Despite widespread opposition and the release of yet more footage showing animal abuse, Idaho’s Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed an ag gag bill into law on Friday that could result in jail time and fines for undercover investigators.
Idaho’s bill was pushed as an “agricultural security measure” that was intended to protect farmers from trespassers, theft, wrongful employment and recordings taken undercover. Animal advocates, however, believe it was pushed in response to an undercover investigation at Bettencourt Dairy that was released by Mercy for Animals (MFA) in 2012 and was followed last week by more footage that shows cows being sexually abused.
“Governor Otter has failed Idaho and the American people. By signing this bill into law, he has sided with those who seek to keep Idaho’s corrupt factory farming practices hidden from public view and created a safe haven for animal abuse and other criminal activity in the state. Mercy For Animals is exploring all legal avenues to overturn this dangerous, unconstitutional, and un-American law,” said MFA’s founder and executive director, Nathan Runkle, in a statement.
Numerous undercover investigations by organizations including MFA have brought to light the horrors animals in agriculture face, both legal and illegal, in addition to raising awareness about food production practices that consumers have every right to know about. They have led to changes in laws, convictions for cruelty and have opened the public’s eyes to the many problems associated with animal agriculture. Without them our ability to make informed decisions or generate a dialogue about what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to animal agriculture is stripped away.
Aside from the sadistic cruelty and illegal activities that have been documented, these investigations have helped raise awareness about standard industry practices that don’t seem to fit in with the mainstream values of many Americans who may otherwise remain unaware that doing things like killing newborn piglets by slamming their heads into the ground is considered the norm.
Not only do these laws threaten animal welfare, but they also threaten the environment, food safety, workers’ rights and free speech. It’s shameful that our lawmakers are taking such a heavy handed approach to shield agribusinesses from any accountability whatsoever – essentially allowing the industry to police itself – while simultaneously trying to punish those who seek only to expose the suffering endured by farm animals and to educate the public about the horrors that go on behind closed doors. Unfortunately, if you blow the whistle on problems and interfere with an animal enterprise, you are the terrorist.
Montana, Kansas and North Dakota each passed some form of an ag gag law in the 1990s and were joined more recently by Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, South Carolina and Utah. Utah’s law is now being challenged in federal court. New Hampshire tried and failed this year, while three other states have legislation pending.
While it’s a sad day in Idaho for animals, and anyone who has an interest in knowing where their food comes from, there’s still a chance to stop these kinds of bills from passing in other states.
Indiana’s SB 101 will increase the penalty for exposing abuses if a farm operator suffers any monetary losses. Some believe it is even more dangerous than the state’s previous attempt because it allows farm operators to post signs prohibiting specific actions and makes it a felony to do anything that farmers have prohibited. In short, it will allow farmers, not law enforcement, to determine what constitutes a crime.
Please sign and share the petition opposing Indiana’s ag gag bill.
Arizona’s bill, HB 2587, removes “livestock,” including horses, from the state’s definition of animal, which will weaken protection for them, and gives authority over cruelty cases to the Department of Agriculture. It also includes a five day reporting requirement that will ensure that no patterns of abuse can be established by investigators.
Please sign and share the petition opposing Arizona’s ag gag bill.
Nebraska’s LB 204 would make it illegal to “interfere” with an agricultural operation and will effectively shut down investigations by imposing a 24-hour reporting requirement.
Please sign and share the petition opposing Nebraska’s ag gag bill.
Photo credit: Thinkstock