Food Transparency & Ag-Gag Laws

Justin Marceau

Professor of Law
University of Denver, Sturm College of Law

It is often said that sunlight is the great disinfectant. The working assumption is that the more people know about where their food comes from, the less likely they are to consume animal products. This paper examines the research around this so-called “glass walls” thesis, and acknowledges that transparency alone may not be enough to trigger radical social change. At the same time, factual information about industrialized animal exploitation is a necessary part of effective advocacy campaigns, litigation, and political progress. Not surprisingly, then, companies involved in the killing of animals for food have invested heavily in legislation that would criminalize undercover investigations targeting agricultural enterprises. This paper takes a close look at Ag-Gag laws and their predecessors, the food libel laws.

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