URGENT: Protect Your Right to Know about Factory Farm Abuses in Indiana
Your state legislators are about to approve a law that if passed, would prevent journalists, activists and employees from investigating animal cruelty, worker abuses, environmental protection violations and food safety hazards at factory farms.
Don't let Indiana legislators criminalize whistleblowers in order to protect factory farms' profits. Please sign the letter below and ask your state legislators to oppose SB 373 (R - Holdman).
NOTE: If you live in the Waterman 39; Steele 44; Holdman 19; or Glick 13 Districts please do not sign this letter. Your legislators are very hostile and emailing them will not help. In fact, it may make them dig in their heels more.
More than half of Indiana's 92 counties are home to at least one factory farm, according to the Citizens Action Coalition Education Fund. If you live in one of those counties, near one of those farms, you already know that they are subject to weak and sparsely enforced state regulations. You and your neighbors are exposed to massive amounts of air and water pollution, with little recourse through your local government to protect yourselves.
How do you find if a factory farm near you is violating already-weak animal welfare, food safety or environmental laws? Sometimes, the only way these violations are exposed is through undercover investigations. Now, your state lawmakers want to outlaw those investigations.
On Tuesday, an Indiana State Senate committee voted 7-2 to approve SB 373 (R- Holdman), moving it to the Senate floor for an expected vote early next week. If approved, the bill would make it illegal to photograph or videotape a farm or industry with the intent to "embarrass, annoy or harm the business."
Embarrass? Are they kidding? Clearly, this law is designed to protect the profits of factory farms, not the health and safety of you, your family and your c, and certainly not the welfare of the animals crammed into small spaces where they would inevitably become ill, if not force-fed a steady diet of antibiotics - antibiotics that end up in your water.
If SB 373 had been the law of the land we wouldn't have discovered:
- the gruesome video shot in 2010 by the U.S. Humane Society (HSUS) of one of the nation's largest eggs producers;
- the 2009 Vermont slaughter plant scandal that led to felony charges and the closing of the facility;
- the exposé of Wyoming Premium Farms - resulting in nine workers being charged with criminal animal cruelty;
- or the 2008 HSUS undercover investigation of a slaughter plant in Chino, California resulting in the largest meat recall in the nation's history.
With transparency comes accountability. That's why the agricultural industry is seeking to criminalize those who attempt to expose their crimes rather than addressing the litany of violations they've already been found guilty of committing. SB 373 would be used by dishonest employers to intimidate and bully employees from documenting abuses - serving as an effective retaliation tool against any employee who blows the whistle on unethical or illegal activity.
The bill is also unnecessary because current laws against fraud and trespassing already protect honest businesses. Those who are brave enough to blow the whistle on illegal activity on industrial operations aren't "vigilantes" - they should be rewarded, not criminalized.
The Good News: The People are on the Side of Transparency!
In a poll commissioned by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigative efforts to expose animal abuse on industrial farms and almost two-thirds oppose making such efforts illegal. Fully 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.
Last year, lawmakers in 10 states proposed ag-gag laws. Only three of the laws passed. Consumers and animal welfare activists prevented ag-gag laws from passing in the seven other states by creating a public outcry that forced legislators to vote against the bills.
Don't let Indiana join the growing list of states that want to keep you in the dark about what goes on in factory farms. Please sign the letter below and ask your state legislators to oppose SB 373 (R - Holdman).
Why ag-gag laws are dangerous to animals, humans and the environment:
- Animal Welfare. Ag-gag laws are a direct threat to animal welfare. We know that animals are often cruelly treated in factory farms and slaughterhouses. Documentation of this treatment not only helps educate the public about farm animal abuse, but also influences industry and government entities to make real changes for farm animals.
- Food Safety. Ag-gag laws threaten our food supply: Various exposés of factory farms and slaughterhouses have revealed the extent to which our meat, eggs and milk are mishandled. Mishandling animal products, including mishandling farm animals while they are alive, invites health risks including salmonella, mad cow disease and other potentially fatal illnesses that may be transmitted to consumers.
- Control over Food Choices. Ag-gag laws are a direct threat to marketplace transparency. At a time when Americans are increasingly invested in knowing more about where their food comes from and how it is made, these laws threaten our ability to control what we bring into our homes and the food we put in our bodies. All Americans should have the right to know the basic conditions under which their food is produced.
- Workers' Rights. This legislation often seeks to criminalize the recording of sounds or images in animal facilities, no matter the content. Factory farms, slaughterhouses and meatpacking facilities are physically and emotionally difficult places to work. Farm investigations have the potential to expose serious worker abuse and other illegal or unethical conduct on the part of employees or supervisors.
- Free Speech. Some ag-gag bills seek not just to criminalize recording, but even the possession and distribution of images recorded on animal facilities-and some seek to criminalize misrepresenting oneself on job applications (which, while possibly an act warranting termination of employment, should generally not be a crime). These provisions pose serious First Amendment threats.
- Environmental Damage. In the United States, 99 percent of food animals are raised in factory farms, where large numbers of animals are housed together, generally in close confinement. Huge amounts of waste are generated, the improper storage and disposal of which threatens our soil and water. While state and federal laws require large farms to minimize their environmental damage, farms have been found flagrantly violating these requirements. Undercover investigations offer an effective way to expose such violations.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Please sign the letter below to your state legislators urging them to oppose SB 373. Thank you.