Animal rights activists around the country took a collective sigh of relief last week as legislative sessions ended their season by shooting down the infamous “ag-gag” bills in eleven states.
According to Food Safety News, the final victory of the season came when North Carolina’s Legislature adjourned for the year last Friday. Only then “could animal welfare groups say they had defeated ag-gag everywhere it had a chance of becoming law.”
The appropriately nicknamed ag-gag bills have been highly controversial for proposed bans on collecting video footage or photography on private property. A fundamental tactic for animal abuse whistle blowers, animal rights groups including PETA and the Humane Society frequently send undercover employees into factory settings to get jobs and record cases of neglect and abuse. The footage has been successfully used in getting felony abuse convictions, and even led to one of the largest meat recalls in U.S. history.
But under the proposed bills, anyone obtaining undercover footage and not immediately turning it over to the authorities would be considered a criminal—never mind what illegal activities they captured on film.
While the livestock industry says the ag-gag bills are designed to protect their property, activist groups enlisted experts, celebrities and journalistic organizations to help defeat the bills. “In the end, they’d killed bills in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming,” reported Food Safety News. Several animal welfare groups have also filed a lawsuit challenging Utah’s law, adopted in 2012 (as did Iowa and Missouri), citing that it’s unconstitutional, violating First Amendment rights.
“Ag-gag legislation threatens a wide array of public interests—including animal welfare and food safety—by silencing the very people in a position to document abuse,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. ”We hope the defeat of these 11 bills encourages lawmakers to shift their focus toward achieving accountability for those who are inflicting abuse on animals and putting consumers at risk instead of focusing on misleading efforts to suppress whistleblowers who want to expose those problems.”
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