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April 17, 2013

California’s Dangerous Anti-Whistleblower Bill Pulled by Author

The California anti-whistleblower “ag-gag” legislation, Assembly Bill 343 backed by the California Cattlemen’s Association, was pulled by the bill’s author, Assemblymember Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, after facing widespread opposition by a broad range of organizations including those that work to protect food safety, the environment, animals, the first amendment and labor unions.

California is one of 11 states that have introduced ag-gag legislation this year that seeks to criminalize whistleblowing on factory farms and slaughter plants, keeping Americans in the dark about how food is produced. AB 343 would have obstructed whistleblowers’ ability to expose illegal and inhumane activity on agribusiness operations by forcing them to turn over documented evidence within 120 hours of commencing an investigation—preventing them from adequately documenting evidence and patterns of abuse. AB 343 was amended last week to expressly exempt footage of animal cruelty “inadvertently captured” by surveillance cameras owned by agribusiness operations.

Jennifer Fearing, California state director for The HSUS said, “We are pleased to see the bill shelved. The problem isn’t the rate at which animal cruelty is disclosed to authorities - but with the rampant cruelty itself. Industrial farming operations should be run so well that videos could never capture anything they wouldn’t want their customers to see.” 

Nineteen California newspapers editorialized against the bill, none favored it and the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the National Press Photographers Association testified against the bill before the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

Facts:

  • The HSUS exposé of a dairy cow slaughter plant in Chino, Calif. prompted the largest meat recall in U.S. history, identified fraud against the federal government’s school lunch program, and resulted in criminal animal cruelty convictions.
  • The HSUS exposé of calf abuse at a Vermont slaughter plant led to the plant's closure and a felony animal cruelty conviction.
  • The HSUS investigation of a Wyoming pig factory documented rampant animal abuse and led to multiple criminal cruelty convictions.
  • In 2013, states that have introduced anti-whistleblower “ag-gag” bills include: Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wyoming and Vermont.
  • The following California papers editorialized against AB343: Bakersfield CalifornianRedding Record SearchlightThe Monterey County HeraldSan Francisco ChronicleThe Sacramento BeeThe Press-EnterpriseLos Angeles Times, and Los Angeles Daily News (and eight other L.A. Newspaper Group newspapers)
  • According to the Assembly Agriculture Committee analysis of AB343, groups and individuals that wrote in opposition include: A Well Fed World, ACLU of California,  Society for the Prevention of   Cruelty to Animals, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Place, Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free USA,  CA Teamsters Public Affairs Council, California Horsemen's Alliance, California Labor Federation, California Newspaper Publishers Association, Compassion in World Farming, Compassion Over Killing, Diana Basehart Foundation, Ena Valikov (DVM), Equal Justice Alliance, Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM), Farm Forward, Farm Sanctuary, Farmer at Tipping Tree Farm, Food & Water Watch, Food Empowerment Project, Humane Farming Association, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Injured & Orphaned Wildlife, Inland Valley Humane Society & SPCA, Jim Reynolds (DVM, MPVM), League of Humane Voters, Marin Humane Society, Mercy for Animals, Monterey County SPCA, National Press Photographers Association, Organic Consumers Association, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz , Paw Pac, Paw Project, Protecting Earth & Animals with Compassion & Education (PEACE), Public Interest Coalition, Public Justice Center, Rescue House, Resqcats, Inc., San Francisco SPCA, Senior Citizens for Humane Legislation and Education, Sierra Club California, Slow Food USA Governor, Central Valley Region of California, Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL), Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP), Stare Humane Association of California, Sustainable Economies Law Center, Take Me Home, Animal Rescue, Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry, United Food & Commercial Workers, Western States Council, Vegan Coalition, and the Whistleblower Support Fund. 

Media Contact: Anna West: 301-258-1518; awest@humanesociety.org

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