October 21, 2018

Humane Society Urges Tennessee Governor to Veto Ag Gag Bill

The Humane Society of the United States is urging Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to veto that state’s ag gag bill. SB 1248 would make it a crime for reputable non-profit organizations and journalists to document and expose unethical and illegal activity at horse stables and industrial agriculture facilities. The bill narrowly passed the Tennessee House.

Chickens in CagesWayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, sent a letter to the governor stating that “the bill appears to be an attempt to enact a policy of covering up abuses, and keeping the public from learning of them. If it 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.”¬†As a result of HSUS investigations, a federal grand jury indicted Jackie McConnell and two others working at his Collierville, Tennessee stable for criminal animal cruelty.

Tennessee joins several others states in passing so-called ag gag bills, which criminalize the taping of workers at factory farms and other facilities who are allegedly abusing animals. Iowa passed a bill last March, and Missouri in July. Utah signed an ag gag law in March 2013. Pennsylvania and Vermont have bills pending, and Arkansas and Indiana are following suit. Finally, Indiana, Nebraska, and North Carolina are working on ag gag bills at this time.

These practices not only offend many consumers’ sense of justice, but they may increase food safety risks. A study published in 2009 by the National Library of Medicine found that there is “increasing evidence to demonstrate that stress can have a significant deleterious effect on food safety through a variety of potential mechanisms. There is some evidence linking stress with pathogen carriage and shedding in farm animals, but the mechanisms underlying this effect have not been fully elucidated.”

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