Thursday, May 9, 2013
Ag Gag and Glass Abattoirs.
Today we don't really have a whole lot to talk about since I went through just about everything that happened over the weekend on Tuesday. Now that doesn't mean that there isn't anything to talk about, just that it isn't the current activities on the homestead. Instead, I'm going to talk about my opinion on Ag Gag laws and my feelings on the distance between people and their food.
We regularly post photos of the babies as they grow up, and try to show their actual day to day conditions. We have shown Right them in process to becoming food. We haven't posted photos of the actual killing and butchering process on this blog though. I want to be clear, that isn't because we are afraid for people to see the killing process, it is because I don't think most folks don't want to see the killing process. We also don't want to post a set of photos of the process for people to emulate when it really is important to learn from a mentor. While we very much want to raise awareness of where food comes from in others as much as we have been changing it in ourselves, I think that having that in the blog itself wouldn't be appropriate. If people want to though, they are welcome to come see and even participate in one of the killing days. The Lady of the House and I believe in the concept of "Glass Abattoirs" which we first heard of as a concept from Michael Pollan.
Here's the basics of it.
If all killing is visible, or at least open for others to see then due to the lack of secrecy we will hold ourselves to higher standards over time than if all of the killing is kept private.
I believe that the same applies to the keeping and care of animals as well as the killing of animals. In fact, the Lady of the House and I believe that an animal is not defined by simply how it dies, it is defined by how it lives punctuated by its death. It is why we spend so much time evaluating how the rabbits are living, and what we can do better. It's why we are so concerned about the temperament of any rabbits we consider keeping. It's why when friends come over we introduce them to the rabbits, let people interact, and let people see the hutches. And it's part of what this blog is for.
I'm sure most of you have heard the term Ag Gag by now. What do the Ag Gag bills actually do anyway?
This link from the Humane Society explains the Ag Gag bills fairly succinctly.
In short, Ag Gag bills make it illegal to photograph or video tape a factory farm without permission, and any reporting of abuse with such evidence must be provided within 24 hours with no hope for anonymity. This post from foodpolitic.com is a good run down on the problems with it from a journalists perspective.
I think that it is wrong to hide the state of the lives of the animals that we eat, and wrong to conceal the way they are killed. While I don't believe that having that information there will automatically change how most people view their food because most people will never look, by making it illegal to even attempt to bring this information to the attention of the public it is a step away from the ideal of a glass abattoir that I hold. I think it is important to make information about where our food comes from more accessible, not less.
Food is a part of the lives of every person whether they are vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, rich, poor, food insecure, overweight, skinny. Everyone eats. Everyone has to eat. In the USA especially there are growing concerns about the safety of our food whether it be in the form of GMO crops, seed restriction, child labor, bee colony collapse (31% of managed colonies were lost over this last winter), tainted meat coming up everywhere. I feel that beyond the ethical concerns I have, and beyond the legal concerns around limiting 1st amendment rights, that there are very real and important safety concerns around not allowing our view of food to be further obfuscated by laws of this nature.
Not everyone has the opportunity to do what we are doing, so I think we all need to pay attention to the laws and practices around our foods, and the Ag Gag bills are just one of the legal obstacles to us doing so facing the those living in the USA. In the end, we just need to be more aware of our food in all ways from awareness of our portion sizes to awareness of where our food comes from.