This morning, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam vetoed his state’s dangerous anti-whistleblower/“ag-gag” bill, Senate Bill 1248/House Bill 1191. This is a major victory for animal welfare and consumer safety—if signed into law, this legislation would have thwarted investigations of agricultural enterprises and protected animal abusers instead of working to prevent such mistreatment.
Governor Haslam’s veto comes just days after Tennessee’s Attorney General declared the legislation “constitutionally suspect under the First Amendment on three grounds” and noted that it could violate a person’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Animal abusers in Tennessee have good reason to want to keep their cruel and illegal actions out of sight. While most states exempt farm animals from their animal cruelty statues entirely, last year Tennessee passed a bill, spearheaded by the ASPCA, to make extreme acts of cruelty to livestock subject to felony-level penalties.
Investigations on farms have been extremely successful in documenting the inhumane treatment of animals, uncovering crucial health and welfare information and spurring many groundbreaking reforms. If Tennessee’s ag-gag bill had become law, the cruelty revealed by these types of investigations—such as the gruesome beating and soring of Tennessee Walking Horses disclosed last year—would remain hidden from the public.
We thank Governor Haslam for listening to the citizens of Tennessee and preventing this harmful and unnecessary bill from becoming law. We also applaud and thank our Tennessee Advocates, local humane organizations, and groups representing other interests (including civil liberties, journalism, religion, food safety and the environment) put at risk by this bill for their support in fighting it!