CURRENT NEWS AND ALERTS

Ag-Gag Bills Gaining Steam Again in 2014

Take action to prevent these bills from becoming law

Already several new pieces of legislation have been introduced—and already passed—in states across the country to prevent activists or whistleblowers from exposing the abuse of animals in “agriculture facilities.” These bills would universally make it unlawful to record the sounds or images in places where animals are raised or kept for food production, and sometimes in the laboratory as well. Most bills also make it unlawful to take a job at a facility with the intent to document the abuse.

These bills, dubbed “Ag-gag” bills because they seek to silence efforts to expose animal abuse at agricultural facilities, are motivated by the recent success of groups such as Compassion Over Killing, Mercy for Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States who place undercover activists in the facilities to document abuse.

During the past few years, criminal charges were brought against numerous factory farming operations. Charges were brought against the North Carolina Butterball facility after a recording showed turkeys being violently kicked and thrown and having their wings pulled by employees. A hidden camera revealed abuses towards laying hens at Sparboe Farms in Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado, including workers maliciously torturing animals, dead birds in cages along with live laying hens, and employees throwing live birds into plastic bags to suffocate. A hidden video at Central Valley Meat Co., a slaughterhouse in Hanford, California, that supplies meat for the USDA's National School Lunch Program and other federal food initiatives, documented egregious inhumane treatment, improper slaughter methods, and intentional cruelty to sick and injured cows. The violations at this facility were so egregious that it was temporarily shut down by the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

While the agricultural industry has long received protection from prosecution for acts of cruelty to animals on the grounds that the alleged abuse is actually “standard agricultural practices,” these videotapes show that the level of cruel and abusive behavior being exposed is anything but “standard.” The response to these exposés is simple: punish the people documenting the abuse instead of the people perpetrating the actual abuse.

In February 2013, Amy Meyer became the first person in the country prosecuted under a state ag-gag law, a newly-adopted law in Utah. Meyer was charged after she was observed videotaping operations at the Dale Smith Meatpacking Company from a road outside the facility. Charges were later dropped because of public outrage. However, in response to the prosecution, a lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court, District of Utah, by the animal rights groups Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They are joined in the suit by the political journal CounterPunch, journalists Will Potter and Jesse Fruhwirth and others, along with Amy Meyer. The lawsuit challenges the state’s ag-gag law for violating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment requiring equal protection. This is the first lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of an ag-gag law, though many states have refused to pass these laws because of concerns regarding their constitutionality.

In 2013, 11 states proposed ag-gag bills and they failed—except two bills, one in Nebraska and one in Pennsylvania, which remain in their respective committees. But with a new legislative session comes new bills that need your help to be defeated.

Take action to OPPOSE any bills still pending in the following states—letters can only be sent if you are a resident of that state:

Arizona: HB 2587 Update: This bill has had the most objectionable ag-gag language removed and now prohibits cruelty to livestock or poultry and requires anyone conducting an investigation to notify the Director or Director’s designee but does not prohibit an independent investigation to go forward. This bill has passed the House and is under consideration of the Senate.

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Idaho: SB 1337 Update: This bill was signed into law 2-28-14. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho (ACLU), and the Center for Food Safety (CFS), along with several other plaintiffs, challenging the law based on the U.S. Constitution protection of free speech and freedom of the press—including journalistic exposés of industrial animal production.

Indiana: SB101 Update:
This bill was signed into law 3-14-14.

      
Kentucky: HB 222 This bill proposes to make it a crime for any person to “interfere” with the operation of an agricultural operation. Added as an amendment to a humane euthanasia bill before it was passed by the Senate. The House now reconsiders the amended bill. The House did not vote on this bill and it died with the end of the Kentucky legislative session. Congratulations to the House for refusing to pass this bill.

      
Nebraska: LB 204 Update: The Nebraska legislature adjourned without passing this bill. Congratulations to the legislature for not passing this bill.
 
      
Pennsylvania: HB 683 Creates the criminal offense of “interference with a agricultural operations,”  including recording images or sounds at a facility, applying for a job at a facility with the purpose of recording image or sound, or making a false statement to gain entry to a facility with the purpose of recording image or sound.
 
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Tennessee: HB 2258 Update: This bill was signed into law 6-20-14. While this law makes it a criminal offense to interfere with the operation of an animal facility, the language of the bill does not explicitly state that video-recording and photography interfere with the operation of an agricultural facility, so discreet undercover investigations of animal facilities may not be outlawed. The governor vetoed a bill earlier this year that included a ban on videotaping animal abuse.        

 

 

 
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© 2013 National Anti-Vivisection Society is a
501(c)3 non-profit organization
53 West Jackson Blvd., Suite 1552
Chicago, IL 60604
(800) 888-NAVS or (312) 427-6065
Fax: (312) 427-6524
navs@navs.org
© 2013 National Anti-Vivisection Society is a
501(c)3 non-profit organization