BEEF Daily

Do You Support Ag Gag Laws?


Should hidden videos taken of animal abuse on farms be able to be used as evidence in court cases?

“But, Amanda, I know animal abuse is real; I’ve watched all those videos on YouTube of factory farmers beating their animals.” This is a statement made by a college student from Michigan who toured our ranch last summer. Of course, I don’t tolerate the bad apples in our industry -- those who mistreat their animals, that is -- but, I know these individuals are few and far between. Why judge an entire industry based on a few bad actors?

I asked this individual to define factory farming. After all, I don’t know any factory farmers. With 98% of farms and ranches in the U.S. family owned and operated, I know that today’s food is grown by people who care about the animals, the environment and the final retail product.

What’s more, I also know that PETA and HSUS supporters are usually behind these terrible videos depicting animal abuse. And, if they aren’t behind the camera catching the action, they are usually the ones initiating the abuse. And, these organizations strategically release these videos to wreak havoc on the agriculture industry, which usually results in litigation, loss of jobs and a direct shot at the markets.

This week’s poll at wants to know your opinion on these videos. Several states have introduced “ag gag” laws that would disallow these films as evidence in a lawsuit, or outlaw activists from applying for ag jobs under false pretenses.

Our question is: Are ag gag laws a good idea for the livestock industry to pursue?

Of the 300 total votes logged so far, 63% say, “No, livestock ag has nothing to hide and such laws give the impression that we do.” Another 35% are in favor of the legislative measures.  

While ag gag laws may protect farmers and ranchers, such laws may also send a signal to consumers that we are trying to hide something. However, we know activists are misrepresenting themselves in applying for jobs on farms, hoping to surreptitiously record incidents on the farm that can be used to their advantage.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Vote today and add your two cents in the comments section below.

Discuss this Blog Entry 15

Lewis Family Farm (not verified)
on Mar 14, 2012

Ask this question of the ONLY USDA Certified, Registered All-Grass Fed Beef farm in the Nation. Speak to Sandy Lewis.

Keith McFall (not verified)
on Mar 14, 2012

I am retired from ''work' (you never want to retire), my work history is non-agriculture but I do remember at home trying to move our cattle. One time we wanted to move the cows thru a gate, one of them would not 'see' it until I picked up a stick and changed its mind.

Questiion: where did the expression ''bull headed' come from. Many people who have been around cattle very much (and people) can readly relate to that expression.

Keith McFall, retired from airospace and farming.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 14, 2012

I'm of the school of thought that we should overcome evil with good. Advocate widely that we have an admirable occupation and are proud of our accomplishments.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 14, 2012

Am against Ag Law. Born and raised on a farm with cattle. For years, we have never had or heard of mistreating cattle. Who are the unwise people who have never lived on a farm coming from? They have no first hand knowledge as to farming except to enhance the trouble makers. Get real.

Brian Reed (not verified)
on Mar 14, 2012

Here is what needs to be considered. Compare the actions of animal abuse to abuse of the elderly in nursing homes, or abuse of children in day care. What laws apply? Can someone, under false pretenses, gain a job in a nursing home so they can "catch" someone beating an elderly person? And what is abuse? Is it abusive to physically restrain a person with dimentia to keep them from hurting themselves, or to smack a cow on the butt to get her to move through a gate to better pasture?

I don't know whether I agree or disagree with the gag laws. I think these investigations need to be conducted by law enforcement personnel, not the general public. As with the Rodney King incident, we don't know what occurs before or after the video, or have the context to put it in. Having said that, no one should be tried in the media, and I would be in favor of laws preventing this type of material being played in the news or on the internet before it might be introduced into evidence in a trial.

nkarpis (not verified)
on Mar 14, 2012

we handle our cattle in the corral in a way that thwy will come back in the corral after being turned out ihave had my ribs brocken my arm broken chased over the fence jamed aginst the side of a corral what about human abuse

Calvin Smith again (not verified)
on Mar 14, 2012

I have been in the beef cattle business many years and have had to personally challenge stockyard workers or people I may have hired for beating and banging on my cattle too many times. In the recent years this has been improved on very much. It is not uncommon now for someone to step up and stop the abuse when it happens. We must do this if we want to keep others out of our business. Shock sticks? No way.

David P (not verified)
on Mar 14, 2012

I always use the example that catholics wouldn't want all of their priests judged by the handful that have molested children...why would the overwhelming majority of stockmen want to be judged by the few cases that have come into the limelight? You look across ANY profession and you'll find individuals that give that profession a black eye.

hutch (not verified)
on Mar 15, 2012

this issue is not about hiding anything, it is about personal propery rights. if the consumers want full disclosure give it to them with streaming video. but some day they are going to have to realize that all these added costs that agriculture is incurring to appease animal activists is going to increase food costs

Jake (not verified)
on Mar 15, 2012

It definitely is a private property issue. Would any other business want to have employees videotaping day to day operation to post on YouTube? In the veterinary field, we do things for the safety of animals AND humans that lay-people just don't understand. There have been lawsuits against vets for perfectly acceptable practices that animal rights activists secretly video tape. If I ever have my own practice or farm, I will certainly include in any employee's contract a statement that they are not misrepresenting their employment history and are prohibited from recording video or pictures without written permission by me and the client.

Roxanne Kelly (not verified)
on Apr 18, 2012

If there is nothing to hide, then why not prove it? Install your own cameras within your facilities and let people see what is going on in there. It wouldn't cost much, every corner convenience store across the country has video surveillance. It isn't like you have intellectual property to protect in the same manner as a high-tech corporation would have. In reality, it is just a barn full of animals, right?

What "privacy" is being violated? Banks and grocery stores have surveillance cameras. I work in a hospital and it has security cameras all over the place. In fact, most organizations do have some sort of internal video surveillance. So why not prove that you've nothing to hide? If you aren't doing anything wrong, prove it.

That would shut up all those animal rights groups out there if you put up your own live video feed. If in fact, the animals are being treated humanely, you would be proving them wrong, am I right?

I dare you, I challenge you to do this. My guess is that you won't, because this isn't really about privacy, it is about your desire to keep the status quo. A status quo that includes not so humane treatment of animals.

That is why you need to bribe the government into hiding your activities under the guise of a right to privacy. Will you take my challenge? Put up a few of your own cameras to show the world you don't have anything to be ashamed of. Put up your own youtube vids. I challenge you.

Jake (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2012

I rather doubt that the hospital in which you work allows those cameras to be viewed streaming live over the internet. If they are, that's a great violation of patient confidentiality. The sticking point is the issue of context. What we all know is a standard, humane practice (ear tagging) can be misinterpreted by someone who knows nothing about agriculture.
By the same token, would you allow cameras to be installed in your home to be viewed 24/7? Is everything you do in the privacy of your own home 100% acceptable? No way that someone innocent could in any way misinterpreted and seized upon by someone with an agenda? If so, then I applaud you because you are a far far more perfect human than I am.

Roxanne Kelly (not verified)
on Jun 20, 2012

What a strange response. Does livestock need privacy? That is ridiculous. I'm not suggesting that cameras be put in your home, just your business. The hospital that I work in does indeed have cameras in nearly every hallway and patients walk up and down these halls every day. Nearly every business does have some type of video surveillance and self-monitoring system. Why doesn't this industry have this? The technology has been around for decades, is cheap, easy to install and use, every corner store and parkinglot across America seems to be able to use video surveillance without much cost associated with it. I would think that you would want to prove to the world that you are not the animal abusers that people think you are. Why don't you want to monitor the system yourselves so that you can pro-actively stop "bad apples"? Why wait until some undercover video leaks out? Why not take care of this problem before it happens and monitor those individuals whom you are paying to take care of your livestock yourselves? Instead you would rather protect the "bad apples" through legislation. I don't see why you need privacy and secrecy inside a barn full of animals unless there is something that you have to hide. It is not like there is some high-tech intellectual property to protect. It is a field/building full of animals, right? I can't think of a single reason why not to install video cameras yourselves and prove that you are treating animals humanely. That is, unless you really have something to hide.

on Mar 26, 2013

Animal abuse is rampant in the livestock, poultry, dairy and egg industry. The videos released are only a fraction of the whole story. None of the filming is staged.
Recording the abuse is what helps the animals. Blowing the whistle on one incident will not do enough. Showing repeated abuse gets the abusers charged, and hopefully convicted of their crime. And the company who allows, or even encourages the abuse, gets bad press.
If the industry had nothing to hide they wouldn't come up with the gag law.

Anony (not verified)
on Mar 5, 2014

No. A significant proportion of consumers already don't trust us. In their mind such laws are just more evidence validating that view. Google "ag gag law" and read the comments. The activists have to be laughing at us, advancing their cause for them almost better than they can themselves because the public was becoming immune to those videos.

In terms of public trust, Ag is still above Wall Street but not by much

The key to improving trust is transparency, not hiding. Look at Charlie Arnot's work with the Center for Food Integrity.

Coming out of the pork industry, he's on our side. We ought to start paying attention to him and stop shooting ourselves in the foot at every turn.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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