The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Institute and The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), are urging members of the Indiana Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee to oppose SB373, a bill that seeks to prevent whistleblowers from exposing the mistreatment of animals and other misconduct on industrial farms. If passed, the bill would prohibit, among other things, photography and recording images at agricultural operations.
"This bill punishes whistleblowers, hides animal abuse, and endangers the public by keeping unsafe working conditions, food safety issues and environmental problems on industrial farms hidden," said Erin Huang, Indiana state director for The HSUS.
"Instead of shooting the messenger by criminalizing truth-telling investigations, producers on industrial farms should stop abusing animals and jeopardizing public health," said Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary's senior director for advocacy.
"This bill is un-American and a broad government overreach," said Nathan Runkle, MFA executive director. "It seeks to shield animal abusers from public scrutiny and prosecute the brave whistleblowers who dare to speak out against animal cruelty, environmental pollution and corporate corruption."
"Americans deserve the truth. Shamefully, this anti-whistleblower bill aims to hide the truth and keep the public from knowing the horrors that really happen behind the closed doors of animal agribusiness," said Cheryl Leahy, general counsel for Compassion Over Killing.
"Under the guise of property rights, anti-whistleblower bills are intended to prevent consumers from ever seeing the animal abuse, contaminated crops, illegal working conditions and food safety problems that are commonly found on industrial farms," said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
"This bill attempts to conceal from the public information about animal welfare and food safety conditions on farms," said Vicki Deisner, state director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Midwest region. "The agricultural industry should be attempting to rectify its on-farm problems rather than suppressing information about them."
Critics question the constitutionality of whistleblower suppression bills as infringing First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press, and a broad spectrum of national interest groups have spoken out against these bills. They include animal protection, civil liberties, public health, food safety, environmental, food justice, legal, workers’ rights and freedom of speech organizations.
- In a poll commissioned by the ASPCA, it was revealed that 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigative efforts by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms and almost two-thirds oppose making such efforts illegal. The nationwide survey also found that 94 percent of Americans feel that it is important to have measures in place to ensure that food coming from farm animals is safe for people to eat, and 94 percent agree that animals raised for food on farms deserve to be free from abuse and cruelty.
- Investigations have played a vital role on the national level in exposing animal welfare and food safety issues related to industrialized agriculture. In 2008, an HSUS undercover investigation of a slaughter plant in Chino, Calif., revealed horrific animal abuse, resulted in the largest meat recall in U.S. history and led to a federal false claims act lawsuit which aims to recover hundreds of millions of dollars from the slaughter facility operators. Two of the nine defendants in the case recently agreed to settle out of that lawsuit by paying more than $300,000—essentially all of their assets—and agreeing to the entry of an approximately $500 million judgment against them.
- Several recent undercover investigations by Mercy For Animals, the Humane Society of the United States and Compassion Over Killing have resulted in agricultural employees being charged and convicted of criminal offenses, and facilities being shut down because of legal violations.