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21 January, 2020 -
“Ag-Gag” is journalist speak for “anti-whistle blower” laws. They are being used in the US to restrict people from entering an animal or research centre with the intent to commit a criminal act or defame the facility”. This came to my attention when reading that Australia is also to consider the introduction of similar legislation; is this becoming the norm?
As consumers of hides we are inextricably linked to the agri-meat sector and it is of course a huge business and is global. The industry covers a wide range of animals (from poultry to bovine) slaughtering with conventional as well as halal methods; with standards from highly mechanised/controlled in the developed world to the back yard slaughterhouses in the some parts of the Middle East and Africa. I have been inside many in my time. A quick search on the internet will present sufficient harrowing material to indicate that there might be a problem here. When looking, I also learned that my understanding of halal (an animal in good health is slaughtered by a Muslim, by cutting the throat, without stunning) is somewhat out of date. Several countries now have a halal method which involves stunning (removing the key negative element of halal). (type in: Ag-Gag laws and follow the lead)
Slaughtering animals is never going to be a pleasant operation, but while meat remains on the global menu, animals will be slaughtered. Whatever religious or cultural background we have, slaughtering in a compassionate manner is a given requirement. I have never observed bad practices in the many visits I have made to slaughter houses (on three continents) but that does not mean it does not exist. I would consider the big companies that work with the global leather hide supply (from US, South America, Europe, Australia/ NZ) are probably well managed and provide a reasonable level of care when slaughtering. So these people would have nothing to fear from any whistle blowers. If one has nothing to hide, then one has nothing to fear. But the internet does show poor practice in these very places – so care is needed in deciding where one stands on this issue.
So why are the Ag-Gag laws spreading? What is it that the industry is trying to hide? I would not support any form of right of access for the “loony veggies” (who are trying to destroy the meat industry) as whistle blowers; they are just a nuisance to an industry sector that is both legitimate and subject to the laws of the land. I would much prefer the legislature to enforce the law and ensure good practice. This is probably wishful thinking and there may well be sufficient bad practice in the sector that is being hidden and the use of the ag gag laws are there to protect such bad practices. I would not support the protection of in-humane slaughtering methods for economic advantage or because of simple poor management; bad industrial practices have no place in a sector where animal wellbeing is involved. Generally it is better not to have such laws if they are designed to protect an industry from inspection and control. If one has nothing to hide, one has nothing to fear and that is the right business philosophy; the desire for Ag-Gagging laws smells of concealment.