A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Factory Farms to Ban Cameras

New laws in Iowa, Minnesota and Florida would treat whistle blowers as criminals and make it illegal to take undercover photos and video of animal abuse at factory farms. Six people debate the issue.

Humane organizations have increasingly been using undercover video to demonstrate the terrible conditions at these facilities and the abuse to which animals are subjected.

But factory farming is a huge industry, with billions of cows, pigs and chickens being “processed” through them every year.

Do the corporations that run these Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), as they’re called, have a right to keep the public from knowing what goes on? Should the government be trying, with its limited resources, to police these operations?

It’s worth reading all six views that are expressed. But there’s one huge gap in the lineup: No one is included from the humane community. Temple Grandin, who developed more humane methods of slaughter and works with factory farms to implement them, makes a case for better treatment, but she accepts that factory farms are here to stay, so she has a very middle-of-the-road agenda.

I was particularly struck by one of the writers, Walter Olson of the Libertarian Cato Institute, arguing for no regulation. He proposes, instead, that it should all be left to the “free market,” and that meat should just be labeled as to where it came from so that shoppers can then decide for themselves if they want to buy the cheaper meat that comes from the most abusive factory farms or pay more for meat from animals treated more humanely.

In other words, he says, nobody should speak for the animals. If people want cheaper food, let the animals pay with their suffering.

The essence of a republic – which we are, and which is not the same as pure democracy, and which system is upheld by the likes of the Cato institute – is the rule of law: that we should not be governed by the most base desires of the majority, but that certain protections should be built in to the system to represent those who have less of a voice. The animals have no voice at all. Without laws to protect them, they are defenseless, which is apparently how Mr. Olson likes it.

Read the debate yourself. What do you say? Comment below or on our Facebook page.