Ag Gag Becomes Law in Utah, Other State Battles Continue

Gary_HerbertGov. Gary HerbertUtah Governor Gary Herbert ignored the concerns of food integrity whistleblower advocates and signed the state's Ag Gag bill into law Tuesday, nearly two weeks after both houses had passed the legislation. Similar to Iowa's bill, which became law earlier this month, the Utah measure penalizes individuals who apply for jobs at agricultural facilities under false pretenses – targeting whistleblowers who utilize undercover video to expose wrongdoing.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

The measure is aimed at preventing whistleblowers from taking the type of surreptitious images of farms and processing plants that have proven damaging to the meat industry.

Animal welfare advocates had urged the governor to veto the bill, arguing that it would silence whistleblowers who they said have protected the public.

So now, another state has yielded to industry interests keen on keeping the public in the dark when it comes to food industry practices. The move comes despite the efforts of FIC and coalition partners, who sent legislators a joint letter opposing these anti-whistleblower bills. FIC Director Amanda Hitt also authored a piece in the Salt Lake Tribune detailing why the bill is terrible for transparency.

The flawed statement by Utah Farm Bureau spokesman Sterling Brown that "there's a proven way for these operations to be investigated" without undercover video yet again disregards the reality of routine whistleblower retaliation. Read FIC's previous blog on how undercover video serves as a consistent form of validation for legitimate whistleblowers whose initial attempts to report abuse were ignored or resulted in life-changing intimidation.

The good news is that there has been some victories over the last few months, with the death of proposed Ag Gag bills in Florida, Illinois, and Indiana just last week. Pending legislation remains in Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska and Tennessee. Stay tuned.

Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

 

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