tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera May 24, 2015 8:00am-8:31am EDT
to make sense of your world. >> ali velshi on target only on al jazeera america mousse mousse i'm "ali velshi on target", blowing the whistle. the small-town former who took on a big agro giant in an animal we'll ware war. crusaders or criminals, the push to silence those who exposed where our food comes from. americans are eating more meat and paying less for it than at any other time in u.s. history, at what cost. animals raised in the 1950s has given way to an industrial rev laughings of sorts of the a pugh
report on industrial farm animal production found the change happened largely out of the view of consumers. now, the pugh report came to a disturbing conclusion, saying the. much as harm to the animals that we raised for food. the agriculture gag la debate referred to as ag-gag laws centers around how to handle individuals and organizations who document bad practices on farm without the consent of the farmer. animal right activists want it to folk on the abuses rather than how the law is gather. laws designed to make it tougher are gaining traction. monday north carolina senate
passed a proposal to criminally charge people who misrepresent themselves when applying for a job at a farm. making it punishable to go under cover and document abuse. nicolas almagro's governor has 10 days to sign the bill. it is also home to a farmer that opened his dars in the hopes of bringing it to the intention of the community. patricia has our report on the former that blew the whistle cage free those that read labels means chickens humanely raised. >> they are calling them gauge free you can't but a gage in
there. >> reporter: we were asked to put bio utes son, they were delivered as chicks weeks before, now 36 days later look at the size. they are at a shape where it's three steps and maul. that's what they are bread to do. >> when you started 20 years ago, was it extreme. were the birds bred to grow this large, this fast sna. >> no the birds breasts are so heavy they can barely lift them. >> put your hand under the wing how hot it is. >> yes. >> that's smoking. >> it's really hot. craig comes from a long line of farmers. >> we came from a farming
family. >> no one set rules to farm this way, for more than 20 years he's been raising chickens for perdue. under precise guide lines set by the company guidelines that are not shown in this commercial. birds in the melbourne are this side. they have half a meter to roam in this is too far. >> a call to action to reform the industry and set him on a
collision course. a risky mover given the leverage over contract farm ers who pay for the chicken houses and upgrades. you are reliant on debt. they got you it goes back to the share cropper days or the coal miner company store thing. >> reporter: is that your choice to have no window? >> absolutely not. frequent any named a top producer, he took his concerns to the company. >> they'd come, meet, get up and never any follow up. not once. >> reporter: he went public, writing op eds and testifying about poultry farming conditions. on capitol hill. when they came to nothing, watts did something no one saw coming. he opened the barn door to an animal welfare advocate and her camera. >> this is the first time i've
been invited by a contract farmer. >> reporter: the result a video with more than 1.8 million hits on youtube, producing a unlikely partnership between a factory farmer and animal rights. >> it's changed our strategy, partnering with farmers who run the farms is the way forward. opening up the door from the inside is the way to change systems that have gone amok. >> reporter: this is about as unlikely pairing that you get. >> yes, for sure. we are definitely not welcomed by the industry. >> an alliance that ruffled purdue's feathers. within two days of the video posting to youtube, watts heard from purdue, a surprise inspection, and they released this statement claiming watts was not following company guidelines or providing
appropriate animal care. >> that was just the beginning. watts said the company amped up inspections. producing reports different to this. he showed this one, dated before the video's release, noting that he was off to a great start, and that the birds are living very well. this report dated after the video was released is filled with infractions. you can clearly see everything prior to the release great starts. birds living well. keep up the good work, and after the video release, there's nothing right. >> reporter: then the bombshell, purdue notified watts he'd have to attend a training course and before heed receive another flock, and undergo twice weekly inspections when chickens are present as part of a performance improvement plan for poultry
welfare and biosecurity. the relentless inspections made him determined, so determined he took another unprecedented step and slapped purdue with a whistleblower lawsuit. filed, the client alleges purdue that they retaliated against watts after the video was posted. we asked purdue for their side of the story. they refused. they did alleges in response to the video that: watts is not looking for a big pay out. just expenses and lost earnings for retraining that perdue forced him to complete, and legal costs. he says it's because the
potential payoff for contract farmers like himself will be bigger than money much. >> the whistleblower, if it's favourable, will give a farmer somewhere to go. he won't have to worry about not saying anything. we need an outlet. we don't have that now, we have nothing. we need something for the government to protect us. >> patricia joins us now. where is this. where is perdue in this discussion? >> well perdue filed a response. there's an investigation by the labour department. right now, this is active. >> what does craig get for going public, and why would anyone else that's a contract farmer do this? >> as craig explains it, a lot of farmers basically have their hands tide because they are so leveraged to the hilt on chicken houses. they invest a lot of money to build them, and they have to pay for that and upgrades. keep in mind that a lot of poultry farmers have spare capacity, so they could drop a
farm if they needed to. this is how craig explains it. he was come forward. >> to be clear, the conditions you saw on the farm, craig alleges is to the letter of what perdue describes, they decide what the farms will be right. >> exactly. they set the standard under which the chickens were raised. for example, when they dropped off the flock. in the house i was in, that was staffed with 28,500 chicks. there's no windows in the houses. that's because purdue, according to the contract requires solid walls. what about the ag gag laws, we'll talk about that. would these types of laws preventing whistleblowers or people going into the farms and talking about what they see, would that prevent someone like craig going public. >> this is interesting. craig as a contract farmer he's not an employee, but in his whistleblower lawsuit he's
claiming employee protection, one thing that the company is saying, that he can't claim protection. this is a distinction that is a political hot potato in many industries. in terms of who it could affect - the ag gag law in north carolina now, that is working its way, on the governor's desk, basically that law - opponents are saying that what it would do is financially ruin whistleblowers, because it would enable employers to sue them, and, in fact, proponents say it's protecting private property rights and ensuring and giving employers legal recourse. we'll hear from a proponent of one of those laws. >> next, i talk to a woman and says whistleblowers like craig are not the heroes in the story, they are, in fact the villains back in two minutes. at 7:00, a thorough wrap-up of the day's events. then at 8:00, john seigenthaler digs deeper into the stories of the day.
craig watts, you remember, is the north carolinan chicken farmer that filed a whistleblower lawsuit against perdue saying the giant retaliated against him after he went public about conditions on his farm. many are activists who go undercover to work on farms and shoot videos like the one i'm about to show you. fair warning is due. these videos are not easy to watch. this undercover video was shot last year on a dairy farm in new mexico, showing farmhands whipping and beating cows with wire cables and barbed wire. it led to an investigation, and the dairy farm shut down. this year a new mexico law-maker introduced a bill forcing acts -- activist groups to hand videos over to authorities within 24 hours of filming. the bill languished in part because the new mexico's attorney's office fears it could infringe on free speech rights.
17 states rejected the bill which could be called agriculture gag laws, those in red. ag gag. propenents call them farm privacy bills. the eight states in orange was passed the ag gag build, including north carolina. the debate over ag gag bills boils down to a battle over freedom of speech versus the privacy rights of farmers. k johnson smith thinks they are a good thing, and she is the president and c.e.o. of the animal agriculture alliance, an industry group advocating for animal farmers. thank you for joining us. the way i see it, activists are reporting real abuses in an industry we know is not all that transparent. instead of charges against farmers, the bill is making it possible for charges against
whistle-blowers. what is wrong with my analysis of that? >> a lot of things, i'm sorry to say. let me first say that our organization does not lobby, so we are not involved in supporting legislative initiatives such as the farm protection bills. however, i understand the need for them, and the reasons legislators across the country have been introducing these bills are because animal rights activists are fraudulently representing themselves when seeking employment on farm, and they are paid by animal rights organizations to represent their interests, and paid by a farmer to do a job on the farm. who will the loyalties lie with? the animal rights organizations. the bills are meant to protect the interests of the agricultural stakeholders in the states.
farms and ranchers are targeted by the undercover groups for a lot of reasons. one, the videos share an emotional story. you see three minutes of a scrip, and activists never release the entire video. you mentioned family barns, you talk about 9 or 10 billion animals raised for food. some operations have a million chickens. it's a multi billion industry. we hear time and type again there's no scaf guards. let's say you're right you see 3 minutes of a 30 minute video, but it's cows whipped with chains and wires, it's relevant. >> well, i'll say that we absolutely do not condone animal abuse. there are bad apples in the
industry? sure. there are bad apples in every industry. does it mean farmers own the animals. that they are abusers of animals, of course not. there are 2 million family farms or 2 million farms across the u.s. less than 2% of our population feeds the rest of the nation. farms are large, different, and a lot of that is driven by the market. you had to scale up in size in order to be profitable. farms are businesses, so they should have the opportunity to be profitable. when you talk about the large farms, it's important to recognise that every
one of the large farms today - they started as small family farm. my conversation with kay johnson smith continues in two minutes.
i want to continue my conversation on cruelty to animals on farms. kate johnson smith is the president and c.e.o. of the animal agricultural alliance, a group advocating for animal farmers. let's look at a whistleblower videos. i want to warn viewers, these are upsetting to watch. take a look. you are seeing - this was released to local media in carolina local media this month from a poultry form, showing dying chickens tossed into a pile with dead chickens, live animals treated like trash. it's possible. i'm showing viewers 45 seconds of video, a lot more was obviously shown, but there's no - this doesn't seem to be an absence of context here. >> well, i can't see the video you showed. like i said, some of the videos showed practices that are not condoned by the industry. they certainly don't meet the standards set forth by the industry. the problem that we have is the
groups that are hiring these individuals to gain employment on farms often are contributing to the problem, and they are failing to report any sorts of concerns or abuse to the owners of the farms, or to local police authorities, and every state has animal cruelty laws. the videos are held for weeks, months or a year before released, and they are released to a public or a press conference or social media. they are not - they are not going through the proper authorities or channels to report concerns. if you or i saw abuse taking place, i know what you or i would do - we'd report it immediately. and i would no longer work there. >> it's not just activists, animal right activists. in north carolina, the association of prosecuting attorneys, teamsters, a.c.l.u. - not necessarily radical groups. >> well, you know, the term ag
gag has really, i think, misleading us to what this really does. these, again, are individuals with an agenda. the agenda is to create a vegan society. no matter how good the farms are. think about the millions of farms, or thousands of farms that have been visited by and worked on by the undercover activists. they don't show you the positives. let me ask you. i'm not sure craig watts, third or fourth generation chicken farmer, i'm not sure that he's looking to create a bigger society. i think aclu they are big meat eaters, actually. >> i don't know mr watt, but i read the independent third party report that reviewed the video he showed, and - by the way, the animal rights organization, compassion and world farming that he partnered with, is using to fundraise, go to the website and they are using it for a fundraising tool. that is in line with how
undercover videos are used. they are used with a big donate now. but i will say the third party independent review report by the center for food integrity, independent group, and the panel included animal welfare specialist, and you see what was shown in the video was out of video standards. watt was shown, was not in keeping with how they should. >> he wrote and asked them for these things, and showed them the conditions were the same, and purdue was applauding them for that. after the video. potentially that's his version of the story. >> here is where we are getting
into a pickle. i hear you. people can be unfair, is every time we see a video of cruelty on the farm, and it's not possibly the farmer or industry's fault. if there are abuses on farms that are shown on the video, work with the farm to take corrective action. instead the groups are using them for fundraising and drive p.r. and political agendas. they are used to intimidate companies and farms and they lose their business, contract with food companies as a result of videos, they are individuals involved, never bringing the charges to the farm owner, and our organization tracked every
one of those videos in the united states and canada, every incident, video that has taken place, the individual who was video taking leaves employment, weeks or months before the video out. they are long gone often changed their name and are washing in other parts of the country. they are not around to be a part of the investigation by the animal cruelty authority this that state or by the farms. they have long gone, changed their name and are working in some other part of the country, they are unavailable to help with the investigation. >> i guess this is the beauty of videos in 2015, and whatever people release them to do, it shows you something that is happening. so in the end, if you are throwing half dead chickens into a pile of dead chickens and beating cows, everything you say, i hear you, but in the end someone is doing something bad and someone is trying to change the agenda, the agenda of animal rights activists, whether they are trying to create a vegan society or don't want people to be cruel or want the public to understand, they are looking to change, you are right, they have an agenda, maybe it's not a bad agenda. >> the problem is, again, having
monitored every one of these videos, they are all edited, spliced together. >> it doesn't matter. we can show the video, the cow video, doesn't matter if it's edited. whether it's 3 minutes of beating cows or tossing them around out of 30 minutes of them petting or massaging the cow, it doesn't matter. the stuff we see is outrageous. >> again, we do not condone abuse. those actions should be stopped immediately. >> does not the fact that someone is video taping that it happened help you and others say "this can't go on?" >> if a video has been taped and six months have gone by, and there were problems that were captured. doesn't you think they should have been stopped sooner, 30 minutes later, not 30 days or 30 weeks later. >> yes, it's a point about the
how they are conducted, there doesn't appear to be a standard. i take your point. if animals are abused we should know about this as soon as possible. thank you for joining me for the conversation. >> kate johnson president of animal cultural alliance. that is our show, i'm ali velshi, thank you for joining us. >> a real look at the american dream. only on al jazeera america.
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