Prohibiting Poultry Paparazzi

On Saturdays we like to put up a selection of micro-posts featuring interesting news items that might have been overlooked during the past week. One such nugget caught my attention.

Is shooting these birds a felony?

The story is actually getting a lot more attention in Canada than in the US where it originated. The “Don’t Shoot My Cow!” political movement is undoubtedly triggered by recent gruesome images of chicken “farms” (more accurately chicken factories) which have done considerable damage to American agriculture…and the big-money interests behind that industry.

So…when you a have an image problem, is the solution simply employing legislative power to  ban all reporting of your transgressions? I leave the answer up to you…but do be careful when next you visit grandma and grandpa at the farm. No snapping pictures of those lovely pastoral scenes! Somebody could be waiting behind the haystack to slap you in handcuffs.


About filistro

Filistro is a Canadian writer and prairie dog who maintains burrows on both sides of the 49th parallel. Like all prairie dogs, she is keenly interested in politics and language. (Prairie dogs have been known to build organized towns the size of Maryland, and are the only furry mammal with a documented language.)
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13 Responses to Prohibiting Poultry Paparazzi

  1. Brian says:

    I personally, don’t care about chicken factories, but there is no way that passes the 1st Amendment. Maybe I’m an evil human being, which is possible, but as long as I get my horrible tasting cheap food, I’m more or less happy.

    I’m amused at the Iowa Senator’s response, “that individual that’s abusing those animals should be prosecuted as well as the person filming because they’re allowing it to happen without attempting to stop it.” Yet, isn’t that what filming is supposed to do, stop the animal violence?

    *Note: I’m still drunk from last night as I type this, at 10:43. It was a long night, don’t judge me!

  2. filistro says:

    Brian brings up an interesting point (especially for a guy with a hangover ;-))

    CAN it be declared illegal to secretly photograph something if you are on the premises legally? I know it’s illegal to secretly tape a conversation… but what about photos? Now that everybody in the world is equipped with a surreptitious camera (their cell phone) I would think this issue will need to be addressed.

  3. Mule Rider says:

    The attempt to ban filming of unsavory practices going on at some farms is silly, but there is a real concern over the smear campaign by some against animal agriculture and an attempt to completely overhaul how they do business, which would inhibit their ability to provide healthy and affordable food for all of us for a fraction of what it would cost otherwise.

  4. filistro says:

    Muley.. I actually agree with you. Lots of things happen on farms and ranches that are pretty appalling to those not familiar with the industry, and it’s really annoying to have people… with no economic stake in the business, or knowledge of how hard it is… running around wringing their hands and saying, “Oh, dear, you can’t do that! It’s MEAN!!

    But.. as you also point out… trying to block the flow of info through legislation isn’t just silly… it’s counterproductive.

  5. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    fili and Mule,

    For people who buy their meat in packages in the grocery store, to go into high dudgeon and run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, is the height of hypocrisy.

  6. filistro says:

    And don’t forget Max, next time you’re whipping up one of your famous culinary masterpieces… shrimp have feelings too, you know… 😉

  7. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    yes, fili,

    and as long as they are feeling firm to the tooth and not mushy, you know they’ve not been overcooked!

  8. filistro,

    CAN it be declared illegal to secretly photograph something if you are on the premises legally?

    Yes, under very specific circumstances. If a place is visible to the public from public space, then there cannot be a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, if you invite someone into your home, to see what cannot be seen by the public from public space, then you have a reasonable expectation that whatever is being seen by the person you invited is not something to be seen by the public. Therefore, if that guest takes photos without your knowledge, your privacy has been violated.

  9. Mule,
    If the general public blanches when they find out what really goes on at those places, then there’s probably something wrong. Given that Americans eat far more animal protein than is either necessary or healthy, an increase in the cost of animal protein would most likely do a world of good for Americans’ health, livestock health, and the overall efficiency of food production in the US.

  10. Mule Rider says:

    @Michael,

    “If the general public blanches when they find out what really goes on at those places, then there’s probably something wrong.”

    First of all, this borders on a little bit on the old argumentum ad populum….just because a majority of people don’t like what they see in these places, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. As filistro alluded to above, and something I can attest to firsthand, agriculture – particularly with animals – isn’t pretty. And, yes, people might be turned off of some of what they see. But if they’re that horrified (assuming it’s just “normal” practices of raising and slaughter, which can still be pretty “ugly,” and not actual animal abuse, which shouldn’t be tolerated), the answer isn’t to step in and over-legislate or over-regulate (just like it’s silly for those to regulate against on-site photographing/filming), they can simply refuse to eat meat at all or insist on eating only animals raised by guidelines they approve of. I guess it boils down to: who knows better about what’s going on at these places and whether or not it’s really wrong: the farmer/rancher/meatpacker/etc. or some bean counter or retail clerk in Manhattan or Cincinnati who gets his food at the grocery store and couldn’t tell the difference between a cow and a pig?

    Anyway, to the rest of your point, I don’t disagree that too many Americans “over-consume” and are unhealthy as a result (obesity has been called a ‘national crisis’ by some), and I would agree that the “cheapness” of much of our food is a culprit; so it’s easy to root for something that might be a deterrent to over-consumption, but I would caution that this is a dangerous way to get eat people to eat less. People need to be better educated about obesity and its negative consequences rather than forced to eat less because they can only afford so much. While the national average for food expenditures as a percent of disposable income is right around 10%-15%, it’s much much higher for people living in poverty, depending on their use of the food stamps program. But either way, if the cost of food soars, those people are pushed further out on the edge or society incurs a much larger food tab to take care of them. I definitely think we should encourage safe and humane treatment of animals by that segment of agriculture, but it would be a very wrong-headed move to push hard on the free range/organic/etc. route just because we don’t like seeing a few too many hens in an egg-laying barn or we don’ t like the smell from a crowded feedlot.

  11. Mule,

    this borders on a little bit on the old argumentum ad populum

    It does, but that’s not what I mean. People who blanch at homosexuality aren’t being asked to partake in homosexual activity without their knowledge. Similarly, if this stuff grosses the general populace out, they should be aware and thus able to choose not to partake.

    People need to be better educated about obesity and its negative consequences rather than forced to eat less because they can only afford so much.

    Of course. I meant it as a beneficial side effect, not as the primary motivation.

  12. Mule Rider says:

    “Similarly, if this stuff grosses the general populace out, they should be aware and thus able to choose not to partake.”

    Oh I totally agree that people should have the opportunity to be “aware” of what they’re “partaking in”….that makes for good transparency, right?

    What I disagree with is allowing a select few to take either an unrepresentative example of abuse and blow it out of proportion and act like it’s a common occurrence or use a “normal” practice in the raising and slaughter of an animal that just doesn’t look that pretty in the light of day and use that to smear an entire industry and influence public opinion to the point that they over-regulate how those ranchers/packers run their business.

    Consumers should be able to make informed decisions and they should be informed of what happens to these animals before they make it to the local grocer. And if they don’t like what they see and choose to only purchase animal products that are produced in a way that’s much more “gentler” on the animal when it’s alive….then they should have every right to do so and good for them….and if enough people are on board with it that it causes a shift in production practices as they have to respond to the shift in consumer preferences for a more “humane” way of doing things, I’m cool with that too….but what I’m not cool with that change NOT coming from transparency and influence of public opinion and consumers’ tastes/preferences but rather to smear animal agriculture and force local, state, and sometimes national governments to force farmers/ranchers to raise animals in a different manner than they are.

  13. Mule Rider says:

    One more thing to add….people should also be ready/willing to get what they ask for and it should also be transparent what it would mean – namely in terms of higher food costs – if many of the proposed changes to animal agriculture were to take effect.

    People may prefer cage-free hens, organic this, and grass-fed that, but when they have to pay 20%, 30%, etc. more than they normally would, well, that’s just the price to play ball because it costs a lot more and is much less efficient to produce meat and protein with some of those methods.

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