NEW YORK—In response to the Wyoming Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee's vote on Thursday to recommend approval of House Bill (HB) 126, the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is urging state representatives to oppose this dangerous anti-whistleblower bill. HB 126 would criminalize activities used to conduct investigations on agricultural operations, penalize whistleblowers, and protect animal abusers instead of working to prevent such mistreatment. The bill now heads to the House floor on Tuesday, February 5.
This dangerous bill is aimed at preventing the exposure of inhumane and cruel treatment of animals on farms, and would suppress the exposure of various illegal and illicit activities, including violations of workers' rights and sexual harassment. A diverse group of organizations, including district attorneys, press photographers, food safety groups, constitutional rights advocates and veterinarians, have joined animal welfare organizations in opposing these types of bills.
"HB 126 would threaten a wide range of animals, including everything from horses to cows to rabbits, by interfering with the very people in a position to document their abuse," said Deborah Foote, state legislative director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Southwest region. "It would also deliver an attack on core American values including food safety, environmental protection and workers' rights. The ASPCA encourages all Wyoming residents to contact all House representatives and urge them to oppose this harmful and unnecessary bill."
Under the provisions outlined in HB 126, employees and others seeking to expose animal abuse and other forms of illicit conduct on farms would risk class C misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to six months in prison and/or a $750 fine.
"An informed public is critical to improving animal welfare and making our food safer, and bills like this only serve to heighten suspicion that Wyoming’s agricultural industry has something to hide," added Suzanne McMillan, director of the ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Campaign. "Instead of coming up with creative laws to remove transparency and suppress whistleblowers who want to expose problems on farms, the legislature should focus on achieving accountability for those who cause those problems in the first place."
Farm investigations have led to the disclosure of crucial health and welfare information and many groundbreaking reforms, including the closure of a massive slaughterhouse shipping meat from sick animals to public schools. Should this bill become law, investigations that uncover abuse—such as the 2012 case at Wyoming Premium Farms that resulted in nine workers being charged with animal cruelty—would remain hidden from the public.
Wyoming residents are encouraged to both call and email their and other House representatives through Monday, February 4 and ask them to oppose HB 126: www.aspca.org/WY
For more information on the ASPCA and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/advocacy-center