Nebraska, Arkansas, and Tennessee today are holding legislative hearings on bills that supporters say protect farms and opponents say prevent people from being effective whistleblowers when collecting evidence of animal abuse. Abuse is a food safety concern because studies have shown that animals that are stressed or treated cruelly are more likely to be susceptible to disease and pathogens.
Hearings usually mean a committee is getting serious about making a “do pass” recommendation to the full body. Sometimes, however, it means only that a courtesy is being extended to sponsors or leadership is trying to determine if there are enough votes to advance the measure.
In Nebraska and Tennessee, state lawmakers have a lot of time left before scheduled adjournment, which for those respective states are set for early June and mid-May. Nebraska’s Legislative Bill (LB) 204 is one of four bills being heard today before the nonpartisan Unicameral’s Judiciary Committee.
According to his official statement of intent, Senator Tyson Larson of O’Neill, who introduced the bill, said it will deal with reporting requirements and penalties for anyone who interferes with the operations of an animal facility.
In Tennessee, companion bills HB-1191 and SB-1248 are being heard before an Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee. As introduced, both bills address animal cruelty and abuse by requiring any person who records cruelty to animals to report such violations and give up any unedited photographs or video recordings to law enforcement within 24 hours.
In Arkansas, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear SB-13 and SB-14. SB 13 outlaws animal cruelty investigations by anyone other than law enforcement agencies, and SB 14 makes interference with livestock or poultry operations a new crime. Not much time is left to get anything passed in Arkansas. The Legislature in Little Rock is scheduled to adjourn on Thursday.
The outcome of the hearings today may tell whether any of this year’s “ag-gag” bills actually become law. Last year, Iowa, Utah and Missouri all adopted similar measures that opponents say are designed to interrupt investigations of animal abuse in large facilities.
Bills this year have passed one legislative body or the other in Wyoming and Indiana. Lawmakers in Wyoming adjourned without considering the bill in Senate and the Indiana bill is still pending in the House. An “ag-gag” bill in New Mexico will likely die when that body adjourns, possibility as early as Saturday.
Bills have been introduced in both California and Pennsylvania, two states that meet nearly year round, but neither have gone away yet.© Food Safety News