CURRENT NEWS AND ALERTS

Update: Ten State Bills Dead; Only Pennsylvania Has Bill Under Consideration

Most Ag-Gag bills failed in current session

A rash of new legislation was introduced in states across the country in 2013 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” and “Mercy for Animals,” who place undercover activists in the facilities to record the abuse.

In just the past year, 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 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 exposes is simple: punish the people documenting the abuse instead of the people perpetrating the 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 2011-2012, fourteen ag-gag bills were introduced. Thanks to the actions of animal advocates like you, 11 out of 14 bills were defeated.

In 2013, 11 states proposed ag-gag bills and they failed, so far, in 10 states.

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:

Arkansas: SB 14 and HB 2079 Create the criminal offense of “interference with a livestock or poultry operation,”  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.

Died in Committee

Illinois: SB 1532 Gives the Department of Agriculture authority to determine if a complaint filed under the Humane Care for Animals Act against an individual or company is unfounded and is made with “intent to harass the person or entity.” If the Department makes that determination, it can refer the complaint to the State’s Attorney to consider whether criminal charges should be brought against the complainant instead of the animal abuser. 

Died in Committee

Indiana: SB 373SB 391 and SB 1562 SB 373 and SB 1562 make it a misdemeanor to enter any agricultural or industrial facility and take any sort of recording without the owner’s consent; SB 391 increases the penalties for property damage and trespass when they are committed on agricultural facilities; creates a registry of persons that have been convicted of any crimes concerning agricultural facilities or livestock operations; makes it a crime to make any recording of activities on an agricultural facility without the consent of an owner.

Died in Committee

Nebraska: LB 204 Requires all evidence of abuse to be reported to the police within 24 hours of the activity.

Died in Committee

New Hampshire: HB 110 Requires any recorded activity to be turned over to law enforcement within 24 hours.  

Died in Committee

New Mexico: SB 552 Proposes to make it unlawful for any person to “interfere” with the operation of an animal facility.  This bill would specifically penalize an individual who obtains access to a livestock operation under false pretenses and who takes a recording of the livestock operation without the consent of the owner.

Action Postponed; Died in Committee

North Carolina: SB 648 This bill, also known as the Commerce Protection Act, would ban photography at a place of employment, make it a crime for anyone to make false statements on a job application (preventing animal welfare activists from applying for jobs at agribusinesses for purposes of investigation), and make it mandatory to turn over any recording to authorities within 24 hours.  

Died in Committee

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.

Take Action

Tennessee: SB 1248/HB 1191 Vetoed! Requires individuals conducting an undercover investigation at a livestock facility to turn over all evidence of their report within 48 hours of the reported violation. 

Vetoed by Governor on May 13, 2013

Vermont: S 162 Prohibits gaining access to an agricultural facility under false pretenses to carry out an activity that is not authorized by the facility owner.

Died in Committee

Wyoming: HB 126 Criminalizes any and all recording in agricultural operations without the consent of the owner; invokes criminal penalties for failure to report abuse; requires that any criminal conduct be reported to the facility owner—not the police!

Died in Committee
 
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
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