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What are factory farms hiding with "ag-gag" laws? I'll combine drone photography with investigative reporting to find out. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on July 9, 2014.

What are factory farms hiding with "ag-gag" laws? I'll combine drone photography with investigative reporting to find out.

About this project

UPDATE: After being fully funded in just 5 days, we have a new stretch goal of $95,000. 

And a generous donor has said every dollar we raise over $45,000 will be MATCHED to double the impact!

This will allow us to expand the scope and quality of the investigation. 

We will be able to purchase a second drone, improve the photography equipment, and expand the number of states and farms investigated! 

Hi, my name is Will Potter. I'm an independent journalist based in Washington, D.C., and the author of Green Is The New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege. I am also a 2014 TED Fellow

My work focuses on animal rights and environmental issues, and civil liberties post 9/11. It has been featured in the world’s top media outlets, including the Washington Post, NPR, Rolling Stone, Foreign Policy, and El Pais. I've testified before the U.S. Congress about my reporting, and I've lectured at nearly 200 universities and public forums about my work, including Harvard Law School, Georgetown University, and the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin. 

I have extensively documented how protest and whistleblowing is being criminalized. Now, in my new project, I am going to use new investigative journalism tools to help expose what some corporations want to keep hidden.

Photographer Mishka Henner documented factory farm pollution—like this waste lagoon at a Texas feedlot—by satellite. What else could drone photography uncover?
Photographer Mishka Henner documented factory farm pollution—like this waste lagoon at a Texas feedlot—by satellite. What else could drone photography uncover?

Factory Farms Want to Keep You in the Dark

A wave of undercover investigations by groups like the Humane Society have exposed shocking cruelty on factory farms: cows being kicked in the face, turkeys beaten with pipes, and chickens packed in filthy cages so small they cannot even flap a wing. This whistleblowing has prompted the largest meat recall in U.S. history and multiple criminal prosecutions. Rather than address these abuses, though, the agriculture industry is trying to hide them from consumers. 

New "ag-gag" laws make it illegal to photograph animal cruelty on factory farms; in some cases, exposing cruelty can lead to more jail time than committing it. These bills have already become law in Utah, Iowa, Missouri, and Idaho. Right now, more states are considering them, and they are spreading globally. The agriculture industry in Australia is modeling its "ag-gag" laws after those in the states. 

The latest trend is that the agriculture industry is even trying to ban photographs of farms taken from the air. It is unlikely that aerial photography can document animal abuse, but these industries are clearly concerned. So what are factory farms trying to hide? Will a drone allow us to see the scope of pollution caused by these industrial operations? I'm going to find out... 

Let's Shine a Light

As a journalist, I think the best way to confront these attempts at secrecy is to shine a light on the abuses.

With your support, I will:

  • Lawfully document factory farms in multiple states using aerial drone photography.
  • Create a short documentary about factory farms and the "ag-gag" controversy using aerial drone footage, and interviews with whistleblowers.
  • Publish an e-book that combines these photographs with in-depth investigative reporting on factory farms and "ag-gag" legislation.  
  • Use the investigation to contribute to public debate about "ag-gag" laws internationally.
  • Brief media and policymakers about the findings of my investigation 
  • Share what I have learned about using drones for reporting with other journalists and professional journalism associations.
  • Plus offer some fun, unique perks to say THANK YOU for supporting investigative journalism!
"Ag-gag" laws are an attempt to silence whistleblowers who have exposed cruelty, like this injured and neglected piglet on a farm in Iowa.
"Ag-gag" laws are an attempt to silence whistleblowers who have exposed cruelty, like this injured and neglected piglet on a farm in Iowa.

Why Me? 

  • I've reported extensively on these attempts to silence investigators and whistleblowers, both in my award-winning book and news articles. My work on "ag-gag" has been featured by Salon, MSN, Democracy Now, VICE, Al Jazeera, and many other outlets.
  • My reporting overturned the first "ag-gag" prosecution.
  • I have lectured internationally about these laws, including Spain and Australia. And I spoke about my reporting as a TED Fellow
  • I am a plaintiff in the first lawsuits challenging an "ag-gag" law as unconstitutional. My position is supported by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 16 other professional journalism organizations.
  • I'm independent. My background is reporting for major newspapers, but by working independently I can report critically without having to answer to advertisers.

How Will Your Kickstarter Contribution Be Used?

Major costs associated with this investigation include:

  • Aerial photography equipment. (Please note that while there are some new consumer drones available for a few hundred dollars, they will not meet the technical demands of this project, including range of travel.)
  • Travel expenses (for Will Potter, videographer, and assistant) to multiple states and rural locations. This includes airfare, car rental, gas, food, and research expenses.
  • Legal counsel. In order to ensure the investigation is lawful and protected, we will need to consult with attorneys in multiple states. 
  • Video production and equipment.
  • Website development.
  • E-book production and publication.
  • Fees (Kickstarter has a 5% fee, plus Amazon has a 5% credit card fee).

Other Ways You Can Help

I hope you will support this critical project, in whatever way you can! If you cannot make a financial contribution, please consider:

  • Signing my Change.org petition against "ag-gag" laws. 
  • Subscribing to my email action list for the latest news on this issue.
  • Sharing this Kickstarter with your friends on Facebook, and starting a discussion about what factory farms are trying to hide.

Risks and challenges

Because an investigation like this hasn't been attempted before, I cannot make any guarantee of what I will be able to document. However, that's really the case with every investigative journalism project. I am accustomed to pushing through setbacks and detours in the course of my reporting, and I am confident that I will be able to do the same with this project. An additional risk/challenge is that, even though this photography is lawful, I will undoubtedly face harassment by factory farm owners or workers on site. I am committed to pursuing this lawful investigation and these are risks I am willing to face.

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FAQ

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    238 backers

    You'll receive a sticker, have your name listed as a supporter on the website, and get exclusive email updates about the investigation.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $20 or more

    112 backers

    NEW REWARD! Our INTERNATIONAL DONORS asked for a reward level where they didn't have to pay international shipping costs. You'll receive the e-book about the investigation, including photographs and in-depth reporting on ag-gag laws. You'll also get exclusive email updates. (But no sticker or other merchandise mailed to you). Plus your name will be listed on the website as a supporter!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    302 backers

    You'll receive the e-book about the investigation, including photographs and in-depth reporting on ag-gag laws. You'll also get the sticker and exclusive email updates. Plus your name will be listed on the website as a supporter!

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    175 backers

    You'll receive a limited edition tote, and I'll list your name in the final credits of the short documentary about the project. You'll also get the e-book, sticker, your name on the website, and exclusive updates via email.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    106 backers

    You'll receive ALL of the previous rewards, plus a personally signed copy of "Green Is the New Red," the award-winning book by Will Potter.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    10 backers All gone!

    Will Potter will "drone on" (get it?) on any topic of your choosing for 2 minutes. Keep it PG-13 for the topics, please. I'll send you an mp3 of this original, droning, potentially awful monologue, just for you.

    You'll also get the e-book, your name on the website, and exclusive updates via email.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    48 backers Limited (52 left of 100)

    NEW REWARD! You'll receive a t-shirt designed just for this investigation, and I'll list your name in the final credits of the short documentary about the project. You'll also get the e-book, sticker, your name on the website, and exclusive updates via email.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    5 backers All gone!

    One-on-one writing and publishing coaching with Will Potter. Send an article or project you're working on, I'll provide workshop feedback, and then we'll get on the phone to talk about your work!

    You'll also get the e-book, your name on the website, and exclusive updates via email.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    8 backers Limited (4 left of 12)

    Mile-high club. If you can't be up there flying with the drone, here's the next best thing. Your name will be painted on one of the rotary blades of the drone. You'll also receive a phone call briefing from Will during the project about how your generous donation is being used.

    You'll also get the e-book, your name on the website, and exclusive updates via email.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $750 or more

    1 backer Limited (2 left of 3)

    Skype party! Will Potter will talk about the project, ag-gag laws, and the criminalization of dissent via Skype. This hour -long event includes a lecture and time for discussion. You'll get "party favors" for 20 people, which includes the tote bag, e-book, stickers, updates via email, and name on the website. (More people are welcome to watch, but you'll just have to share the party favors). Will Potter will also personally make you 2-dozen cookies and mail them to you for the Skype party.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    3 backers All gone!

    I'll spell out your name in a creative fashion and photograph it using the drone. Then this personal thank-you message will appear in the final credits of the video! You'll also receive a phone call briefing from Will during the project about how your generous donation is being used.

    You'll also get the e-book, your name on the website, and exclusive updates via email.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    1 backer All gone!

    I'll name the drone in your honor. Your name will be hand-painted on the body of the drone and featured prominently in the video. You'll also receive a personal phone call from Will during the project about how your generous donation is being used.

    You'll also get the e-book, your name on the website, and exclusive updates via email.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    1 backer All gone!

    NEW REWARD! We are expanding the project and purchasing a second drone with unique capabilities! I'll name this drone in your honor. Your name will be hand-painted on the body of the drone and featured prominently in the video. You'll also receive a personal phone call from Will during the project about how your generous donation is being used. You'll also get the e-book, your name on the website, and exclusive updates via email.

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (30 days)