What is the meat industry so desperate to hide?
The High Court has just rejected a challenge by animal rights activists against an “ag-gag” law in New South Wales.
Farm Transparency Project took the state government to court in June 2021 over the Surveillance Devices Act – a law that makes it a criminal offence to use or possess video footage or an audio recording that was obtained using a hidden camera or listening device, even if that footage or audio is in the public interest.
This week, the high court ruled that the law would be upheld, as it had a “purpose to protect privacy”.
In an article about the court case, The Guardian noted that this Act prevented it from showing footage of former racehorses who were being sent to slaughter at New South Wales pet food factories, a flagrant breach of industry rules.
Clearly, upholding this Act has nothing to do with protecting privacy and everything to do with protecting cruel industries with deep pockets.
The court’s finding that the Act protects privacy is absurd. Will CCTV cameras be banned from New South Wales streets for infringing on the privacy of burglars and muggers?
“Ag-gag” laws are designed to intimidate those who work to expose cruelty to animals, and they hide what animal-exploiting industries don’t want consumers to see: chickens crammed into cages so small they can barely move, cows mired in their own waste, and pigs who never see grass or the light of day. Animal activists use peaceful means to expose gratuitous cruelty inflicted without oversight.
Only a few non-profit organisations – including Farm Transparency Project and PETA – are actively investigating industries that use animals. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has stated that investigations are pivotal to cracking down on animal abuse, since the RSPCA and the police have very limited powers to investigate cruelty to animals on farms and the laws are full of loopholes and exemptions.
If the government and the meat industry want to deter activists from documenting the barbarism of meat production, they should legislate for transparency and place CCTV cameras on all farms and in all abattoirs. Let the public see the horror of animal agriculture.
Kind people don’t need laws to compel them to do what’s right. We can help animals on factory farms and in other animal-exploiting industries by refusing to use them in experiments, eat or wear them, or use them for entertainment.