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Tennessee Ad Calls for Governor to Veto Whistleblower Suppression Bill

The Humane Society of the United States has placed a full-page advertisement in The Tennessean as the latest in the deluge of criticism that has met anti-whistleblower “ag-gag” bill, SB1248, at every step of the legislative process. The ad includes quotes from seven Tennessee newspapers editorializing against the bill.

Leighann McCollum, Tennessee state director for The HSUS said: “This advertisement highlights the strong opposition within Tennessee to silencing whistleblowers who shine a light on inhumane treatment in stables and industrial agribusiness facilities. We call on Gov. Haslam to veto SB1248 and stop the animal cruelty cover-up.”

SB1248 would make it a crime for investigative journalists and public interest charities to document and expose inhumane and illegal activity in horse stables and at industrial agriculture facilities. Outspoken critics of the legislation include singers Carrie Underwood and Emmylou Harris as well as talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who invited Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, on her show to explain the dangers of such a law. Last week, Indiana’s legislators rejected a similar bill, and of the 11 states that have introduced such ag-gag legislation in 2013, none have passed it.

In 2011, an HSUS investigation into Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s stable in Collierville, Tenn., revealed shocking cruelty to horses. The investigator recorded horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face, and burned with caustic chemicals. As a result of that investigation, a federal grand jury handed down a 52-count criminal indictment and a state grand jury indicted McConnell and two others for 38 counts of criminal animal cruelty.

The crimes at McConnell’s stables would have never come to light had this ag-gag bill been law.


  • Pacelle sent a letter to Gov. Haslam stating that if SB1248 is signed into law, “it may indeed backfire, and result in more public mistrust and skepticism about the workings of the Tennessee walking horse industry at a time when it is already suffering a drastic decline in popularity due to the stigma of soring.”
  • In April, The HSUS and Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville District 13, screened a television commercial at the state capitol showing footage from the undercover investigation into the Tennessee walking horse industry and calling on the governor to veto SB1248.
  • Last week, Tennessee native singer Carrie Underwood tweeted, “Shame on TN lawmakers for passing the Ag Gag bill. If Gov. Bill Haslam signs this, he needs to expect me at his front door. Who's with me?”
  • Singer Emmylou Harris wrote a letter on Friday asking Gov. Haslam to veto the bill.

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

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