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March 8, 2012

Animal Advocates Praise Illinois Legislative Committee for Tabling “Ag-Gag” Bill

ASPCA®, Mercy For Animals, Farm Sanctuary

Several animal protection organizations praised the Illinois Judiciary Law Committee for tabling H.B. 5143, a bill aimed at criminalizing whistleblowers who expose animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, environmental destruction and other illegal and unethical activities on farms.

The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA®, Mercy For Animals and Farm Sanctuary strongly supported a motion filed on Tuesday by Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Ill., to table the bill after concerns were raised over threats to First Amendment rights, food safety, animal welfare and workers’ rights. Tabling the bill essentially removes it from consideration.  

“We applaud Illinois’ lawmakers for recognizing the harmful nature of this bill and essentially killing it,” said Kristen Strawbridge, Illinois state director for The HSUS. “We urge lawmakers in states with similar bills pending to follow Illinois' lead and reject these dangerous bills.”

“Passage of this bill would have been a disservice to animals, farmers and the people of Illinois who care about where their food comes from,” said Vicki Deisner, ASPCA state legislative director for the Midwest region.  “This bill would have cast doubt on the entire agriculture community and sent the message that Illinois farms have something to hide. By letting this bill die, Illinois lawmakers have taken a stand to protect a wide range of American values. We appreciate that legislators responded to the wishes of many of their constituents, and hope that legislators in other states will follow suit.”

“We applaud the Illinois legislature for listening to the will of the people, rather than caving to the corrupt motives of the factory farming lobby, by abandoning this dangerous and ill-conceived bill,” said Nathan Runkle, executive director for Mercy For Animals. “Truth and transparency in food production is vital to the integrity of our nation’s food supply and the freedom to expose animal abuse, food safety violations and other illegal and unethical conduct on factory farms should be protected and defended.”

“The people of Illinois care about animal welfare, and they support undercover investigations as one important way of exposing abuse when it happens,” said Bruce Friedrich, senior director of strategic initiatives for Farm Sanctuary. “Today’s decision by the Illinois legislature represents a victory for animal welfare, consumer protection and free speech.”

The agricultural industry has worked to introduce similar “ag-gag” bills in states like Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Tennessee and Utah. Recently, an “ag gag” bill was rejected in Florida, while in Iowa, legislators passed an ag-gag bill despite a strong outcry from the public in favor of bringing more transparency to an industry notoriously shrouded in secrecy.

Critics question the constitutionality of H.B. 5143 as an infringement on the First Amendment, and a broad spectrum of national interest groups have spoken out against state ag-gag bills, including organizations for animal protection, civil liberties, public health, food safety, environmental, food justice, legal, workers’ rights and First Amendment interests.

Facts

  • Investigations have played a vital role on the national level in exposing animal welfare and food safety issues related to industrialized agriculture. In 2008, an HSUS undercover investigation of a slaughter plant in Chino, Calif. resulted in the largest meat recall in the nation’s history. The meat suppliers faced a $150 million lawsuit for sending meat from sick and injured animals to the federal school lunch program and the investigation revealed horrific animal abuse.  
  • In a recent poll commissioned by the ASPCA, it was revealed that 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigative efforts by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms and almost two-thirds (64 percent) oppose making such efforts illegal. The nationwide survey also found that 94 percent of Americans feel that it is important to have measures in place to ensure that food coming from farm animals is safe for people to eat, and 94 percent agree that animals raised for food on farms deserve to be free from abuse and cruelty.

 

Media Contacts:

Nathan Runkle, nathanr@mercyforanimals.org, 937-470-9454

Anna West, awest@humanesociety.org, 240-751-2669

Emily Schneider, emily.schneider@aspca.org, 646-291-4575

Meredith Turner, MTurner@farmsanctuary.org, 646-369-6212

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