Freelancer Journalist, UK

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On August 8th it was announced that two Australian animal rights activists, Christopher Delforce and Dorrotya Kiss, were ‘let-off’ of the charges brought against them by pork farmers. Delforce and Kiss were facing charges thanks to what is known as an ‘ag-gag’ law, which stop Australians from installing recording equipment on farms. The activists were accused of the illegal installation of recording equipment, and the distribution of the footage that the cameras recorded. The pair had the charges dismissed thanks to a fault in police proceedings that saw a document go undated.

Despite this, the case, and cases like it, bring into question the morality of ag-gag laws, and whether they stop important issues being in the public view. It has been suggested that animal rights activists were using the footage that they obtained of normal and legal working practices and framing it as animal cruelty. However, just because something is legal doesn’t mean the Australian public would deem it moral. What’s more, the animals themselves are unable to speak up about the way they are treated.

When humans are concerned about work place practices they are able to release information that might otherwise be considered confidential or a breach of contract under whistleblowing laws. The aim of protecting whistleblowers is to allow people to come forward and speak out against injustices without fear of being criminally convicted or fired. Often these whistleblowers are proclaimed heroes, especially when they have uncovered secrets that effect the public on a large scale. One example of this is Edward Snowden who uncovered secret surveillance programs in the USA. So what’s the difference between Edward Snowden and animal rights activists?

Some people would argue that the farming practices the likes of Kiss and Delforce ‘uncover’ are completely legal and therefore there is nothing to blow the whistle on. However, many members of the public are unaware of the reality of animal agriculture and the procedures conducted on farms. Documentaries like Land of Hope and Glory and Earthlings have allowed people to witness the way animals are treated in the USA and the UK. After watching films like these many viewers feel strongly that they don’t want to spend their money contributing to the industry and decide to change their diet to fit in with their morals.

Obviously Delforce and Kiss’s aim when they released the footage was to convince other people to stop eating meat, which is the why the animal agricultural industry is fighting against animal rights activists. But if information is being recorded and reported factually should the intentions behind sharing the information be taken into account?

Moreover, if the practices carried out on farms were something members of the public would be happy with then why the need to hide them? Defamation laws would protect farmers against footage being portrayed out of context to make them look like they were being cruel to animals. The public have a right to understand where their food comes from and form an opinion based on the facts. Australia is a democracy and therefore the laws and practices of the country should be shaped by public opinion.

Ultimately, it seems underhand to forbid people to release footage of working practices when the public buy products that contribute to those working practices.

 


Image Credit: The Daily Dot

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