Five More States Consider ‘Ag Gag’ Laws To Silence Factory Farm Whistleblowers

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/02/26/1634531/five-more-states-ag-gag/

By Aviva Shen
on Feb 26, 2013

As state legislatures begin their 2013 sessions, a flurry of new “ag gag” bills to protect factory farms from potential undercover whistleblowers have been introduced in 5 states. This week, the Indiana Senate is debating a proposal to criminalize taking photographs or videos inside an agricultural or industrial operation without permission.

Senate Bill 373 is the first of two ag gag bills introduced during Indiana’s 2013 session. New Hampshire, Nebraska, Wyoming and Arkansas are also considering them.

Since trespassing is already illegal, ag gag laws can only have one clear motive: to punish whistleblowers, advocates, and investigative reporters who use undercover recordings to reveal the abysmal conditions in which our food is produced. Undercover investigations have captured factory farms all over the country abusing livestock, passing off sick cattle as healthy, and discharging unregulated amounts of animal manure, which the US Geological Survey identified as the largest source of nitrogen pollution in the country.

The bill’s author, Sen. Travis Holdman (R), added a provision exempting anyone who turns over their video or photos to law enforcement within 48 hours — as long as they do not also share the footage with non-law enforcement, such as media or an animal rights group. But, as the Indy Star points out, many exposés are “undertaken precisely because the authorities failed to do their job. Sometimes, they have spotlighted conditions that were not illegal but were disturbing enough to inspire new laws.”

Indeed, factory farms have largely escaped regulatory and legal scrutiny. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency abandoned an effort to require these operations to report even basic information like location, number of animals, and amount of manure discharged. Meanwhile, the meat lobby’s grip on lawmakers is so powerful that the USDA was pressured into apologizing for an internal “Meatless Monday” last year by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who claimed the optional vegetarian day was a full-scale attack on agriculture.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/02/26/1634531/five-more-states-ag-gag/

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