In a victory for us and animals, North Carolina lawmakers have officially gone on break without passing an ag gag bill that would have criminalized whistleblowers for exposing cruelty to animals on factory farms.
It’s not hard to see why the industry is trying so desperately to keep the public from seeing what goes on behind closed doors on farms. Numerous undercover investigations conducted by animal advocacy organizations have exposed shocking levels of cruelty to animals at farms in the state over the past few years.
Mercy for Animals uncovered severe cruelty to turkeys at Butterball farms in 2011, 2012 and again this past June when it exposed the heartbreaking treatment newborn turkeys are regularly exposed to at hatcheries.
The organization’s investigation in 2011 resulted in a raid that led to animal cruelty charges and convictions, including the first-ever felony cruelty conviction involving birds used in food production, and the ousting of a top official from the state’s Department of Agriculture over obstruction of justice charges.
Unfortunately, Butterball wasn’t the only business in the spotlight. Earlier this summer Compassion Over Killing exposed the sickening treatment of broiler chickens at Prince Poultry, a supplier for Pilgrim’s Corp., which is the second largest chicken producer in the world. Workers were seen abusing chickens and getting rid of unwanted birds by dumping them alive in outdoor pits where they were left to die a slow death among the bodies of others like trash. Not only did this investigation expose cruelty, but also the debilitating health consequences that come with forcing chickens raised for meat to grow too fast.
Worse, in this case is that the state doesn’t even consider this a crime, and will not be bringing any charges.
Depressingly, instead of tackling these issues in a meaningful way, lawmakers instead tried to pass legislation that would punish those who brought these horrors to light. This isn’t just a problem for animals who are left to suffer out of the public eye, it’s also a problem for us as consumers who have a right to know where our food is coming from so we can make informed choices and decide whether this is an industry we want to keep supporting.
Lawmakers tried to pass a similar version last year, but failed then too. The most recent bill, known as the Commerce Protection Act, was considered even more dangerous than the previous version because it went beyond the realm of farms and would have effectively shut down whistleblowers from all industries.
Thanks in part to efforts from animal advocacy organizations and others that oppose ag gag legislation, in addition to the public’s response – more than 47,000 of you signed the Care2 petition asking lawmakers to oppose this bill – the state failed again to get it done.
MFA notes that lawmakers will meet again later this year when this legislation could be reconsidered so we’ll have to watch to see what happens, but for now it’s another victory in the battle against anti-whistleblower legislation. Hopefully North Carolina’s lawmakers will let this one go and start working on something useful, instead of wasting our tax dollars on efforts to shield abusers from accountability and public scrutiny at the expense of animal welfare, consumer safety and the First Amendment.
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