My life’s work has always been human rights, but I’m also a strong supporter of animal protection. So I was especially heartened by our recent decision to join 59 other organizations – ranging from the Humane Society to the ACLU to the Sierra Club to the United Farmworkers – to oppose what are known as “ag-gag” bills.
These bills aim to silence and thwart whistle-blowers who would expose animal cruelty, poor working conditions, food or environmental safety issues, and more by, for example, making it a crime for an investigator to get a job on a factory farm, banning taking a photo or video without permission, and requiring mandatory reporting under timelines that are so short as to make it virtually impossible to document patterns of abuse.
What at first might appear to be exclusively an animal abuse issue is, on closer inspection, clearly also a freedom of expression issue, a workers’ rights issue, an environmental issue and a public health issue. And this is why such a diverse coalition has come together to oppose “ag-gag” bills.
Our movements have some key principles in common, perfectly encapsulated in our opposition to the bills. First, cruelty in any form is always abhorrent, always unacceptable, and should always be opposed. Unchecked, it is corrosive, diminishing all of us and putting us all at risk.
Second, abuses thrive in the dark. Time and time again, Amnesty’s research has shown that governments and corporations alike try to keep out of the reach of public and judicial scrutiny what they know can never be justified.
Finally, sunshine – in our case, the proverbial candle – really is the best disinfectant. We have no hope of stopping abuses if we can’t even bring them to light. This is why Amnesty has for more than fifty years been such a staunch defender of the right to freedom of expression, which itself is essential to the protection of other rights.