Ag Gag bills silence would-be whistleblowers

Pigs confined in metal and concrete pens

Photo by Farm Sanctuary via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I posted previously about undercover videotaping on factory farms to document mistreatment and abuse of animals (and workers). I also noted that the practice has led to efforts in several states to pass “Ag Gag” bills on behalf of large-scale agribusiness that outlaw unauthorized capturing of farm images.

Civil Eats recently shared a post from Sarah Damian of the Food Integrity Campaign that looks at the role of these laws in silencing would-be whistleblowers. As Damian notes,

Wyoming’s bill – which was introduced mere weeks after undercover video footage revealed inhumane handling of pigs at a Tyson Foods supplier in the state – threatens agriculture whistleblowers with jail time and a fine if they use a recording device on the facility’s premises.

Many similar bills introduced last year that explicitly banned the act of video recording at agricultural operations without consent failed to pass, due to free speech concerns. Others like the one in Iowa (which did pass last year, to our dismay) kept out language involving video, yet included problematic provisions that still enable a culture of silence behind factory farm doors….

One such provision is now also included in the Nebraska bill, penalizing workers who gain access to farm facilities by false pretenses or with the broadly defined “intent to disrupt the normal operations” – clearly directed at individuals who utilize video to expose abuse. It would have a chilling effect on industry whistleblowers, even established long-term employees, who witness serious violations and wish to speak up. The bill also requires animal abuse reports to be filed within 12 hours, a provision similar to New Hampshire’s proposed legislation requiring whistleblowers to report animal abuse and turn over videotapes and other documentation within 24 hours or face prosecution.

Why are these provisions problematic?

For the answer (and some great links), head to the full post at Civil Eats or the FIC website.

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