Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Oppose Ag-Gag Laws in the U.S.

Posted: 2 May 2013. Updated: 16 May 2013

URGENT! Oppose Ag-Gag laws proposed throughout the United States.

About Ag-Gag Laws

Farm protection or “Ag-Gag” laws aim to restrict and/or prohibit the making of undercover videos, photographs and sound recordings on farms. The laws differ by state in terms of the limitations and penalties imposed, and whether other activities are prohibited. Examples include:

  • Making it illegal to gain employment at a farm under false pretenses
  • Requiring anyone who has secretly recorded illegal activity to turn over the recording to law enforcement within 24 hours
  • Criminalizing any secret recordings made on farms without the owners’ consent, regardless of intent to damage the business
  • Penalties include fines, misdemeanor charges, felony charges for subsequent offenses, and imprisonment

In the early 1990s, Ag-Gag laws were passed in the states of North Dakota, Montana and Kansas. In 2011, new Ag-Gag bills were introduced in several state legislatures. Currently, Ag-Gag laws exist in numerous states including Iowa, Kansas, Montana and North Dakota.

Problems with Ag-Gag Laws

Footage from undercover investigations, which show how the animals are really treated on a daily basis, is one of the most effective tools to expose animal cruelty, educate the public, enforce existing legislation and encourage changes to animal welfare laws.

By restricting the collection of undercover footage, unsafe practices and animal cruelty are more likely to go unchecked and unreported. The level of danger this presents to factory farmed animals and the public can be gauged by what past undercover investigations have already revealed. In some instances, undercover footage has resulted in felony animal cruelty convictions and the recall of immense quantities of meat due to unsafe practices being revealed.

Proponents of the bills claim that if animal cruelty or illegal activity is taking place at a facility, employees can notify authorities. The waiting period associated with notifying authorities and getting a warrant or permission to enter the premises, however, gives wrongdoers a chance to cover up the problem. Cruel practices that are “legal” may continue without being reported. Employees are also less likely to report themselves or their co-workers and supervisors.

Requiring that undercover footage of illegal activity be reported to authorities within a short time frame (“Mandatory Reporting”) poses several problems as well. It is harder to build a legal case based on one isolated image or video clip, whereas several weeks of recordings show a pattern of neglect or abuse.

ADI’s concerns about Ag-Gag laws

ADI educates in the US and around the world on the use of animals in industry, such as entertainment and the replacement of animals in research with advanced alternatives. ADI’s investigations produce empirical evidence, photographs and video, which, combined with our scientific, legal and economic research have proved to be a vital tool for technical advice to legislators and government officials.

ADI’s evidence has been used by public prosecutors in courts, by legislators, and by officials to close loopholes in regulations or expose noncompliance with regulations. Quite simply, properly gathered and recorded investigative material is a proper and necessary tool in a free society.

ADI is opposed to the very principle of Ag-Gag. It must never become morally acceptable to prevent proper investigation and exposure of the hidden suffering of vulnerable animals. Establishment of these laws is just one step away from extending such measures to other industries. Secrecy should never be enshrined in law.

Latest News

Tennessee’s Governor Vetoes Ag-Gag Bill
On May 13, 2013, Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee issued a statement confirming he has vetoed Tennessee’s pending Ag Gag legislation, HB 1191/SB 1248. According to Governor Haslam’s statement, “After careful consideration, I am going to veto the legislation. Some vetoes are made solely on policy grounds. Other vetoes may be the result of wanting the General Assembly to reconsider the legislation for a number of reasons. My veto here is more along the lines of the latter. I have a number of concerns.

“First, the Attorney General says the law is constitutionally suspect. Second, it appears to repeal parts of Tennessee’s Shield Law without saying so. If that is the case, it should say so. Third, there are concerns from some district attorneys that the act actually makes it more difficult to prosecute animal cruelty cases, which would be an unintended consequence.

“For these reasons, I am vetoing HB1191/SB1248, and I respectfully encourage the General Assembly to reconsider this issue.”

Success in California!
AB 343, California’s controversial Ag Gag bill originally scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, April 17, was withdrawn by its author, Jim Patterson, a Republican from Fresno. The bill received stiff opposition from the public, newspapers, and media outlets across the state.

Take Action

If an Ag-Gag law is proposed in your state, oppose it!

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