Undercover Investigators and Whistleblowers Tell Their Stories

In the final installment of Sentient Sessions in 2020, a group of seasoned investigators, whistleblowers, and legal experts come together to discuss the role of undercover investigations in empowering individuals and legislators to make a change.

The panel was moderated by Cailen LaBarge, co-founder of Strategies for Ethical and Environmental Development (SEED), and featured Amanda Hitt, Director at Food Integrity Campaign; Scott David, Director of Investigations at Animal Outlook; Bob Barker, Executive Director at Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation; and undercover investigator Pete Paxton. 

Undercover investigations

If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around, does it make a noise? This age-old question arises again when it comes to undercover investigations: if the footage and revelations don’t appear in the media, they tend to have far less of an impact—or none at all—within legislative realms and public imagination.

David provides some tips on how to get these types of stories the attention they deserve:

  1. Target high-profile companies or government contracts
  2. Highlight food safety and workers’ rights issues
  3. Charismatic animals (cows, pigs) will garner more attention than animals with less of a “cute” factor (fish, chickens)
  4. Find the human interest element (this can be the undercover investigator, for example)

Whether developing stories or campaigns with whistleblowers, Hitt emphasizes the importance of tying in issues of worker safety, animal welfare, and environmental issues, as well as giving justice to truth-tellers. She also shares valuable resources for journalists and public interest organizations when engaging with whistleblowers. 

Be sure to watch the whole session, and take a few moments to send a message thanking undercover investigators for their invaluable work.