Pick Wayne's Brain

January 26, 2013

ALEC and the Ag Gag Bills

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 3:12 AM

We Americans have an amazing ability, bordering on out-and-out hypocrisy, to turn a blind eye toward unpleasant subjects. Nowhere does this talent demonstrate itself more than in the area of how our food is produced. They say that Politics is like sausage-making – you don’t want to see how either one is done. But it’s not just sausages, it’s also the bacon, pork chops & ham, the eggs, wings & thighs, or the milk, butter and cheese. Animal cruelty in the farm business has been a well-documented scourge on our food supply, but thanks to legislation sponsored by ALEC (the very pro-business, conservative American Legislative Exchange Council; ALEC describes themselves as “non-partisan,” but that doesn’t mean they’re non-ideological), documented cases of animal abuse on farms will be a thing of the past. Because it will be illegal to document such abuse.

According to a report published by GlobalPossibilities.org and Alternet.org, three state legislatures are considering bills to consider any attempt “to investigate animal cruelty, food safety or environmental violations on the corporate-controlled farms that produce the bulk of our meat, eggs and dairy products” as an “act of terrorism.” Now known as “Ag Gag” laws, they were passed in the early 90s in Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota before the term was coined. In the past two years they were joined by Iowa, Missouri, and Utah, and now Nebraska, New Hampshire and Wyoming taking up the issue. (There is hope. Similar legislation failed to pass in seven states: Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.

Ag-Gag laws passed 20 years ago were focused more on deterring people from destroying property, or from either stealing animals or setting them free. Today’s ALEC-inspired bills take direct aim at anyone who tries to expose horrific acts of animal cruelty, dangerous animal-handling practices that might lead to food safety issues, or blatant disregard for environmental laws designed to protect waterways from animal waste runoff. In the past, most of those exposes have resulted from undercover investigations of exactly the type Big Ag wants to make illegal.

One bill would make it a crime to fail to report documented animal abuse within 24 hours, despite the fact that multiple abuses, needed to document a pattern of abuse, can take weeks to collect. Another bill would make it a crime to get a job with the “intent to disrupt the normal operations,” and would require animal abuse reports to be filed within 12 hours. The third is designed to prevent activists from exposing animal cruelty at corporate-owned farms, and was introduced by a State Representative planning to build horse slaughterhouses in several states.

From the article (the petitions are only for people who live in those states):

It was public outrage that killed proposed bills in seven states last year. Here are the three latest bills to be introduced, and links to petitions telling lawmakers in New Hampshire, Wyoming and Nebraska to reject the proposed laws:

New Hampshire: HB110

Primary sponsor: Bob Haefner (R) ; Co-sponsors: Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff (D), Rep. Tara Sad (D), Senator Sharon Carson (R), and Bob Odell (R)

This is a 7-line bill written to look as if its main concern is the protection of animals. However the bill would require whistleblowers to report animal abuse and turn over videotapes, photographs and documents within 24 hours or face prosecution – a clear attempt to intimidate and deter people from conducting undercover investigations. Lawmakers know that in order for anyone to prove a pattern of abuse in factory farms, they must document repeated instances of cruelty. A video or photograph of only one instance will be dismissed as a one-time anomaly, which will get the agribusiness company off the hook.

If you live in New Hampshire, sign the petition to stop New Hampshire’s Ag-Gag bill.

Wyoming: HB0126

Co-sponsors: Rep. Sue Wallis (R), Sen. Ogden Driskill (R)

Introduced within weeks after nine workers at a Wyoming factory farm were charged with abuse. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sue Wallis, is planning to build horse slaughterhouses in Wyoming and other states. If this bill had been law in 2012, it would have prevented activists from exposing horrific acts of cruelty at Wheatland, WY-based Wyoming Premium Farms, a supplier to Tyson Foods.

If you live in Wyoming, sign the petition to stop Wyoming’s Ag-Gag bill.

Nebraska: LB 204

Introduced by Sen. Tyson Larson (R), Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh (R), and Sen. Ken Schilz (R)

The bill would make it a Class IV felony for any person to obtain employment at an animal facility with the broadly defined “intent to disrupt the normal operations,” It would require animal abuse reports to be filed within 12 hours. Co-sponsor Sen. Launtenbaugh has advocated in the past for horse slaughtering.

If you live in Nebraska, sign the petition to stop Nebraska’s Ag-Gag bill.

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