Archive for the ‘legislation’ tag
Public Internet Video Surveillance of Slaughterhouses: Put Accountability Where It Belongs — on Everyone
Coercion vs. Persuasion
What is the best way to foment social change? Does legislation lead change, or does legislation follow on the heels of change that has already taken hold? For those who care about the plight of animals on this planet—even the human kind—the answers to these questions are of critical importance, since they suggest an effective means of creating a world that respects life in all of its wondrous forms.
In November, 2008, I attended a fundraiser for Proposition 2—a successful California initiative that enacted legal requirements for more humane treatment of farm animals—and met Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). In response to a question concerning the cost to farmers of complying with the requirements of Prop 2, Mr. Pacelle explained that farmers would more than recoup the added expense, because consumers across the nation would be willing to pay more for humanely produced eggs and meat.
This response struck me. If the market will reward farmers for doing the right thing, then why do we spend millions of dollars to coerce them to act in accordance with their financial interest? Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to press the issue, but it got me thinking.
Information as the Key: A Modest Proposal
Individual freedom is a pillar of the liberal democracy that I believe is the key to a better future, and individual freedom requires that laws that coerce particular behavior ought to be avoided whenever possible. The hearts and minds of people are not won in the chambers of our legislatures; they are won in the “marketplace of ideas”, which the Internet has rendered increasingly efficient and vigorous.
Technology has incredible potential to convey the information that is necessary for consumers to make conscious choices with full knowledge of what is being done on their behalf. Such informational dissemination is where we ought to focus the pressure for new legislation: not on coercion, but on making information— in all its vivid, full-color horror–available to all.
Here’s a relatively straightforward proposal for how information could be used to produce an immediate and salutary effect: every package containing animal-derived products should include a URL that links to 24-hour, real-time, steaming video of the conditions of the animals being raised for food by the vendor supplying the product—including the gory footage of the animals’ demise. . . .
In light of the recent outcry over graphic footage obtained surreptitiously by HSUS at the Hallmark Meat Packing Co., of Chino, California, and the resulting recall of 143.4 million pounds of beef, such a law would likely meet with significant public support. Why, therefore, must we rely on the efforts of non-governmental organizations to uncover such outrageous conduct? We should not have to. The minimal cost of video technology and bandwidth makes the public surveillance of slaughterhouses, farms, and ranches a no-brainer. Indeed, given the dire economic condition facing the U.S., such an approach seems a cost-effective means of accomplishing much of the work left undone by ever-dwindling numbers of USDA inspectors.
Public surveillance of the meat industry could be the 21st Century’s equivalent to Upton Sinclair’s watershed work, The Jungle, which detailed the atrocious condition in U.S. meatpacking plants and led to public outrage that culminated in the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.
Consumers may initially visit surveillance websites out of curiosity or out of concern for the health of their loved ones. However, the sight of the agony resulting from their purchases would undoubtedly give many reason to reconsider their dietary choices. Let an informed public— given full information concerning the ramifications of their decisions —drive the push for a more humane society with the power of their buying dollars.
Following her graduation from Boalt Hall in 1999, M. Renee Orth practiced business litigation in California with emphasis on employment, real estate and banking law. She now focuses on philanthropic efforts while indulging her passions for vegetarian cooking and traveling.