By Kristine Dennis
This month Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam vetoed bill SB 1248/HB 1191, one of a number of recent attempts to pass so-called ‘ag-gag’ bills. This followed on from huge public outcry when both the House and Senate passed the bill in the week earlier. The bill proposed to seriously limit the ability of animal cruelty whistleblowers to collect evidence of animal cruelty, and even criminalize them for doing so. Had the bill passed, it could have made animal cruelty whistleblowers the criminals, rather than the actual abusers.
While vetoing the bill, Governor Haslam cited three major concerns with the law as it’s proposed.
“First, the Attorney General says the law is constitutionally suspect. Second, it appears to repeal parts of Tennessee’s Shield Law without saying so. If that is the case, it should say so. Third, there are concerns from some district attorneys that the act actually makes it more difficult to prosecute animal cruelty cases, which would be an unintended consequence.”
At a time when ag-gag bills are being considered across the U.S., the message of Haslam’s veto sends a strong and clear message. Ag-gag bills will not be accepted by the public. Not only do these bills potentially violate basic rights as defined by the constitution, they hinder whistleblowers from exposing illegal acts of animal cruelty.
Last week brought yet another ag-gag bill, the Commerce Protection Act, under review in North Carolina. The bill shares similar language to other ag-gag bills across the country. The public, media and NGOs are once again rally for this bill to be rejected, despite some strong government support.
Let’s hope that North Carolina goes the way of Tennesee. The failure of Tennessee’s bill may mark the beginning of the end of a failed attempt to keep the public in the dark about factory farming and the way animals are treated in these inhumane production systems.