We Need Webcams in Slaughterhouses

Jedediah Purdy calls for transparency
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2013 12:30 PM CDT
Updated Apr 9, 2013 1:24 PM CDT
A security guard opens the gate at the Central Valley Meat Co., the California slaughterhouse shut down by federal regulators.   (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

(Newser) – So-called "ag-gag laws," already enacted or being considered in several states, make it a crime for journalists or activists to take undercover photos and videos inside slaughterhouses, in some cases even branding such reporters "animal and ecological terrorists." The argument goes that such images unfairly portray slaughterhouse practices as cruel when, in fact, they are humane. But we shouldn't even be arguing over this topic, writes Jedediah Purdy in the New York Times. "We should require confined-feeding operations and slaughterhouses to install webcams at key stages of their operations," make the videos easily accessible, and thus end any "need for human intrusion into dangerous sites."

If we do that, slaughterhouses will be sure undercover activists aren't using "tricky angles or scary edits" to misrepresent what happens there, and the public will know it's getting the truth. Consider chemical plants, which were forced by law to publicize details of their toxic emissions. As a result, most agree, pollution went down. Of course, slaughterhouse videos might revolt viewers, no matter how humane the practices. "But we are not going to decide how we should treat animals through cold reason alone, and certainly not if their treatment is invisible," Purdy writes. More study on animal treatment is needed, but "the images would motivate us to ask the right questions." Click for Purdy's full column. (Read more slaughterhouse stories.)

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