New Year Brings New Attempt to Silence Animal Cruelty Whistleblowers

Indiana is kicking off this year’s legislative session with the introduction of another ag gag bill that is intended to silence those who work to uncover abuse and illegal activity on farms.

Last year the state tried to pass a bill that would have made it illegal to take photographs or video recordings, not only on factory farms, but also in other types of industrial operations. Fortunately, it was defeated at the last minute thanks in large part to public backlash.

This year’s attempt to criminalize environmental and animal rights watchdogs, which was introduced by Senator Travis Holdman, is even worse. Holdman told the Indiana Business Times that this year’s attempt is different because it doesn’t address specific acts, such as taking photos.

What it does do is allow farm operators to post signs prohibiting specific actions to protect their “trade secrets” and their operations, which could include taking photos or reporting issues to law enforcement or the press.

Doing something that has been prohibited by farm operators could make whistleblowers felons. Under the bill, violators could be charged with a level 6 felony, which comes with a punishment of six to 30 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

A coalition of groups is opposing this bill and voicing serious concerns about farm operators being allowed to determine what constitutes a crime, as opposed to law enforcement or elected officials. They are also arguing that criminal and civil laws are already in place to protect farmers from trespassers, defamation and theft of their trade secrets.

Fortunately, animal lovers aren’t the only ones who are outraged over legislation that seeks to hide what goes behind the closed doors of farms. It has also sparked opposition from journalists and advocates of the First Amendment, along with those who are concerned about the environment, food safety and workers’ rights. Nearly 50 organizations with various focuses have signed onto an open letter opposing ag gag bills.

Although a few states have been successful at passing ag gag bills, including North Dakota, Montana and Kansas, which passed them in the early 1990s, and Iowa, Utah and Missouri, which adopted them in 2012, public awareness and opposition continue to grow. There were 15 attempts made in 2013 to pass this type of legislation in 11 states, including in Indiana, and they all failed for good reason.

Undercover videos from organizations such as Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing and the Humane Society of the United States have played an important role in exposing not only egregious abuse and unsanitary living conditions that farm animals are forced to endure, but have also drawn attention to standard industry practices that don’t seem to fit into the mainstream idea of humane treatment of animals. In some cases they have even resulted in criminal charges and new laws.

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. In the end, no state should consider protecting an industry that has something to hide at the expense of animal welfare, its residents, consumer safety and the First Amendment.

TAKE ACTION!

Please sign and share the petition asking Indiana’s lawmakers to support transparency and accountability in agriculture and stop attempting to pass whistleblower suppression legislation.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

309 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne B2 years ago

signed, thanks for sharing :)

angel l.
Angela L2 years ago

Those with money have the power to do enough evil to bring the world down and care less of any other beings well fare. I hope they will be badly poisoned for what they did and continue to do to the voiceless, unless they are vegetarian, I doubt. What free speech? So much more like dictatorship!!!!

Madeline L.
Madeline L2 years ago

What would we do without whistleblowers?

Michaela Carlsson
Michaela C2 years ago

Congratulations USA, You are now joining the dictatorial group of States where there is no freedom of speach or any justice for the individuals who desparately try to protect the laws vested upon You in the Constitution.

pat rollo
pat rollo2 years ago

Correction on my comment "Indiana: Stop Trying to Criminalize Whistleblowers"

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was established in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. While there was no formal agency from which the USDA was an outgrowth, in 1820 and 1825 the U.S House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, respectively, established Agriculture Committees. In 1884 the President signed an act that established the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) within the USDA to prevent diseased animals from being used in food and food products. The BAI was the predecessor to the FSIS. By August the US Treasury department transferred their quarantine stations to the BAI. In time, foreign markets began placing restrictions on U.S. food exports, prompting the 1890 Food Inspection Act.
Upton Sinclair’s 1905 book, The Jungle described the conditions in Chicago’s meatpacking houses with such gruesome detail that he gained widespread public support in urging President Theodore Roosevelt to place government inspectors on the premises. Details covered horrible working conditions and brutal treatment of workers and the filthy conditions affecting both workers and meat products destined for American consumers. In 1906 the Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were passed.

Michael McGowan
Michael M2 years ago

Well if the piss-ants want to pull this kind of holier than thou BS and try to silence their immoral activities & are going to bribe the legislators than I propose we CUT OFF ALL farm aid!! NO MORE OF OUR MONIES go to these douchebags think they are above the law then they don't deserve any help in such activities. I certainly aren't going to support their garbage NO MORE MONEY ASSHOLE

Xenia Politaeva
Xenia P2 years ago

signed!

Silvia Steinhilber
Silvia S2 years ago

Oh come on! A person who exposed animal torture can get 30 months prison and a $10,000 fine, and the person who commits it gets what? Nothing or next to nothing. That's total BS and has to change now!!!

CHRISTINE COTTON
CHRISTINE C2 years ago

What is wrong with individuals and governments who can consciously not want to stop the cruelty that goes on in our farming industry, as well as all places involving animals???
MONEY....MONEY....MONEY....That' all it boils down to....no one cares as long as there is more and more money to be made....who cares how the animals are treated in the process?
Are country is getting sicker and sicker and I thank organizations like PETA, ASPCA,
IFAW, LDF....anyone who is working for more humane treatment of animals. Keep signing petitions and protesting.....someday this will be a more peaceful place for animals.