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Jim Meade / Iowa City
Senior Contributor

Checking out new employee

Here's a university article about the situation where a livestock producer hires a new employee, only to have that person be an undercover spy for HSUS or PETA.  Do you do anything to check new hires?

 Of course, no one condones animal abuse.  The article asks if the spy is complicit in abuse if s/he doesn't report it.


The increasing public attention on livestock production, which has been fueled by animal welfare activities with “undercover” videotapes, has raised significant questions about such practices and whether the videographer is an accomplice to the abuse. Nevertheless, such incidents bring attention to unsuspecting livestock operations where abuse may never have occurred prior to the time of the incident being recorded. Such problems may increase in states where laws need to address the issues, but have not yet been changed."


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Esteemed Advisor

Re: Checking out new employee

Maybe the egg guy in Iowa would have been better off with some outside surveillance ---could have blamed his problems on someone else---short cuts lead to long problems--- 

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Re: Checking out new employee

The hog industry here in NC has suffered from espionage for well over a decade now.  In the county I live and farm in, the county attorney was caught on private property inside a hog farm with a camera...he truly hates hogs and if I'd been in charge of that farm, he'd have gotten prosecuted. 

When you go to any public comment hearing about environmental regs here, there is a group that will drag out aerial photos from fifteen years ago, and present them as though they are happening today.  No doubt, people did things then that are not allowed now, so my point has always been that any photos presented for public input need to be required to carry date stamps, so we know if the "testimony" they offer is current or quite dated. 

To me, the presentation of images taken from private property without the owner's permission is quite problematic.  A parallel position is that USDA will no longer issue an aerial of farmland, unless the requester is the owner or has proof of a valid lease on it.  Why allow one and not the other? 

I also have concerns about agri-terrorism on animal ag operations...but our insistence on Freedom of Information on permits allows people to post a map to my private property on the Internet.  No one checks to see if what they post is accurate, so at least they are off on the way to my house by a few miles, and the last version I checked did not have our current business entity's name on it.  Still I draw the line at allowing anyone to GPS my property and place it in a public database.  A legal battle was fought over this principle in NC, and "our" side won. 

There is no feasible way to secure any ag property but so it a hog farm, an egg farm, or your fields and assets like chemical storage.  Reminds me that once, a neighbor who was the EMS coordinator for the county back home told me that if the local farm supply caught fire, to leave and take the kids and not to waste time calling the dogs to the car, or we'd all be dead if the wind was right. 

Yet one more reason to hire family - if you can stand them...and we can.  For huge operations, I cannot think how they can protect themselves, except to make written contracts with new hires that they are bound to secrecy and hold serious civil penalties in the terms if they violate that. Of course, not many teeth in that jawbone.   

 I once had a company employee show up here with a camera to take a picture for some reason - I think a feed truck driver had complained about some grass too tall or something simple like that, while we were busy in hay season.  When I found her, she was exiting the farm, and I stopped her and demanded the camera or its memory card, so I could see what was on it.  We have a lot of things going on here that are not related to the hogs or our contract to raise them, and she had taken images of some of them. 

My point of contention was that she had not asked for permission tpo be on my property, and that my daughter, who is my employee, observed her taking several pictures nowhere near what she claimed to be here to assess.  We did not know this person, and she was not in a company vehicle, or carrying any form of company ID.   She did not introduce herself to any of us, although she had driven right past my daughter. 

I told her she could give over the device or its storage card, or wait for the sheriff to arrest her, since this is private property.  It is almost impossible to limit stuff like cell phones from entry into a farm nowadays...everything is a camera now. 

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