Category Archives: Activism

Criminalizing Animal Activism

I’m not a huge animal rights activist.  I don’t like animals being abused, but if I’m going to focus my energies on something it’s more likely going to be human rights.  However, this goes beyond just animal rights because it penalizes folks who are trying to expose the terrible conditions that our food is produced in.  The corporations that run these factories don’t want their practices exposed because then consumers would demand change. 

So i took a just couple minutes, threw together a letter and sent it off to my representatives.  The following is what I wrote to my representative.  Following that is her response that arrived just a few minutes after I sent my email.  If you want to write your representatives, tell them to vote against house file 1369.  If you don’t know who your reps are, go here: http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/

 

I’m writing to you about H.F. No. 1369.  This bill would penalize people who expose the terrible conditions and treatment at animal facilities.  I’m not an animal rights fanatic, but I want to know what kind of conditions the animals I’m going to eat are raised in.  I don’t want to eat chickens that are raised in a sunless barn with sick chickens dying all around them.  The corporations who run these operations sure aren’t going to make the conditions known, but as consumers we should be able to access this kind of information.  This bill would impose penalties for those who, without the owner’s consent, “produce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility” as well as anybody caught distributing that material.  Another part of the bill targets undercover investigators and whistleblowers.  This is not right.  If the people who raise our food (or breed our pets, etc) have something to hide, perhaps they should work on improving the conditions not criminalizing the conscientious people who work to expose them. 

Lastly there’s a section that covers animal facility tampering, which is already illegal.  However, in this bill the terminology is very ambiguous and includes “disrupting” operations.  This is much like a “disorderly conduct” charge which can be used for almost anything, except that animal facility tampering is listed as a felony.  Again, this law imposes steep penalties for people who are exposing the conditions that our food is raised under. 

This is basically about keeping consumers in the dark, because the people who run these factory farms (and puppy mills) know that if the public is educated, they will change their purchasing habits.  Please vote against this bill.

 

Here’s the reponse I received:

 

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to HF 1369, which
would criminalize undercover investigations in animal facilities. I want
you to know that I share your concerns with this bill and have some
information about what is happening in regard to it here in the
legislature.

HF 1369 was introduced on April 4 and referred to the House Agriculture
and Rural Development Policy and Finance committee. While the bill has
yet to receive a hearing, the Chair of this committee (who decides what
bills receive hearings) is also the chief author of the measure. That
said, while this bill might receive a hearing, I am unsure of its
prospects beyond the Agriculture committee. Regardless, in the event
this bill comes before me on the House floor, I plan to oppose it.

Thank you again for contacting me. Please keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Carolyn Laine

Rep. Carolyn Laine
Minnesota House, District 50A
287 State Office Building
651-296-4331 (office)
763-788-1864 (home)
rep.carolyn.laine@house.mn


Proposed Mandatory Helmet Law in Minnesota

This is the email I sent to my representatives regarding the proposed helmet law in MN. (for more info go to http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/ and search for HF918)
If you want to contact your representatives, this website will help – http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/

I am writing you to request that you do NOT support H.F. No. 918 requiring bicycle operators under age 16 to wear protect headgear.

First off the efficacy of bicycle helmets to reduce brain injuries has yet to be conclusively proven.  Some of studies cited as proof are seriously flawed in their methodologies.  There is still debate as to whether bicycle helmets may actually contribute to more serious brain injuries like diffuse axonal injury.  Some studies have shown that motorists behave more aggressively around cyclists with helmets, presumably because they think the cyclist is better protected against injury.  Some studies have shown that the cyclist actually rides more aggressively because of the false sense of safety he feels from wearing a helmet.  The one way we can be sure that injuries will be reduced is by a reduction in the number of people riding bicycles.  Studies have shown reductions by 4% to as much as 50% depending on the location and the severity of the helmet law.  At a time when physical activity among children is sorely lacking, do we really want to reduce it?

However, even if the helmet is effective in preventing brain injuries, it is not the place of the state to force my children, or any children to wear one.  Even if it were, why are bicycle riders being singled out?  A 1998 report from the Federal Office of Road Safety showed that brain injuries among motorists would be cut by 25% percent if motorists were required to wear bicycle helmets (even where airbags were used.) In 2009 in the U.S. 33,800 people died in automobile accidents.  4,092 pedestrians were killed by automobiles.  During that same time period only 630 died riding their bicycle (again, the vast majority from accidents involving motor vehicles.)  Both pedestrians and motorists have a much greater risk of being killed.  Are we going to pass helmet laws for them too? The death rates for heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are higher than all of those.  Should we try to legislate healthy eating habits after we get everybody wearing helmets? Even a toothless law like this one is overstepping the bounds of government.  We don’t need the state dictating every decision to us.  The point of FREEDOM is being able to make your own decisions.  The way I see it there can only be one purpose for this law and that is to open the door for farther reaching enforceable helmet laws in the future.

If the state is actually interested in bicycle safety, Europe has shown that education and infrastructure are the path to safety for cyclists, not helmets.  Helmets are going to have very little effect if motorists keep hitting cyclists.  This is either about appearing to be pro-bicycle without being willing to invest in true bicycle safety, or it’s about control.  When helmet laws have come up in France, Italy, Spain, & England they have looked at the example of Australia whose helmet law was basically a complete failure because it reduced bike use and therefore bike culture and advocacy and made cycling less safe than it was to begin with.  In each of those countries helmet laws have been voted down, sometimes multiple times.  We don’t need a helmet law here either.  Please vote against this law.