January 14, 2013
Animal Protection Groups Urge New Hampshire House Environment and Agriculture Committee to Oppose Harmful Ag-Gag Bill
Ag-Gag Bill, HB110, will hide animal abuse, unsafe working conditions and environmental problems on industrial farms
The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association are urging the New Hampshire House Environment and Agriculture Committee to oppose HB110, a bill that seeks to prevent whistleblowers from exposing the mistreatment of animals on industrial farms.
“This bill punishes whistleblowers and endangers the public by hiding animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, food safety issues and environmental problems on industrial farms, and The Humane Society of the United States calls on House Environment and Agriculture Committee to oppose it,” said Joanne Bourbeau, Northeastern regional director for The HSUS.
“Instead of shooting the messenger by criminalizing truth-telling investigations, producers on industrial farms should stop abusing animals and jeopardizing public health,” said Farm Sanctuary Senior Director for Advocacy Bruce Friedrich.
“This bill is un-American and a broad government overreach,” said MFA Executive Director Nathan Runkle. “It seeks to shield animal abusers from public scrutiny and prosecute the brave whistleblowers who dare to speak out against animal cruelty, environmental pollution and corporate corruption.”
“Americans deserve the truth. Shamefully, this ag-gag bill aims to hide the truth and keep the public from knowing the horrors that really happen behind the closed doors of animal agribusiness,” said Cheryl Leahy, general counsel for Compassion Over Killing.
“Under the guise of property rights, ag gag bills are intended to prevent consumers from ever seeing the animal abuse, contaminated crops, illegal working conditions, and food safety problems that are commonly found on industrial farms,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
“These bills are an obvious attempt to conceal information and prevent the outrage that rightfully erupts when the public finds out about poor animal welfare on farms,” said Bill Ketzer, senior director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Northeast region. “They threaten farm animals by interfering with the very people in a position to document their abuse.”
Critics question the constitutionality of ag-gag whistleblower suppression bills as infringing First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press and a broad spectrum of national interest groups have spoken out against these bills. Those include animal protection, civil liberties, public health, food safety, environmental, food justice, legal, workers’ rights and freedom of speech organizations.
- In a 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 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.
- 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. revealed horrific animal abuse, resulted in the largest meat recall in U.S. history and led to a federal false claims act lawsuit which aims to recover hundreds of millions of dollars from the slaughter facility operators. Two of the nine defendants in the case recently agreed to settle out of that lawsuit by paying more than $300,000—essentially all of their assets—and agreeing to the entry of an approximately 500 million dollar judgement against them.
- Several recent undercover investigations by Mercy For Animals, the Humane Society of the United States and Compassion Over Killing have resulted in industrial farm employees being charged and convicted of criminal offenses, and facilities being shut down because of legal violations.
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