When a state legislature considers passing an Animal Research and Production Protection Act or Animal Facility Tampering Act, what is really under consideration? Varying from state to state, these proposals generally provide broad protections to farming operations by prohibiting employees and others from taking photographs or video of the facility’s operations. The more important question is why are these bills proposed and passed? Who do they protect and why?
There is a disagreement over the purpose and impact of these so-called Ag-Gag (agricultural gag) laws. Some believe these laws protect food production operators from the inappropriate backlash that often comes as a result of people watching animal food production, even when done in a lawful manner. Opponents argue that these laws overprotect an industry that too often employs practices that threaten food safety and result in inhumane treatment of animals. Regardless of the motives of bill sponsors and supporters, a public health issue arises when individuals, particularly farm employees, are constrained from documenting potential threats to food safety. This issue brief analyzes Ag-Gag laws from a public health perspective, identifies organizations vested in these legislations, addresses the food safety argument against Ag-Gag laws, and presents options for public health advocates to help counter the adverse effects of such laws.