FIC and 24 other groups sent a joint letter yesterday to North Carolina Senator Brent Jackson, who is the sponsor of the state's troubling anti-whistleblower Ag Gag legislation. We urge him to withdraw the bill, which would stop workers from exposing cruelty and wrongdoing in not only the agriculture industry, but all industries!
The letter reads in part:
“While other states’ bills are aimed squarely at limiting whistleblowing, chilling free speech and keeping the public unaware of animal abuse and food safety problems on factory farms, SB 648 would prevent transparency across all industries…We hope that you will choose to protect the safety of North Carolina’s residents despite pressure from groups like the Chamber of Commerce which, in its support for this bill, misses the fact that a loss of transparency is ultimately bad for business, dangerous for consumers and a violation of this country’s values.”
It also mentions the success of undercover investigations in North Carolina and throughout the country, including the discovery of health and labor violations at North Carolina supermarket chain Food Lion. In fact, more than a dozen Food Lion employees came to the Government Accountability Project and our food safety program to express concerns (before FIC was established). GAP worked with ABC, which then aired a national exposé on the whistleblowers' confirmed allegations, including: dangerous practices such as rewrapping and selling expired meat, dipping turkeys into bleach water to get rid of the slime, and putting tomato sauce on expired chicken and selling the new product at a higher price.
FIC Director Amanda Hitt explains her opposition to the anti-whistleblower measure:
“Whistleblowers have repeatedly exposed practices used to raise animals and produce food that endanger public health. By silencing them, this bill would have serious negative consequences for the citizens of North Carolina and suggests that North Carolina businesses and industries have a lot to hide from their customers.”
In a 2012 nationwide poll commissioned by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), it was revealed that 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigative efforts to expose animal abuse on industrial farms, and 64 percent oppose making such efforts illegal.
Undercover video is often the only tool that whistleblowers in the meat and poultry industry can rely on to safely expose problems they see on the job without retaliation from their employer. Attempts at gagging honest workers by taking away their ability to safely blow the whistle is simply unacceptable if we value transparency. Senator Jackson, please join us and say no to Ag Gag!
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.