Big Ag Wants To Make It a Crime to Expose Animal Abuse at Factory Farms
Lawmakers in Florida and Iowa have introduced bills to establish criminal penalties for going undercover at agricultural facilities and simply taking pictures.
What do Florida and Iowa have in common when it comes to animal agriculture? They've both been hot spots, past and present, for the movement to combat some of the worst abuses in industrial agribusiness. And now the factory farming industry is fighting back in both states—and their latest methods represent their biggest overreach yet.
In Florida, the Humane Society of the United States and other groups pushed for the adoption of the first statewide law in the country to restrict the extreme confinement of animals on factory farms. In 2002, voters there passed Amendment 10, to phase out the caging of breeding sows in gestation crates. In Iowa, HSUS and other animal welfare groups have conducted a series of undercover investigations (see the video) to expose cruelty in the nation's biggest factory farming state.
Now, these two states have something else in common. They are trying to make it a crime to photograph or videotape farm animals. They don't want to criminalize animal cruelty, but they do want to make criminals of people trying to document abuse and to put an end to the cruelty. Lawmakers have introduced bills in both states to establish criminal penalties for going undercover at agricultural facilities and simply taking pictures.
Mind you, if this legislation is enacted, it won't just be a setback for animal welfare. Shabby, squalid, overcrowded conditions for animals on factory farms are also a food-safety threat for Americans, with millions of Americans sickened every year by contaminated food. It was, of course, an Iowa egg factory farm that was forced to recall half a billion eggs last year because of a Salmonella outbreak, creating one of the biggest food product recalls in American history.
With a potentially dramatic pare-back of funding for federal inspections of animal-agriculture operations looming, at production and slaughter facilities, these new proposed policies to bar the exposure of unhealthy and unsafe practices could not come at a more inopportune time. The industry has long argued for self-regulation, and with government inspection programs stretched so thin, they now want no meddling animal advocacy groups looking either.
Our exposés aren’t just important for raising public awareness about the mistreatment of animals. HSUS investigations have led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history, misdemeanor and felony cruelty convictions, closure of rogue slaughter plants, and disciplinary actions for government inspectors not doing their jobs. None of these important services we fulfill would be possible if such far-reaching and stifling laws are enacted.
It's precisely because of what past factory farm investigations have uncovered—cruelty at egg farms, pig farms, and other settings—that such exposés are critical to the movement for animal welfare and food safety. With some members of the agriculture industry, including Dr. Temple Grandin, calling for more transparency at animal-raising facilities, these bills run in the opposite direction, seeking to criminalize efforts even to take a picture or to produce a video. They want to criminalize whistle-blowers who bring abuses to the attention of regulatory agencies, or even snap a photo on a cell phone.
Taking a photo like this one without permission would
be illegal under proposed bills in Iowa and Florida.
I can understand why factory farmers don’t want the public seeing images of their business practices. The images of almost featherless hens, so crowded the animals are living on top of each other, or pigs being struck with metal bars by workers coarsened to their duties are deeply disconcerting. The response should not be, as in some country ruled by a dictator or a junta, to have the strongmen grab the cameras and smash them to the ground or melt them in a fire, as the authorities do in order to hide the beating and shooting of pro-democracy advocates. It's the same principle at work for the strongmen in these state legislatures. Their scheme is a neater way to smash those cameras to the ground and hide what's going on. Ironically, they want to prevent their very own customers, America's consuming public, from learning about the production practices that bring food to their tables and plates.
They'd be best advised to follow the original lead of Florida and other states that have adopted modest animal welfare reforms. Ban the extreme confinement of laying hens and pigs in small cages and commit to sound and safe animal husbandry practices. Transparency is a bulwark in a democratic society, and it's also critical in an era of systemic animal mistreatment and food safety threats.
Yep, "factory farmers" are good people just trying to make a living treating animals like unfeeling pieces of "garbage". And nobody should have a right to get them to change their ways. Don't try to make them do anything decent for the animals because they should be able to do whatever they want. It's their garbage and mind your own business.
Check the link for pictures that don't begin to show you the horror of these "farms".
Healthcare Reform Helping Businesses: Government Data
(Reuters) - When President Barack Obama signed his healthcare overhaul into law a year ago, some U.S. companies were quick to flag -- and write down -- the millions of dollars they stood to lose as a result of one aspect of the measure.
A year later, data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows the business community is one of the biggest beneficiaries of a separate provision of the overhaul, which provides billions of dollars in assistance to employers that maintain medical coverage for early retirees.
Hundreds of U.S. companies -- including some that took writedowns last year that critics cited as proof of the new law's burden on business -- are participating in the program, which has paid out $530 million in the first seven months and is authorized to spend as much as $5 billion through 2014.
But while companies were quick to bemoan a potential headwind created by the overhaul, which eliminated a double subsidy they had enjoyed on certain drug expenses, no one seems keen to alert shareholders to the tailwind the companies are enjoying thanks to another aspect of the law.
The program, known as the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, was designed to encourage health-plan sponsors -- companies, labor unions, nonprofits and state and local governments -- to continue to provide coverage to employees who retire before they qualify for Medicare, the government healthcare program for people aged 65 and over.
Without coverage from their former plans, experts say these people often cannot get insurance on their own because of their age and pre-existing conditions.
In the past, private employers were often willing to pay for such insurance as a carrot to encourage headcount reductions through attrition rather than layoffs.
But in recent years, fewer did because the annual costs per covered person began to rise to $20,000, $30,000 or more. As a result, "early retirees are among the groups hurt the most by the current health system," said Nancy Metcalf at Consumer Reports, "and anything that helps them hold on to coverage until 2014 is helpful."
Under the ERRP program, U.S. taxpayers now pay 80 percent of the outlays associated with higher-cost early retirees, those who cost their former employers between $15,000 and $90,000 a year in insurance premiums and other healthcare-related outlays.
The plan is scheduled to sunset in 2014, when the health insurance exchanges created by the Obama law are scheduled to open, providing affordable insurance to everyone. But in the four years ERRP is around, it can put as much as $240,000 per early retiree back in the pocket of a company.
"Every extra dollar that employers save on healthcare is a dollar they can spend on hiring new workers, innovating, and investing in their future," said Richard Popper, a director at HHS's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
So far, about one-fifth of the $530 million that was dispersed in the first seven months of the program has gone to private U.S. businesses. The actual amounts each company received are not yet available.
But the official list of companies participating in the program includes half the members of the Dow Jones industrial average.
Among the corporate beneficiaries: AT&T, Caterpillar Inc and Deere & Co -- three companies that were part of the very public writedown wave that followed Obama's signing of the law last year and the elimination of the double subsidy regarding retiree drug benefits.
That loophole, created in 2003 with the Medicare Modernization Act, allowed companies to receive a 28 percent subsidy from taxpayers to help cover the cost of prescription drugs for retirees -- without counting the money as income.
And when they spent the money, the companies were allowed to turn around and get a deduction for it on their taxes -- even though the money was a gift from taxpayers.
The Obama administration saw that as a double subsidy and eliminated it. So starting in 2013, U.S. companies will only be able to enjoy the subsidy once, by not having it count as income.
Reuters contacted AT&T, Caterpillar and Deere this week and asked them what they had told their shareholders about the boost their finances are getting from ERRP.
Ken Golden, a spokesman for Deere & Co, did not acknowledge the request. McCall Butler, a spokeswoman for AT&T, said the telecommunications giant had "no comment on this."
Bridget Young, a spokeswoman for Caterpillar, said her company was "still in the process of analyzing our claims experience to better understand to what degree the reimbursement will affect Caterpillar. As such, it is too early for us to comment on how the reimbursement will be allocated."
Do any of you remember the huge whining tantrum on this site by some when ATT made a big deal about having to "write down" an amount based on the 'baaad' healthcare bill?
Well, apparently it turns out there was nothing to these shrieks from our corporate "friends". Just business as usual - 'all changes, regulations, modifications are going to hurt us and prevent us from rewarding our shareholders; and hurt our profits and EVERYTHING!!!!'
Typical bullshit from our corporate overlords!!
I'm shocked, just shocked!
Bailout Inflated Big Banks While Screwing Main Street, TARP Inspector Says
On the last day of his job, the special inspector general of the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP) has penned his exit letter -- and, predictably, it isn't pretty. While ordinary people have been feeling the aftereffects of the bank bailout on the economy -- broadly, wider gaps in economic disparity -- Neil M. Barofsky breaks it down for us exactly what went on. Total systematic failure.
The act’s emphasis on preserving homeownership was particularly vital to passage. Congress was told that TARP would be used to purchase up to $700 billion of mortgages, and, to obtain the necessary votes, Treasury promised that it would modify those mortgages to assist struggling homeowners. Indeed, the act expressly directs the department to do just that.
But it has done little to abide by this legislative bargain. Almost immediately, as permitted by the broad language of the act, Treasury’s plan for TARP shifted from the purchase of mortgages to the infusion of hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation’s largest financial institutions, a shift that came with the express promise that it would restore lending.
As we now know, TARP's homeownership goals went down the drain as the banks padded their pockets [and continue to do so]. At this point, embattled homeowners are as likely to benefit from suing for foreclosure fraud as from government provisions. Barofsky details some of these failures, noting that 'no requirement or even incentive to increase lending to home buyers, and against our strong recommendation, not even a request that banks report how they used TARP funds.'
After gouging and obliterating Geithner for obsessively talking the talk but not walking the walk, Barofsky lands a particularly square punch -- calling out the ineptitude and total kowtowing of the government to big banks for unnamed purposes, while pointing out that the 'biggest banks are 20 percent larger than they were before the crisis and control a larger part of our economy than ever.'
In the final analysis, it has been Treasury’s broken promises that have turned TARP — which was instrumental in saving the financial system at a relatively modest cost to taxpayers — into a program commonly viewed as little more than a giveaway to Wall Street executives.
We've all known it. But it's refreshing [if distressing] to see someone in a high level of power telling us the truth. Read the rest at the New York Times, via the Daily Beast.
By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | Sourced from AlterNet
Posted at March 30, 2011, 7:42 am
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN GOVERNMENT HAS NO EFFECTIVE CONTROL OVER CORPORATIONS BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT IT, OR ARE PREVENTED FROM IT, OR KEPT FROM ENFORCING IT; WHEN CORPORATIONS ARE ALLOWED TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANT IN THE NAME OF 'FREE MARKETS' OR 'CAPITALISM' OR 'SHAREHOLDER RIGHTS', OR THE AVOIDANCE OF THAT FRIGHTENING WORD, GASP, SOCIALISM.
Who's responsible? All (corporate) conservatives and most democrats who get paid by the same people for giving them the opportunity to pillage the country and its citizens.
AND YOU KNOW WHO PAYS? WE DO! LIKE THAT? I DON'T.