“Farm protection” or “ag-gag” laws aim to outlaw the kinds of undercover investigations that have resulted in massive meat recalls, plant closures, and even criminal charges.

Specifically, they’re designed to deter the kind of work done by people like Lindsay.

For two years Lindsay (not her real name) has worked for a national animal advocacy nonprofit that sends investigators to take jobs at farms and slaughterhouses across the country, each for a few weeks at a time, in an effort to root out abuses.


“I use a hidden camera to film the day-to-day activities in these facilities while I am there working. I take detailed notes on what I witness and document,” she tells me. “With such minimal [government] oversight, these industries are pretty much left to police themselves, so it’s not uncommon to find acts of abuse or negligent behavior that may violate state or federal laws.”


When Lindsay works on one of these farms, she acts like any other employee — except for the secret documentation part. Under a slew of existing and proposed ag-gag laws, Lindsay would be committing at least two crimes: fraudulent employment and secret filming. “I do not work in the states that have passed ag-gag laws already, nor do any other investigators I know,” she says. “These laws are clearly intended to stop investigations like the ones that I do, and they in fact have that effect. It feels like a desperate move by industrialized agriculture.”

Desperate or not, industrialized agriculture is certainly aware of the impact of Lindsay’s work. Videos like the ones she records have taken down whole companies and spurred the prosecution of many abusers. They have also taken a bite out of Americans’ appetite for meat. A 2010 Kansas State University study [PDF] found that, “As a whole, media attention to animal welfare has significant, negative effects on U.S. meat demand.”