NEW YORK--The ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends the recent decision by Florida lawmakers to remove the "ag-gag" language from House Bill 1021 and Senate Bill 1184. By making it a crime to take photographs or videos on farms, the ag-gag proposals in these bills sought to suppress whistle-blowers from exposing animal abuse and cruelty on agricultural facilities.
Ironically, undercover video taken at a dairy farm in Florida more a decade ago showing young calves wounded by gunshot and then being shoved into a watery pit to drown served as the inspiration for the Florida legislature to pass its current humane slaughter and euthanasia laws (F.S.S. 828.22-828.26). In many states, such documentation has been instrumental to law enforcement, farming reform and new laws protecting animal and public welfare.
"Bills like this only serve to heighten suspicion that the agricultural industry has something to hide," said Suzanne McMillan, director of the ASPCA farm animal welfare campaign. "Americans deserve to know how their food is produced, and responsible farmers should welcome that transparency. Where there are problems, industry should direct its energy toward resolving them, not covering them up."
Under Florida's proposed ag-gag provisions, employees and others who sought to expose not only animal abuse but other criminal conduct on farms including sexual harassment, worker and environmental violations, would have been risking misdemeanor charges of the first degree, punishable by up to one year's imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.
"Legislators carefully examined the bills, listened to the concerns raised by thousands of their constituents and ultimately took the correct action," added Ann Church, vice president of state affairs for the ASPCA. "We are hopeful that Florida, a state with very significant agricultural interests, will serve as a bellwether for other states where similarly draconian legislation is being considered and lawmakers continue to balk at the myriad assaults these bills would deliver to American values."
The ASPCA and its members lobbied strongly to prohibit similar chilling provisions from passing in Florida, New York, Iowa and Minnesota in 2011. This year, ag-gag legislation has already been introduced in Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. In addition to factory farms, these bills have the potential to shield slaughter plants and puppy mills from legitimate investigations.
For more information on the ASPCA and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org.