"Ag-Gag"--criminalizing photography?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Moopheus, May 9, 2011.

  1. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,086
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Apparently, several states are considering, at the behest of large commercial farm interests, new laws to criminalize photography of animal processing facilities. This would apply not just to livestock but facilities like puppy mills. Regardless of how one feels about the operation of CAFOs, this would seem on the face of it a serious racheting up of possible penalties against photographers, and it is not hard to imagine the principle being applied to other industries or private interests if this were allowed to stand unchallenged.
     
  2. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,538
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Location:
    U.K.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    On the other hand,why do some photographers think because they own a camera they have the divine right to take pictures without permission on private property ?, if the animals are being mistreated in any way on the farms it's up to government agency s to prosecute the owners, not the general public to photograph it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 9, 2011
  3. kwall

    kwall Member

    Messages:
    65
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2011
    Location:
    San Jose, Ca
    Shooter:
    35mm
    If I can see something with my eyes, what is the difference exactly if I take a photograph of it? At least here in the United States, if something is visible from public property, there is no presumption of privacy. Apropos your final point, how shall "government agencies" discover mistreatment unless they are first informed it is occurring and have demonstrable proof thereof? Or do you favor arbitrary random searches and inspections of private property by "government agencies."
     
  4. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

    Messages:
    1,629
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2010
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Regardless of proposed or future laws, owners of private property have the right to set their own policies. If they want to allow certain things or disallow them, that is their right. Current law already upholds this.

    Further, as long as a person is standing on public property, his own property, property to which he has been invited or property which he is freely allowed to visit he is allowed to photograph anything he can see from a normal vantage point. Current law already upholds this.

    If a person can see it from the road or other place he is legally allowed to be, he can take a picture. If a person jumps a fence in order to take a picture, his ass is grass.

    If a farm owner wants to mistreat animals he'd better do it in a place where nobody can see. He should either build big barns or put up very high fences to encircle the entire property. If somebody can see it from the roadside it will eventually be photographed but if somebody has to trespass in order to take a photo the farm owner can have the photographer sent to jail.

    As I see it, that about covers it. We already have enough laws on the subject.
     
  5. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

    Messages:
    2,266
    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Location:
    Metro DC are
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Never stopped em before...
     
  6. Markster

    Markster Member

    Messages:
    307
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Location:
    Denver area
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Never underestimate the power of photographs. Images are visceral (and in this case literally).

    It's quite easy for a radical activist group with no morals to spread lies to get a plant shut down because they don't like what it does. All they need to is publish inflamatory photos. The photos could be 100% legit but totally wrong in depiction, and simply because there's blood or because it shows animals in a slaughterhouse, the public will cry in outrage (and ignorance).


    So basically a few photos, legit or not, can topple a company through malicious lies and/or inflamatory photos, even if the company is doing nothing wrong.

    I can understand why we might need such laws, even if I don't know the specifics.

    There's too much ignorance in animal activism these days. Some groups have a nice grounding, but some border on cult zealousness.
     
  7. bblhed

    bblhed Member

    Messages:
    601
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2010
    Location:
    North Americ
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If they take away the right to photograph Farm Animals from the street, what will they tell us we can't photograph next?
     
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,957
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I just saw the documentary Food Inc. In the movie, it shows how big ag and seed companies use lawyers to intimidate farmers. Monsanto use it's army of investigators and lawyers to keep farmers from saving seeds. It's a must see for anyone who eats.
     
  9. Markster

    Markster Member

    Messages:
    307
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Location:
    Denver area
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The film maker in me would say "And who made that documentary, and what agenda were they pushing?" :smile:

    Whether or not there's a few bad eggs, looking at the link in the original post, this is to prevent eco-terrorist type groups from infiltrating, disrupting, and attempting to harm damage or destroy otherwise acceptible companies.

    It is a growing fad these days.

    Heck, somebody somewhere even paid off the writers on the TV show "Bones" to harp on chicken farms so bad I wanted to vomit (not at the content, but at how blatantly PREACHY and obviously misleading and clearly transparent the attempt was -- pathetic, bones writers, pathetic!). There's no doubt some advocacy group sponsored that episode.

    It's getting bad. These wannabe-activist folks don't realize that the human being evolved as an omnivore, not as an herbivore. They don't seem to realize that without humankind's need for food there would be no cows in North America at all, for them to fret and fawn over. Without the ability to package and process food (like, say, meat?) society as they enjoy it wouldn't exist. We'd be back to hunting and gathering (gasp! I mean.. just "gathering" -- can't harm animals in nature, now can we?)


    I'm not saying I'm for unethical treatment of animals or anything. I'm trying to present the other side of the coin. Do I think it's perfect? No. Do I think it's as portrayed in such villifying documentaries? No.

    You can't really judge it without taking into consideration in regards to this history of the trade. You have to look at how we used to do it 100 years ago and follow the progress of the trade as it got better and better, AND the impacts this has had on our entire society. Often times you'll find some inflamatory "thought inspiring" production that only focuses on a narrow slit of the here and now.
     
  10. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

    Messages:
    9,083
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    It's the same in the UK. Anything may be photographed from a public place.

    I think we in the UK and you in the US already have enough laws to cover this without needing any new laws as it relates to someone taking a picture whilst on private property.


    Steve.
     
  11. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,538
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Location:
    U.K.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I can't believe that in the U.S that there are no state or government inspectors that visit farms and check what farm animals are fed on and their welfare on the grounds of a public health if nothing else.
     
  12. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

    Messages:
    9,083
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    If these farms are producing food for human consumption then not only do I favour random searches and inspections, but I expect it to be the norm. Just like it is for restaurants and cafés.


    Steve.
     
  13. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

    Messages:
    2,106
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Location:
    South Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    There are reasons most of you blokes from the UK think of us as uncivilized rabble. This is one.

    As a guy who grew up in a farm community, and who has not only long cultural, but also financial roots to farming, I sometimes wonder about our regulatory systems, too.

    Not that I'm advocating regular government inspections. But I would advocate more standardized procedures. And I think the food processing companies could enforce that by financial incentive. For example, "If you deliver products that meet standard Q we'll pay a 5% premium," would get a lot of farmer's attention. 5% is a lot of margin loss for not meeting the standard.

    But farm policy is a long stretch for a photo web site.

    MB
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. ntenny

    ntenny Member

    Messages:
    2,283
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well, it cuts both ways; there are bad actors in the animal-processing business who would love to have immunity from being documented, and there are bad actors in the animal-activism business who would love to have a free pass to distort the image of maliciously chosen targets. Probably most of the people involved don't think they're in either group---it seems to be human nature to think we're in the right even when we're doing truly outrageous things.

    I just tend to think that criminalizing the mechanics of depicting specific subjects isn't the greatest way to address the issue. If the CAFOs (or slaughterhice or whatever) don't want to be photographed, well, they're private property on which such a rule can be enforced; if someone promulgates deceptive information, with or without photos, legally or illegally obtained, defamation law would seem to apply. What's the problem with this regime, exactly?

    (As background, I have owned and run an animal boarding facility, though I doubt it would be considered "animal processing" in the terms of the proposal discussed here.)

    -NT
     
  16. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,086
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Here in the US we have a phenomenon known as "regulatory capture"--regulators who are so close to the industry they're supposed to watch over, they act as enablers rather than public servants. Lobbyists get people friendly to their position to write lax rules and supress inspections and investigations. It's the sort of thing that inspires people, for better or worse, to take matters into their own hands. Sure, private property owners have a right to deny you permission to take photos--does that mean that you should be thrown in jail for it?
     
  17. semeuse

    semeuse Member

    Messages:
    462
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    Treasure Coa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I notice that the focus is always on animal processing. I propose this experiment:

    Sit the representative from the advocacy group, say...PETA, at a dinner table. Offer them a choice of two dishes. One, chicken from an American farm bought at a typical large US supermarket. Simply roasted or grilled, no fancy sauces or anything. Just chicken.
    Two, a vegetable and fruit platter, also purchased at a typical US supermarket.
    When they reach for the fruit, ask them if they know where it came from. Something like 60% of fruits and vegetables sold in the US are imported. Want some peppers from Mexico, perhaps? Or some grapes from Chile? What kind of chemicals did the farmers in those countries use. Or maybe some celery from a mechanized farm in the south. Probably has more chemistry in it than your darkroom.

    Personally, I'd pass on both. The point is, regulation and treatment are all nice, but I think I'll go take pictures at the organic local farmer's place and join him later at the local bar for a beer and pizza. If I know my producers and they know me, we tend to build a better trust.
     
  18. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

    Messages:
    2,106
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Location:
    South Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No fair. We can't be trying to make sense here. :whistling:
     
  19. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,957
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    We are forgetting one part of the equation here with our food supply. We're forgetting that human beings have to farm, pick and process our food. Most of them are the invisible class of people that are undocumented. Don't know how some APUGers feel about them, but they are involved with our food supply like it or not. Are they worth photographing? Stirring the pot here.
     
  20. kwall

    kwall Member

    Messages:
    65
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2011
    Location:
    San Jose, Ca
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Of course there are. There aren't enough of them, arguably, but that's a different issue. My point was that suggesting I can't take photographs of Activity X because there are government inspectors that will monitor Activity X is at best ill-advised; bureaucracies are inefficient and mostly interested in self-preservation.

    Actually, my real point is that privacy, in this particular instance, stops at the fence line
     
  21. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,818
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It sounds to me like they are trying to make privacy rights which would otherwise only be enforceable in civil court into public responsibilities that can and will be enforced by the state.

    The threat of a civil suit for trespass probably wouldn't be much of a disincentive for people involved with PETA. Even a criminal prosecution for trespass wouldn't be much of a threat, especially in jurisdictions which don't impose serious criminal sanctions for trespass (like Canada where daytime trespass isn't even a crime).

    I
     
  22. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

    Messages:
    2,106
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Location:
    South Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think you might be surprised to learn how the USDA actually works. Only some industries are regulated (beef and dairy are highly regulated), and only some are "inspected" by regulators.

    Note that I'm talking about USDA, not local or state department of health bureaus. Health departments are task to maintain public health, and can shut down an operation that threatens the public.

    Back to the beef industry, which has rules about what constituted "good," "choice," and "prime" meats. USDA inspected beef has a USDA inspector on site a certain percentage of time during operations, and the federal agency collects fees for those hours that ends up paying the inspectors.

    Naturally, the inspectors have an incentive to protect their jobs, and shutting down the facility isn't the way to protect themselves.

    Granted, I've met a number of inspectors, and I honestly don't think any of them are "on the take" to let stuff go by. The several I've known are trying to do the right things, and individually I think they're a reasonable group - probably with a few bad apples in the bunch. But the system itself is flawed in how it is structured regardless of the moral character of any individual employee.

    The USDA oligarchy, there I go with that word again, has incentive to keep the folks paying them happy. Now, you tell me that gigantic meat packers aren't greasing the palms of high powered government officials, and I'll look at you like you have two heads.

    The whole system is suspect.
     
  23. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,086
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Yes, that is it exactly. And if the big food processors can get the state to protect their interests this way, then what's to stop other politically-influential interests from trying to do the same?

    It's not just trespass in the usual sense--activists and investigative journalists try to get jobs in these places to gain legal access, as Upton Sinclair did in the Chicago meatpacking plants over 100 years ago.
     
  24. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,086
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Indeed, usually the problem is not with the guys in the field, many of whom are career civil servants and are just trying to do the job they signed up for. It's the administrators and appointees who set enforcement priorities, make the rules, and control budgets. Often they come from the industry or are looking for a job in industry. It happens to some degree or another in practically every government agency.
     
  25. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    7,075
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Location:
    Basin and Range Province
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    If that is the case they are guilty of trespassing. Hasn't to do with cameras, nor should it. Trespassing and photography are separate activities. One of them is illegal, and the remedy for an aggrieved party is clearly to pursue prosecution of the illegal activity, not pass laws against innocuous activity. The premise that one illegal activity must penalize another perfectly legal pursuit is a logical fallacy, and a slippery slope that will lead to all sorts of implied causality regulations. Rock music causes sex and drugs you know.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 9, 2011
  26. ntenny

    ntenny Member

    Messages:
    2,283
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't disagree with anything you said, but it doesn't scale well to a large society. For those of us who have locations compatible with living like this, and the time and resources to do it, it's great---but for much of the suburban middle class it doesn't work too well, and for the urban poor it's just out of the question. How to get safe, healthy, affordable food to cities full of people, without unacceptable levels of environmental damage or animal abuse, is a REALLY hard problem.

    To a casual visitor it looks as though Europe does this better---every city seems to have a million small produce shops squidged into the little side streets. They have a "farmer's market" look to the American eye, but maybe that's just an illusion and the produce really comes from a giant industrialized supply chain there too? I wish I knew more about the alternatives to the US food system.

    Um, obligatory photographic content...I've been taking pictures of my kumquat and pomegranate trees lately. Does that make it on-topic? :smile:

    -NT