Deep into the current legislative season, it’s still not possible to say whether any state is going to adopt a full-blown “ag-gag” bill.
At the moment, “ag-gag” is dead in three states, set for floor votes in two other states, undergoing significant amendments in two, and alive but not getting much attention in two others. Then there are Arkansas and North Carolina.
In Arkansas, a pair of bills was once thought to be a tandem approach to achieving ag-gag, but only one passed the Legislature to make it on Gov. Mike Beebe’s desk. After being amended, all that bill (Senate Bill 13) does is make owners of abused animals financially responsible for their care even after they are seized by law enforcement.
That’s hardly an “ag-gag” bill as defined by the Humane Society of the United States. Such a bill requires provisions that ban taking photos or video of animal agricultural facilities; make it a crime for an animal abuse investigator to get a job at the facility and require immediate reporting animal abuse violations, making it difficult to impossible to document a pattern of abuse.
So far, six states have some or all of those provisions enacted into law. They are: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Utah.
A late entry into the list of states entertaining “ag-gag” bills this year is North Carolina, where a bill with a collection of items involving “commerce” was introduced on April 4. Section One of North Carolina Senate Bill 648 contains all of the provisions necessary to make it an “ag-gag” bill.
Animal activist groups like HSUS say “ag-gag” laws make it virtually impossible to conduct the type of undercover investigations that they’ve been doing recently in which animal abuse is documented and evidence is shared with local authorities, who bring criminal prosecution.
Food safety violations have also come to light in these undercover investigations. In 2008, an HSUS investigation at a Chino, CA slaughterhouse led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history.
The two states close to floor votes on “ag-gag” bills are Indiana and Tennessee. The vote in Tennessee is scheduled for Tuesday. The Indiana General Assembly could vote come at any time. The Hoosier “ag-gag” bill has already passed the Indiana Senate.
As in Arkansas, there’s been a lot of amending going on in Illinois and California. In what looks like some negotiating among the parties, the California bill has moved the deadline for reporting documented animal abuse out to 120 hours, and the Illinois bill has been entirely changed to apparently just address someone who “knowingly” makes a false animal abuse complaint.
“Ag-gag” bills are getting committee attention both in Nebraska and Pennsylvania, but both of those states have extended legislative calendars, and lawmakers have not tipped their hands as to whether they are serious or not.© Food Safety News