Lawmakers just won’t give up when it comes to trying to silence animal cruelty whistleblowers, but this time they’ve stooped to a new low by sneaking an ag gag provision into a bill that was intended to improve animal welfare in Kentucky.
Earlier this year Rep. Joni Jenkins introduced a bill (HB 222) that was intended to help animals by banning gas chambers and setting other euthanasia standards for shelters in the state, which would have been a win for animals.
Unfortunately, after the bill was passed through the House, the Senate Agricultural Committee added an ag gag provision that’s intended to silence whistleblowers who expose cruelty to animals on farms.
The committee took it upon itself to sneak language in at the last minute that will make it illegal to interfere with an “agricultural operation” by gaining employment or access through misrepresentation or fraud to record images or sound, or trespassing to take recordings. Violators will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine.
Jenkins said the the provision makes the bill “much more complicated, and maybe even unconstitutional” telling ABC News that she’d rather not see it passed at all as it’s now written.
Animal advocates are criticizing the move as a sneaky way to fast track an ag gag bill through the legislature without anyone noticing, while some believe the provision was added in response to an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that exposed horrific conditions and cruelty pigs were forced to endure at a Kentucky hog farm just weeks ago in February.
The investigation was conducted at the Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro where, among other problems, investigators found that piglets who died from a contagious diarrheal disease were ground up and fed to their mothers, which isn’t just sickening, but illegal under state laws.
“It’s no coincidence that just a month after the HSUS exposed appalling animal abuse at a Kentucky pig factory, the state’s meat industry has hijacked a pro-animal bill by slipping in an ag-gag provision that would silence whistleblowers who expose animal cruelty and food safety violations,” Matthew Dominguez, public policy manager for farm animal protection for the HSUS, told the Earth Island Journal.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Paul Hornback told the Lexington Herald-Leader that secret videotaping “has been a problem all over the country,” but undercover investigations clearly aren’t the problem. Instead of taking meaningful action to deal with the underlying issues at farms that investigators are working to expose, lawmakers are again trying to shield agribusinesses from accountability by making sure the public never finds out about them.
Not only do these ag gag laws threaten animal welfare, but they also threaten the environment, food safety, workers’ rights and free speech. In this case, the ag gag provision won’t just hurt farm animals and consumers, but homeless animals who could have otherwise been spared an inhumane death.
Please sign and share the petition asking Kentucky lawmakers not to pass this bill as it’s written.
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