Category: Ethics

How Cigarettes Get Into Movies

Cigarette case promoting the movie "Big Top Pee Wee" (1988), holds 16 regular or 100 mm cigarettes. Still available at Amazon.com

Cigarette case promoting the movie “Big Top Pee Wee” (1988), holds 16 regular or 100 mm cigarettes. Still available at Amazon.com

A 412-page “movie memo” from UPP Entertainment Marketing in North Hollywood, California, dated 1990, lists feature films into which American Tobacco Company cigarettes were injected, or were attempted to be injected, into the plot, or in which cigarettes were placed as “set dressing.” Examples: “Pall Mall, Carlton and Lucky Strike cigarettes will be used as set dressing in a Mini Mart in Comstock,” “We provided LUCKY STRIKE cigarettes for Kathleen. The cigarettes have been established as her brand, and she will be smoking them throughout the film. The exposure for THE AMERICAN TOBACCO CO. should be great.”

The document lists many significant family films in which cigarettes were placed or attempted to be placed, including “Big Top Pee Wee” starring Pee Wee Herman, “Ghostbusters II” starring Dan Aykroid and Bill Murray, “Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase, “Look Who’s Talking Too” with Kirstie Alley and John Travolta, “Ghost,” starring Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, “Big” starring Tom Hanks, and many more. A memo discussing the film “Clean and Sober,” a film about a man who checks himself into a detox center, says “Lucky Strike, Pall Mall and Carlton were given for use by Charlie and many other patients in the detox center.”

Philip Morris’ “Qualitative Image Study Saudi Arabia”

Screen shot 2013-03-12 at 11.11.54 PM Screen shot 2013-03-12 at 11.12.09 PMThis 1993 Philip Morris marketing research report evaluates Marlboro advertising to find ways to make the imagery more appealing to young Saudi Arabian men. The idea was to find out what emotional, psychological and cultural needs and values young male Saudis have, and then determine how PM could exploit these in their cigarette advertising. Page 39 of the document (Bates No. 2501055413) reports on reactions of Saudi men to a Marlboro ad that depicted three cowboys leaning on a fence and talking. The middle cowboy held a coiled rope in his hand.  The report says, “Values disliked [about this ad] were…the ropes, which gave uncomfortable feeling — ropes are used to bind people and hang them in Saudi Arabia.” In many places, the report generalizes about Saudi men’s tendencies toward violence, in one place noting “the private face of violence noted in the Arab personality.” Another passage in this vein reads,

“There is a strong thread of violence just below the surface of the Arab personality, linked to ideas of vengeance and the protection of property (including women) but there is at the same time a desire to suppress this in favour of the more acceptable public face of masculinity, which is more calm and controlled.”

The report defines values of Saudi men:

“The aspiration for them is very definitely to have friends who have status and wealth – and especially a big car.  Belonging to such a peer group, even if you do not personally have the wealth, enables you to enjoy the reflected status.  Cigarettes it seems are often shared, and within the peer group there is also pressure to smoke the same brand…”

A brief discussion of smoking and health in the report reveals that a belief existed among Saudi men that certain types of cigarettes were “healthier” than others, and indicates that Saudi smokers may, at that time, have lacked key information about smoking and health in general:

“There is ample evidence that smoking is regarded [among Saudis] as harmful, although this was not expressed directly, it was indirectly through the description of the personality of brands…For Marlboro Red smokers, if you smoke a light cigarette, then you are not strong/healthy enough to be able to smoke a strong cigarette.  For Marlboro Lights smokers, if you smoke a strong cigarette, then you are stupid, ignorant.”

While it is not surprising that a corporation would do this type of research in an effort to tailor its advertising to appeal to foreign cultures, by the time this document was written (1993) tobacco use had already long been labeled by authorities worldwide as a major public health problem.  Despite this, PM continued to emphasize spreading the use of tobacco in foreign countries, as well as in the U.S.  It is also interesting to see how American cigarette companies scrutinize foreign cultures from a marketing standpoint, to pinpoint the emotional and psychological needs and held by people of these cultures to find ways of better exploiting them.

Source:  Qualitative Image Study: Saudi Arabia, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Philip Morris collection, Bates No. 2501055375/5464

Gun Maker Freaks Out, Retaliates Against Colorado Gun Safety Bill

Magpul's Internet Ad

Magpul’s Internet Ad

Magpul Industries of Erie, Colorado, which makes and sells  high-capacity ammunition magazines, has declared war on Colorado over a gun safety bill currently moving through the state’s legislature. HB 1224, currently in Colorado’s House of Representatives, would limit high-capacity magazines to 15 rounds, and add a more restrictive 8-round limit for shotguns. Magpul makes 30-round magazines. Magpul threatened to move its business out of state if the bill passes. The House then voted to amend HB 1224 to allow Magpul to keep making its high-capacity magazines and selling them in other states, but that wasn’t enough for the company.  Magpul launched an Internet-based campaign to flood the state with high-capacity, military-grade magazines and weaponry in advance of a vote on the bill. Magpul posted a cold-war style ad on its Facebook page announcing that the company will sell up to ten 30-round AR or M4 ammunition magazines per customer directly to Colorado residents, and will expedite shipping for a discounted price of just $5.00. The ad shows a little girl with pigtails, smiling and reaching up to catch 30-round gun magazines as they are dropped, airlift-style, from an airplane. The copy reads, “In the battle for Colorado Freedoms, support for second amendment rights is being delivered by Magpul Industries Corporation. Fielded in the millions by US and its allies since 2007, the PMAG is the magazine of choice for those defending freedom and democracy around the world…Now, with the ability of Coloradans to purchase new standard capacity magazines in jeopardy, Magpul Industries is working to supply as many as possible to the good people of Colorado. Similar to the Berlin Airlift, the Boulder Airlift will bring much-needed gun supplies to freedom-loving residents trapped inside occupied territory.” In addition to high-capacity magazines, Magpul also makes rifle grips, buttstocks, rifle sights, gun mounts and other gun-related parts and accessories. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. Colorado has a history of gun massacres, including the Aurora Theater massacre in 2012, the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, and the Chuck E. Cheese massacre in 1993, also in Aurora, Colorado, in which a gunman killed four restaurant employees.

Who Funds Rick Berman’s Dark Money Group, the “Center for Consumer Freedom”?

Center for Consumer Freedom's Rick Berman, a.k.a. "Dr. Evil"

Center for Consumer Freedom’s Rick Berman, a.k.a. “Dr. Evil”

Rick Berman, the D.C. beltway corporate lobbyist who revels in the nickname “Dr. Evil,” is at it again, this time defending a dangerous New Hampshire “ag-gag” bill that would block the ability to build solid court cases against animal cruelty in commercial agricultural operations. Berman also penned an opinion piece in the Boston Globe opposing the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act,” a bill that would require federal agencies to buy food products only from farms that raise animals free from cruelty and abuse. Aside from the underlying question of why the Boston Globe would print anything by Rick Berman, a corporate sell-out who lacks completely in credibility, why does Berman persist in supporting something as distasteful and horrifically unpopular as animal abuse?

Berman operates the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCR), an industry-funded front group that relentlessly attacks do-good organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Berman uses over-the-top rhetoric, calling people who research and expose the causes behind obesity “food control zealots.” He uses hyperbole and slippery-slope arguments, saying animal welfare groups like the Humane Society are “fighting to get rid of every dairy, pork, egg, beef, veal, and poultry farm across America by increasing the cost of production and hence increasing the price of food.” Hogwash. Whenever possible, HSUS works with commercial ag operations to reduce animal abuses like tail-docking of dairy cows and confinement of animals in horribly small spaces. The groups has been successful in doing so, but does pursue legislation to protect animals, too.

“Legion of Christ” Documents Show Wide Cover-Up

Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, circa 2004. He died in 2008.

A photo of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, circa 2004. He was revealed to have molested underage seminarians and fathered three children with two women. He died in 2008, and was never prosecuted.

A lawsuit in Rhode Island brought by the niece of a wealthy, deceased widow has cracked open thousands of previously secret documents of the Legion of Christ, a disgraced Roman Catholic order of priests and young men studying to enter the priesthood. The lawsuit charges that the Legion of Christ unduly influenced a wealthy banker’s widow named Gabriel Mee, who died in 2008 at the age of 96, to alter her trust and will to bequeath $30 million to the Legion, while the Legion withheld from Ms. Mee information that the order’s founder, the Reverend Marcial Maciel Degollado, had sexually abused underage seminarians and secretly fathered three children by two women. The documents in the case were under seal until The Associated Press, the New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter and the Providence Journal petitioned the court to have them unsealed, saying they were in the public interest. A Rhode Island Superior Court judge agreed, and ordered the documents released to the public. Pope John Paul II praised and supported Rev. Maciel through the years, calling Maciel an “efficacious guide to youth,” even after 1998, when Maciel was formally accused of sexually abusing Legion seminarians. Pope Benedict, who is retiring from the papacy this month, continued the coverup until he finally pushed Maciel to retire “to a private life of penance and prayer” in May of 2006. Pope Benedict failed to involve legal authorities in the Maciel case, nor did Benedict acknowledge Maciel’s sexual transgressions or his victims. The Legion of Christ only officially acknowledged Father Maciel’s sexual transgressions on March, 25, 2010, when the order issued a formal communique’ titled, “Regarding the current circumstances of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.” The Legion of Christ has branches all over the world and is still operating. 

Main Source: The National Catholic Reporter, February 18, 2013

Documents Show Philip Morris Yielded to Scientific Blackmail

This tobacco industry document from the Philip Morris collection is a translation of a letter written by a German scientist named Dietrich Schmaehl, who was performing biological research for Philip Morris in 1979 in a quest to find a “safer cigarette.” Schmaehl was doing experiments to determine the carcinogenic effect of the smoke condensates, so-called “tar,” from specific brands of cigarettes.  Philip Morris performed such research overseas to help prevent any findings from being discoverable in American courts.

Philip Morris had threatened to cut off funding for Schmaehl’s research.  After finding this out, Schmael wrote to PM consulting scientist Dr. Franz Adlkofer (presumably his boss), saying, “In our conversation it was argued that the Industry could not support such experiments since this might prove that the previously manufactured products have a carcinogenic effect and that such experiments could especially not be supported because they would be financed with Industry funds.  I am totally unable to follow these arguments.”

In no uncertain terms, Schmaehl threatened that if his funding was cut off, he would continue performing the investigations on his own and publish the results, naming the brands (currently on the market) that he used in the experiments:

“I want to tell you again that in case this project . . . is refused support by the Industry, I will carry out such investigations in my Institute on my own account; in that case I will, in my publication of this work, call a ‘spade a spade’; this means I will name the brands currently on the market which were used to prepare the smoke condensates.”

A related internal memo about Schmael’s letter from Alexander Holtzman, PM’s Assistant General Counsel, to Thomas Osdene, PM’s Director of Research, shows that PM clearly considered Schmaehl’s threats blackmail, but decided to fund his work anyway to keep him quiet.  Holtzman says,  “I do feel that this letter is tantamount to blackmail by Schmaehl. I am very much afraid that unless financial support be provided to Schmaehl he will chastise the industry.”

Main Source: Letter, (Author: Schmael) October 12, 1979, Philip Morris Bates No. 2016000963/0964A

 

Corporate America’s “Echo Chamber Approach” to Lobbying

echo-chamberA 1998 internal Philip Morris memo, written by John Scruggs of Philip Morris Management Corporation’s Federal Government Affairs (lobbying) Office, describes a key public relations/lobbying technique that corporations use to dominate virtually the entire decisionmaking environment in which legislators operate.  Scruggs calls it the “Echo Chamber Approach to Advocacy.” It involves making a corporation’s chosen message, or slight variations of this message, emanate from virtually every major source that can influence legislators’ decisionmaking: constituents, colleagues, opinion leaders, local and national media like TV, radio, newspapers, fundraisers, advertising, etc.  Scruggs says “…[T]his repetition, or ‘piling on’ approach works” because the message emanates from those who have ” ‘the greatest degree of credibility’ with the legislator.” This memo was created by Philip Morris in the 1990s, but since then, due to the cigarette industry’s pioneering reputation of success at influencing legislators, the technique has doubtless spread and is now likely in use by many more corporations and industries.

Tea Party Links to Tobacco Industry Uncovered

TMAdoc

Excerpt from a Tobacco Manufacturers Association summary of tobacco-related activities in the western hemisphere, January, 20000

Rather than being a purely grassroots movement that arose spontaneously in 2009 as the media has led people to believe, the Tea Party developed partly as a result of tobacco industry efforts to oppose smoking restrictions and tobacco taxes beginning in the 1980s, according to a new study by researchers at UC San Francisco.  In 2002, long before the mainstream media widely discussed tea party politics, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a nonprofit funded in part by cigarette companies since 1987 to support a pro-tobacco political agenda, started its “US Tea Party project.” Its website, http://www.usteaparty.com, stated “Our US Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated.’’ In 2004, CSE split into the two tea party organizations: Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and FreedomWorks. Those two groups, say the study authors, have since waged campaigns to turn public opinion against tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws and health care reform in general.  “If you look at CSE, AFP and Freedom Works, you will see a number of the same key players, strategies and messages going back to the 1980s,” said lead author Amanda Fallin, PhD, RN, also a CTCRE fellow. “The records indicate that the Tea Party has been shaped by the tobacco industry, and is not a spontaneous grassroots movement at all.”

American Heart Association Helps Walgreens Profit from Cigarettes

WalgreensMarlboro1

Cigarettes and toys displayed together in a “trusted” Walgreens Store.

This month, Walgreens’ webpage cheerfully chirps “Celebrate Heart Health Month” as it promotes its long-standing fundraising partnership with the American Heart Association. Until February 28, Walgreens says, customers can “purchase a paper heart at any of our 7,000 Walgreens stores nationwide” to support the American Heart Association’s mission of “building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” It all sounds happy and wonderful, but don’t be fooled. Walgreens’ promotion has a dark underbelly that it would rather you not see.

The NFL: A Disability Factory for Young Men

The NFL showcases brutality and player collisions in its promotions, while minimizing the human toll it takes on NFL players' health and safety

The NFL showcases brutality and player collisions in its promotions, while minimizing the human toll it takes on NFL players’ health and safety

As of January 23, 2013, the National Football League (NFL) is facing 199 lawsuits filed by a total of more than 4,000 retired professional football players who suffered head injuries while playing for the NFL. In June, 2012, the lawsuits of about three thousand of those injured players were consolidated into a single Master Complaint (pdf) which charges that the NFL was negligent and committed fraud because it was “aware of the evidence and risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries…but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information” from players and others involved in NFL football. The lawsuit says that to promote the game, the NFL glorifies the brutality and ferocity of NFL football by “lauding and mythologizing the most brutal and ferocious of players and collisions,” while simultaneously fraudulently representing that getting hit and putting big hits on others is a badge of courage, and does not seriously threaten one’s health. The suit charges that to heighten this belief and further promote football,  NFL Films, a PR instrument of the NFL, creates and markets videos that focus solely on the hardest hits that occur on the fields. 

R.J. Reynolds Brainstorming Document Targets Younger Smokers

teen-smoking

Teen smokers light up

A 7-page, 1985 brainstorming document from the R.J. Reynolds collection lists ideas about how to market RJR’s flagship brand Camel cigarettes to young people who usually smoke the rival brand Marlboro. A cautionary note on the front page warns, “PLEASE NOTE: the following ideas were generated in an unstructured idea generation session. They have not been evaluated with regard to legal issues, marketing feasibility or cost considerations.” And how.  Some of the ideas listed are pretty wacky, and include having coupons for on-pack contests for the following items thought to appeal to younger smokers:

— Beer
— Clearasil
— Dinner with Eddie Murphy
— Trip won by parents of FUBYAS [“First Usual Brand Younger Adult Smokers”] that gets parents out of town for FUBYAS party (includes cleaning crew and extra refrigerator).
— Catchy, slightly lewd T-shirts (“Wanna hump?”)
— Late show admission with week’s worth of CAMEL packs.
— CAMEL courtesy bus at beach – to and from bars.
— Survival kit (what to do when arrested, etc.)
–“Pay” peer leaders to smoke brand.
— Free nose rings
— Free car insurance

Other ideas include developing a new dance called The Hump, and putting on concerts that have specially-reserved seating for Camel smokers or where Camel packs can be used as an entrance fees.

See the document for yourself here.

Source: FUBYAS Idea Generation Output, 1985, R.J. Reynolds document collection, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.

Subway Finds Size Really Does Matter

Subway's trademark "Footlong™" subs are coming up short all over

Subway’s trademark “Footlong™” subs are coming up short all over

Subway stores are in big PR trouble. It all started when earlier this month an Australian man posted a photo on Subway Australia’s Facebook page of a Footlong™ sandwich he had just bought, and asked why it was only 11 inches long. Soon, other Subway sandwich buyers started making similar posts and uploading images of their too-short “footlong” sandwiches. Then two men from New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Subway accusing the stores of selling trademark Footlong™ sandwiches that were really just 11 inches. Stephen DeNettis, the lawyer who represents the plaintiffs, said he measured sandwiches from 17 different Subway stores and they all came up short. He says Subway should either make sure its Footlong™ sandwiches are really a foot long, or stop advertising them as such. For its part, Subway issued a statement apologizing for it’s short sandwiches, saying “With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, ‘SUBWAY FOOTLONG’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.” For good measure, Subway added that the length of each bread cannot be assured every time because the “proofing” process may vary. Buzzfeed called that answer “amazingly stupid.” One commenter on Buzzfeed wrote, “So…when I pay them with my TWENTY DOLLAR BILL™, and it turns out to be nothing more than an envelope of grass shavings, there will be no hard feelings, right?” Another wrote, “After closer measurement, I’m returning those inch worms I bought at a yard sale.” Who knows? Maybe Subway is shorting people as part of their  sponsorship of NBC’s reality show “The Biggest Loser.”  After all, shorter Footlong™ sandwiches will help people lose more weight and shorting patrons like this makes Subway customers the Biggest Losers.

In Wrongful Death Suit, Colorado Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses are Not Viable Persons

hypocrisy-meterOn New Year’s Day in 2006, 31 year old Lori Stodghill went to the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado, short of breath, vomiting, and seven months pregnant with twins. As they wheeled her into the examining room, she passed out. The ER staff tried to resuscitate her, but a blockage in the main artery going to Lori’s lungs caused her to have a massive heart attack, killing her and her twins less than an hour after she arrived at the ER.  Her obstetrician, who was supposed to be on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. Stodghill’s husband subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the hospital, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) based in Englewood, Colorado. Catholic hospitals do not offer abortion services or even contraception based on their belief that legal personhood starts at contraception, not at birth, and that fetuses are viable people. CHI even has an advocacy website that implores visitors to help them oppose the provision in Obamacare that requires employers to pay for contraceptives, because “Our mission and our ethical standards in health care are rooted in the Catholic Church’s teachings about the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.” But to get its client out of this wrongful death suit, CHI’s lawyers are arguing the opposite — that Lori’s fetuses weren’t really viable persons. In a brief the defense filed with the court, CHI’s lawyers say the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define a ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on the two unborn fetuses.” 

Source: Colorado Independent, January 23, 2013

Updated Jan. 26, 2013

Christian Group Distributes Bibles at Public Schools, Gets Pushback

The book secularists plan to give away at Orange County, Florida high schools when they get their  date to distribute literature from the school district

The book secularists plan to give away at Orange County, Florida high schools when they get their date to distribute literature from the school district

An Orange County, Florida school district allowed the Christian group World Changers of Central Florida to distribute Bibles to high school students at eleven area high schools on January 16, 2012, by placing the books on tables near the school’s lunchroom. Orange County secularists who were offended by the overt advertisement for Christianity on public school grounds has asked the school district to change its policy to disallow distribution of religious materials on school grounds. If the school district refuses to change the policy, members of American Atheists and Central Florida Freethought Community say they will ask the school district for a date on which they can distribute information to students about atheism and humanism in the same manner.  World Changers’ mission is to promote prayer in public schools and push to have creationism taught in public schools.

Praise Jesus and Pass the Taxpayer-Funded Football

Logo of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose mission is to use school athletics as a platform to spread Christian evangelism

Logo of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose mission is to use school athletics as a platform to spread Christian evangelism

Christian evangelicals are hard at work recruiting young athletes into Christianity in publicly-funded schools all across the country, and taxpayers are footing the bill. The injection of Jesus into school athletics is being carried out by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), a Christian group that encourages and rewards school sports coaches for using their influential positions to spread Christianity among youth.

For those who are unfamiliar with FCA, it is a Christian religious group whose existence is dedicated to turning school athletic departments into missionaries for Christ. FCA’s website states, “The purpose of [FCA’s] Campus Ministry…has been to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost and to seek and grow a mature follower of Jesus Christ. The ‘win’ of Campus Ministry is to see campuses impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.” An answer to the question of “What is FCA?” on the group’s website states, “Since 1954, FCA has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ.” FCA also encourages coaches to conduct Bible studies on campus.  The group is open about its use of the platform of athletics to spread Christian “evangelism, discipleship, outreach and fellowship.” One of FCA’s corporate sponsors is Chick-Fil-A, the fast-food restaurant chain whose president, Dan Cathy, expressed strong views against same-sex marriage in a July, 2012 interview in the Biblical Recorder.

NRA Puts President Obama’s Kids in the Political Crosshairs

The National Rifle Association (NRA) posted a 35 second Internet ad called “Stand and Fight” that takes aim at President Obama’s children over the issue of gun safety regulations. The ad accuses President Obama of being an “elitist hypocrite” for accepting armed secret service protection for his children, Sasha, age 11, and Malia, age 14, while other children attend school without armed guards. The voiceover in the ad asks “Are the president’s kids more important that yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when HIS kids are protected by armed guards at THEIR school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security. Protection for their kids and gun-free zones for ours.” There were reports on MSNBC that the NRA pulled the ad almost as quickly as they posted it, but as of this evening the ad was still visible at the NRA’s new website, NRAStandandFight.com.

Trojan Horse Ag-Gag Bill Introduced in New Hampshire

Chickens in a battery cage  (Wikimedia image)

Chickens in a battery cage (Wikimedia image)

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is sounding alarm bells about a bill introduced in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives that requires people who photograph or make video recordings of cruelty against livestock to report it to police within 24 hours and turn over their unedited video or photos to authorities. So what’s wrong with that? And why does the HSUS oppose it? After all, it sounds like it’s aimed at exposing animal abuse, right? Nope. It’s a particularly tricky form of an industry-crafted “Ag-Gag” bill meant to stifle reporting on animal cruelty in commercial livestock operations. How? When whistleblowers expose cruelty at commercial animal enterprises, a common excuse put forth by business owners is that the abuse was a one-off occurrence or a single event perpetrated by a rogue employee who has, of course, since been fired. People working to expose animal abuse in big agribusiness enterprises have learned that they must document repeated instances of cruelty in order to make a solid case against the company that will hold up in court. Such high-quality evidence is animal advocates’ only leverage to try and stop to the abuse. If people are required to turn over a video recording of a single instance of abuse the same day it was taken, it would make it virtually impossible to document a pattern of abuse to the extent necessary to make a tight enough case to stop it.

Agribusiness Pushes “Ag-Gag” Laws Aimed at Keeping Animal Abuse Secret

Whistleblowing employees in the food industry have been credited with exposing horrible instances of animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and environmental and public health violations on industrial factory farms by filming these conditions and exposing them to the public. But instead of fixing the problems these workers expose, the agribusiness industry is responding by pushing through laws that effectively block the pubic from finding out about these abuses in the first place. These whistleblower suppression, or “ag-gag” bills, criminalize taking photographs or video recordings at factory farms without permission, ban the distribution of such photos or videos and make it a crime to take a job at a commercial farm operation for the purpose of exposing what goes on there. These industry-backed bills would stop undercover activity like that used by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in 2008 to expose animal cruelty at a Vermont slaughter plant that led to a felony conviction and the plant’s closure, and a landmark investigation at a cow slaughter plant the same year that prompted the largest meat recall in U.S. history and spurred a new federal law banning the slaughter of “downer” cattle.

For more info: What are Agribusiness Groups Trying to Hide with “Ag-Gag” Bills? Humane Society of the United States, January 18, 2012