This is what's called an 'Ag Gag' bill because it will allow animal abusers and big agribusinesses to hide cruelty from the public. It also aims to punish honest, compassionate and law abiding citizens who try to expose abuse of livestock.
If passed this will not protect livestock from abuse!
The Knoxville News Sentinel says, "The bill would force news-gatherers to turn over to authorities the contents of their still and video cameras. The practice would violate the legal principle of prior restraint, which prevents the government from interfering with the publication of the news and is guaranteed by the First Amendment."
It makes it impossible for journalists to do in-depth reporting and for undercover workers to report patterns of abuse upon other workers, animals, or the environment. It will make everyone question food coming from our state. It will put a stain on our reputation when we have so many compassionate people here.
Carrie Underwood says: "If Gov. Bill Haslam signs this, he needs to expect me at his front door." Let's hope the Governor does the right thing to protect the integrity of food from Tennessee. Carrie also later tweeted "I'm just a tax paying citizen concerned for the safety of my family."
Everyone in Tennessee signing this, please also make a quick and polite phone call to Governor Haslam at 615-741-2001 and urge him to oppose SB1248/HB1191. You can say "I live here in Tennessee, and calling to ask you to oppose SB1248/HB1191 because I think it's important to have our state's food system be honest and transparent."
As written, this Bill requires a person who records cruelty to livestock to report such violation and submit any unedited photographs or video recordings to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours or by the next business day (whichever is later) of . The moral, legal and constitutional merits of this bill have unintended consequences and is not the right direction for our state, Tennessee citizens, or our animals.
• It will do nothing but protect those facilities that have something to hide. Historically is it shown, that many law enforcement agencies and government officials in Tennessee do not take animal abuse seriously and choose to turn a blind eye to it. Frequently, law enforcement gives the abuser a heads up, thereby giving them an easy way out to cover up the abuse.
• In most cases, it takes weeks, months and sometimes longer to show a continued cycle of abuse, which would blow the whistle on the whistleblower too soon and not allow ample time to collect evidence to show it is not just an isolated occurrence. Law enforcement does not have the resources to go undercover to investigate livestock abuse.
• The bill infringes on one's First Amendment rights by restricting freedom of speech as well as impeding on the freedom of the press. People have the right to take photos and videos of animal abuse and distribute the information as they see fit and they should not be charged with a crime if they fail to turn that evidence over to law enforcement within the specified period of time. It takes away a person’s freedom to choose HOW they distribute the information. The bill also contradicts Tennessee’s Shield Law, which protects journalists from revealing any information or source of information used in news gathering.
• Public and consumer food safety will be threatened. Consumers in Tennessee and beyond our state’s borders deserve to have transparency in seeing how the food we consume is being produced and not have potential dangers and health risks to the food supply protected and hidden.
Finally, the impact of this bill will have far-reaching consequences way beyond our state. Our state’s reputation is at stake, and with desires of attracting business and economic development here, the media attention that Tennessee has received historically is quite damaging. Most notably, last year’s investigation into the large Tennessee walking horse soring abuse made national and international news. Because of this case, I read somewhere that Tennessee has now been dubbed the “horse abuse capital of the world.” I, for one, do not want this to be what our beautiful state is known for, and by enacting this bill, it would send a strong message to Tennessee citizens, the country and the world that Tennessee condones and allows that sort of abuse to continue all in the name of greed and arrogance.
At a time when there is so much suffering and violence going on in society, I would think nurturing a culture of kindness, compassion and morals would be important, and this bill undermines all of those.
For these reasons, please veto S.B. 1248/H.B. 1191 to protect the rights of Tennesseans, the welfare of our livestock, and safety of our food.