Why Every Parent Should Know About the Ag-Gag Bill and Animal Cruelty on Farms

FILE - In a November 28, 2010 file photo provided by The Humane Society of the United States, female breeding pigs are in cra
FILE - In a November 28, 2010 file photo provided by The Humane Society of the United States, female breeding pigs are in crates at a Virginia factory farm owned by a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods in Waverly, Va. Smithfield Foods says it plans to end the practice of keeping female hogs in small metal crates while pregnant. The Smithfield, Va.-based company said Thursday, Dec. 7, 2011 that it will phase out the use of gestation crates at its facilities by 2017. (AP Photo/The Humane Society of the United States, File)

If I click on an animal video online, you better believe I want it to be adorable kittens, not one documenting animal abuse. I prefer never having those horrifying visuals seared onto my eyeballs. Yet there are activists who spend their lives doing undercover work at large industrial farms just to get this type of footage in order to expose the cruelty and unnecessary abuse of animals. These videos have lead to prosecutions, closures, recalls and vows from the offenders to change their practices. Because these videos have been so impactful, a new Ag-Gag bill has been introduced. At first glance this Ag-Gag bill may seem like a sadomasochistic ritual, but in actuality it would make it illegal for anyone to covertly film livestock farms, and has already implemented by five states.

Big Agriculture, I totally sympathize, I wouldn't want someone filming me at my house without my knowledge, especially considering I am usually wearing fleece sweatpants un-ironically. But I am also not providing a service to the American public. Corporate accountability and transparency should be a business practice that all major companies adopt and implement. If you don't have anything to hide, then why not disclose exactly how you do business? Instead, Big Agriculture is trying to deter an honest depiction of what is really happening. To make it illegal for people to disclose information about the inner workings of your business makes it hard for me to trust the product you are selling.

I do eat meat, but I often avoid thinking about how it gets to my plate. I have never hunted in my life and have no idea what it would be like to actually kill an animal. In fact, I am not sure I would be able to. Perhaps that is hypocritical of me, so maybe I should get a bow and arrow and figure out what I am really made of. When I was a kid I would eat McDonald's Chicken McNuggets and never even considered what they were made of. Then my mom told me McNuggets were ground-up chicken lips and vaginas. I am pretty sure that is not true, but the visual was enough to make me start investigating exactly what I was putting in my mouth. And the more I have learned about the food industry, the more I feel like it is important to be directly connected to the source of what I am eating.

Industrial farms that host thousands of livestock are breeding grounds for disease, so antibiotics are used to protect the animals. But those animal antibiotics are then ingested by humans, which can make human antibiotics less effective. Additionally, sometimes the diseases grow resistant to the antibiotics and persist or mutate. Humans eating these sick animals can get sick themselves, like in the case of salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. Mad Cow disease develops because chickens are fed ground beef (cow) and then cows are fed the chicken poop -- so the diseases are passed on through this cannibalistic cycle. The living conditions for these animals sound like a Stephen King novel, and it is affecting the health of the product that we are consuming. Even if you prefer not to think about the animals' experience on the farm, the potential consequences to your own health and the health of your children is probably worth paying attention to.

Your diet is an element of health that you have more control over than your genes or whether acid rain falls on your town. What you put in your body impacts the way it functions, and being informed about what you are eating is the first step. Learning about factory farming doesn't mean that you have to become a vegetarian, or raw foodist who survives on flax seeds. It's about finding a balance that works for you and your family. If you enjoy meat, then purchase meat that has been raised organically or locally by a farmer you know. The eating of meat means another being sacrificed its life for yours. Try to honor that by making sure that life before becoming your dinner was a good one. Yes, organic meat is going to be more expensive, but that can be resolved by making meat a smaller part of your diet. Rather than every day, for every meal, try a few times a week for some meals.

There are well-documented health complications caused by diets of excessive meat, including heart disease and cancer. Making whole grains and vegetables the main proportion of your diet will make a major difference in your well-being. Of course, getting your kids to eat healthy is one of the major challenges of parenting. You have to buy and prepare their meals, and then deal with their opinion that peas taste like poop. But the more adventurous you are, your kids will follow your example. I learned a recipe for organic chicken nuggets, which is so delicious my daughter probably thinks they are bad for her. Being involved in your child's diet, providing a healthy foundation, and actively encouraging more health conscious options will help them as they grow and also well into their future.