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20.4.08

Transparency In Institutions

Elaine Vigneault endorses a proposed bill that all slaughterhouses should be required to install publicly-reviewable video cameras, as a way of promoting transparency and hence accountability for how animals are treated. This way activists wouldn't need to conduct covert operations, like the one by the Humane Society that recently prompted the country's largest beef recall by exposing the Westland/Hallmark slaughterhouse's torture of "downer" cattle.

I endorse this idea as well. And I think it could also be expanded -- not just to other animal operations like factory farms, but also to "total institutions" housing humans. The general principle is this: Whenever an instution is given total control over the fate of other sentient beings (that is, beings that can care about their fate), its operations must be open to review by independent parties (outsiders, as well as by its own inmates where feasible). History has shown repeatedly that control combined with a lack of transparency and hence accountability is a recipe for abuse.

The specific solution of video cameras may not work everywhere. It's a good idea for animal institutions, and perhaps for prisons (which are already under potential constant surveilance by guards). Hospitals and nursing homes (and rehabilitation-oriented programs that would ideally replace prisons), on the other hand, would certainly require an alternate means of creating transparency without violating residents' privacy. I recall hearing a few years back that Joe Lieberman had introduced an (unsuccessful) bill to make all prisons, including private ones, subject to strong FOIA rules*, which would have been a small step in the right direction.

*This is the reason I can't quite sign on to the idea that Lieberman is an evil DINO who should just join the Republican Party already. While he's made a fetish of taking a neoconservative position on foreign policy, he gets more liberal the less an issue is in the public spotlight. IIRC he's also a big supporter of DC representation.

5 Comments:

Blogger Robin Edgar said...

"History has shown repeatedly that control combined with a lack of transparency and hence accountability is a recipe for abuse."

No kidding. . .

8:35 AM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

"History has shown repeatedly that control combined with a lack of transparency and hence accountability is a recipe for abuse."

No kidding. . .

8:36 AM  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

"History has shown repeatedly that control combined with a lack of transparency and hence accountability is a recipe for abuse."

No kidding. . .

8:36 AM  
Blogger Elaine Vigneault said...

I agree with you here. I think transparency is crucial not just for slaughterhouses, but also for places like mental health institutions, prisons, hospitals, child group homes, etc.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Alon Levy said...

I'm honestly not sure it's a good idea for slaughterhouses. It comes off as eerily similar to pro-life laws requiring women to view ultrasounds before abortions. On the other hand, there are legitimate things to view at meat factories, such as safety standards for both workers and livestock.

And, of course, for prisons and mental asylums I can't see any negative for this surveillance, except that some people will bitch that it's a good thing inmates should fear rape. For child group homes, I'm less certain, because it could create an atmosphere of total surveillance among people who did no wrong.

11:23 AM  

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