(March 15, 2012) – The two largest animal protection organizations in the country are adding their voices to those in Utah who are urging Gov. Gary Herbert to veto Utah’s notorious “ag gag” bill, H.B. 0187, which would criminalize the investigation of animal cruelty, worker abuse, sexual harassment and other illegal or unethical activity at farming operations.
“There should be more transparency in an industry which relies upon the public trust, since consumers rely on ranchers and farmers for the safety of our food supply,” said Gene Baierschmidt, executive director for the Humane Society of Utah.
“This bill would unfairly protect Utah’s factory farms from public scrutiny by punishing whistleblowers,” said Jennifer Hillman, western region director of The Humane Society of the United States. “Gov. Herbert must veto H.B. 0187 and stop attempts by animal agribusinesses to gain unbridled and unchecked power over worker safety, public health and animal welfare.”
“It is deeply disappointing that the Utah legislature voted against animal welfare, food safety and transparency,” said Suzanne McMillan, director of the ASPCA farm animal welfare campaign. “Utahns, like Americans everywhere, deserve to know how their food is produced and how farm animals are treated. This bill sends a message that Utah farmers have something to hide, and we urge the governor to veto it.”
Last week, the Utah state senate and the state House of Representatives passed the bill, which is now with the governor to either be signed into law or vetoed. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, responded with a letter urging Gov. Herbert to reject the bill.
Critics question the constitutionality of H.B. 0187 as an infringement on the First Amendment, and a broad spectrum of national interest groups have spoken out against state ag gag bills, including organizations for animal protection, civil liberties, public health, food safety, environmental, food justice, legal, and workers’ rights.
- The agricultural industry has worked to introduce similar “ag gag” bills in states like Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee. Recently, ag gag bills were rejected in Florida, Illinois, and Indiana, while in Iowa, the governor signed an ag gag bill into law despite a strong outcry from the public in favor of bringing more transparency to an industry shrouded in secrecy.
- 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. resulted in the largest meat recall in the nation’s history. The meat suppliers faced a $150 million lawsuit for sending meat from sick and injured animals to the federal school lunch program, and the investigation revealed horrific animal abuse.
In a recent 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 (64 percent) 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.