Checking the Power of Factory Farms

In the past few years, one of the ways Americans have become aware of the horrible factory farm system from which they get most of their meat has been through journalists and activists sneaking onto or near farms and taking pictures or describing things in horrid detail.

But rather than clean up their act, farms are now pushing a bill in Florida that would make it illegal to take a picture of a farm without the farmer's permission. It's important to note that this would likely violate the First Amendment. While it's always illegal to trespass on private property, taking a picture of private property from a public roadway or other land you have permission to be on is in keeping with the rules. Generally, if it's visible to the public, it's in the public domain.

What's interesting here is the lengths people will go to in order to avoid responding to consumer demand. Because they're increasingly aware of the violations against animals we commit in the name of feeding ourselves, a growing number of American consumers are calling for changes in the way we produce meat. Rather than respond to that demand -- the power of the consumer to vote with their pocketbooks, by the way, is supposed to be an important way that free markets work -- companies try to use their power and influence to get out of changing. It's enough to make one want to address the problem through government action, except that the government, through laws like the revitalized food safety bill, often takes the status quo as a given.