The truth demands constant vigilance. And right now, we need all eyes on Arkansas. No rest for the weary, friends, as the lull in Ag-Gag legislation has sadly come to an end. Although GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign fights Ag-Gag every day in courts of law, we were all very much enjoying the break from new legislation. But in February, a new Ag-Gag bill showed up in the Arkansas legislature (HB 1665). This is Arkansas’ fourth effort to pass an anti-whistleblower bill into law, and is by far its most pernicious attempt.
What could make a bill designed to make it illegal to document crimes in industrial agriculture even worse, you may ask? Well, how about a bill that also makes it crime to document and report crimes such as patient abuse, elder abuse, daycare abuse and even puppy mill abuses! That’s right, this new bill is broader still and puts whistleblowers, and the charities that support them, on the hook for fees and damages – obviously designed as an economic deterrent to do-gooder interlopers.
For those less familiar with Ag-Gag laws, they are creatures of state law and vary from state to state. But in a nutshell, the goal of these laws is to criminalize taking video recordings of factory farms and meat production facilities. Obviously, it costs meat industry tycoons money when they get caught abusing animals or violating food safety laws, so corporations send their high-powered lobbyist to state legislatures to put an end to the undercover recordings. Can you imagine meat lobbyists talking to state legislators? “Hey we’re sick of getting caught, could you pass a law that makes it a crime to catch us?”.
Believe it or not, most states obliged. Since 2013, over half of the states in the US introduced Ag-Gag bills, but were fortunately met with incredible backlash. People were paying attention. People like you who believe that whistleblowers are often in the first, and usually the best, position to stop crimes, waste, fraud, and wrongdoing. Hundreds of thousands of concerned people petitioned their state governments. Constituents called their legislatures. The media covered our cause. That’s what happens when nefarious bills like Ag-Gag get your attention, your vigilance keeps today’s backroom deals from becoming tomorrow’s bad laws.
Because of you, 25 Ag-Gag bills have been thwarted across the United States. And where bills have passed, GAP and its allies are challenging them in court. GAP’s lawyers are working to put an end to North Carolina’s unconstitutional Ag-Gag law. There’s no doubt, we are up for challenging Arkansas’ law too, but we’d rather have not gotten there. We’d rather have your voice be respected. We need you to let this industry know that you are not buying what they’re selling!
You can be assured that GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign will be following this issue closely and working with allies to put an end to it. We can’t turn our heads on industrial agriculture, not in a time when animal diseases are making the leap to human disease. This is bigger than some opulent corporate power’s “right” to hide its shameful truth; this is about needless animal suffering, imminent public health threats and fundamental constitutional rights.