North Carolina's new ag-gag law is a sweeping attack on whistleblowers, journalists, and anyone who documents abuse at a wide-range of facilities.
The law, which was vetoed by the governor and then overridden, lets businesses sue employees who expose what happens on the job, even if it what they are exposing is illegal.
It has dangerous implications for vulnerable groups in every segment of society, which is why it was opposed by AARP, veterans' groups, and domestic violence organizations.
But these types of laws started out as an attempt to shut down undercover investigations of factory farms. So what changed? How has ag-gag gone from bad to worse, and how have we gotten to his point?
I spoke with VICE News about the trend:
Nationwide, ag-gag laws have evolved, says Will Potter, who documented government surveillance and prosecution of environmentalists in his book Green Is the New Red."Originally these laws were explicitly targeting animal welfare groups and explicitly prohibiting photography," he told VICE News. "That didn't go [over] very well with the public."But legislatures have continued to discuss bills on whistleblower activity, said Potter, and have tried to include requirements that job applicants disclose if they have worked for animal rights groups. Other ag-gag laws proposed to require workers to submit to their employers — or the police — any footage they had taken.North Carolina's law doesn't mention agriculture, specifically, and instead focuses broadly on businesses."That's all bull ****," Potter said. "This is about undercover video and they're just trying to package it in a new way to try to sneak it through."
Well, it's not exactly my most eloquent defense of civil liberties! (Sorry, Mom). But sometimes you just have to cut the euphemisms and call a lie a lie.
North Carolina's ag-gag law is not about intellectual property. It's not about financial secrets. It's about silencing whistleblowers who expose practices that are bad for business.