The industrial farm sector in America has been under scrutiny in recent years, and furtive photographs and videos capturing horrific instances of animal and human mistreatment in the cultivation, raising and processing of food have played an important part in communicating the need for change. There is nothing more powerful than being able to see the reality.
Rather than working to fix the problems revealed in documentaries, photographs and videos, the agricultural sector is currently lobbying to stop public displays of these activities, by introducing legislation that would make it illegal to photograph or record farms. This new bill is not about protecting farms from trespass or defamation, for which they are already covered, but specifically against visual and audio recording without consent and the possession of such materials. This would make criminals of Oscar nominated directors of Food Inc, campaigners against animal mistreatment who record farm conditions, travelers photographing farmland from the roadside or anyone who possesses or passes on such media.
When Slow Food USA heard that three states – Florida, Iowa, and Minnesota – were planning to introduce this legislation, they came up with the Farmarazzi campaign, an invitation to take farm snaps and post them on Facebook, showing that a good, clean and fair farm has nothing to hide. More than 400 photos were quickly uploaded. Sasha Purpura’s photo of two muddy pigs in a bucket won the public vote for favorite Farmarazzi image, illustrating the healthy environment and life enjoyed by animals on small-scale, sustainable farms that was a common theme to many of the photos.
Slow Food USA has been busy presenting legislators with albums of the Farmarazzi photos, as well as more than 37,000 signature collected on their petition that asks them to: “Please withdraw the legislation that would make taking pictures or video of farms or food production facilities illegal. Consumers have a right to know and a right to see how their food is produced.”
Fortunately efforts to establish the law in the three states – as well as New York where a similar ‘ag-gag’ bill was announced later – appear to have been stalled in the face of complaints that the proposals were intended primarily to protect the industry with little concern for animals’ welfare.