Video Record Food Production: You’re A Terrorist!

I remember stories about eco-terrorism which involved real violence and destruction. So when I hear that there is a law being pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) called “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” my first reaction is positive. Eco-Terrorism must be punished! ALEC is a kind of lobbying group that tries to get laws passed in as many states as possible. In this case, they want a terrorism database set up so that, in addition to being punished, your name can be permanently tracked as someone who has committed an act of terrorism.

ALEC began advocating this law for all states back in 2003, releasing a report on September—an intentional appeal to the terrorist attacks two years earlier. The report, “Animal and Ecological Terrorism in America,” compared “extreme animal rights and environmental militants” to “terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.”

Except that the law has nothing to do with terrorism.

It wants to prosecute as a terrorist any person who takes a picture inside a slaughterhouse or any other “animal facility” with the intent to “defame the facility or its owner.”

Because that’s what happened on 9/11, right? A bunch of terrorists snuck into the United States and just took pictures of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and then publicized those pictures to “defame” the United States.

Of course not!

The Al Qaeda terrorists did real damage and really killed people. They were true terrorists. People who take pictures that someone doesn’t want you to take are not terrorists.

ALEC is lying.

Trespassing is already a crime. If someone sneaks into a henhouse and takes footage of horrible and unsanitary conditions, then they can be charged with trespassing. But such an act is not terrorism. Duh.

I am suspicious of a lot of the “food activism” I see. If the choice is between more expensive food and some kind of more “humane” treatment of the animals that are being made into food, then I am on the side of letting the farmers do what they want.

I also tend to think that farmers and other participants in the food production system already have a vested interest in making sure that their food is safe. They wouldn’t want to be liable for making customers sick.

But this assumes that the government will hold all parties accountable for what they do. If the food lobby has enough clout to get states to define unflattering video-recording as “terrorism,” then maybe we need to start worrying that the government is more interested in making people think they are safe from their food, rather than actually holding anyone accountable for producing unsafe food.

Awhile back, Wired magazine wrote about these “Ag-gag” laws. The largest meat recall in America was the result of a concerned citizen with a camera who showed cows, too sick to stand, being turned into beef, despite all sorts of risks. If ALEC got its way, the person who took that footage would be a “terrorist.”

These laws are an attack on the First Amendment. They are un-American and totalitarian. No matter if you are an environmentalist or an anti-environmentalist skeptic, no one should want to see the Constitution so blatantly shredded to favor an industry—or for any other reason.