Law Forbids Secret Videos of Factory Farms

business_ethics_highlights_2The editorial linked below criticizes a new law passed in North Carolina that forbids “undercover recordings” of abuse at farms and slaughterhouses. (The law technically applies to other workplaces, too, but in practice the law is clearly aimed at protecting factory farms.) The criticism of this law is grounded upon the principle (and constitutional protection of) free speech. It is a good criticism. We wonder, however, about something not mentioned in the editorial: a counter-argument rooted in privacy and the sanctity of private property. When activists, for example, pose as employees to gain access, and then secretly record wrongdoing, are they not effectively trespassing? This may well be morally justified, but legally it still seems plausibly subject to penalty. The question then becomes whether video illegally obtained could rightly be brought to light? Should a law forbid such video on the grounds that it was obtained by illegal means, or should the public’s interest in knowing about bad behaviour at slaughterhouses override such considerations? >>>

LINK: No More Exposés in North Carolina (by the Editorial Board of the NY Times)

…The industry should welcome such scrutiny as a way to expose the worst operators. Instead, the industry’s lobbyists have taken the opposite approach, pushing for the passage of so-called “ag-gag” laws, which ban undercover recordings on farms and in slaughterhouses. These measures have failed in many states, but they have been enacted in eight. None has gone as far as North Carolina, where a new law that took effect Jan. 1 aims to silence whistle-blowers not just at agricultural facilities, but at all workplaces in the state. That includes, among others, nursing homes, day care centers, and veterans’ facilities.

Anyone who violates the law — say, by secretly taping abuses of elderly patients or farm animals and then sharing the recording with the media or an advocacy group — can be sued by business owners for bad publicity and be required to pay a fine of $5,000 for each day that person is gathering information or recording without authorization…..

What do you think?


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