National Geographic, Enemy of the State

By Bill Maher

I was equal parts stunned and unsurprised to learn that on June 28th a National Geographic photographer named George Steinmetz was arrested in Kansas after taking aerial pictures of a feedlot for a series on food issues to be published some time next year. Kansas has something called the "Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act," which is basically a way the big farm and meat industry discourages -- even criminalizes -- journalism or activism by making it illegal to "enter an animal facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera or by any other means." Because everyone knows that pictures tell a thousand words, and videos tell even more. Think the difference between a dick pic and a sex tape.

This National Geographic photographer thought he'd discovered a novel way around the law -- hire a hang glider to take him up above the facility, thereby not "entering" it. But the high-density feedlot had the last laugh, except for the part where they work on a high-density feedlot. Since they weren't sure the new law covered aerial photographs, they had him arrested for criminal trespassing.

Yes, after seeing the photographer above the feedlot taking pictures, and noticing his SUV on ranch property, the owners of the feedlot called the cops and had him arrested -- even after he agreed to move his SUV to a public location. Because one way or another, you're not going to enlighten people as to where their food comes from, hippie.

It reminds me of the old saying: "You wouldn't want to see how the sausage is made." Well, some people do want to know how the sausage is being made, particularly what's in it, and what's being done to the animals that eventually turn into the sausage. Because, you know, we're eating it.

Arkansas, Iowa, Utah, and Missouri have similar "ag-gag" laws protecting these types of feedlots from, well, journalism. And before you say, "I've got an idea! Journalists should apply for a job at one of these feedlots, get hired, and then tape what they see!" Well, the new laws make that an illegal act, too.

So congrats, America. We'll allow you to see the cartoon of the happy cow sniffing a flower on the milk cartoon, and the "Meat: It's What's For Dinner!" television ads. But if you want to see how your meat is actually being processed, or how the animals on these feedlots are being treated, you're going to have to ask the illegal aliens who work there.