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June 19, 2013 8:54 PM   Subscribe

Gagged by Big Ag. "Horrific abuse. Rampant contamination. And the crime is…exposing it?"
posted by homunculus (58 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 


But but but bacon.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 9:12 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


hmm, this makes me wonder. Just how good is the food I eat? Is there a place that will review the quality/humanity of the conditions in which different brands (e.g. smart chicken) of meat are produced?
posted by rebent at 9:18 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]




I'd be 100% okay with the death penalty for political corruption.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:23 PM on June 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Boy, we really hate whistleblowers in this country, don't we?
posted by spiderskull at 9:30 PM on June 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


amazing how animal rights activists, in that state representative's perspective, are the "animal abuse profiteering corporatists".

kind of makes a person want to yell and cry and vomit all at once, really.
posted by One Thousand and One at 9:45 PM on June 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


rebent: You can often get meat animals off the farm and garden section of Craigslist.
posted by aniola at 9:56 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Butchered or taken to the butcher, I mean.
posted by aniola at 9:56 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's what needs to happen:

1) Every Senior Executive and Board member at every one of these human-and-animal-abusing industries (agriculture, finance, pharmaceuticals, transportation, dirty energy) needs to have his/her name prominently placed in ads and on websites, right alongside photos of devastation that they have caused.

2) Find out where the above criminals live, and peacefully picket their homes, relentlessly.

3) Make t-shirts with their names and images on them, alongside images of the social crimes they have committed.

4) Make up euphemisms that associate their names with the end result of the horrific social and environmental crimes they commit.

5) Make a social movement happen whose only goal is to remove anything but [i.e. public funds for financing political campaigns at any level in the United States. (that means Federal, local, and municipal elections - including school board elections).

6) Do as much as you can to keep the products and services that these criminals make outside the sphere of your buying influence. Tell others what you are doing.

7) Demand that groups like "MoveOn" etc. work toward the above goals, or stop sending them your money. (This excludes groups that are focused on more specific, narrow issues as their main goal - e.g. women's rights groups; LBGT groups; etc.).

8) Work toward prosecuting these corporate criminals, and, if necessary, pursuing them beyond the time they have been active as criminal corporate actors - no respite, no mercy. Treat them as you would treat a concentration camp commander. (I would recommend the death penaly, but I'm against that, even for these scum).
posted by Vibrissae at 9:57 PM on June 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Full text PDF of the Conover article from Harpers.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:07 PM on June 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Vibrissae, you've just described many of the tactics of anti-choice activists. I don't like 1 through 4 when they do it, and I don't much care to see it happen in this context. Personal destruction cheapens the goal.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:20 PM on June 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Thanks, snuffleupagus. I've read about the Conover article, but not the article itself.
posted by homunculus at 10:24 PM on June 19, 2013


Here's what needs to happen:

I don't know how to sufficiently express my opposition to both your stated goals and methods.
posted by empath at 10:39 PM on June 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Reading that article, I feel I should warn that it contains very vivid descriptions of how an industrial slaughterhouse works, and what an inspector does. It's impressive writing (I think) but it may not be suitable for everyone interested in this topic.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:40 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, if you make this much effort, spend this much money to hide something, to make people who expose it criminals, then you're ashamed of what people might see. Even you are ashamed.
posted by Jimbob at 10:50 PM on June 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


The way to fix this isn't to try to to force empathy via a civil mob. It's by enacting actual, real regulation. Not self regulation. Not the watered down bullshit that we're so used to. Actual oversight to ensure that the living conditions of the animals fit a prescribed, publicly available set of guidelines. Then issue these organizations the power to wield financial (and criminal, if necessary) penalties proportional to the net profit of the violating company, to counter the massive cash reserves Big Ag has. Tier the penalties so that you do not hurt small farms/families who haven't the means to ensure full compliance.

Actually, the other easy fix for this is to start doing more meatless days. They don't have as much political power without their absurd, imbalanced buying (and therefore lobbying) power.
posted by spiderskull at 10:51 PM on June 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


No one wants to pay for the kind of oversight necessary to truly regulate animal agriculture. Limiting even the modicum of exposure prompted by these "whistleblowers" ensures that 100% of animal agriculture operations will go unregulated, as opposed to the 99%+ unregulated status quo. The fact remains, if you purchase and consume animal products, you are perpetuating cruelty. There is no getting around that.
posted by MetalFingerz at 10:58 PM on June 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


The fact remains, if you purchase and consume animal products, you are perpetuating cruelty. There is no getting around that.

I have some bad news for you about living in the first world.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:01 PM on June 19, 2013 [29 favorites]


After watching what happened to the word organic when the FDA got a hold of it, I don't think it is very realistic to use big government to solve this for us. Even if they weren't completely co-opted, I still don't think they are the best choice.

If you can't be bothered to source your food personally, there are organizations that are far more trustworthy to delegate that task to. Oregon tilth is one of them, but I am sure there are others in other locations.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:02 PM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Conover article (thanks snuffleupagus) had nothing about cruelty. Not somewhere I'd want to work, but nothing shocking or terribly negative. There are far worse workplaces in the western world.
posted by wilful at 11:14 PM on June 19, 2013


How a country with a feral pig population of perhaps 5 million (feral pigs being one of the most destructive threats to crop agriculture in many areas of the country) can be so short sighted as to encourage large scale domestic pork production, while essentially prohibiting commercialization of feral pig harvesting by hunters, is hard not to class as plain crazy. Enable the inspection and interstate sale of wild boar meat, and you could put a sizeable dent in two ongoing problems, with little downside.
posted by paulsc at 11:15 PM on June 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Actually the Conover article is pretty heartening. The inspectors run a tight ship. Except for the RSI they all have, which is crappy (and surprising since they only do a task for 15 minutes at a time). But that's a USDA OH&S issue, not a meat safety one.
posted by wilful at 11:31 PM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


empath:
I don't know how to sufficiently express my opposition to both your stated goals and methods.


Well unsaid. How is it that people continue to whine about these institutions but will simply not name and shame - really shame - the criminals at the top? And, if you find my ideas so distasteful, why not counter them instead of taking such a lazy, condescending approach to criticizing them? In fact, your response to my post most likely defines the way you want to deal with the society-hurting crimes and insults that I described - i.e. via well-known passive-aggressive means that don't change a damn thing, and leave corporate criminals intact.

Why not go after these people with the same force that they bring their social and environmental and financial crimes to you and your neighborhood? Why NOT shame them, and pursue their carefully groomed reputations to Kingdom Come? Do you really think that you are going to be able to softly bring change to the sociopaths that create corporate havoc or other large-scale havoc in our culture? Do you really think they cognate empathy the way that you do? Stop kidding yourself. Keeping up whatever lightweight efforts you have been engaged in - whatever they are - they haven't worked very well now, have they? Do you see corporate blight diminishing? I sure don't. Shame is a powerful weapon. I'm sick and tired of the most powerful goons getting away with diffusing the energy of positive change agents via "soft" diplomacy. It's time to start playing hardball.

schoolgirl report:you've just described many of the tactics of anti-choice activists. I don't like 1 through 4 when they do it, and I don't much care to see it happen in this context. Personal destruction cheapens the goal.

Personal destruction cheapens the goal? And what about the personal destruction wrought by the criminals in the corporate institutions that I named above - like the scum that run agribusiness corporations responsible for the vast maltreatment of animals? Or, the corporate finance scum that have taken homes from millions of hard-working Americans, and profited from it? What about THEIR goals, carried out by corporate criminals who don't give a rat's ass about "playing nice" - and walk away untouched?

"Nice" doesn't get you anywhere - and by the antithesis of "nice" I don't mean feckless anarchist "Occupy" movements that accomplish absolutely nothing - or damn close to it. Nor do I mean physical violence. What I mean is playing hardball and shaming the living hell out of people who - had they not BOUGHT and paid for the laws that let them do what they do, would be sitting in a jail cell. Bring their reputations down, and make them pay in reputation and street cred for what they have done. Do you really think that the people who ran the world's economy into the ground deserve anything less than a life sentence in jail?

Frankly, there are too many whiners who bring these problems up, and then go on to donate to their favorite large-scale "change agent", like "MoveOn", thinking that they're accomplishing something - e.g. like electing a President who has continued to play it safe, just like they do.

Look, the methods that the most radical, non-violent, anti-abortion groups have been using have *worked*. We are watching women's rights being hurt by these groups. And what about YOUR methods? Like empath's, they don't seem to be working very well, do they?

Unlike you, and empath, I am embarking on ways to make the bastards that cause these problems pay for their crimes with burned reputations and community shame - something that seems to have fallen by the wayside as whiny groups jockey for the best "negotiating angle" to deal with these criminals, with the end result that they keep on doing what they were doing prior to soft negotiation, or worse.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:47 PM on June 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


The fact remains, if you purchase and consume animal products, you are perpetuating cruelty. There is no getting around that.

If you survive by eating berries picked from the forest, you are depriving birds of their sustenance, and killing them.

Humans have a place in the ecology of the planet. It's unavoidable with current technology. But it's best to ensure we aren't cruel.
posted by Jimbob at 11:48 PM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


A meat inspector (GS-7) earns $50 000 a year. About the same in Australia. For a low skilled job, seems about right.
posted by wilful at 11:51 PM on June 19, 2013


The way to fix this isn't to try to to force empathy via a civil mob. It's by enacting actual, real regulation. Not self regulation. Not the watered down bullshit that we're so used to.

And just how long is that supposed to take? Corporate farms have been wreaking abuse - in fact, increasing abuse - of animals for as long as I can remember. These stories continue. I remember similar stories being aired over many of the past decades.

Enacting real regulation? When the corporate scum who enable this outrage buy off the very politicians who are supposed to be acting in our - and our feed animals - interest?

You want change? If you really, really want change, your are going to have to FIRST work really, really hard to get all private money out of politics, period. ALL private money. That's sounds impossible, doesn't it? It IS almost impossible, but unless we accomplish that goal we will continue to see repeats of agricultural, financial and other corporate insults made *legal*. Unless we accomplish this goal all our wishes and diatribes about how we need "change" will amount to little more than hot air.

The fact is that "regulation" is bought and paid for in America - more and more. Asa result, a bunch of corporate goons and corrupt politicians laugh as America commits hara-kiri.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:58 PM on June 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Conover article had nothing about cruelty.

Quite right. But it has a few descriptions that might be difficult for some to read, regarding how the animals are processed and the way inspectors identify certain problems. I thought some people might find a heads up useful, although it's definitely not the most harrowing article about meat packing I've read recently.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:06 AM on June 20, 2013


Susie Cagle of Grist.org did a multi-part series on ag-gag laws.

She also drew this handy map.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 12:33 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Personal destruction cheapens the goal? And what about the personal destruction wrought by the criminals in the corporate institutions that I named above - like the scum that run agribusiness corporations responsible for the vast maltreatment of animals?

You seem to think that everyone thinks this is a major problem that's worth stopping by any means necessary and I think most people, if they have to choose between affordable meat products and well-treated animals, will go with the former.
posted by empath at 12:40 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]




There's always exposes about things like this, and in Australia it lead to bannings of live export to various countries. Again, though, you're already eating meat. You're already killing animals in an industrial fashion. Any other 'cruelty' on top of that is just gravy, and I don't understand the outrage.

That said, Dan Carlin is mad about the expansion of anti-terrorist laws to ag business whistleblowers, and that does scare me, since it could prevent information in the public interest from coming out.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:54 AM on June 20, 2013


empath You seem to think that everyone thinks this is a major problem that's worth stopping by any means necessary and I think most people, if they have to choose between affordable meat products and well-treated animals, will go with the former.

Cynical much? That is exactly what I am complaining about - i.e. people who are basically sheep (pun intended); people who raise issues like this and then move on to the next headline or issue. And, how has any of this abuse gotten better, or decreased? And if it has gotten better, by how much? I see nothing but tiny incremental steps, with massive feedlots and other cruelties visited on animals after DECADES of whiny complaints. Add to that the outrage of antibiotic use, etc. etc.. Nothing seems to change, because those who make profits from these activities are made comfortable by an increasingly dumbed down and passive culture.

Who are the leaders of the corporations that permit this? Why are they left untouched and mostly unnamed - protected by the outrage that diffuses itself in youtube videos of feedlots, and feckless undercover reportage (now, apparently illegal in some states).

How is it that those who are at the top of the organizations (private, and public) that allow this outrage, go nameless? How is it that they get to live lives of respecable community scions as they visit hell-on-earth to the source of their profits, and the consumers of their products? Why is that? I want to know who the persons are who permit such lax regulation. I want them named, and named again and again and again. I want their criminal faces juxtaposed next to the outrage that they visit on those animals, our environment, and our health. I want to see the same thing done to similar scum in other corporate environments who manage to get off scot free, time after time after time.

Maybe they can buy their way out of jail, but they can't buy their way out of massive community shame - and, by massive, I mean anation of people who are fed up (no pun intended) with decade after decade of abuse.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:17 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first paragraph in the Mother Jones article reads like a recent, never discussed on the Blue, murder trial in Philadelphia. But I digress.

What is all of the vitriol against "corporations" about? Is it because they are sufficiently faceless that ascribing abuse to only them allows for maximum vilification? In other words, it appears that activists have decided that more empathy can be garnered by making a faceless corporation the enemy rather than a family farmer that has the same practices.

As a side note, the larger corporations are almost always, in every industry, in favor of more regulations, since the cost to comply tends to drive out smaller players.
posted by otto42 at 3:59 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have some bad news for you about living in the first world.

Well gosh I guess the truth is just somewhere in the middle, there's two sides to every story, etc etc, oh hey bbl The Bachelor is on
posted by threeants at 4:31 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jeffrey M. Ettinger
Chairman of the Board
President and Chief Executive Officer
Biography
Jeffrey M. Ettinger is chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer (CEO) at Hormel Foods. Ettinger joined Hormel Foods in 1989 and has served in a variety of roles, including senior attorney, product manager for Hormel® chili products and treasurer. In 1999, he was named president of Jennie-O Turkey Store — the largest subsidiary of Hormel Foods, based in Willmar, Minn. Ettinger was appointed president at Hormel Foods in 2004 and CEO in 2005, where he oversees all functions and operations at the $8.2 billion multinational business.

Under Ettinger’s leadership, Hormel Foods has grown through strategic acquisitions and a continued focus on new product innovation. As a result, the company’s common stock was added to the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in 2009, and Hormel Foods increased dividends for the 47th consecutive time in November 2012, despite economic and industry challenges. In 2012, Ettinger was named Responsible CEO of the year by Corporate Responsibility magazine. Additionally, the company was named 2008 Processor of the Year by both The National Provisioner magazine and Food Processing magazine for its industry leadership, and Hormel Foods won the American Business Award for Most Innovative Company in 2009. The company is a member of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, Maplecroft Climate Indexes, and the Global 100 Sustainable Performance Leaders.

He spearheaded the company’s efforts to become more transparent regarding its corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives. As a result of these efforts, Hormel Foods was recognized among the 100 Best Corporate Citizens in the United States (compiled by Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine) for four consecutive years. In addition, Ettinger is the founding chair of the company’s diversity and inclusion council, which aims to meet the growing needs of its diverse workforce and consumer base.

Ettinger is a native of Pasadena, Calif., and holds a bachelor of arts degree and law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. He served as a law clerk for the Honorable Arthur Alarcon, the U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit. Ettinger attended the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School.

He serves on the boards of The Toro Company, American Meat Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, The Hormel Institute, The Hormel Foundation and the Minnesota Business Partnership. He and his wife, LeeAnn, have four children — one working in New York City, two in college and one at home with them in Austin, Minn.



As for the particular farm in this video, that would be Lynn Becker, head of the fifth-generation family owned LB Pork. They bought the barn the abuses were taped at about a month before PETA released the tapes. Interesting piece on the aftermath from his perspective:
Becker's management team met with PETA and developed steps they would follow and have done so.

"Create that positive barn culture," Becker said. "The ethical principles of the We Care Program, Pork Quality Assurance Plus and Transport Quality Assurance are industry leading food safety and animal well being education programs."

Prior leadership roles and community involvement were vital in getting through the crisis. The Beckers were well known and respected in their community, state and industry.

"Investigate anything that might even remotely be perceived as poor animal treatment," Becker said. "Proper animal care has to be number one every day."
posted by Diablevert at 4:31 AM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


" Maybe they can buy their way out of jail, but they can't buy their way out of massive community shame"

Or: assume a can opener.
posted by jpe at 4:55 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This class of laws, promoted by agribusiness in farm states, criminalizes the unauthorized recording of video or photographs inside a production facility.

The Indiana version of these Ag-gag laws would make it a crime to simply photograph the farm or facility from anywhere, period. Snapping a picture from the road as you're driving by? That would be a criminal offense.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:05 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


schoolgirl report Vibrissae, you've just described many of the tactics of anti-choice activists.

Anti-abortion activists are extremely effective at getting their cause political and legislative mileage. If banning animal cruelty became a rallying political agenda of a significant political minority, if hostile legislatures made getting necessary permits and zoning for factory farms effectively impossible even where the practice is not technically illegal, and fringe extremists occasionally bombed factory farms or shot their owners, I admit to not being much upset by that prospect.

Fear isn't a great way to stop evil, as it causes a lot of problems of its own, however it's preferable to not stopping evil.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:05 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


You are calling for bombing and shooting people to cause "fear" and claiming that it is "preferable to not stopping evil?"

You are literally calling for acts of terrorism.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:27 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's quite a stretch, snuffleupagus. Vibrissae called for naming and shaming, which is absolutely fair game, even if folks you disagree with also use it as a strategy.
posted by mediareport at 6:43 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm referring to Aeschenkarnos' comment immediately above mine:

"..fringe extremists occasionally bombed factory farms or shot their owners, I admit to not being much upset by that prospect."

I have no problems with 'naming and shaming,' as such.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:46 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I liken it to somebody walking into your living room and taking video," she said. "If you're at a cocktail party and somebody shoots video of you from behind a candle—like they did to Mitt Romney—is that legitimate?"

Yes, it is legitimate. Who in their right mind honestly believes that it's not. Perhaps it's not admissible to a court of law as evidence. But you really think that a right to privacy equals a right to be a complete and utter dick and criminal behind closed doors? That if someone catches you, they're in the wrong for having caught you?

This isn't discovering and airing someone's "strange" sexual proclivities or off-color jokes. This is animal abuse by the meatpacking industry, and contempt for the American people by a presidential candidate, respectively.
posted by explosion at 7:08 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, in situations like this what is legal and what is 'legitimate' in a more maximal sense are not perfectly congruent. In my view.

Regarding the legal rationale, the appellate decision in Food Lion's suit against ABC Primetime for posing journalists as employees so as to investigate and tape their meat-packing operations might be helpful.

Here's a decent summary, and a longer article on the case and on torts by undercover journos written by a pair of law profs.

Basically, the fraud verdict rendered at trial didn't stand up, but trespass and breach of loyalty did.

I may be reading too much in, but Conover's methodology feels like a smart way of avoiding the pitfalls ABC ran into with Food Lion.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:29 AM on June 20, 2013


I have some bad news for you about living in the first world.

Anything worth not doing at all is worth doing less of.
posted by DU at 7:43 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


We should start eating prisoners, would that make everyone happy?
posted by Teakettle at 8:19 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


We should start eating prisoners, would that make everyone happy?

We already do.
posted by MetalFingerz at 8:32 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


if they have to choose between affordable meat products and well-treated animals, will go with the former. in the United States.

The EU directives on Pigs.
posted by infini at 8:41 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, even these Rwandese pigs look clean and happy
posted by infini at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The The Daily Show did piece on this.

"So let me get this straight, you're protecting the animals from the people that are trying to protect the animals?" - "Yes."
...

Lobbyist: "What they're taking footage of is standard industry practices"
...
Activisty: "Something being standard industry practice doesn't exactly mean that it's okay to do"
posted by el io at 9:53 AM on June 20, 2013



Look, the methods that the most radical, non-violent, anti-abortion groups have been using have *worked*. We are watching women's rights being hurt by these groups. And what about YOUR methods? Like empath's, they don't seem to be working very well, do they?

Unlike you, and empath, I am embarking on ways to make the bastards that cause these problems pay for their crimes with burned reputations and community shame - something that seems to have fallen by the wayside as whiny groups jockey for the best "negotiating angle" to deal with these criminals, with the end result that they keep on doing what they were doing prior to soft negotiation, or worse.


So you're pretty much my strawman view of the animal rights movements - you're putting animals above humans in the most obvious, painful way possible.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:23 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


So you're pretty much my strawman view of the animal rights movements - you're putting animals above humans in the most obvious, painful way possible.

I don't think the shaming thing is going to be an efficacious strategy to ending animal abuse (education is much more effective--a consumer shift is what's changing and going to change things, imo). But the claim that shaming corporate criminals is worse than slaughtering and torturing animals and is thus "putting animals above humans in the most obvious, painful way possible" is the quintessence of the problem. The idea that the lives and well-being of animals are so meaningless that the dignity of human criminals is worth more is a fundamental injustice, and I'm sad to see it so glibly expressed here.
posted by MetalFingerz at 8:52 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]




Moyers & Company: Ag-Gag Laws Silence Whistleblowers
posted by homunculus at 9:44 PM on July 14, 2013


I don't agree with ag-gag laws in themselves, but if they lead to stronger crackdowns on eco-terrorism and green groups they could serve a purpose.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:55 PM on July 14, 2013


Yeah, because ecoterrorism is such a scourge, especially compared to the total lack of impact on the world and humanity of our fucked up ag industry.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:06 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]






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