May 27, 2016

North Carolina Sued Over Ag-Gag Law

A coalition of consumer, animal rights, and food safety organizations filed a federal lawsuit last week challenging the constitutionality of a North Carolina ag gag law. The law is designed to deter whistleblowers and undercover investigators from gathering and publicizing information about misconduct. Governor Pat McCrory vetoed the bill in June 2015, but the state legislature overrode the veto. This law allows lawsuits and damages against people who "expose improper or criminal conduct by North Carolina employers," according to a statement by Food & Water Watch. The complaint states that the law is intended to punish those who "set out to investigate employers and property owners' conduct because they believe there is value in exposing employers and property owners' unethical … [Read more...]

Wyoming’s Ag-Gag Law Dealt Serious Blow

Food Poisoning Bulletin has been reporting about so-called "ag gag" laws for years. These laws are intended to prevent whistleblowers from reporting on animal abuse at factory farms, and levy penalties against those who go undercover to film problems at these facilities. A federal judge, last week, noted "serious concerns and questions" about the constitutionality of Wyoming's data trespass laws in an order released about a lawsuit against that state and refused to strike claims against the law. These laws criminalize undercover reporting on farms and in slaughterhouses that reveal animal abuse, food safety violations, and violations of food worker health and safety laws. Center for Food Safety and other groups have sued Wyoming over this law, claiming that the laws punish communication … [Read more...]

Judge Strikes Down Idaho’s Ag-Gag Law

The Ag-Gag law in Idaho, which was passed in 2014, has been struck down as unconstitutional by U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The state has not decided if it will appeal this decision. This is the first time an ag-gag statute has been struck down by a federal court. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) brought a case against the state in April 2015. The law was passed after the animal rights group Mercy for Animals shot an undercover video showing workers abusing milk cows at the Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen, Idaho. ALDF alleged that the bill "has both the purpose and effect of stifling public debate about modern agriculture." The law criminalizes all employment-based undercover investigations and criminalizes investigative journalism,whistleblowing by employees, or other … [Read more...]

North Carolina Governor Vetoes Ag Gag Bill

The governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, has vetoed the ag-gag bill that was sent to his desk. The bill was designed to give big agriculture and factory farms a civil cause of action against anyone trying to uncover animal abuse. McCrory said in a statement, "This bill is intended to address a valid concern of our state’s businesses—how to discourage those bad actors who seek employment with the intent to engage in corporate espionage or act as an undercover investigator.  This practice is unethical and unfair to employers, and is a particular problem for our agricultural industry. It needs to be stopped. While I support the purpose of this bill, I believe it does not adequately protect or give clear guidance to honest employees who uncover criminal activity.  I am concerned that … [Read more...]

USDA Whistleblower Speaks Out Against Idaho’s Ag Gag Law

Dr. Daryl Jacobs, a USDA whistleblower from Idaho, has spoken out against that state's ag gag law, which was signed by the governor last week. He has made a statement to Food Integrity Campaign about why undercover videos are needed to protect animals and to keep the food supply safe. He said, "as a former veterinarian for the USDA, I have seen a lot of unfortunate things come out of Idaho dairy farms. Broken bones, cows sick with cancer, and loaded with antibiotics. I understand why some farms would want to keep their abuses hidden, but a few bad apples shouldn't get the benefit of a bad law. Undercover investigation is important for exposing all kinds of illegal and immoral activities, not just problems at dairy farms, and whistleblowers need video to validate and substantiate what … [Read more...]

Ag Gag Bill Signed into Law in Idaho

This week, Idaho Governor C. L. Otter signed the latest ag-gag bill into law. The law was created, promoted, and passed in retaliation to undercover videos that exposed animal abuse at Idaho's Bettencourt Dairy farm in 2012.  That video showed workers caning, beating, and sexually abusing cows. Employees were fired and prosecuted as a result of the exposure. [Warning: the video is very disturbing.] Matt Rice, the director of investigations at Mercy for Animals, said in a statement, "Governor Otter has decided to keep corrupt factory farming practices from the public. He's created a safe haven for animal abuse. These facilities that supply food to the entire country. No other industry has that kind of immunity. Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers' … [Read more...]

Humane Society Against Idaho Ag-Gag Law

The Humane Society of the United States is running television ads in Idaho opposing a bill proposed there to ban undercover investigations, also known as ag-gag laws. An investigation in 2012 by Mercy for Animals exposed animal cruelty at an Idaho dairy factory farm prompted the bill. That undercover video led to the arrest of a manager and two other employees at Dry Creek Dairy, owned by Bettencourt Dairies. Employees were seen on vilm beating and electrically shocking cows, twisting their tails to inflict pain, and dragging a cow who couldn't walk by her neck with a chain attached to a tractor. So the state's dairy asked for a law banning undercover videos. Lisa Kauffman, HSUS's Idaho state director said in a statement, "The Idaho dairy industry's damaged reputation is only going … [Read more...]

Center for Food Safety Challenges Utah’s Ag Gag Law

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is challenging Utah's so-called "ag gag" law, which criminalizes undercover investigations of factory farms. Several states have finalized these laws, which makes it a crime to video animal abuse and cruelty while undercover. Other animal welfare groups and food safety advocates are  joining CFS in challenging the law as a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Six states have these laws on the books. Center for Food Safety attorney Cristina Stella wrote, "in the absence of effective government regulation, private, undercover investigations of the kind conducted by the Plaintiffs and outlawed by Utah's 'ag gag' law fulfill the much-needed role of overseeing the safety of our food supply." Several undercover operations have resulted in food … [Read more...]

Tyson Foods Drops Farm Caught Abusing Animals

Tyson Foods has severed a contract with West Coast Farms in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma after Mercy for Animals filmed employees hitting, kicking, and throwing animals, sticking fingers in their eyes, and leaving piglets to die after being abused. One employee threw a bowling ball at an animal. The company is taking possession of the animals on the farm. The National Pork Producers Council said the abuses "violate the high standards of the U.S. pork industry." and said that authorities should investigate these incidents and bring charges against anyone who abused animals at this facility. The employees in the video have been fired by the farmer, who expressed outrage at his employees actions. But the undercover worker who filmed the video said he reported abuse to the owner three separate … [Read more...]

Humane Society Says Ag-Gag Bills Hide Animal Cruelty

The Humane Society of the United States is asking consumers to sign their pledge to fight anti-whistleblower "ag-gag" bills being passed in states around the country. These bills are often sponsored by the agricultural industry, and try to criminalize undercover investigations that have exposed animal cruelty and food safety violations in the past. The pledge asks people to share information with family and friends about this issue. This year, eleven states have tried to pass these laws that make it a crime to report a crime; they were defeated in legislatures or vetoed by governors in all states. Since 1990, six states, including Iowa, Montana, and Kansas have adopted these laws. Undercover videos have exposed cruelty in farms in many states, and in 2008 a Humane Society expose … [Read more...]

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