Across the country, a wave of legislation has been introduced to shield the agriculture industry from activists and whistleblowers who aim to expose the industry’s shameful and abusive treatment of animals. Currently, seven states have adopted their own versions of these bills, dubbed “ag-gag” bills. Fortunately, on July 8, 2016, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon took a step in the right direction, vetoing an agricultural secrecy bill, HB 1414, passed by that state’s legislature earlier in the year.
The governor disapproved of the bill, charging that the language was too broad and sweeping, and that it effectively cancelled out the Missouri Sunshine Law, which promotes transparency and openness from all government agencies. According to Governor Nixon, HB 1414 was an “odious effort to shield from our residents otherwise public records.”
If the bill had been signed into law, agricultural owners and producers who voluntarily participate in government programs would have been exempt from disclosing to the public certain information pertaining to animals. The bill also would have made advocates and whistleblowers subject to civil actions for revealing this type information without the consent of the owner/producer. The bill was a barrier from public access with an “abusive reach” which Governor Nixon rightly refused to approve.
Ag-gag bills continue to be promoted around the country. Be sure to watch for this legislation in your state. Ag-gag legislation must be defeated because it attempts to prevent advocates for animals from shedding light on the atrocities of the agriculture industry that the industry would prefer to keep in the dark.