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Ag Gag On Steroids – Idaho Dairies Urged to Block Media Access To Factory Farms

Ag Gag On Steroids – Idaho Dairies Urged to Block Media Access To Factory Farms

photo credit: Socially Responsible Agricultural Project via photopin cc

By Leslie Brueckner

Senior Attorney

As if Ag-Gag laws weren’t bad enough, Idaho’s dairy industry just tried to make their practices even more secret by blocking media access to factory farms.

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you already know about the Ag-Gag laws that are currently on the books in sixteen states, including Idaho. All these laws are designed for one thing: to keep the public from knowing what goes on inside factory farms by criminalizing whistleblowing in the animal industry. Two of these laws (Idaho’s and Utah’s) are being challenged in court – Public Justice is involved in the Idaho challenge – but so far, they are all in full force and effect.

So far, so bad. But it gets worse: a few weeks ago, the United Dairymen of Idaho – an industry trade group – sent a letter to more than 500 dairies in the state urging them to refuse media access to their facilities. The letter went so far as to give dairy farmers a bunch of suggestions about how to turn down media requests to tour their facilities, such as “animal hygiene and farm safety are critical to my operation. We simply don’t conduct tours like the one you are requesting.”

Although the United Dairymen is denying this, the point of the letter was crystal clear: to make sure that no one outside the dairy industry has any idea about what actually goes on inside these facilities. They know that, if the public actually understood what goes on in these facilities, consumers might choose sustainable alternatives that don’t involve the unsafe and inhumane practices that go hand-in-hand with modern day industrial farming.

The sad irony is that, in order to get Idaho’s Ag-Gag law passed, its advocates denied that it was “anti-whistleblower” because, they claimed, journalists would be welcomed with open arms at the state’s factory farms. The only reason for the bill, they insisted, was to stop “terrorist” animal-welfare groups like PETA from smearing factory farmers in the press.

The Dairyman’s recent letter proved that claim to be false and that the real goal is to block any access to the truth about factory farms.

Luckily though, the letter somehow got leaked to the press. After the story broke, the Dairymen quickly denied the obvious goal of the letter, saying “it’s not the intention of the United Dairymen of Ohio to deny media access to Idaho dairies.” The Dairymen went on to say that it “welcomes tours for the purpose of educating the public about our industry” and that “organizing on-farm tours is one of our primary goals.”

We’ll see about that. But even if Idaho dairies actually do allow journalists to tour their facilities, you can bet that they’ll clean up their act in advance of the visit. So the real down-and-dirty truth, the stuff that the public really needs to know, will stay undercover, right where they think it belongs.