation found pigs being confined in gestation crates so small that the animals are unable even to turn around; workers “repairing” the herniated intestines of pigs with tape; and pigs being fed a gruel that consisted of the intestines of dead pigs.

Iowa has among the highest concentration of factory farms in the United States, and it’s the nation’s leading pork producer. Stung by the exposé, in 2012 the Iowa General Assembly passed “ag-gag” legislation that made it a crime to obtain access to farming facilities on false pretenses—by lying on a job application, for example. The bill passed both chambers of the legislature with overwhelming support.

Several states have recently passed or are now debating their own form of ag-gag legislation. Utah and Missouri passed ag-gag bills in 2012, and about 10 states have considered such bills this year. (Three states—Kansas, Montana and North Dakota—passed ag-gag legislation in the early 1990s.) The American Legislative Exchange Council, a notorious tool of corporate interests, has played a key role in crafting them.

Hidden-camera videos that expose animal abuse within the meat, dairy and poultry industries have had some success in raising public awareness, and have even helped to change corporate behavior. Last year, for example, McDonald’s announced that by 2022 it will buy pork only from farms that don’t use the kind of gestation crates exposed in Compassion Over Killing’s pig breeding video.

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