Ag-Gag laws made news on The Daily Show – it may not seem like much, but it means something. TDS has a large and demographically young audience – people who may be making decisions about not only policy, but who often re-evaulate their personal dietary practices. On Wednesday, June 12, The Daily Show did a video piece about pending bills and already-passed laws in several states which were crafted and supported by big agriculture – bills/laws that are designed to criminalize videotaping of animal cruelty in slaughterhouses. These laws are known as Ag-Gag laws. Naturally, the facilitators of this systemic cruelty don’t want people to see what really happens to the animals that are going to be neatly packaged and sold as a food option at a supermarket near you. In the piece, the spokesperson for the Animal Agriculture Alliance (i.e., the animal slaughter industry) had plenty to say about Ag-Gag laws. I think it is important to look at the primary arguments made by the industry, because they are arguments and tactics that clearly do not have staying power in an environment where people are fed up with being patronized and lied to by large corporations only interested in making a profit.

First, she claimed that the organizations making these videotapes were showing them “…with a false narrative.” Really? So what is the true narrative behind footage of people beating animals with tools, torturing them with cattle prods, and tossing them around as they would a football? She never did explain what a true narrative of those circumstances might be. Translation: Even though the videos are of actual events, the people making them are somehow lying about the (clearly visible) content. Again, she was unable to explain in any way how this phenomenon of altering a witnessed reality occurred.

Second, the spokesperson for the big ag PR group claimed that what we were witnessing were “standard industry practices” and went on to explain that if she saw a video of someone doing surgery, she would have no way of knowing whether that surgeon was a hack or a gifted practitioner. Translation: the public is too stupid to know the difference between an effort to conduct a more humane kill and someone laughing while they torture a defenseless creature. Not to mention the very long list of legal industry practices (castration, tail docking, debeaking, all without anesthesia, just to name a few) which, although legally allowed, are hardly humane and which would shock and horrify the average person even if shown as is. In fact, there were many “industry practices” throughout history which today would be seen as indefensible. Mentally ill people used to be kept in confining cages, often drugged or restrained, in deplorable conditions. At the time, it was the industry practice. In the United States, people used to be legally owned by others as slaves and were at the total mercy of their captors. They were routinely beaten, separated from their families, and raped. It was standard industry practice at the time until a war which claimed over 600,000 lives was fought to pave the way for human freedom. So calling something “standard industry practice” hardly qualifies it as being acceptable, humane, or ethical.

The final attempt by the slaughter industry to appear to have a legitimate response to these undercover videos came in the ploy of the desperate: attacking the messenger. The spokesperson tried to denigrate the activist featured in the story by wondering what name he might go by next – the attempted implication being that he is somehow shady, deceitful, an evil interloper who can’t be trusted. This truly is an indication that nothing substantive could be offered by the spokesperson as a response to the content of the videos. When one has to resort to insulting the messenger, one clearly has no justifiable response to the message.

So what can we take away from this video piece on a show which is often comedic while simultaneously targeted in its analysis of the facts? TDS has an average audience of 2.3 million viewers (2011 statistic). Many of them are young and likely to be very tuned in to the issues of veganism, animal rights, and corporate greed. These images and messages are getting out, and they are getting out to the very people who will be poised to make significant changes for these suffering animals. And that is a reason to be hopeful.

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