A slew of bills currently in front of state legislatures around the country aims to make it a crime to document what goes on behind slaughterhouse doors. But these bills themselves may be a blessing in disguise for animal rights activists.
Take the example of Wyoming, where a proposed bill recently dropped like a pesticide-poisoned honeybee. The bill would have made any recording illegal without permission from the facility owner, with a penalty of six months in jail and a $750 fine. Pushed by a Republican rancher, Wyoming House Bill 126 seemed set to pass the state senate.
That is, until "PETA had Bob Barker come out against it and it got a lot of media attention," Green is the New Red journalist Will Potter explains. "Bob Barker saves the day."
Potter and activist Andy Stepanian have been two of the most outspoken voices against ag-gag bills. When several bills made their way to state legislatures last year, "the threat was clear and real," Potter says. A domino effect seemed impending: If farm-friendly legislators could push these bills through in Missouri and Utah, what might happen nationwide?
"Each one of these pieces of 'model legislation' is seeing just how far they could push the envelope," says Stepanian. "'We have case law on record in this state, why don't you do the same thing in your state?' In time it chips away at our democratic freedoms."
But ultimately -- oddly enough -- both Potter and Stepanian aren't worried. Sure, if they passed, these laws would be a gut shot to the animal protection movement. But in becoming a national news story, ag-gags may have backfired instead. Every time a publication covers farm protection proposals, it uses the horrible images of abuse that investigators have dug up. That has made these stories a great way for activists to spread their message. And it has made Potter and Stepanian downright optimistic.