What you are about to see was almost illegal in Minnesota.Earlier this week a proposed bill, which would have made photographing animals in a farm setting without the owners consent illegal, was shut down. The bill is intended to prevent animal rights activists from distributing pamphlets or publishing videos depicting animals raised in harsh environments (factory farms) or otherwise subjected to cruelty. Iowa recently passed a similar bill, now commonly referred to as an “Ag-gag law”.
In Minnesota, the bill would have targeted anyone who produces “a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility” or anyone who “possess(es) or distribute(s) a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility” without the owners consent. The bill also would have made it illegal to tamper or “disrupt” operations on any livestock facility as well as making undercover investigations of animal facilities a criminal offense.
When Mindy from Sleeping Cat Farms was helping a customer today, I photographed some photographs of her animals to put on my website. Were we in Iowa and should Mindy decide to press charges, I could be arrested for this (I don’t have a signed consent form to display pictures of her animals). Fortunately, we don’t live in Iowa and Mindy is happy to have me display photographs of her animals. She is a wonderful farmer, treats her animals, and has nothing to hide. I find myself disturbed at the fact that the bill was ever on the table in the first place, especially since several sponsors of the bill (in both the senate and the house) were themselves Minnesota farmers. Who would want to buy food that comes from a farmer who is afraid to have people see how he treats his animals on the farm?
I wonder if Rep. Rod Hamilton (president of the Minnesota Pork Producers), Rep. Paul Anderson, Rep. Greg Davids, Sen. Doug Magnus, and Sen. Rod Skoe (all farmers) thought about this when they decided to sponsor the bill. Apparently the lawmakers received an overwhelming number of phone calls and letters in opposition. Some of it was likely inspired by this recent article from Mark Bittman: (link).
If you are unfamiliar with factory farming, here is a great introductory cartoon that delivers the information in a format that won’t make you feel like vomiting (which is the effect that photographs of factory farming have on me). It’s called “the Meatrix“, and after a heated discussion about MN politics, I watched it with my in-laws last night. (Click link to watch video now)
“So what do we do about it?” Everett said, taking his laptop back out of my hands. I shrugged my shoulders. “get to know the farmers, either directly or through the watchful eyes of grocers, reporters and bloggers. Buy from small farmers that we know and trust. I know it’s more expensive, but it’s worth it.”
It takes resources to care for an animal, and if the meat inexpensive, what does that say about the care that animal was given? Fortunately for me, I work at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, so I am around to hear about it when something goes on sale. Today Sleeping Cat Farms was having a sale on organic chickens. I had a chance to chat with the farmer, Mindy, for awhile. She sells grass-fed, grass-finished beef, pasture-raised lamb, fully free range chickens (fed only organic grains) and organic eggs.To learn more about Mindy’s farm, check out www.sleepingcatorganicfarm.com or stop by the Minneapolis farmer’s market and talk with her yourself