For North Carolina lawmakers, the goal for this upcoming year is simple: silence whistleblowers and stifle cries of injustice. The Property Protection Act, often referred to by critics as the “North Carolina Ag-Gag Bill,” targets undercover workers who obtain audio or video evidence of illegal activity occurring in restricted access areas of a workplace. 

The bill has been at the center of significant controversy since it was first filed in early 2015, with many North Carolina residents opposed to the legislation. In early June 2015, North Carolina legislators in the House and Senate were able to override Governor McCrory’s veto of the bill, despite significant public outcry over the potentially devastating consequences of such a law.

The “ag-gag” bill, which makes it illegal for undercover investigators to film and release footage of standard animal agricultural practices, is a thinly veiled attempt to keep the horrific abuses occurring on factory farms hidden from the public.

This law was not written to prevent Americans from seeing footage of the occasional injustice at the hands of one sadistic employee. This would be easy to dismiss as a single incident that isn’t representative of the industry at large. Rather, this law aims to prevent the general public from seeing the immense and unimaginable suffering that is simply built into the meat industry’s business model.

Standard practice on a factory farm is truly a nightmare. Male chicks are thrown into a grinder immediately after birth, male piglets have their testicles ripped out without anesthesia, chickens are scalded alive and cows have their bodies hacked apart while they are still fully conscious and alert.

This gruesome reality has only been revealed in the past through footage from undercover investigators. Animal agribusiness knows that any decent human would see footage of this terrible treatment and immediately realize how wrong it is to support such an industry, thus cutting into the profits of mega-companies such as Tyson, Perdue and Hormel. This is where “ag-gag” legislation keeps this industry in business — if acquiring such footage is criminalized, the public will never know exactly what goes on behind the closed doors of an industry slaughtering billions of animals every year.

Let’s say, however, that your circle of compassion extends only to other humans. Here’s what is so dangerous about this bill: it doesn’t only apply to cruelty against animals. Any vulnerable group of humans is equally endangered by the broad language of NC Ag-Gag.

Under this law, it’s equally illegal to film and disseminate footage of cruelties committed against your grandmother in the nursing home, your little brother in the day care center or your friend in the hospital. Should you catch an employee or staff member committing a crime against another person in his or her care, you are the one at risk of suffering legal consequences. Why? Because, according to North Carolina legislators, property rights are more important than human rights.

This law is a shameful attempt to protect the animal agriculture industry from public scrutiny. It is understandable from an animal agribusiness standpoint to want to keep consumers in the dark about where their meat comes from. But at what cost? The meat industry clearly doesn’t value animal lives, but what about humans?

This law infringes on our constitutional right to free speech and threatens the safety of the most vulnerable members of society. See for yourself what abuses this law is working so hard to cover up and find out what you can do to ensure the law is overturned.