‘Taping Abuse on Farms is Just Like Human Trafficking.’ Wait, What?

How would you feel if, as a dedicated animal advocate, you made an undercover video of animal abuse on a factory farm, notified the authorities and then were charged with a crime for doing it?  Recently, there has been a number of U.S. states trying to create just such laws.  Some have succeeded while others have halted the process.

Ag-Gag bills are the reaction by agribusiness to undercover filming of abuse on factory farms by making the filming a crime; punishment is metered out to the whistleblower, not the animal abusers.  How illogical is that?

The Tennessee state senate recently sent Ag-Gag bill (SB1248) to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk for signature.  The Tennessee congressional bill (HB1191) was passed April 17, 2013 the same day as SB1248.

HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) has actively campaigned against this bill as evidenced in the full page ad it took out in The Tennessean quoting ten local newspapers reporting against the bill.  As is usual in HSUS advocacy efforts, a public policy coordinator contacted Republican Rep Andy Holt via email to reach out and confirm opposition to the bill.

She wrote:

Dear Representative Holt,
Have you seen the editorial in the Tennessean today opposing HB 1191, the whistleblower suppression bill intended to cover up animal cruelty?
The Tennessean editorial board condemns the bill, noting that the “bill would certainly take our state in the wrong direction, toward more senseless violence.”
We very much hope you’ll agree with the Tennessean and oppose this dangerous bill. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kayci McLeod
Public Policy Coordinator

Holt, however, chose to respond to HSUS’s Kayci McLeod in an angry, misogynistic and odious email reply.  Let it be noted he did it through his official Tennessee legislative email address.

Ms. McLeod,
I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 today to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women. You work for a pathetic excuse for an organization and a pathetic group of sensationalists who seek to profit from animal abuse. I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as “tape and rape.” Best wishes for the failure of your organization and its true intent.

Andy Holt
State Representative – District 76

The Tennessee Ag-Gag bill would require investigators of animal cruelty to turn over any video taken of suspected animal abuse within 48 hours of taping.  Opponents argue this would prevent long term documentation of animal cruelty which is needed to prove a pattern of abuse if prosecution is to succeed.

HSUS undercover video taken in 2011 exposed egregious abuse to walking horses in Collierville, TN including the practice of soaring — using caustic chemicals on horses’ legs to stimulate a step called the “Big Lick” — prized in walking horse circles.  Horse trainer Jackie McConnell was indicted on 52 federal counts of animal cruelty of the Horse Protection Act. In a plea agreement, McConnell was sentenced in U.S. Federal court in Chattanooga to three year’s probation and given 9 months to pay a $75,000 fine.

As HSUS notes, “The industries’ response to this investigation wasn’t to stop this cruelty from happening in the future, but to try to make it a crime to expose such abuse.”  And there you have a succinct summary of what Ag-Gag bills are all about.

Many people have spoken out against the Tennessee Ag-Gag bill, including celebrities like country singers Carrie Underwood and Emmy Lou Harris. On April 12, 2013 Underwood tweeted “Shame on TN lawmakers for passing the Ag Gag bill.  If Gov. Haslam signs this, he needs to expect me at his front door.  Who’s with me?”

Petitions have been created with a host of signatures, three on Care2 alone.  They are addressed to:

Governor Haslam says he will not take any of that into consideration while deciding whether or not to sign the bill, veto it or let it go into law without his signature.  Those are his three options.

So Tennessee’s Andy Holt thinks HB1191 will prevent livestock in Tennessee from “suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists… who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women.”  Claiming HSUS uses undercover investigation as a fundraising effort, he erroneously calls it “tape and rape.”

Is it just me, because I don’t get his connection, do you?  If factory farms have nothing to hide, why do they need Ag-Gag legislation?

Rep Holt, it should be noted, is also a hog farmer in Tennessee.

Related Care2 Reading:

California and Indiana Kill Ag-Gag Bills, But the Fight’s Not Over

More States Want To Punish People Reporting Animal Abuse

Second State Silences Whistleblowers

Photo from Thinkstock


Carrie-Anne Brown

all signed, thanks for sharing :)

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Ramon Ferreyros
Ramon Ferreyros4 years ago

I agree 100% with Jo Anne!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jo Anne Pyne
Jo Anne Pyne4 years ago

Vondi H, You sure fooled me calling yourself an animal lover. Animal lovers don't want any animal to be abused. I think you'd have been better off just calling yourself a farm girl and not let yourself look stupid by saying you're an animal lover! The two just don't go hand-in-hand!

Sonali Ghosh
Sonali G4 years ago

vile, corrupt corporate psychopaths. They have given themselves a glossy exterior but it dosn't take much to chip away at that artificial shell. They are not the same species as 'human beings,' so what are they?

Judie B.
Judie B4 years ago

Maybe we should stuff Andy Holt into a cow suit and drop him off at one of those nice, protected, unregulated slaughter houses he's dying to protect.

Jennifer Kopp
Jennifer Evans4 years ago

It is so stupid it blows my mind.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

Vondi: on the contrary if you support squashing any monitoring or reporting of animal abuse, you are under suspicion for being one of the animal abusers and your property should be trespassed on just to make sure you aren't committing those crimes. Nobody will be giving criminals a free pass because they hide behind some "first amendment" to commit criminal acts.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

Tennessee is a redneck republican state, and much of that stupid immoral trailer trash have ended up in public positions. "Governer" "Haslam" is at the top of that self serving pile of stupidity and viciousness so there isn't much hope of him upholding the constitution or even understanding the basic concepts of morality and decency.

christine robertson

If they have nothing to hide then what's the problem? This guy is an idiot if he thinks that people risk all sorts of abuse and even assault when they risk themselves to expose the cruelty that goes on for some kind of personal profit. He should go for a walk through one of these places that have been exposed and see if there is no need for these actions to be taken.